Issue #3, Summer 2000 . written by Al White
In 1938 Douglastown resident Mathilda Kennedy (1872-1959) wrote what she called a "History of St. Patrick's Parish". In this work she discusses the origin of the Douglastown Kennedys. She says they came to America from Ireland in 1680, That William, the first Kennedy to Douglastown was the only son of a wealthy landowner in Maryland. That they had an estate, slaves and that the family lost everything during the American Revolution.
During the period of what the Americans refer to as the French/Indian wars (1754-1763) the region to the north of Albany was sparsely settled. With the British victorious and the French/Indian threat eliminated, the area quickly attracted settlers. Land was granted in large tracts to speculators who in turn disposed of their holdings as rapidly as possible, usually by means of long term leases on easy payments.
The advent of the political troubles in 1775 found a large number of the frontier population surprisingly apathetic. The settlers who had recently crossed the Atlantic in the search for a better life, had not been in the country long enough to have become imbued with the political philosophy of the revolution. They had come to the colonies land-hungry, intent only on the laborious task of subduing a wilderness. As a rule, these immigrants were not "politically minded"; they preferred a stable government under whose protection they could continue to clear their farms in peace, and in this case the established British institutions seemed to offer the desired strength and security.
Despite their numbers, the New York Loyalists were unable to offer any effectual resistance to the Patriots, and the Revolutionary party was soon in control of the government. Although a neutral attitude would have suited many, it was not possible to maintain it. The inhabitants were required by law to take an oath of allegiance and to serve in the militia.
To counter the rebels who were becoming an increasing difficult problem for the Loyalists, Johnson organized his men into the Royal Highlander Regiment. He promised the government at Albany that his men would remain neutral as long as the Loyalists were left alone. But the Colonial government could not permit these conditions to persist and they soon sent 3,000 members of the Continental army to disarm Johnson's men. When Johnson learned they were about to arrest him, he fled the country with about 250 of his supporters. They arrived in Montreal in late May after a nineteen day trek through the wilderness.
Up until the summer of 1776 most people believed that a peaceful solution would be found to the difficulties. But with the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, it was generally realized that a serious conflict would follow, and thus commenced a steady trickle of loyalists towards Canada.
At Montreal Johnson's men were organized into the King's Royal Regiment of New York which had a fighting strength of 1300 men. In order to deny Washington's army the supplies of food they needed and to offer Quebec protection from the Continental armies, Johnson engaged his men in a torch campaign of the New York frontier. From the summer of 1777 to the fall of 1781 the Mohawk Valley was repeatedly raided. By the end of the war over 700 buildings had been burned along with 150,000 bushels of wheat and over 12,000 farms had been abandoned. Without a doubt the people of Tryone County (where the Kennedys lived) paid the highest price for their independence, more than any other part of the United States.
"...the whole valley of the Mohawk, including the valley of the Schoharie, and all the settlements to the south upon the headwaters of the Susquehanna, were entirely destroyed. There was not a spot which had escaped the ravages of the enemy. " William W. Campbell, 1849.,
"no other section or district of country in the United States, of like extent, suffered in any comparable degree as much from the War of the Revolution as did that of the Mohawk. It was the most frequently invaded and overrun, and that too by an enemy far more barbarous than the native barbarians of the forest." William L. Stone, 1845.
For William Kennedy taking sides wasn't a matter of conviction as it was a matter of expediency. He would have remained neutral if that had been possible. He wasn't interested in politics; what he was interested in was his farm, his family and the price of corn.
When General Burgoyne led his vast army down the Hudson towards Albany many loyalists rushed to the British banner. But when Burgoyne was defeated at Saratoga, the fortunes and futures of the Loyalist families in the northern counties of New York were profoundly affected. Before long there was a program of prosecutions and confiscations of property.
On June 30,1778, the New York legislature passed an act to "prevent mischiefs arising from the influence of persons of equivocal and suspected character". It was intended to handle those people who had professed neutrality, but whose motives were in question. They were required to renew their oath of allegiance. Those who refused were to be restrained. Up until this point William had walked the tightrope of neutrality as best he could. But now the situation was being forced.
