George and Alicia Sproule Burial Ground
The George and Alicia Sproule memorial site, at the Old Fredericton Burial Ground (Protestant). From George to Alicia: Here are deposited the remains of Alicia, the beloved wife of the Honourable /George Sproule/Member of His Majesty's Council/and Surveyor General /of this Province/Whose tedious sufferings endured/With the most Christian Patience and/Resignation were after an exemplary/ life closed by the hand of Mercy/on the seventh day of September /1815/in the sixty fourth year of her age/This marble is erected as a/Tribute of affection and respect/to her memory by her surviving/and afflicted husband/Drop Reader one kind tear upon her urn/And better, home with pensive return. From his children: Here/are deposited the remains of/the Honorable and Laborious life/Spent in the Army and other Public/Duties of his country was taken/from this to a better World/on the Thirtieth day November 1817/in the Seventy-fourth Year of his Age/This Tablet is inscribed as a tribute of Filial Affection/and Respect for his many virtues/by his Surviving children.
From The Derby Mercury (Derby, Derbyshire, England), Thu, Jun 17, 1784

“A Committee of the Privy Council have been sitting for some Time past regulating the Boundaries of the two Governments into which Nova Scotia is to be formed: The Business is at Length completed; the new Government is to be called New Brunswick; the Establishment is put upon the most economical Footing, as the whole Expence of Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, Chief Justice, and the other inferior Appointments, do not exceed three thousand five hundred Pounds a Year.  The Lands in the new Province have been granted to the northern Loyalists; Government have not, as of yet, done any Thing towards providing for those of the southern Colonies.  Col. Fox is said to have accepted the Appointment of Governor of New Brunswick; the Salary is one thousand Pounds a Year, which joined to the Emoluments arising from Fees, will amount to nearly two thousand.”

Note from Mary Lynn Smith: Henry Edward Fox eventually decided to refuse the position of Lieutenant-Governor of the new Province.  The job could have been his!  The opening was filled by Thomas Carleton, who was sworn in July of 1784.  Interestingly, Carleton took the position in the understanding that it would be ‘temporary’ . . . but in the end he remained as Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick for thirty-three years!

The Land Grant Process  

A wealth of information about early Miramichi, New Brunswick settlement has been preserved in the invaluable documents that early settlers and/or their agents wrote and conveyed to various agents of the Crown, e.g., to Thomas Carleton, Martin Hunter, Thomas Saumarez, and Jonathan O’Dell. From 1783, after the American Revolutionary War, waves of ‘new settler’ Loyalists and disbanded soldiers pushed up against the smaller group of ‘Old and Ancient Settlers.’  The ‘old inhabitants’ were earlier arrivals to the Miramichi area, and some had received land grants from the Colony of Nova Scotia.  The ‘calving’ of New Brunswick from Nova Scotia in the summer of 1784 caused a flurry of ‘pen-to-paper’ pleadings by ‘old’ and ‘new’ settlers.  These supplications were in support of securing land/marsh land grants. Such Petitions/Memorials painted a richly-coloured panorama of life along the Miramichi.

Dr. Louise Manny, respected historian and librarian, poured over the letters and boiled down the content presented by ‘settler scribes’.  Her exhaustive efforts provided an indelible image of the Miramichi’s past.  Charlotte Taylor descendants owe her a huge debt of gratitude.  Also, thanks are due to Kimberly A. Branch for her 1995 Charlotte Taylor: Mother of Tabusintac.  She helpfully provided transcriptions of three Deeds (Northumberland County Records PANB) related to Charlotte Hierlihy. 

I have transcribed eight original Memorials/Petitions from PANB (Public Archives of New Brunswick) microfilms.  These short documents were sometimes difficult to read, but the archaic penmanship rendered each an artwork.  This material deepened my understanding of the times Charlotte Taylor lived in.  Many thanks to the ‘settler scribes’ for their little masterpieces.     

The below-noted Excerpts (from Hannay, Hunter, and Fisher) provide descriptions of the land grant process in place at that time.

These transcriptions are preceded by a practical example (Thomas ANSLEY) of the very important role of the Office of the Surveyor General in New Brunswick.  George Sproule, New Hampshire Loyalist, acted as Surveyor General for thirty-three years, and established a reputation for equitable treatment of settlers and their families.  The Office of Surveyor General changed hands nine times in the three decades following George Sproule’s death in 1817.

Note by Mary Lynn Smith: The present-day Association of Land Surveyors of New Brunswick has honoured George Sproule by naming its most prestigious award after him (the George Sproule Award).  This distinction can be granted to “a person/persons who has made outstanding contributions in promoting and/or advancing the profession of land surveying.” 

