Religion played an important part in the lives of many settlers. Churches provided important spiritual and social support to those whose daily lives were hard, and whose challenges were numerous. A particular difficulty for many settler communities was the seeking out and retention of ordained clergy.
The influence of religion was certainly reflected in Census Report data, and in other evidence from the past, such as Mary (nee Hill) Shaddick’s role as a Primitive Methodist lay preacher/activist, described below. Clearly, religious beliefs from native countries traveled with immigrant settlers to British North America. The evangelical message of John Wesley is just one example of this.
From: The Living Wesley by Rev. James H. Rigg, D.D. London: Charles H. Kelly, 2, Castle Street, City Road, E.C.; And 66, Paternoster Row, E.C. 1891.
John Wesley was born 17 June 1703, at Epworth, England, and died in 1791, at 88 years.
Rigg recorded that Wesley was ordained as Deacon in 1725, and preached, served, and learned while at Wroote, in Lincolnshire, and at Oxford. Wesley voyaged to the Georgia Colony as a missionary pioneer for the Propagation Society in 1735. He worked in the Colony for almost three years, trying to convert Georgia Indians. Wesley’s North American experience was both unsatisfactory and unsettling.
He returned to England on 1 February 1738, and, on Sunday 24 May 1738, “felt his heart strangely warmed, felt that he did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation,” and had “an assurance given him that Christ had taken away his sin, and saved him from the law of sin and death.”
He then embarked on a life-long mission to preach to the most spiritually neglected and needy. He used ‘field preaching’ [open air preaching] to speak out about a path to salvation that could be achieved not by works or rites, but through faith. “The birthday of a Christian was . . . shifted from his baptism to his conversion.”
Note from Mary Lynn Smith: Traditional church organization and dogma were tested by Wesley. For example, ‘free prayer’ was encouraged. This British charismatic went on to publish a Methodist Society rulebook in 1743: The Nature, Design, and General Rules of Our United Societies, to guide Methodist adherents. Methodist Societies featured preaching houses, classes, class leaders, and democratic annual Conferences (to renew faith, activate work related to social compassion, discuss doctrine, administer ordained ministers, etc.). Lay and itinerant preaching were featured.
From Dictionary of Miramichi Biography
Mary (nee Hill) Shaddick was a Primitive Methodist lay preacher/activist. She was born in Devonshire, England circa 1786, and arrived on the Northwest Miramichi with her husband and two sons in the summer of 1830. For two years she wandered into the woods on Sunday mornings with Bible and Hymnal, to read, sing, and pray. She subsequently organized informal religious services and conducted these for five years, before the visitation of the first Methodist minister.
From The Presbyterian Historical Almanac and Annual Remembrancer of the Church – Volume 5, edited by Joseph M. Wilson, 1863, Presbyterian Church.
The Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America
Reverend James MILLIGAN, D.D. – Was born in Dalmellington, Ayrshire, Scotland – Sabbath August 7th, 1785. His father, John Milligan, died when he was but two months old. His mother, whose maiden name was Margaret Milligan, was a woman distinguished for her piety and zeal for God’s glory. She had dedicated her son to God for the work of the ministry before his birth . . . He united personally with the church of his mother – the established Church of Scotland – at sixteen he left Scotland . . . and came to the young republic in quest of a community with which he could unite conscientiously in the exercise of civil functions as a Christian and a freeman . . . he was licensed to preach to preach the gospel by the Northern Presbytery in 1811, ordained pastor of Coldenham Congregation, Orange County, New York by the same Presbytery in 1812 . . . He made frequent tours into Canada, to visit poor Covenanters scattered throughout the provinces. There he preached, baptized, organized Societies . . . these journeys were frequently made in the depth of a Canadian winter. Sometimes for a whole day’s drive he could not obtain food for either himself or his horse . . . often he could obtain no bed, but spreading one of his buffalo robes for a bed, and the other for a cover, would sleep upon the floor with his feet to the stove . . . no ordinary obstacle ever prevented him from fulfilling an appointment. On one occasion he was to dispense a sacrament in Canada, and when he reached the St. Lawrence, the ice was about breaking up, and the guide refused to ferry him across; the water was running in some places nearly a foot above the ice. He took the lines from the harness, fastened one end to the horse’s head, took the other in his hand, and went before at full length, leading his horse and sleigh in the rear, while a guide directed his course by shouts and motions from the opposite shore. In half an hour the bridge was gone.