Fortunately for us, several of William's letters describing the events of this period have been preserved. He writes:
"That your memorialist has been an inhabitant in the State of New York & County of Tryone when the rebellion begun, and as 1 would not join the Americans in their plan, they called me a Disaffected Tory, and put me to Johnstown Goal jail where 1 remained for a season. 1 would not join them (and) after a while (they) let me out." William Kennedy, 1800.
Williams troubles continued when a group of Indians raided the nearby town of Schenectady in 1779.
"I was obliged to fly from my house the 5th June and kept myself secreted till the fast Tuesday in October when by the advice of my best friends 1 stood trial of my life in Johnstown where they had not sufficient proof against me 1 got clear."
.A short time later he was picked up by another group of patriots and taken to Fort Plain to stand trial for giving aid to the enemy - a treasonable offence punishable by death. According to William he would of surly have been hanged except " they couldn't get enough evidence against me
Instead of being released he was taken to Albany where he was imprisoned for a period of five months. As he watched the erection of gallows from his cell window he surely must of felt that his days were numbered. But with more lives than a New York alley cat, Kennedy was somehow set free once again.
With only the clothes on their backs, the Kennedys made their way along either the Sacandaga or Mohawk rivers until they reached the Hudson. Along the Hudson to a place they called "the Carry" (a portage between the Hudson river and Lake George). Then over Lake George the twenty five miles to Skenesboro.
At Skenesboro, Kennedy found the families of several loyalists "in a distressed condition wanting almost every necessity of life." The journey to Skenesboro had been very difficult and his family was in a very distressed state. After thinking about it for some time, Kennedy made the difficult decision to leave his family at Skenesboro and to carry on to Montreal alone. He promised his family and the families of the other loyalists that he would return for them as soon as possible.
By early March, William had made it to the refugee camp at Montreal. There he found the husbands and fathers of the Loyalist families he had left at Skenesboro. On March 21st 1782, William along with fourteen others petitioned Governor Haldimand for a method of bringing aid to their families. Haldimand was told that the number of women and children were in excess of a hundred.
Skenesboro had been designated as a place for the Loyalists to go. From there they would be forwarded under a flag of truce to Crown Point where they boarded British vessels that brought them to Pointe Au Fer and then on to St. Johns. To the end of the war there was a constant succession of these "flags" over the lake, bringing refugee families from New York into Quebec. Presumably, the families that William left at Skenesboro were escorted to Montreal in this manner. 1 think this is what happened since by November/1782, the Kennedys were reunited and living in Montreal.
The loyalist refugees lived with local families or in barracks with up to eight families to a barrack. For the duration of the war the Kennedys were completely dependant on others for their food, clothing and lodging. Destitute and living in a refugee camp, William like many of the Loyalists became bitter. He wrote Colonel Cuylor, who was responsible for the Loyalists at Montreal telling him:
"I have no trade nor no money to begin with, this (being) a hard place to live in. 1 cannot but be very thankful to both Major Jessop and Mr. Ducoine for their kindness to me yet the biggest rebel (who) comes out of the country is better used than the best subject."
The refugees were difficult to satisfy and their demands were often unreasonable. They were restless, critical, and impatient. Their attitude, however, is easily understandable considering that they had suffered the loss of their homes and possessions, and found themselves destitute in a strange land for no other reason than remaining loyal to their legally constituted government.
They had confidently expected that when the war ended that they would be permitted to return to their former homes. But when the terms of the Treaty of Paris became known, it was painfully apparent that there was no provision to safeguard their interests effectually. Any thought of a return to the United States was definitely out of the question.
As we learned in a previous issue of the DHR Governor Haldimand had sent Captain Justus Sherwood to Gaspe in June of 1783 to look at possible locations to settle the Loyalists. By that summer information was being circulated on Cataraqui (near Kingston, Ont.), Gaspe Bay and the Bay of Chaleur. The Loyalists were asked to choose one of these sites as their new home. As to be expected, the proposed sites were unacceptable to most of the Loyalists and the Governor quickly realized that satisfying them was going to be a major problem.
