2019 marks the 200th anniversary of the immigration of 180 Welsh men, women and children to New Brunswick and the establishment of the Welsh settlement of Cardigan, located 25 km north of Fredericton. The Central New Brunswick Welsh Society and the New Brunswick Welsh Heritage Trust will be sponsoring numerous activities throughout 2019 to celebrate the bicentenary, one of which is the publication of short narratives which help us understand the stories of the Welsh settlers. The narratives are based on research gleaned from a multitude of sources, including Dr. Peter Thomas’ landmark book Strangers from a Secret Land, census data, vital statistics, newspaper accounts, land registry documents and many other collections that have been indexed and shared on-line. We have done our best to accurately portray the life and times of the Welsh settlers but realize that because this is a work in progress, there may be errors and omissions. All contributions of new information will be gladly received! We hope you enjoy the narratives as we share them from time to time during the upcoming year.
The Albion, owned by the Davies family of Cardigan, was built in 1815 in Milford Haven by William Roberts, brother-in-law to Captain Llewelyn Davies. The Albion was the first Davies ship built specifically for the high seas. It was the largest of the Davies ships, measuring 72 feet from end to end and 22 feet 3 ½ inches at its widest point.
The Albion was a brig, a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. Brigs were fast and maneuverable, which made them the ship of choice for naval warships and merchant vessels. Its shortcoming was its need for a large crew to handle the rigging, along with the need for a skilled captain to effectively manage sailing into the wind.
By the early 1800’s the brig, was the standard cargo ship. The timing of the initial launch of the Albion in 1815 could not have been better for the Davies family, as the end of the Napoleonic Wars meant safer sailing that encouraged trade. The Albion became active in the lumber trade between British North America and Wales. In 1818, in response to an increasing demand for passage to North America, the Albion made its first passenger run to New Jersey where Captain Llewelyn dropped-off eighty Welsh immigrants and picked up lumber for the return trip to Wales. After its delivery of 180 settlers to Saint John in June 1819, it began travelling the waters around Wales and Ireland. In November 1819, however, it was lost off the coast of Ireland during severe weather– all on board perished. Captain Llewelyn Davies was not yet 30 years old.
WE CAN HELP YOU GET TO WHERE YOU WANT TO GO...
......advertised the Davies family, merchant mariners based out of Cardigan, Wales. Following a successful run to America with Welsh settlers in 1818, the Davies family decided to make another delivery of immigrants the following year, this time stopping first in British North America. Given the poverty, unemployment in Wales, there was a great demand for berths for emigrants. So, in January and February 1819 a handbill was circulated in both English and Welsh throughout south-west Wales, advertising the April sailing of the Albion to Saint John. A similar advertisement was published in the Carmarthen Journal, beginning on February 26th and running for three weeks. As a result, the Albion was full to capacity and on April 9th, Captain Llewelyn Davies set sail from Cardigan with a full load of 180 passengers. They arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick on June 11, 1819. Captain Davies, however, did not sail on to New York as previously advertised. In mid-July he headed back to Wales with a hold full of timber, leaving all his passengers in Saint John, whether this was their intended destination or not!
A BUSTLING PORT
The Albion was headed for the busy port of Saint John, New Brunswick. Saint John was first visited by French explorers in 1604. It was primarily a trading post and military garrison for both the French and the English until the influx of more than 14,000 Loyalists in 1783. In 1785 it became incorporated by Royal Charter and is Canada’s oldest incorporated city.
The Welsh settlers disembarked from the Albion on June 11, 1819. What they saw was a bustling port city, growing rapidly due to immigration and struggling to meet the needs of their burgeoning population. In 1819 there were 6,000 citizens, with the most influential citizens being prominent Loyalists and their children along with a powerful merchant class who were mostly Scotsmen. The harbour registered passage of more than 500 vessels that year, some bringing the more than 7,000 emigrants who arrived in Saint John in 1819. The shipyard and timber trade were booming. There was plenty of work for hard-working young Welshmen and women. And, despite their odd dress and even odder language, the sober Welsh immigrants must have compared well against the recently arrived soldiers of the Royal West Indies Rangers who, being discharged from service, were spending their pay packets in the local taverns and creating a significant disturbance!