From PANB – Daniel F. Johnson’s Newspapers
Vol. 81 No. 2091 October 7, 1892 Kings Sussex Kings County Record 

 ” . . . An account of the Earliest Settlers – Thomas ANSLEY . . . Ensign in 1st Battalion of New Jersey Volunteers and also Adjutant of the Corps.  On coming to New Brunswick he received a grant in Saint John.  He bought a piece of land in Norton and thought he would like to have a grant of 400 acres adjoining it, but his application was endorsed by the upright old Surveyor George Sproule with the remark that Mr. Ansley had already had more land than the Royal instructions permitted . . .”          

Excerpt From Pages 58 and 59

From The Life and Times of Sir Leonard Tilley by James Hannay

“… In those days the fees exacted by the Surveyor General and other officials on land grants were also the subject of complaint. It appeared from a return which was made by the Government in reply to an address of the Legislature in 1819, that the fees exacted on a grant of land not exceeding 300 acres in extent, amounted to £L11,13s.,4d. equal to almost $47.00 of today. Of this sum the Governor received £4,1s.,8d.; the Secretary £3,7s.,6d.; the Attorney General £1,10s.,10d.; the Surveror General £2, and the Auditor General £2,13s.,4d. It will be seen by this that these officials who virtually controlled the affairs of the Province, had a direct pecuniary interest in the issuing of land grants, and that while on the one hand the fees exacted were enormous and excessive, on the other hand it was to their advantage to encourage the issuing of grants to as large an extent as possible. This was an almost certain means of defeating the object of the Legislature, to effect the settlement of the Province by industrious workers, for the fees, while high on all grants, were excessive on the smaller ones, and the burthen diminished in proportion as the grants became large. In an address which was presented to the King in 1831 by the Legislature, the grievances under which the Province suffered from the operation of the system of dealing with the Crown lands, were duly set forth. It was stated that under this system very large sums were taken from the people of the Province for license to cut timber, and that enormous fees were exacted without the authority of Parliamant or the Legislature”.

Excerpt From Page 60

“… Another great evil in connection with the system of government, which existed in year 1818 was the absence of executive responsibility. The money received by the Province went into the office of the Provincial Treasurer freely enough, but the manner in which it was to be disposed of was largely left to chance. … The Government was not responsible to any person but the Crown or the British Government. The members of the Council were not responsible to the people, and were selected without reference to the wishes of the people; … “.

Excerpt From Page 62

“… Another great cause of complaint at the system of government which prevailed in this Province in year 1818 was the predominance that was given to members of the Church of England. Of the nine members of the Council who were in office in that year, all but one belonged to the Church of England. Every judge of the Supreme Court belonged to the same communion”.

Excerpt From Page 71

“… after 35 years of settlement, the Province was, in 1818, little better than a wilderness, and the conveniences for travel were of such character as we should at the present day regard as utterly inadequate”.

Excerpt From Page 74

“… The Loyalists were never as numerous in Nova Scotia as in New Brunswick and never possessed one tithe of the influence there that they possessed here … The Loyalists possessed absolute control of the government of this Province for a period of more than half a century after its formation, … “.

Excerpt From Pages 82, 83 And 84

“… Among the first of grievances to which attention of the House of Assembly was called in 1818 was the excessive fees charged on land grants. By this system the officials of Government became rich and settlement of the Province was discouraged. The House of Assembly in 1818 passed an address to His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor asking for copies of such parts of royal instructions as related to granting of Crown lands and fees on grants. It appears that the officials had been in the habit of compelling each applicant for Crown lands to take out a separate grant, thereby greatly increasing their profits, whereas the House maintained that the royal instructions contemplated the granting of lands to several grantees in a single grant. A Committee of the House, which was appointed to examine the royal instructions, reported that they could find nothing in the instructions to justify the system adopted in the Crown land office, compelling each applicant to take out a separate grant, and that the table of fees showed that the instructions contemplated more than one applicant being included in a grant. They also reported that if this system was pursued it would be injurious to the Province and a prohibition against future settlement. … The following year … Lord Bathurst … stated that he saw no objection to continuing the system of including a number of grantees in one grant, provded that in every grant the lands were distinctly apportioned to the several grantees, and that each grantee was separately and as fully bound to fulfil the conditions of the grant as to his own lot, as if he had taken it out as his own particular grant. Thus one important reform was achieved, which materially reduced the gains of officials, and made it possible for a number of poor men to unite in a land grant, thereby saving large sums in fees and so assisting in settlement of the Province”.

Excerpt From Pages 109 And 110

“… On the 23rd February, 1833, the Lieutenant Governor sent to the House of Assembly the despatch relative to the constitution of the Legislative and Executive Councils. In this document it was declared that the Executive Council should consist of five members, and that three of such members should constitute a quorum, for the transaction of business.