To force the situation Haldimand declared that he would cut off the rations of any family who remained behind. The Kennedys delayed as long as they could and the difficulties that arose as a result took a heavy toll. Sometime between July of 1783 and September of 1784 the Kennedy's lost a son. That winter, the winter of 1784, was a particularly harsh one and by the spring of 1785 the Kennedy family was ready to leave Montreal. With their tent, their bedding and the rest of their meagre belongings they were taken to Quebec. There they waited along with others for a ship to carry them to their new home in the Gaspe.
A New Beginning
They arrived at the mouth of the St. John river in Gaspe Bay around June 20th. They were meet by the Lieutenant Governor Nicholas Cox and by the acting surveyor Felix O'Hara. They may even have arrived in time to see the Isis carrying Sir Charles Douglas leave Gaspe Bay on her way to England.
As a Loyalist, William was entitled to one town lot and one country lot of about a hundred acres. He was also entitled to fifty acres for his wife and each of his five remaining children for a total of four hundred acres in all. He drew town lot 58 on the eastern side of the town on the south east corner of what became 3rd Front Street and 9th Cross Street.
Officials were told to have the settlers draw for only one country lot, no matter how much they were entitled to, until each settler had at least one lot. The surveyor had laid out twenty one country lots between Seal Cove and up the "little bay". And another ten lots were designated on the Haldimand side of the river. 1 don't know what country lot Kennedy drew, but by 1800 he was in possession of lots 18, 20 and 21 all to the west of Douglastown. Lot 19 was held by Robert Simpson and lot 22 was drawn by John Rose.
With only an axe and a long bulk saw the Kennedys cleared their one acre town lot and built themselves a new home. William must of felt he was getting kind of old to be starting over again. But he was luckier than most having a large family to help him. They planted some wheat and rye and they started a small garden with the seeds they had been given. The government supplied them with a gun and some shells which allowed them to hunt game and the boys learned how to fish. But during the first couple of years the family relied heavily on Government rations supplied by Quebec.
According to Mithilda Kennedy, William went to Quebec each fall to buy supplies for the settlers to last the winter. You have to remember that once the bay froze and the snow started to blow, you were on your own until the following June. You couldn't drive your car behind a snowplough to the local store in order to buy something for your dinner. There was no running water, no electricity, no lights except for the light from a fire or that of a candle and no TV (cable or otherwise). And when the wind blew you prayed that the house didn't come down around you.
1 don't think we can possibly imagine just how difficult it was back then. People drowned learning how to fish. They were attacked by wild animals. They died from infections, turberculosis, diphtheria and from the cold, damp Gaspe climate. Of those who stayed not many lived to see their old age. And most people were old, long before their time. As these early years went by it must have been extremely disappointing for the Kennedys to watch as their neighbours, one by one, made the decision to abandon the town. For those who remained, 1 am sure it was only their faith in God, no matter what religion they practised, that got them through those critical first years.
A future for my sons
By 1800 the town's population had stabilized and there was actually reason to feel that the town had a future. William's oldest son John who had married Mary Horan and gone to Newfoundland was promising to return. His daughter Mary had married an Irishman by the name of Thomas Walsh and the happy couple already had a family of their own. His remaining sons, Thomas and Isaac, were all grown up and would be soon starting their own families as well.
The government had decided some years earlier that upon coming of age, the son of a Loyalist would be entitled to a further 1 00 acres. Together, this would have entitled the Kennedys to about seven hundred acres. And if the land could be parcelled together in one piece then the family would have a good sized farm. There was plenty of water to the west of Douglastown and if one could get possession of the marshes, then there would be plenty of hay as well. For what you might ask? Well, lots of water and lots of grass usually means cattle.
William wasn't the only one that had been eying the land on the western side of Douglastown. Douglastown's most prominent citizen, merchant Daniel McPherson whom we discussed in the last issue of the DHR had also taken an interest in the area. Like Kennedy, McPherson's family was also coming of age.
Although his fishing and mercantile business was growing and he had control over most of the land at Point St. Peter, McPherson was always looking for new opportunities. Like Kennedy, McPherson was aware that the lots west of Douglastown could support a large herd of cattle. In addition, there was the potential of cutting the large tracts of white pine that grew further up the St. John river.
