The Isthmus of Chignecto.
Period of English Settlement.-Early Census Returns.-March Areas
After the departure of the French in 1755, the Isthmus was almost reduced to a primeval state. The dykes were broken, buildings burnt, and the fields were without cultivators. A few English soldiers guarded the forts; and bands of Indians—allies of the French—lay in ambush ready to pounce upon the coming English settlers. Indeed, the fields had relapsed, in several places, into a forest state before others took possession.
And but slowly was the country re-settled. Amherst, Fort Lawrence, and Point de Bute ridge—known under the head of Cumberland in the census of 1762—only contained sixty persons; and Sackville one hundred. In the following year, the population of Cumberland was thirty-five families, and that of Sackville thirty. In 1767, the census of Cumberland was twice taken; by the first it contained 123 persons; and by the second, 334. In the latter year, the population of Sackville was 349; and Moncton only contained sixty persons. Shediac and Baie Verte, where the French had settled, are not named in the census of 1767. The nationality of the population of Cumberland and Sackville, at the latter date, was 612 Americans, 19 English, 33 Irish, 7 Scotch, 5 Germans, and 7 Acadians. Denominationally, nine were Roman Catholics, all the rest Protestants. From 1767, to 1817, a period of fifty years, there are no census reports extant of Cumberland, nor of Sackville until 1824, a period of fifty-sever, years. However, during these long blanks in the census reports, the boundaries of Cumberland were extended to its present limits; and in that time, what is known as Westmorland, County, including Albert, Cumberland Point and Point de Bute, were erected into a county—Westmorland. And during the same period, in 1784, Nova Scotia was divided, and a new province—New Brunswick—erected. Hence, A D. 1884, will be New Brunswick's first centennial; will it be celebrated?
The area of improved land on the Isthmus in 1755 was, in all probability very small; the largest area was on the Cumberland ridge; this is obvious from the census report of 1763,—made eight years after the departure of the French. In that report it is stated as follows:—
Acres Cultivated, Salt Marsh, Wood Land
Amherst, 300 15,000 84,700
Cumberland, 600 18,800 81,400
Sackville 200 12,000 87,800
____ ______ ______
Total Acres 1,100 45,800 263,900
How much of the bog and lake areas were over-flowed by the tides, one hundred and twenty years ago, we have no means of knowing. The area, nearly forty-six thousand acres, named in the, census of 1763, exceeds the total of marsh, bog and lake areas in the districts named in the above table. The probability is, that less than one half of this large area was salt marsh at that time. In 1827, according to Haliburton, there were about 8,800 acres of dyked marsh at Amherst and adjacent districts on the Nova Scotia side of the boundary. In the census of 1861, the acres are:
Dyked Marsh Salt Marsh
Amherst, 7,179 714
River Hebert, 2,821 561
Maccan, 572 69
Total, 10,572 1,344
Without an actual survey, it is impossible to give a correct statement of the area of the marshes around Cumberland Bay. In connection with the Canal, and Cape Tormentine Railway surveys, I had occasion to measure the length of the "Great Marsh," and its breadth in three places, and also the arms of the marsh on both sides of the Jolicure ridge. In connection with the Provincial boundary, canal and other surveys, I am able to give a more accurate estimate of the area of the Missi-quash valley; and by means of the canal survey, a close approximation of the area of the Amherst marsh may also be given. By making allowance for the unmeasured parts of these marsh, I estimate the areas as follows :
Dyked marsh at Amherst and adjacent districts in Cumberland, 12,600 acres
Area of the Great Marsh, 18,100 “
Do. On New Brunswick side of the
Missiquash 1,300 “
Total area of dyked marsh, 35,000 acres
Area of bogs and lakes:
At the head of Great Marsh, 4,000 acres
Do. Missiquash, 5,700 “
Do. Amherst, 1,000 “
Total (also enclosed by dykes) 8,700 acres
There are some small tracts of salt marsh not included in the above. Thus, there 32,000 acres over which the tide has flowed, and is now producing large crops of hay , and nearly nine thousand more which may be converted into marsh. Of the total area, Westmorland claims about twenty-five thousand; the remaining 15,700 acres being in Cumberland. It may not be too high on estimate to say, that the area of dyked marsh around Cumberland Bay is worth two millions of dollars. And on the Baie Verte side there is a tract of marsh. The earliest grant of land in Sackville, as far as can now be traced war issued A. D. 1765. Subsequently, Amherst, Sackville, and Westmorland townships, were granted, under the seal of Nova Scotia, in rights of about five hundred acres each. Each right consisted of several lots,—marsh and upland.
The population of the Isthmus, or rather those parts of it formerly occupied by the French has increased very slowly. Population is now spread over a much wider area than it did one hundred and twenty-eight years ago; yet, Sackville, Amherst, and the Parish of Westmorland together, only contained 9,779 souls in 1871; and 11,579 In I881, Even in 1817, the population of the County of Cumberland was only 3043. The French population of the Isthmus may have exceeded this number.
Unquestionably, the resources of the Isthmus, especially in an agricultural point of view, are very great. Indeed, it is a question, if an equal area can be found in the Maritime Provinces, containing so large an areas of rich marsh and uplands.