Mr. Milligan found the Covenanters of Vermont under a serious disability, from their peculiar relations to the government . . . he did his utmost to put down intemperance . . . he enlisted the . . . aid of a physician . . . Dr. Eli Perry, and the two organized themselves into the Caledonia Temperance Society . . . In the anti-slavery cause his sympathies were early enlisted . . . his labors for the slave were not confined to the pulpit . . . He had labored extensively throughout many portions of New England, awakening the sympathies of philanthropists to the sufferings of the slave, and exposing the complicity of the nation with that iniquity. Those who opposed his principles confess that he was an honorable antagonist, and conducted his controversies in an eminently Christian spirit . . . In 1820 he married Mary Trumbell, d/o Robert Trumbell, a soldier of the revolution. . . . “I have been”, said he, “more than 60 yrs a member of the Covenanting Church, and 50 yrs a minister. I have seen days of trial and yrs of gladness. I have been in Christ’s service through evil report and good report, in sorrow and in joy . . . “
Presbyterian Church of New Brunswick
The Synod met in Woodstock, New Brunswick June 25, 1862
Ministers – Miramichi Presbytery:
Law, A.M. (James)
The Presbyterian Church of New Brunswick in Connection with The Church of Scotland
The Synod met in St. James’ Church in Newcastle, N.B., August 13th, 1862 . . . Reverend Charles S. OGG, A.M., of the Miramichi Presbytery, was elected Moderator. The thanks of the Synod were voted to Mr. McLardy, the retiring Moderator . . . The Synod congratulated Rev. William Henderson, D.D., of Miramichi Presbytery, on his having the degree of Doctor of Divinity conferred on him by the Senators of Queen’s College, Canada.
An Address to his Excellency the Governor of the Province was adopted as follows:
To His Excellency, the HONORABLE ARTHUR HAMILTON GORDON, C.M.G., Lieutenant Governor and Commander in Chief of the Province of New Brunswick, etc. . . . We, the ministers and elders of the Presbyterian Church of New Brunswick in Connection with The Church of Scotland, now in Synod assembled, take the opportunity of our first meeting, after your arrival in the Province, of offering to your Excellency our congratulations on your entrance on the high and important office to which you have been appointed, as the Representative of our beloved Queen.
As the Church of Scotland has ever been most faithfully attached to the British Throne, we beg to assure your Excellency that the branch of our beloved church existing in this Province, yields to none in loyalty to Her Majesty and love of the British Constitution. . . .
The Synod adjourned to meet in St. Andrew’s Church St. Johns, N.B., . . . on Wednesday August __ 1863.
Charles S. Ogg, A.M., Moderator.
History of New Brunswick St. James Church, Newcastle
The first Presbyterian minister who visited the settlers of Miramichi River was the Rev. Dr. McGregor, from Pictou, N.S., who, in the year 1797, preached and baptized at Baie du Vin, and on both sides of the Miramichi up as far as Beaubair’s Point, at the junction of the north-west and south-west branches. He visited Miramichi a second time in 1807, and was present at the inclusion of the Rev. Mr. Thompson, in Chatham, in 1817.