One of the topics that we will examine in a future issue of the DHR will be the state of land patents in the Gaspe. In 1800 very few people held their land by patent. Some had location certificates but most didn't even have that to support a claim. Title to the lands therefore was precarious at best. As a former member of the Gaspe Land Board, McPherson knew this better than most. He had already received land board approval for country lot 49 and a town park in the center of Douglastown of 24 acres. But he had never been awarded any land at Point St. Peter or to any of the lots to the west of Douglastown.
As so often happened, individuals would invariably fall into debt to the local merchant. In our case, Daniel McPherson. When this happened to John Rose in 1786, he decided to skip town. So, one night he stole one of McPherson's boats and was never heard from again. McPherson then took "possession" of Rose's lot 22 to cover the debt owed to him.
The exchange must have been a good one for LePatourel because his only claim to the land was by right of possession. A right that was very often not recognized. The land at Seal Cove came with a location certificate, abet in the name of Etienne Morin. In addition, his neighbour at Seal Cove was the family of his sister-in-law, Josette Pecquerel Samson. Her stepfather was Thomas Briand Sr. who lived nearby at L'Ance a Briand (Brillant).
All of this activity didn't go unnoticed by William Kennedy. But at this point in time, things seemed to be outside of his control. To add to his frustration, his son Thomas and his son-in-law Thomas Walsh, discovered what they thought to be a large coal deposit on tot 19. The country lots west of Douglastown were now becoming even more attractive.
More to stew on In the fall of 1799 McPherson invited an Iroquois Indian by the name of Joseph Attarnaw and his family to reside on lot 22. Attarnaw cleared a spot for his house and by the spring of 1800 had enough timber cut for a house and a barn. By Easter the house was well under way.
The Iroquois were one of the Indian nations that had aligned themselves with the British during the American Revolution. They had participated in many of the raids in the Mohawk Valley where many Americans had lost their lives - including women and children. Some of them probably friends of the Kennedys. So 1 think it would be fair to say that William wasn't pleased with this new development. He had seen enough. On Easter Sunday, 1800, he decided it was time to act.
Easter Sunday is the first day of the Christian calendar. It is the time of fresh starts and new beginnings. On Easter Sunday of 1800 William sent his two sons to destroy the work that was in progress on lot 22. They tore down the house and destroyed the lumber that had been prepared for the new buildings. When they were finished there was nothing left.
On hearing what was taking place, McPherson rushed to the site and confronted Thomas Kennedy. Threats were exchanged at which point Thomas produced a bill of sale for the lot dated September 5th, 1787 and signed by John Rose. Although McPherson was a Justice of the Peace and represented the "Law", he also knew he had, what we would call today, a conflict of interest. He knew the bill of sale was a forgery and that he could prove it in front of another judge. So he came to an agreement with the Kennedys that no further work would be done on the lot until "the law" decided who was the rightful owner of the lot.
McPherson had assumed it would be an open and shut case. The bill of sale was clearly a forgery. McPherson was Rose's only creditor and the sum of money owed to him was more than the land was worth. He had also been in possession of the lot for the past fourteen years. An open and shut case. Or so he thought.
But William Kennedy had a surprise for the wily merchant. He postponed resolving the situation all through the spring and summer of 1800. In the fall he sent his son Thomas to Quebec to petition the Governor directly for the lot and the marshes in front of it. He had chosen that time of year deliberately, because communication between Quebec and the Gaspe was virtually non existent from November to June. William figured that before McPherson was able to get wind of what he was up to, the Executive Council at Quebec would have approved his petition and given him a patent for the land.
As 1 mentioned earlier there were very few land deeds for any of the land in the Gaspe. Although John Rose had a location ticket for lot 22, he had never actually been granted title to the land. In January of 1801 the Land Committee at Quebec recommended to the Executive Council that the Kennedy petition be approved. As planned, McPherson didn't get wind of William's actions until the following summer. When he did find out, he quickly wrote a letter to the Governor stating his objections to the Kennedy claim.
Unfortunately for McPherson, the letter didn't reach the Council before it's August 14th meeting, at which time final approval of the Kennedy petition was given. In fact the Executive Council went much further than the Land Committee had recommended and awarded each of the three Kennedy sons a further 200 acres of land each. 18 The Kennedys must have been absolutely elated. As for McPherson. Well lets just say he wasn't to happy. But the game wasn't over yet.
