Land Use History of the Watershed

Understanding the historical land use in a watershed has the potential to help explain the underlying cause of issues present today. The following sections outline historical land use in the areas surrounding Demoiselle Creek in Albert County. Communities in the area include Albert Mines, Cape Station, Curryville , Harvey Bank, Hillsborough, and Lower Cape.

Table 1-1: Brief historical summary for communities along or near Demoiselle Creek

The Maritimes have had human inhabitants for the last 11,000 years (Wicken 2002), though for most of that time precise cultural identities are impossible to determine today. By the early 1600s, when Europeans arrived, much of the native population of coastal Atlantic Canada shared a common culture and language identifying themselves as the L’nuk, “the People”, and recognized by Europeans as the Mi’kmaq.  Traditionally, the Mi’kmaq lived in large villages along the coasts from April to November, and then dispersed during the winter, migrating inland to hunt moose and caribou. One such encampment was not far from the mouth of the Demoiselle, on the opposite bank of the Petitcodiac River estuary at Beaumont (Petitcodiac Heritage River Committee 2000) just 8.5 km away from the mouth of the Demoiselle, as the crow flies (Natural Resources Canada 2010). During this time physical impacts on the watershed were few compared to what was to follow.

In the 1630’s the French began to make a serious effort to colonize Atlantic Canada, beginning to arrive in numbers significant enough to develop an enduring Acadian identity (Laxer 2006), at a fairly similar time frame to the English colonies further south. By 1676 the first Acadian settlers arrived at Beaubassin, near the current Nova Scotia Visitor’s Centre along the Trans-Canada Highway at the New Brunswick border (Larracey 1985). Then, 34 years later in 1710, Acadians and Mi’kmaq in peninsular Nova Scotia fell under British control, which was subsequently formalized in 1713 under the treaty of Utrecht.  In 1751 Fort Beausejour was built at the border to protect Acadian communities in what is now New Brunswick from attack by the British. By this time the Acadian population near the Fort had grown to 1,541 people, with an estimated additional 1,100 spread out at Shepody and along the Petitcodiac and Memramcook Rivers (Larracey 1985). The Acadians built dykes and tidal control structures turning marshland along the lower Petitcodiac estuary into pasture, and established their settlements nearby (Wright 1955).

There were two Acadian villages located near the Demoiselle.  The first- Village des Blanchard, was established in 1698 (Ganong 1899) along the Petitcodiac near what today is Hillsborough (Dionne 1983), not far (5 to 10 km) overland from the headwaters of the Demoiselle (Natural Resources Canada 2010).  The second- Chepodi (Ganong 1896), was about 10 kilometers overland from the mouth of the Demoiselle near what today is the community of Hopewell Hill, on the Shepody marsh (Albert County Museum 2015a; Natural Resources Canada 2010).  The English name Shepody comes from the French Chepodi, most likely derived from the Mi’kmaq name “Es-ed’-a-bit” meaning “the bay that turns back on itself” (Ganong 1896; Hamilton 1996).

The Mi’kmaq sided with the French (Wicken 2002), participating in the defense of Fort Beausejour, as well as the short guerilla war which followed its capture (Grenier 2008).  A battle was fought at Village des Blanchard (Hillsborough) in September 1755 when a combined force of Acadians and Mi’kmaq ambushed and defeated the British there (Petitcodiac Heritage River Committee 2000). But though they won that battle, the loss of Fort Beausejour earlier in June that year, meant the war had already been lost.  There were several reasons that Mi’kmaq in New Brunswick allied themselves with the French. Prior to the arrival of the British, native communities had already established trade networks with the Acadians for steel tools, weapons and other European goods (Walls 2010). Another source of friction was that the Mi’kmaq had begun to adopt Catholicism from the French, while the British were Protestants, at a time when such differences added fuel to conflicts.  Acadians also had had good relations with the Mi’kmaq in part because the lands Acadians occupied either complemented native use, as with fur traders, or were in areas that were marginal to native concerns as in the case of the Acadian farmers on the tidal flats (Mancke 2005).  English settlers on the other hand tended to seize land the Mi’kmaq valued, to clear the forest for agriculture (Francis et al. 2010).  After the arrival of the United Empire loyalists from the 13 colonies (late 1770’s – 1780’s), Mi’kmaq in what is now New Brunswick were moved off their lands and onto “reserves” (Walls 2010).  This was done partially to provide land to incoming settlers, and partially to punish the Mi’kmaq for aligning themselves with the French.