The first Presbyterian Minister settled on the Miramichi was the Rev. Mr. John Urquhart. He was an ordained minister of the Church of Scotland, and a native of Rosshire. He arrived first in the United States in the end of last century, and from that went to Cumberland in Nova Scotia. After continuing a short time there he went to Prince Edward Island, in 1800, but in October, 1802, he removed to Miramichi, where he continued to his death, which took place in May 1814. He was a sound and interesting preacher of the doctrines of grace, and his labors were of great use among the scattered settlers. He preached in the church at Beaubair’s Point, which was built in his time, but is now in ruins, also in the shell of a church, built at Moorfields, about six miles below Newcastle, but burned down by the great fire of 1825; also every Seventh Sabbath at Baie du Vin, and occasionally around the country.
Note from Mary Lynn Smith: A scandal erupted in the United States after the wife and daughter deserted by Urquhart in Scotland arrived unexpectedly in Maine. He had claimed that his Scottish wife was dead, and had married a second woman, Mary McIntyre. The first wife, Mrs. Jane Urquhart, successfully took Urquhart’s Maine abode. Urquhart and the second wife exited the area. (From The Annals of Warren, Maine Pages 154-207).
The next Presbyterian minister settled there was was the Rev. Mr. Thompson, who came out in the fall of 1816 from the Anti-Burghers in Scotland.
Note from Mary Lynn Smith: The Anti-Burghers opposed the Burgher Oath, which affirmed civil compulsion in religious affairs. Differences over the Oath caused the first split in The Church of Scotland.
Rev. Thompson was inducted by the Presbyterian Church of Nova Scotia and preached in Chatham at Beaubair’s Point and Moorfields. He died in 1830 or 1831.
During this time in Newcastle, the county town of Northumberland having increased greatly, and a considerable settlement having been formed at Douglastown in connection with the extensive establishment of Messrs. Gilmour, Rankin, and Company, a number of Presbyterian residents in these places were desirous of having a building erected in Newcastle for the worship of God, and accordingly the foundation stone for the first Presbtyterian Church was laid down by Sir Howard Douglas, the Lieutenant Governor of the Province, in the Spring of 1825; and the building was so far proceeded with, that the outside was completed and the steeple raised, when it was burnt down in the great fire of the Miramichi, which produced such devastation on the 7th of October 1825. This awful calamity, though it greatly reduced the means of its inhabitants, did not diminish their desire . . . and therefore they speedily set about re-building their church, though of much smaller dimensions than the one they had lost. The present building was erected on part of the former foundation . . . frame raised in 1828 . . . a bond for the Minister’s salary was signed at Newcastle, on the 26th of December 1829 and transmitted to the Glasgow Society for promoting the religious interests of the Scottish settlers in the B.N.A. The Directors of the Glasgow North American Society, did, in consequence . . . appoint the Rev. James Souter, A.M. to be minister of St. James’ Church, Newcastle, in the month of April 1830 . . . commenced his labors in Newcastle on the 19th of September, in the same year.
In the summer of 1831, James Gilmour and John Fraser, Esquires with Messrs. George Henderson and Robert Leslie were ordained to the eldership, previous to the dispensation of the Lord’s Supper, which took place, for the first time, about midsummer in that year. Mr. George Henderson having died early in 1837, and John Fraser Esquire, having ceased to act as elder Messrs. Christopher Wishart and Travis McTavish were added to the session in 1837.
In the summer of 1843 the Rev. Souter paid a visit to his native land, and having soon after obtained an appointment in Scotland, he resigned . . . as minister of St. James’ church . . . resignation accepted by the Presbytery of Miramichi on the 7th of November 1843.
Soon after Mr. Souter’s resignation was accepted, a call was given to the present pastor, the Rev. William Henderson, D.D. . . . a native of the Parish of Newhills, near Aberdeen . . . accepted the call to St. James’ Church, Newcastle, and was inducted by the Presbytery of Miramichi to the pastoral charge of that congregation on the 21st of February, 1844.
James Gilmour, Esquire, having returned to Scotland in 1842, and Mr. Robert Leslie being confirmed to his house through the infirmities of age, Messrs. Christopher Wishart and Travis McTavish were the only acting elders at the time of Mr. Henderson’s appointment . . .