At it's September 1Oth meeting, the land committee finally read the McPherson letter. With the lot now contested, the committee realized it's mistake. For them, the dispute between Kennedy and McPherson represented what was wrong with Gaspe land titles as a whole. The committee and it's members were embarrassed, to say the least, and were forced to reverse their recommendation to Council. The only time 1 think this ever happened.
Over the following months two more letters appeared at Quebec. One from Etienne Morin stating that the Kennedys were trying to steal the only piece of land he had '20 The other from William Kennedy stating that McPherson was an opportunist, that tricked the poor inhabitants into giving up their land to him '21 These letters were delivered at Quebec in person by Henry Johnston, McPherson's son-in-law and by Thomas Kennedy.
In addition to these letters, Johnston carried a letter from McPherson. The Douglastown merchant and Justice of the Peace outlines in great detail the problems with land tenure in the Gaspe. He says that the lack of titles impedes the development of agriculture and of any industry from developing because:
"a settlers industry and improvements are not their own, for the first newcomer generally reaps the fruits of their labour; and he in his turn is likewise supplanted or encroached upon by the next settler or neighbour who, taking advantage of the poverty and ignorance of the unsecured settler petitions for the poor man's improvements and sometimes succeeds." Who do you think McPherson was thinking of when he wrote this?
With his case for land tenure in the Gaspe made, McPherson goes for broke. He petitions the committee for 1200 acres. Two hundred at his fishery at Point St. Peter, five hundred in the marshes of the St. John barachois and five hundred at Gaspe Basin (presumably for the marshes again).
Wanting to get home before the shipping season closed, Johnston left Quebec at the end of October before the matter was taken up by the Executive Council. Thomas Kennedy left a few days later and on his arrival in Douglastown told everyone that the matter had been resolved in their favour. With the close of the shipping season communication with Quebec was now virtually impossible.
Before going on, it might be worth while to explain the steps involved in acquiring a land patent. First of all, you wrote a petition to the Governor asking him for the land you wanted. Your petition was then reviewed by a land committee which made a recommendation to the Executive Council. If your petition was approved by the Council, then a survey warrant was issued by the Survey General's office. The warrant gave the authorization to the surveyor to survey the land. That survey along with the appropriate fees were then sent to Quebec where a patent was then issued by the Attorney General.
In January, Thomas told the acting surveyor, Felix O'Hara, that he had a survey warrant for lot 22. When Johnston appeared on the scene and informed O'Hara of how things really stood O'Hara asked Thomas to produce the warrant. Up until then, O'Hara had taken Thomas at his word. When Thomas couldn't produce the warrant, O'Hara "walked off'. The incident started another flury of letters.
Two letters were received by William Hunt in the land office at Quebec in early February. They had come by foot by means of the overland courier. The first is dated January 18, 1802 and is from Thomas Kennedy pleading with Hunt to intervene with Ryland, Secretary and member of the Executive Council, to get a Survey Warrant for lot 22 and the marsh in front of it, and to send it down "this winter". In an attempt to make his request a little more compelling he sweetens the pot.
"I caught two barrels of excellent Salmon trout which 1 entered one for you and one for that worthy gentleman Mr. W. Ryland which I beg you will except of as a token, that 1 do not forget the trouble 1 gave in time past. Pray write to me, who shall 1 consign these barrels to that they may not get mislaid. 1 beg for Codsake speak to Mr. Ryland concerning the warrant and send (it) this winter." Thomas Kennedy, 1802
The other letter was from Henry Johnston and is a little more confident. He assumes that the Council has already meet and given it's support to the Land Committee's recommendation to reverse it's earlier decision. The letter ends with the plea: "I beg it of you to say something decisive about lot 22 (by the return courier)."
As Johnson suspected, the Council had already meet (December 5th) and had decided to suspend their decision to award the lot to the Kennedys. Both parties were asked to produce proof of their allegations, after which, a final determination would be made. In anticipation of their decision, McPherson had already started collecting affidavits in support of his claim. But even before Johnson could of read Ryland's reply, the Executive Council decided to go one step further. They suspended the hearing of any land petition from the Gaspe until a special committee had reported on the subject. The Kennedy/McPherson dispute now affected every land petition on the Gaspe coast.