It is worthy of mention that from the time of the first establishment of Council in 1784 to the period with which we are now dealing, the public had been wholly without information in regard to the proceedings of that body”.

Excerpt From Pages 112, 113 And 114

“… The abuses connected with the Crown Land department naturally attracted a larger amount of attention than any others, in the Legislature of the Province. It has already been explained that the revenues derived from the Crown lands of the Province were not under the control of the Legislature, and were expended without regard to its wishes. This was a very practical grievance, and our ancestors, who were little given to theorizing in regard to the systems of Government, made the Crown Lands office the main object of attack for many years.

One grievance felt to be important was that in connection with collection of quit rents. The grants of land originally given to the first settlers of the Provnce provided for payment of a certain annual sum in shape of quit rents. It appears that when these grants were made the grantees had no idea tthat the provision for quit rents would ever be enforced, looking upon it merely as a nominal acknowledgment of the sovereignty of the Crown. But in 1830 an attempt was made to collect these rents … A bill was passed in 1835, in which the sum of £1,200 currency was given to His Majesty, in commutation and full discharge of all quit rents and arrears of quit rents due or to become due, reserved in any grants or letters patent from the Crown, of lands within the Province of New Brunswick. This annual sum of £1,200 was to be applied by His Majesty towards making and improving roads and bridges within the Province.

Under the old system by which Crown Lands were regulated, large areas of the Province of New Brunswick were held as reserved lands for the avowed purpose of supplying masts for His Majesty’s navy. It was always thought that the existence of these large reserves was a great hindrance to settlement, because land was thus locked up which was required for actual settlers, and which might have very well been opened without at all interfering with naval establishment”.

From Pioneer Settlers of the Bay Chaleur in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
by Margaret M. Hunter

Excerpt From Page 8

“… Early settlement was unplanned and was said to have occurred in spite of the government rather than because of it. Early grants were given out on conditions and terms of Royal Instructions. Large blocks consisting of thousands of acres were granted to capitalists, and though quit-rents of 2 shillings on every hundred acres granted were imposed in 1798 most were never collected. Quit-rents, leftovers from old world feudal systems were a bone of contention in many a heated debate in the parliamentary sessions. Timber merchants paying only a deposit on the payment of fees, stripped the land of lumber and failed to fulfill the conditions of the grant, either by settlement or by full payment of fees. In 1802 the cost of quit-rents changed to one half-penny for every acre held to be payable once a year forever. This was double the 1784 amount and withheld the settling of the province for a good many years, many intending settlers went to America and the population of New Brunswick dwindled. New instructions of 1807 authorized the granting of land without the immediate liability of quit-rents and not until 1835 after years of bickering did the Crown pass over to the Legislature the management of the quit-rents for an annual fee.

Settlers who could bought land outright, those who could not afford payment of any kind squatted on favourable land hoping that if fees were asked in future they would be able to afford them, in the meantime they were clearing the land. Some land petitions were answered promptly whereas others were not and settlers had to apply two or three times. Special land petition forms had to be filled out, and each one worded correctly or it would be returned. The first survey was done in 1824 years after parts of the land were settled. It was from this survey that some of the titles were questioned. Some of the settlers had waited as long as ten years before their grants were given. Other original settlers became dispirited and left for Upper Canada. It was 1837 before the selling of large grants were abolished. Land could now be obtained at the monthly auction sales that took place in every county, and could be sold in 100 acre lots and settlers could now obtain land by money payment or by labor. Persons over 18 wanting to become bona-fide settlers could each have 100 acres whenever they wanted. In all cases where land was bought by auction, grants were given outright, but where conditions of settlement apply, no grants could be issued until the settler had lived one year upon the land and cleared 5 acres”.

From The First History of New Brunswick by Peter Fisher

Excerpt From Pages 97 And 98

“… Lands in N.B. are held in fee simple or fee socage. The grants are immediately from the Crown … According to the Royal Instructions, a single man is entitled to one hundred acres of land, with an additional quantity provided he can produce sufficient testimonials of his ability to cultivate more. A married man is entitled to 200 acres: but no more than 500 acres is allowed to be granted to any person by the Colonial Government.

The method of laying out lots in this Province, of a narrow front and extending a great distance back, is very inconvenient to the settler. Being confined to a narrow front when he commences clearing, supposing, (which is often the case), the land adjoining to be unoccupied, he merely makes a lane through the wilderness, not half of which will produce a crop, on account of its being shaded by the adjoining woods: which not only exclude the sun but impoverish the land by drawing the nourishment from the plants to the trees”.

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