THE SEAT OF GOVERNMENT
Prior to the arrival of the Loyalists in 1783, there were only three habitations in Fredericton, a log cabin and two frame houses. In the summer and fall of 1783 many Loyalist families, most of whom were members of disbanded Loyalist regiments, were sent to St. Ann’s Point (Fredericton), to take up land. The new residents successfully petitioned Governor Parr to have the new town surveyed in 1784, coinciding with the separation of Nova Scotia into two parts and the creation of the province of New Brunswick. Governor Thomas Carleton, the first governor of New Brunswick, arrived in November 1784 at which time he and his Executive Council spent the majority of their time dealing with land issues – allocating land for public use and grants to the many Loyalists. In January 1785 he moved permanently to Fredericton, declaring the the town the provincial capitol and thus, making it the centre of government, the university and the Church of England. In addition, large military units were garrisoned in the town on a large tract of land in what is now the city centre.
Fredericton grew slowly. By 1819 there were less than 2,000 souls living in the young town, which only in that year assigned names to its main streets. However, there was a provincial assembly building, an Anglican church and meeting houses for the Baptist and Methodist congregations, a college, a public market house, a county courthouse and a jail along with a number of military buildings. There were several fine houses surrounded by large tracts of land owned by the wealthy and privileged government officials, most of whom had been appointed into their positions due to their Loyalist background. There was a grand mansion for the Governor located on the outskirts of the town. Altogether there were just 200 residences. But commerce was flourishing, creating a new class of prosperous and influential businessmen. Can you imagine the impact made by the arrival of 150 destitute, oddly dressed, Welsh speaking, religious dissenters on such a small, conservative population!
The Welsh settlers arrived in New Brunswick without any idea about how to acquire land. Luckily, their arrival coincided with the appearance of Anthony Lockwood, the newly appointed Surveyor-General for the province. Lockwood had been appointed by the Crown, despite the fact that Lieutenant Governor Smyth had recommended George Shore, then acting surveyor general, for the post. This was a choice position as it came with membership to the Executive Council. Lockwood was well- aware of the fact that his appointment was unwelcome. And so, perhaps to curry favour with the bureaucrats in Fredericton, he undertook the challenge of assisting these sober, hard-working and deserving Welsh immigrants to settle in the province. He helped the Welsh settlers move upriver where he assisted them in petitioning the Executive Council for land ‘back of the Nashwaaksis Stream about seven miles from the Mills, and in the direction of the Tay.’ He personally visited the site of the new settlement and signed tickets-of-location for the new settlers. He contributed generously to the Emigrant Society, established to assist the Welsh settlers while they were constructing their first homes.
The Office of the Surveyor General was a demanding workplace, being responsible for ensuring that land was mapped properly, and that ownership was recorded and tracked. The Office was also responsible for surveying county and parish boundaries as well as roads. Anthony Lockwood threw himself energetically into his new job, accomplishing an amazing amount of survey work in his first few years. By 1823 his frenzied approach, however, had taken its toll. His behavior became increasingly erratic, culminating in May in him riding about the streets of Fredericton, firing pistols and declaring that he had been ‘called’ to take over government. He was jailed and eventually declared mentally unfit. Eventually he and his family returned to England where he suffered from bouts of insanity until his death in 1855. Dr. Peter Thomas’ book, Master & Madman: The Surprising Rise and Disastrous Fall of the Hon Anthony Lockwood RN, provides a detailed look at the life and career of Anthony Lockwood, the lunatic who was instrumental in the establishment of the Welsh settlement of Cardigan.
A Ticket-of-Location was provided by the Surveyor-General allowing the bearer to occupy and improve a particular lot of land. On July 21, 1819 the Executive Council heard a petition and a supplementary petition from 25 Welsh immigrants, asking for land ‘back of the Nashwaaksis Stream about 7 miles from the Mills, and in the direction of the Tay’. The petitions were approved and the first tickets-of-location given to the Cardigan settlers were issued on July 26, 1819. Married men were given 200 acres while single men were given 100 acres. Each settler was then expected to build a cabin and clear and cultivate the land within a few years. He would then petition the Executive Council for his land, describing his family situation and the state of improvements made on the land. The grant required the payment of a quit rent, the amount of which was based on the number of persons and the number of acres included in each grant. Many settlers joined together and appointed one main grantee in whose name the grant was made, but each grantee was legally bound to the terms of the grant. The terms to be upheld were: 1) the payment of two shillings for every 100 acres to be paid on mid-summer day beginning two years after the date of the grant and forever after; 2) for each fifty acres, the clearance and cultivation of three acres if the land was arable, or the drainage of the same amount if the land was swampy; 3) the sustenance of three cattle if the land was wilderness; 4) the excavation of a stone quarry if the land was rocky; and 5) if the land was unfit for agriculture, the construction of a good dwelling house. Proof of compliance to the grant conditions had to be provided to the Executive Council within three years.