In January, 1856, the children attending the Sabbath School at St. James’s Church, began to make collections for maintaining an orphan girl in the Orphanage at Bombay. A girl named Margaret Daily, then aged eleven was consigned to their care. She having continued five years at School, left it in the end of last year, and entered the service of Mrs. Forjelt, who was formerly her teacher, and took a great interest in her carrying with her an excellent moral and religious character.
In the beginning of January last, another Hindoo orphan, named Mingie, lately received into the Orphanage at Bombay, was appointed to the school, but she having been removed, another little orphan named Helen Chinamai, has been appointed to their charge.
There is a library connected with the church with the church, numbering about 400 volumes. An excellent manse and glebe has been provided for the minister. The number of communicants on the roll is about 200.
The Church of Scotland
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland met, according to appointment, in the Assembly Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland, on Thursday, May 22nd, 1862. It was opened with a discourse by the retiring Moderator, Colin Smith, D.D.
. . . The Queen’s most gracious letter to the Assembly, announcing the usual grant of $10,000 for missions in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, was read and recorded.
. . . Churches in India. The Committee on Indian Churches, stated that where there was no Presbyterian Military Chaplain, the Presbyterian soldiers were marched to the Episcopal chapel, but in similar circumstances Roman Catholics and Episcopalians were not required to attend other chapels than their own. The Committee was desirous that all should be treated alike. James Bissett, Moderator.
From Dictionary of Miramichi Biography Provincial Archives of New Brunswick
Sources: Betts (FF); Hoddinott; Royal Gazette 24 October 1786, 5 Jun 1787; Spray (ENC); Wood-Holt; World 10 Oct 1917, 9 Feb 1918
Fraser, James, Presbyterian missionary to the MicMac Indians; b. Scotland; m. Mary – ; living in 1791.
James Fraser was educated in Edinburgh , Scotland, and served as a chaplain in the 71st Regiment during the Revolutionary War. Afterwards, he was stationed at Shelburne, N.S., where his ministry was unpopular and of short duration. He arrived in Saint John in 1786 and is thought to be the first Presbyterian minister to officiate there.
In 1788 Fraser was appointed by the New England Company as missionary to the MicMac Indians of the Miramichi. When he arrived he was disappointed to discover that the MicMacs, who had been converted to Catholicism several generations previously, were suspicious and unco-operative, having been led to believe that the Protestant missionaries would be attempting to lure their sons into the armed forces. He applied successfully for grants of land at Douglastown and Northwest Meadows, but his proselytizing efforts were singularly unproductive, and complaints concerning his character led to his termination in 1791.
Notes: Fraser’s wife may have been Mary Edwards, a native of Exeter, England, whose family settled in Saint John in the 1780’s. Her first husband was a Rev. James Fraser. After his death, she married Neil McGraw of the 42nd Highland Regiment and lived with him at Black River, where they raised a family. He died in 1834, but she was still head of the McGraw household at Black River when the census of 1861 was taken, at which time the enumerator recorded her age as ninety-three.
Note by Mary Lynn Smith: On 20 September 1791 the Grand Jury of the Court of Quarter Sessions, Newcastle, Northumberland County, New Brunswick, found James Rogers to be the father of Mary Edwards’ child, born out of wedlock. He was ordered to pay for the child’s upkeep, to prevent expense to the Parish. Interestingly, Philip Hierlihy and Duncan Robertson were both members of the Grand Jury.