With the subject of land titles suspended indefinitely, McPherson came to the conclusion that his prospects in the Gaspe had been severely limited. He looked elsewhere and the following year (1803), he purchased the Isle de Gros (Crane Island), a seigniory in the St. Lawrence where he went to live. 1 have not found anything written of his career after this. He died at Montmagny in 1840 at the age of eighty eight. 1 have also found no mention of what happened to either Etienne Morin or of the Iroquois, Joseph Attarnaw. William LePatourel left Seal Cove around 1803 and took his family to Berthier.
As for William Kennedy, both he and his wife died sometime in the early part of the decade. Their son John returned from Newfoundland as he had promised, only to drown while fishing near Point St. Peter in 1806. His other sons, Thomas and Isaac, both married. Thomas to Margaret O'Conner of Fox River in 1802 and Isaac to Mary Rooney of Perce in 1804. Both had large families.
Land claims in the Gaspe remained frozen for the next 17 years. When a special commission to hear land claims in the Gaspe visited Douglastown in 1819, Thomas Kennedy claimed he had bought lot 22 from Morin in 1801. This is the only mention 1 have found to how the claim for lot 22 was resolved. It would appear that Kennedy and McPherson agreed to settle the dispute between themselves. If a settlement had not been reached, then 1 am sure Henry Johnston would of filed an objection to the Kennedy claim. As far as 1 know, Thomas Kennedy's claim in 1819 went unchallenged.
As for William's dream of a large farm to the west of Douglastown. Well, as fate would have it, it was his son-in-law, Thomas Walsh who managed to put the land together. In 1819 Thomas and his son William held lots 16 through 20. A total of 500 acres in all. But that's another story, one to be told in a future issue.
1 have included a chart of the first three generations of Kennedys on the next page. It follows the same format as the Morris chart that was included in the last issue of the DHR.
The story 1 have told of the Kennedy family is the one 1 have put together from Canadian archival records. But 1 am sure that there is a lot more to be found with a little bit of research. Especially into American archive sources. For example, William's farm in New York would have been sold at auction and those records have been preserved.
Mithilda's account of the Kennedys in Maryland must have some basis in fact. Maybe William married into the Maryland Butler family and this is the origin of the story. A more careful examination of Maryland colonial records may provide some answers.
Mithilda also mentions in her work that William was the agent and manager for a Quebec firm by the name of Davis & Stevens. That they brought French and Jersey fishermen to Gaspe Bay, sold them supplies and at the end of the season bought their fish. 1 have not found anything to indicate that William was anything more than a homesteader. But again, Mithilda didn't just pluck "Davis & Stevens" out of thin air. There is a story to be told here but 1 don't know what it is. More research.
Recollections of Bygone Days by Lucy Condon Briand
It would take forever to write all the memories and incidents that 1 can recall during the course of my long life. Some people tell me 1 have an over active imagination by saying 1 remember back to when 1 was two years old.
Not possible you say? To me this special incident is as fresh in my mind today as it was on a certain Sunday morning way back in 1918. There could be an explanation why this incident settled in my memory. Maybe it was due to a catastrophe that happened around that time. When try father was away at work our house was destroyed by fire. If it wasn't for the quick thinking of our mother, we might of all perished in that fire. She saved us, she really did.
We went to live at my grandparents house until I my father could build the home that still stands in Douglastown today. 1 well remember my grandfather Maloney came home from church this certain Sunday. 1 was standing by the table, probably looking like a lost lamb, and he said, "Let me see your boots." Someone must have given me a new pair of boots as we lost all our clothes and everything we owned in the fire. But 1 remember raising my foot to show grampa my boot.
So many different things were happening, so different from our quiet lives at home no small wonder why the memories of those days lingered in my mind.
Douglastown is a completely different place from what it was even thirty years ago.
