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Occupation by English-speaking Settlers

Following the deportation and flight of the Acadian population in 1755, New England-born and then English settlers were encouraged by the British authorities to resettle the marsh and the adjacent uplands. The intent was not only to ensure the continuity of settlement at a strategic point on the Chignecto Isthmus, but also to maintain the agricultural production needed to both supply the colony and the trade connections to neighbouring regions. Considerable debate exists among scholars as to whether these new settlers had the skills and motivation to maintain the existing dyked lands created by the Acadians. Many of the earliest of these settlers consisted of those who gained land as a reward for military service at Fort Lawrence, supplemented by a “small colony” of Rhode Island Baptists, who arrived in 1761 in response to the Governor’s effort to portray the bountiful opportunities of the region. These `Planters,' who were predominantly from New England, set about dividing up the land, applying the land allocation principles of their New England source region. They imposed a cadastral or survey pattern that remains on the landscape to the present day, as it does in other Bay of Fundy areas settled by New England Planters, such as at Horton and Cornwallis in the upper Annapolis valley. Yet these groups ultimately lacked the capital and resolve to establish themselves. They also faced a regional economy of uncertain markets, small urban centres, and unreliable transport systems. Many soon departed back to more familiar and, for them, more promising opportunities on the settlement frontier of the New England colonies. The departure and absenteeism of the initial New England land recipients led the authorities to search for other groups who might be more committed to settlement in this location and thereby achieve the goal of preserving the agricultural potential the marshes offered. Between 1772-4 the authorities successfully induced a group of approximately 1,000 Yorkshire Methodists to emigrate to the region. These weree people who were seeking relief from rising rents and religious tension in their homeland. Because they brought a little capital, they proved more persistent in their determination to make a life in and around the Tantramar Marshes.

A further immigrant group affecting the Tantramar in this era consisted of Loyalists forced into exile from the newly-created United States after the War of Independence. While the largest flow of Loyalists to the region located first in Saint John and at Shelburne in Nova Scotia, some eventually made their new homes in the Tantramar region. Some thirty-three families of Loyalist origin arrived in the area between 1785 and 1786, assisted by British government policies that provided free grants of land and subsidies for agricultural implements. This influx of people to the Tantramar was significant because of the increase in market demand it created thereby stimulating agricultural production and other enterprises, and for the presence of families such as the Botsfords who were to rise to prominence in the provincial judiciary and politics in later years.

Overall, the efforts of these English-speaking residents in the Tantramar brought only fluctuating fortunes through the latter decades of the 18th century. However, this period saw the laying down of the broad legal template of land distribution and ownership, and the institutional means of ensuring that the dykes were secured and maintained. Notable in this period were high rates of land sales as residents repositioned themselves and assembled larger, more cohesive marsh holdings to better suit their agricultural system. As a result of a process of land exchanges and acquisitions, some individuals and kin-related groups were able to amass sizeable and complex holdings. This ensured that the local society was one marked by a clear hierarchy of prosperity and influence.

Agriculture remained the dominant activity in the early decades of the 19th century, but lumbering, shipbuilding, milling, tanning, grindstone quarrying and other industries began to develop in the Tantramar region also. The forested uplands were pushed back as demand for timber increased driven in part by the blockades of the Napoleonic Wars restricting supply of timber to Britain from the Baltic. In addition the Tantramar region saw a progressive concentration of commercial and industrial enterprise in the rapidly-growing towns of Sackville and Amherst, which by the 1840s had become the central places for the region.

Sub-Topics

 
 
  Assembly of Larger Land Holdings for Agriculture
  Deed to Thomas Anderson.
  Forming a Productive Agricultural Community
  Survey of a marsh lot.

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