Forestry Practices

The ruggedness of coastal Albert County hindered early timber exploitation.  The steep hills constrained road construction and limited the hauling that could be done by horse or oxen teams (Shoebottom 1999).  Instead driving dams were required to ensure sufficient flow to move logs. During the early 1800s white pine was gradually culled from New Brunswick Forests to meet the demand for masts for the Royal Navy (Wynn, 1981).  The White Pines Act of 1722 established the requirement of a royal license to fell white pines with a diameter exceeding 24 inches unless they were privately owned, and in 1729 Parliament reserved all such trees to the government except those already in private hands before 1690 (Purvis 1999). Since New Brunswick came under British control well after that time, this exception did not apply at all to its forests. During the American Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars from 80 to 90 percent of all masts supplied to the Royal Navy came from Canada, mostly New Brunswick (Williams 1992). The Napoleonic blockade of the Baltic forced England to expand New Brunswick’s lumber production twentyfold, transforming  an “undeveloped backwater” of 25,000 people to a bustling colony of 190,000 (Gordon 2014). Pines could still be found in 1850, but few of the magnificent trees the region was known for earlier in the century remained.  Spruce was more abundant, but the largest had also been cut.  Though there were not many extensive cutover tracts, by 1850 the character and composition of the forests in New Brunswick had been drastically modified over the course of just 50 years of harvesting.

The effects of this early economic activity were not limited to just the forests. By 1820 importation of food into New Brunswick was the rule rather than the exception, everything hinged on the timber trade, though there were warning signs of the danger of single source economy (DeMerchant, 1983).  James Robb, professor of Natural Science at Kings College in Fredericton (now the University of New Brunswick), was appointed Secretary of the Provincial Board of Agriculture when it was established in 1858.  He warned that timber harvesting was so lucrative that it distorted development, and that when the market in Europe declined, the farmer neglecting his homestead to work in the woods would be “surprised to find his fences down, his fields grown up with bushes, and both himself and his snug little clearing generally all gone bad”.  It was not just agriculture that was falling short of its potential.  In the years that shipbuilding boomed at Saint John and other towns along the coast, even the fishing industry was neglected as men were drawn to the forest to supply wood (DeMerchant, 1983).

The age of wooden ships was winding down however, causing a reduction in the scale of the demand for timber exports both as wood and manufactured into ships. By the end of the Crimean war in 1856, virtually all of the ships in the British Royal Navy had already been fitted with steam engines rendering masts irrelevant (Evans 2004), and the conversion to iron hulls began within a decade thereafter.  In 1874 New Brunswick shipbuilding peaked (Shoebottom 2000).  A year later Gaius Turner bought the shipyard at Harvey Bank, determined to compete by adapting to build larger ships that could yield greater profits (or losses), more like those being built further down the bay in St. Martins  or Saint John, at a time when other builders  at  Alma, Hopewell, and Hillsborough  still focused on the coastal trade.  Turner controlled a significant supply of timber at a time when good ship’s timber was becoming scarce (Shoebottom 2000).  He also adapted to changes in technology by investing in the Railway.

In 1877 when the Salisbury – Albert Railway arrived, it traveled from Hillsborough and Albert Mines, down the length of the Demoiselle Creek valley to its mouth, with plans for a branch to run along the Shepody marsh to a water terminus at Turner’s shipyard at Harvey Bank on the Shepody River (Chignecto Post, Thursday May 24th 1877).  By the fall 1883 this was in place with the Province having paid for a bridge over the Shepody River, and Turner building a station, engine house and turntable at his wharf and shipyard. This expanded the supply of timber available to Turner by connecting his shipyard to the Intercolonial Railway, as well as more locally providing excellent access throughout the Demoiselle Creek watershed.  In 1887, the Salisbury-Albert Railway reported carrying 8,913 tons of timber (The Maple Leaf Thursday January 12th 1888), some of which was likely destined for Turner’s shipyard. He put this supply to good use, building 18 large ships (averaging over 900 tons each) in 18 years, including the Annie E. Wright, the largest ship ever built in Albert County, and the 3rd largest ever built in New Brunswick (Shoebottom 2000).   Despite such innovations however, the end of large scale wooden shipbuilding was inescapable.  From the peak of New Brunswick production in 1874 of 40,000 tons when Turner began, to the time of his death in 1892 shipbuilding in the province had declined by 87% to about 5,000 tons.

Agricultural Practices

With the exception of the marshes on the Shepody River, at the mouth of Demoiselle Creek, and the mouth of Weldon Creek at Hillsborough, coastal Albert County is quite rugged, which limited early development. The Acadians found however that these marshes offered excellent agricultural opportunities once dyked and drained (Shoebottom 2000). In addition to meeting their subsistence requirements, Acadian communities were able to produce surplus livestock and grain for trade with Louisbourg and New England (Wynn 1979). Fields of wheat, peas, oats, rye, barley, and hay covered as much as 13,000 to 20,000 acres of marshland in the upper Bay of Fundy, a portion of which were at Chepodi, and Village des Blanchard.

