St. David Parish History
St. David Parish History
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Return to St. David
- Note: If you are searching for documents that are basically
name lists, go to either Parish Records
or Cape Ann Association pages.
- EARLY HISTORY
- Before 1784 no European settlement
had occurred in St. David Parish. The massive clamflats of Oak
Bay had attracted Passamaquoddy Indians in the distant past and
a few clam 'middens' or garbage heaps of shucked clam shells
exist, principally on the west side of Oak Bay, dating to about
the year 400 AD. No Acadian settlement existed in St. David Parish,
the closest being at the present St. Stephen (then called Lincourt),
and Jean Serreau de St. Aubin's possible establishment at St.
- LOYALIST SETTLEMENT
- In 1784 the first arrangement
of lots was surrounding Oak Bay, as members of the Penobscot
Association, originally from Castine, Maine, were given backcountry
lots there. A list is available, as is a map of their settlement.
- Somewhat later in 1784 a settlement
was mapped out for the Cape Ann Association, a group of 'economic
Loyalists' recruited principally from the areas surrounding Gloucester,
MA and Londonderry and New Boston, NH. There is a special
section of this website devoted to the Cape Ann Loyalists,
and a map of the lands surveyed in the backcountry. Many of these
lots were not actually occupied, and some settlers were defeated
by the needs of the land, and moved to better properties elsewhere.
The geography of development for the Cape Ann lands depended
on a quirk of geology. See geology
- ADMIRALTY MAST & SPAR
- With some consternation settlers
in St. Andrews found that the British Admiralty in late 1784
decided to keep a huge parcel of land separating the Oak Bay
and Cape Ann Assoc. grants and extending eastwards from there.
See Map. The settlers
had considered this part of their 'backcountry' that would later
be available for further development. As things turned out, there
was constant pressure from the 1790s to release this land, and
by 1800 some lands were being cleared and farmed in this parcel.
Officially the lands were available for sale in 1812, but there
was earlier settlement.
- DUNCAN MCCOLL & ST. DAVID
- Duncan McColl had been a Scottish
soldier in the 74th Regiment at Castine and arrived in first
St. Andrews and subsequently moved to St. Stephen. He had a religious
conviction towards the Methodist faith, and had a gift as a religious
leader, becoming a very effective Minister of the Methodist faith.
Certainly by the early 1790s he was active in St. David Parish,
and the residents had built a Methodist Meetinghouse on the northern
edge of Lot B 5 in the Cape Ann Grants. Among the solid converts
were Robert Hitchings and Robert Moore. He travelled in all weather
to St. David, year round. In the 1840's
he published his Memoirs, which give insight into conditions
of the time, but few names.
- AMERICAN IMMIGRATION
- In the period between 1790 and
1825 a considerable number of Americans migrated into St. David
for a variety of reasons. The border had little or no meaning
when it came to movement of people. Some, like John Stretch and
David Keizer of St. David were farmers looking for decent land.
Isaac Cook arrived in St. David and Moores Mills in 1795 along
with mill machinery and livestock for the Moore brothers. Still
others came to work in the mills at the head of Oak Bay.
- DESCRIPTION 1803
- In 1803 a profile of of St.
David made clear how few lived there - and other matters. Click here
- LEONARD SCOTT POEMS
- Set in the circa 1820s period,
Leonard Scott's poems give vivid depth to growing up on Tower
Hill in St. David Parish. Wonderful material published in the
1860s. Click here
- WAR OF 1812
- The war had very little impact
on St. David Parish, as there was no fighting on this section
of border at all, and no privateering activity on Oak Bay. The
militia was called up and trained as usual, but that happened
in peacetime anyway.
- IRISH MIGRATIONS
- When the Napoleonic Wars ended
at Waterloo in 1815, prices for food products in Ireland dropped
drastically. In the years afterwards they did not recover. The
first to leave Ireland were the Protestant farmers, who had a
little money to pay passage and make a new start elsewhere. A
few came to New Brunswick in the years following 1815. By the
1820s prices still had not recovered and this exodus picked up
momentum. By the 1830s the movement of these Protestant farming
families out of Ireland had become a torrent, and St. David Parish
had a considerable shift in population with many finding vacant
land here,or purchasing the land from the families of Loyalist
extraction. By the 1851 Census these Protestant (i.e. Scottish
background) families were the majority in St. David Parish. Many
single men did marry into the previous generations of Loyalist
and late-American migrants.