From Daniel Johnson’s Newspapers Vol. 95 No. 552
Aug. 9, 1894 Saint John Saint John The Daily Sun
The death of Joseph ARMSTRONG occurred at his home in Green Head on the St. John River early yesterday morn. He was 81 years of age . . . born in Dumfrieshire, Scotland. When 18 years old he came to St. John . . . was a devoted follower of Rev. WISHART . . . pastor of St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, but on account of certain opinions held by him which were considered heretical, his connection with the Church was severed, but he immediately organized a church of his own. Among those who clung to him most devotedly were Joseph Armstrong, Robt. KELTY, G.W. Smith, and Thos. RANKINE. Mr. Wishart’s remains repose in the Rural (Fernhill) Cemetery and a beautiful monument has been erected in his memory. The ashes of his four greatest admirers will rest beside his own.
From Dictionary of Miramichi Biography
Michael Egan (1806-1887) received his theological training in continental Europe and spent four years as a priest in Kilkenney district in Kilkenny district in Ireland. In 1833 he and Father Veriker crossed the Atlantic together in response to a letter written to their bishop in Ireland by Angus B. MacEachern, bishop of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and the Magdalen Islands. Upon arrival Egan was posted to Saint John, but he was transferred to the Miramichi a few months later, a successor to Father William Dollard.
For several years Egan was the only priest on the Miramichi and in adjacent parts of the North Shore. His home base was St. Patrick’s church at Nelson, but he travelled constantly on foot and by horse and canoe throughout the district, as well as by sailing ship to Chaleur Bay, and elsewhere. In each settlement he had a ‘station’, usually a room set aside in a private home, in which he would hear confessions, conduct baptisms, and carry out other priestly functions. His name appears in church registers from the 1830’s at Neguac, Tracadie, Pokemouche, Inkerman, West Bathurst, and Belledune, as well as the registers of churches in the various Miramichi settlements, two of the oldest of which are those of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at The Forks (1837) and St. Thomas the Apostle at Red Bank (1841).
In a lyrical tribute to Egan, Father William Morriscy likened his role among the early settlers to that of the ‘Soggarth Aroon’, the beloved priest of Irish song. The newly-arrived, he stated, “who squatted on the wilderness lands from the head of the Miramichi to the mouth of the Restigouche, from Bay du Vin to Pokemouche and Grand Anse, were cheered in their exile and made to forget that they were far away from their native land, and by the rich Irish accent of their beloved ‘Soggarth Aroon’.”
Between 1838 and 1842 Egan was assisted at Chatham, where the first Catholic church opened on 17 March 1839, by his old friend Father Veriker. In 1843 Chatham became the separate parish of St Michael’s, named in honor of Egan’s patron saint, St Michael the Archangel. Afterwards, the Chatham priest attended the missions of Bartibog and Burnt Church, but Egan continued to serve the Barnaby River, Newcastle, Red Bank, Renous, and Blackville missions, until additional priests were brought to the diocese in the mid 1860s by Bishop James Rogers. Although his spelling and penmanship left much to be desired, his entries in the registers of the different churches constitute a large proportion of the vital records of the 19th century Catholic population of the Miramichi.
. . . To quote Father William C. Gaynor, “Egan was a magnificant figure of a man, athletic, strenuous, and utterly fearless,” and his presence on the Miramichi in the harsh times in which he served was “more effective than a company of soldiers.” He was, noted Gaynor, “as much feared and respected by Protestants as by his own people, and when the occasion arose he was equally impartial in wielding his blackthorn on Catholic and Dissenter alike.”
. . . The coming of Bishop Rogers in 1860 marked the end of a lengthy period in which Egan was the leading Catholic cleric on the river. Rogers acknowledged his seniority by appointing him vicar-general of the diocese in 1861, but for reasons unspecified in his correspondence he reprimanded him sternly two years later . . . It was said that Egan was prone to abuse alcohol and induce younger priests to drink. Father Hugh McGuick, a priest in Kent County who suffered a nervous breakdown around 1870, referred to him as “an old rummy . . . drunk and staggering” whose “grog shop” was “nearly opposite his church.” McGuick’s perceptions might be questioned, since during his illness he saw most of the priests in the diocese as morally or sexually corrupt.