So many people have moved away, or have died and so many new families have arrived that our little Irish town is not really Irish anymore. Land that belongs to people who have moved away is left to grow to wooded lots, obscuring the beautiful view of Gaspe Bay and the surrounding mountains. From my father's house on the hill we could see the waves rolling in from the bay. We could see the train bridge where we used to watch the engine smoke of the old train coming into Gaspe.
We would sit out on the hill and listen to the strings of a violin and mouth organ coming from the Bar, where people used to live. Everything was so tranquil and silent. We could hear sounds in the distance; maybe the far away barking of dogs or people yelling to one another. Every sound brought back an echo. Such a beautiful little town!!
Iremember when we were young, getting up early in the morning during the summer and going outside. The smell of the trees was so fragrant, and the birds singing in the trees, not another sound to be heard. There were no cars roaring up and down the streets back then, there were only horses and buggies and maybe a few oxen.
Douglastown at one time was divided in sections; each person's property was separated by grassy lanes. We had a name for most of them such as Gertie's lane, Robert Rahel's lane, Eddie Rooney's lane, David Kennedy's lane, Edmond Condon's hill and not to forget Mr. Bill's hill. Strange situation, but 1 liked walking in those grassy lanes over ruts left by horse and cart.
I remember once 1 was going home from the store by Gertie's lane. One stretch of woods where we had to pass was overgrown by trees which made a covered in path. As 1 stealthily walked along the path, 1 was shocked to see a man lying in the woods as if lifeless. Believe me my feet hardly touched the ground from there up the hill to our house. Breathless 1 tried to tell my father that 1 had seen a dead man down by Gertie's lane. Needless to say, my father went to see what 1 thought 1 saw. 1 was only 8 or 9 years old. It turned out to be an inebriated man (no names mentioned). 1 guess he couldn't make it any further. Memories and incidents are to numerous to mention. It would take ages to write about all the happenings in my life back home. After all I am an Octogenarian, I'm lucky I can remember anything.
I remember going to school and the sisters would organize us children to make one or two concerts per year. Of course there was always the St. Patrick's Day concert. And usually there was at least one other Some of us would sing, others would do dialogues - small plays. The sisters would always be so worried that we would take to laugh during the dialogues - which we did. 1 remember one special concert that was organized to celebrate Father Miles twenty fifth anniversary. 1 sang "A little bit of heaven". Looking back, I'd have to say that 1 really enjoyed those concerts. It seemed like almost everybody got involved.
How different people live today, 1 think everyone was blessed back then. We were not rich but we had lots of food. My father raised animals and always had lots of vegetables; and my mother baked the bread, "another memory".
My grandfather made an outdoor oven to bake the bread in. 1 can still envision him heating up the oven. The red hot coals were scraped out into a pail, and the bread hurriedly put in. An hour later we kids would be running into the house with big beautiful loaves of bread. The smell of freshly baked bread is indescribable!! We didn't realize how lucky we were. No one was starving in those days and believe me there was no welfare. People worked from dawn fill dusk, no one could afford to be lazy.
I used to be my father's helper and his "girl" too. 1 would help him with the hay and planting seeds for the garden. Many times during the dry season our pump went dry and my father had to carry water from his brother's, and 1 would go with my little pail to get water too. 1 also remember doing the ironing. 1 was too short to reach the board so 1 used to stand on a little bench that my papa used for milking. Dare 1 write more?
Running water in Douglastown came in use as late as the 50's. Until that time people had wells, some as deep as 80 feet. The water was drawn up by hand using a rope with a galvanised dipper on the end; the dipper held about four gallons of water Those who could afford it had pumps which surely made the task easier.
Years ago during the winter each homeowner shovelled their own land that bordered on the rural roads and it was quite a task as the snow was often five feet deep. But now I am getting ahead of my story.
Before cars came to town, the summer roads were not used in the winter. People made roads through the fields and to mark the roads they cut slim trees and "blazed the roads", as they called it. So there used to be what we called, "the road across the hill", or "the road by Mr. Freddie's".
I remember I was to young too go to midnight mass, so we would open the windows and listen to the sleigh bells. Everyone had a horse and sleigh, what a beautiful and memorable sound. When we got old enough to attend midnight mass we were usually picked up by some charitable person and made snug and warm in the front of the sleigh and the driver was usually Fred Kirouac. We were close enough to walk to church but we loved to be picked up for a sleigh ride. Now another memory comes to mind!!