- FISHING, FARMING, FORESTRY
- Until very recent times Oak
Bay was an active fishing area, with 7 herring weirs early in
the 1900s, flounder and pollock in reasonable numbers, and scallops
and lobsters present. Until well after 1945 Oak Bay had its own
- Lumbering was always considered
important, and many of the farmers sold the timber off their
St. David lands to the mills at either Moores Mills (the Moore
brothers) or at Gallop Stream (William Gallop, Thomas Wyer &
Colin Campbell). This lumber was then shipped out of Oak Bay
from both the above sources, to markets and trans-shipment points
of either St. Andrews or Eastport. One family story of this writer
relates to Isaac Cook taking a load of lumber from St. David
Ridge down to Oak Bay, and then by boat towards Eastport in 1820.
The boat was 'flagged down' at the Mansion House at Robbinston,
ME where workers were building an addition on to the house.
- From the mid-1800s onwards it
was common for some farmers at St. David to work for part of
the year at the Ledge or elsewhere in carpentry and rigging jobs,
preparing the dozens of ships for sea that were being built in
the northern half of Charlotte County's seacoast.
- For St. David Parish, one very
significant development was the development of both gristmills
and sawmills at Moores Mills, beginning in the 1780s. According
to the stories passed down on upper St. David Ridge, this mill
machinery reached Moores Mills up over the 'Bay Woods Road',
now called the Back Road. This route avoided virtually every
stream crossing, and allowed the heavy machinery to make the
journey by ox and wagon. It should be noted that the very first
horse to be seen in St. Stephen was ridden into town by Robert
Moore of St. David, in 1795.
- 1865 TO 1914
- The population of St. David
Parish started declining after the US Civil War, as many of the
younger generation chose to try their hand clearing land or cutting
forests in Minnesota and Eureka, California. This trend continued
with the opening of lands in Manitoba, South Dakota and elsewhere
in the North American West. As well, there was a movement of
young men and women to jobs in the urban areas, especially Boston
and Bangor. The development of the Cotton Mill in Milltown, NB
(now part of St. Stephen) drew others to factory work. The relatively
harsh conditions and lack of potential for new development in
St. David Parish meant a decline in population.
- 1914 TO 2000
- The outmigration continued,
to some degree seasonally reversed by the development of cottages
around Oak Bay. In addition the improvement of roads created
the potential for St. David as a 'bedroom community' for those
working in jobs in St. Stephen, Calais, and St. Andrews. As this
trend continued, there was increased development of linear communities
of houses along the roads.
- The fisheries of Oak Bay declined,
through overfishing and mismanagement, and never recovered. One
interesting development was a very successful farmed Atlantic
salmon hatchery on the west side of Oak Bay, owned by the Cook
brothers, who are based in the St. George area. Besides that
large facility, the only large industry in St. David Parish is
gravel, some being trucked to the Bayside Port for shipment to
US destinations. see Geology
- BLUEBERRIES AND CHRISTMAS
TREES + WREATHS
- The blueberry industry began
in Washington Co. during the US Civil War, and quickly spread
to Charlotte County in the 1870s. A
history of the blueberry industry Blueberries have become
increasingly important. First everything was done by hand, and
now it is more mechanized, but the acreage keeps increasing.
- Christmas Trees began to be
important after WW 2, with many acres of former pasture being
turned into tree farms. But by the late 1980s there was increasing
competition from growers in Maine and Quebec, and many turned
instead to the wreath-making market. 'Tips' of fir are gathered
wherever a sign doesn't prohibit it, by young children as well
as adults, and several operations exist both within St. David
Parish and in nearby places such as Lawrence Station. Wreaths
now leave St. David Parish by the transport-trailer load for
destinations across the US and Canada.
- THE PRESENT MIX OF RESIDENTS
- In the new millenium the people
living in St. David reflect its history. Some are the descendants
of the Loyalist and early 19th century US immigrants. Many more
are descended from the Scottish-Irish immigrants of the 1820s
and 1830s. There are a few families that have arrived in the
20th century, and some of Acadian or Madawaska origin, but most
families in St. David have some connection back to the Irish,
American and Loyalist heritage, if not in St. David Parish, then
in Charlotte County. In other words, St. David Parish has been
a region of greater outmigration than inmigration since 1850.
- This makes St. David Parish
a very different jurisdiction from the vast majority of urban
and rural areas in North America. It is a region with strong
roots in its past, yet few know much about the history of St.
- - Tom Moffatt, Nov. 2000
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