David Griffiths received his location ticket in July 26th, 1819 for Lot 9 on the west side of the Cardigan settlement. He petitioned for his land in December 1827, having built a house and a barn and cleared 12 acres. He received his land in 1831 in a grant where John Evans was the main grantee and there were five others – David Griffiths, Rees Jones, John Davis, John Edwards and James Evans.
THE EMIGRANT SOCIETY
The Welsh immigrants who arrived in Fredericton in July 1819 were woefully unprepared to be settlers. They had little or no money, few possessions and no knowledge of how to create a homestead in the forested wilderness. Despite the fact that the process of locating land to the settlers had begun, it was clear by mid-August that the Welsh families would need help. On August 10th a meeting of the inhabitants of Fredericton was held at the Jerusalem Coffee House where it was decided to form a new organization, named the Cardigan Society, to assist the Welsh families. Membership was by subscription. More than £76 along with promises of tools, clothing and provisions were raised. A week later the Cardigan Society defended itself in the local paper, saying that their intent was not to ‘make them idle, or to damp their exertions by giving too much’ but to ‘assist and stimulate industry’. They stated that it was evident that the settlement could not be established without help. They also responded to the criticism that they were only helping the Welsh settlers, saying that if additional funds were raised, other immigrants would be helped. By that time, they had raised £135 and collected a lot of clothing.
The Cardigan Society continued to report on the progress of the Welsh settlers throughout the remainder of 1819. The newspaper accounts provide much information on the state of the Welsh families and their progress in Fredericton. They also indicate that there was not universal agreement of the need to help the immigrants. In November the Cardigan Society was replaced by the Fredericton Emigrants Society, led by the current and future Chief Justice of the province. Indeed, the membership of the new Society comprised the elite and powerful in the city.
The first task of the settlers was to construct housing for their families. The August 17th edition of the Royal Gazette reported that it would cost a minimum of £8 to build each shelter. These ‘huts’ were described as being constructed of ‘round logs 15 feet long, laid up 7 or 8 feet high, covered with bark; a door and one small window; the chimney of mud and sticks, or stone’. The following week the paper reported ‘A number of the Welch settlers were fitted out last week to commence their settlement. A person acquainted with constructing log houses has been employed to instruct and assist them; a quantity of bark has already been procured, and other preparations made to commence building immediately; and there is no doubt but in a few weeks a number of families will be comfortably sheltered.’
Comfortable may have been a bit of an overstatement. These first cabins were generally crude and cramped, having an earthen floor and only one room in which to live and sleep. The roof was flat, made with overlapping split logs, covered with bark and then fir or spruce boughs. Fortunately, there was plenty of building materials available in the Cardigan wilderness. But those nine families who wintered in their new cabins in Cardigan must have found them lacking when compared to the warm homes that they had left in Wales.
THEY ARE VERY DESTITUTE
The Welsh families must have wondered if they had gone from the frying pan into the fire by leaving Wales. They arrived in Fredericton where it became apparent that they would need some assistance as they were ‘very destitute’ and were ‘straggling through the Streets or crowded into Barns’. By the end of August, many were working on clearing their land in Cardigan despite being ‘straightened for Provisions’. A call for food was made to feed the hungry settlers. On September 21st the Royal Gazette reported ‘they are very destitute, and have large families of helpless children, it is evident that without further assistance they must nearly perish with cold and hunger the ensuing winter.’
In November it was reported that ‘they have hardly the second meal for their families, have no credit, and are most of the time half starved. It is probable that the death of the man who perished in the woods on Thursday last, was occasioned by as much as the want of sufficient nourishment as by cold and fatigue.’ By the end of the month, a Committee was appointed to examine the condition of the Welsh families. They were found to be, almost without exception, poorly housed and unprepared for the harshness of the oncoming winter. The situation of William Richards’ family portrays the harsh conditions that the families were experiencing:
‘The situation of one Welch family, (William Richards’) consisting of the parents and four children, all lying in a most miserable situation, under the influence of a raging fever, particularly attracted the attention and commiseration of your Committee, and they presumed upon the approbation of the meeting, in taking immediate steps for their relief, by purchasing a Stove, and preparing a vacant house above the town, (which was offered by the Honourable Mr. STREET) for their reception—one of the family, (a child 14 years old) your Committee find, is since dead.’