Many contemporary commentators were unimpressed with the initial “English” use of the marshlands compared to the Acadians (Wynn 1979). After the expulsion, many of these dykelands fell into disrepair, described at the time as being, mostly in meadow, providing pasturage for livestock, where they had borne vast quantities of wheat and other grains prior to 1755.  However some of this was a consequence of economics, with reduced demand for surpluses and a lack of reliable markets, there was little incentive to expand production beyond local requirements.  By the 1780s, things began to turn around as the loyalist influx created large urban markets in Halifax and Saint John, as well as for settlers in more remote rural districts that had to be supplied with provisions during their first few years on the land (Wynn 1979).   While imported flour and grain offered stiff competition to local products, livestock, butter, and cheese from the upper Bay of Fundy began to find ready markets.

Agricultural practices were common in 1775 with the majority homes nearby in Hillsborough harvesting crops and keeping some sort of livestock (Wright 1955).) The bulk of early English settlements in the area sprung up around the dyked lands worked by Acadian settlers living near the upper limits of the Bay of Fundy and confluence of the Petitcodiac River. By 1860 the Harvey Agricultural Society reported the following being grown: wheat, oats, barley, buckwheat, peas, grass seed, hay, potatoes, turnips, cattle, horses, pork and poultry (DeMerchant, 1983). At the same time there were also reports of uplands being cleared for orchard production using grafted fruit trees.

Though agriculture and forestry had been in competition for labour during early English settlement, as the forestry industry declined, agriculture began to boom (DeMerchant, 1983).  By 1850 25% of the land in Hopewell Parish had been developed for agriculture (Wynn 1981), which given the rough terrain would have been a good portion of the land suited to it.  This included the Demoiselle described as follows in 1879, “The valley of Demoiselle has been described before, and I need hardly do other than allude to it as a fertile one, well settled and capable of producing good crops.” (New Brunswick House of Assembly 1879).  It was no exception; both Hopewell Parish and Harvey Parish were well regarded. The Chignecto Post in Sackville wrote in November 12, 1891 “Where these red lands adjoin the dyked marshes the most fertile and desirable farms are to be found. … The marsh hay lands of this region are a great source of wealth to their owners, while the uplands are so rich as to raise magnificent crops with but little cultivation. There is no limit to the agricultural capabilities of Harvey and vicinities…”

Mining Practices

The area surrounding Demoiselle Creek was home to a number of mines and quarries. Oil shale was located in Albert Mines (Canadian National Railways 1964).  In 1847, Peter and John Duffy discovered Albertite, a mineral resembling asphaltium that yields oil and gas.  Its discovery occurred as a result of a mill dam bursting on Frederick Brook after which the rushing water exposed the material (Jones et. al 1997; Clowes 2003).  Abraham Gesner who had been the Provincial geologist of New Brunswick from 1838 to 1842 had already invented kerosene, by distilling it from coal (hence the alternate name “coal oil”), but the cost of extracting it that way proved to be too high.  During his analysis of albertite Gesner found that it could be used to produce kerosene much less expensively than coal, and doing so quickly turned kerosene into a successful commercial product (Black 2008).  Albertite was mined and shipped from New Brunswick to Boston where it was processed as one of the primary sources of kerosene by the Downer Kerosene Oil Company until 1861 when petroleum was discovered in Pennsylvania (Van Slyck 1879).  The albertite deposit was mined-out after 230,000 tons were extracted over the course of 30 years. In 1859, the Caledonia Mining and Manufacturing Company was also active in Albert looking for bituminous shale and schist (Salter 1996).

Gypsum was mined at Albert Mines and transported via rail to Hillsborough (Jones et. al 1997).  “The Wentworth Gypsum Company and the firm of J.B. King and Company, manufacturers of plaster, NY, visited the new plaster quarries owned by Mr. Dimock at Demoiselle Creek. A new wharf has been built at Gray’s island, Hillsboro’s, affording ample shipping facilities. A branch line from the Salisbury – Albert railway is now being built to the quarries.” (The Albert Star, Hillsborough, NB, dated September 12, 1894).  This rail link was a vital development, as during the winter months the Petitcodiac River would fill with ice, closing the seaport at Hillsborough, prior to that point making it impossible to ship out the valuable minerals mined in the area at that time of year (Albert County Museum 2015b).

One of the major long-term employers of the area was the Canadian Gypsum Company Ltd. In the 1930s, the company owned the mill and the deposits in Hillsborough (Jones et. al 1997). They extracted gypsum and anhydrite at Hillsborough for plaster, gypsum board and other gypsum product manufacturing (Canadian National Railways 1964).  In 1981 the gypsum plant at Hillsborough was closed, at which point the rail line connecting it to Salisbury was no longer profitable, and Canadian National abandoned it the following year (New Brunswick Railway Museum 2015a).

Grindstone Island, housed a quarry for making grindstones, hence the name.  (Jones et. al 1997). In the late 1700s they were used by merchants and traders as currency. Other local quarries in the area included; Caledonia Quarry (1865-1885), Curryville (1874-1885) and Caledonia Mountain for slate (Jones et. al 1997).  A limestone quarry operated by a by a Mr. McHenry also produced agricultural lime in the Demoiselle Creek valley (Ells 1885).

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25 Jan 2018