During the cold winter months Gaspe Bay used to freeze over completely. There was a road made from Douglastown beach to a place called Peninsula which was on the far side of Gaspe Bay, seven miles away. From our house 1 used to watch the horse and sleigh's going across. Then there was another road from the beach across the "bluff' in Haldimand right up to Gaspe village. The third road was made across "the little bay" or St. John River above the channel starting at Rob Kennedy's landing right across to Cunning's property and on up to what we called the halfway road, a short cut to Gaspe Hospital or village, which was better than going around by Haldimand bluff. Those were the days.... probably as far back as 1916 to the early 30's and no doubt before 1 was in circulation.
I dare anyone, whoever know's or heard of me to say, "I don't have a darn good memory', and I am Octogenarian.
The purpose of the DHR is to record the history of Douglas township. Sometimes we find that aspects of that history have already been recorded in other sources so from time to time those sources will be reviewed.
The article which follows is based on excerpts taken from Miss Phillips work on Gaspe Bay schools. In this, the first of two parts, Miss Phillips discusses early Douglastown schools and covers the period until 1837.
Education in Doug1astown by Miss Dorothy
In the beginning..... before any permanent settlements appeared in Gaspe, Indians from around the St. Lawrence and the Bay of Chaleur as well as people from Europe came to Gaspe Bay to fish. It is believed that fishermen from at least France and Portugal and possibly other European countries came to fish in the summer months long before Jacques Cartier's voyages of the 1530's. For almost another century thereafter, these transient Indians and Europeans continued to paddle or sail to the protected fishing grounds of Gaspe Bay.
After Champlain founded Quebec in 1608, fishing expeditions were organized and sent down the St. Lawrence in the summer months, to return to Quebec in the fall with their boats laden with dried cod and other fish. While records concerning these expeditions, which probably went on for about 150 years are scarce, we know by what General Wolf found that. these fishermen had buildings at Grande Greve and in Gaspe Basin. There was a sawmill near where the fish hatchery is today and there had been activity up the Dartmouth river.
The Indians and the Europeans in these early times carried on education in its practical sense. The former travelled in family groups, no doubt teaching the children the arts of fishing, hunting, paddling and surviving. The early French expeditions from Quebec probably contained family groups, and the children, while enjoying the freedom of the beaches, were probably required to help their fathers and mothers in much of the work of catching and drying the fish. While some of the leaders of these annual expeditions were undoubtedly able to read and write, and while some of the children probably attended school in the winter and were taught by the Recollects, Jesuits or Ursulines, it is not likely that any attempt at formal educafion was made during those busy fishing seasons in Gaspe.
The fall of the French regime and the institution of British rule did not bring a sudden change in education in Quebec. For many more years, there were no schools or teachers around Gaspe Bay. Education continued to be mainly of the most practical and basic kind.
Permanent settlements around the Bay were begun with the arrival in the 1760's of three families. Felix O'Hara and his wife Martha McCormach at Basin Point Richard Ascah and his wife Christiana Mellick at Peninsula and John Patterson and his wife on the south side of the York river. O'Hara was a Lieutenant in the British Navy, Ascah had been a corporal with Lascelles 47th regiment of Foot and Patterson had been a lieutenant in Amherst's Regiment of Foot. Families of these disbanded soldiers were soon growing up; six O'Hara children, six Aseah children, and several Patterson children.
At the close of the American Revolution, some Loyalist families and the families of disbanded soldiers came to settle at the new town of Douglass. During the same period, other families and individuals were arriving in ones and twos. Most of these families stayed only a few years before moving on to Upper Canada or elsewhere. Those who remained established homes in what became the communities of the South West Arm, Sandy Beach, Haldimand, Douglastown, L'Anse aux Cousins and Peninsula- A large number of children were, therefore, soon joining the Patterson, Ascah, and O'Hara children.
These new settlers were so busy in the last decades of the eighteenth century seeing to their physical needs that there was little time for anything else. The Government of Quebec, or Lower Canada as it became in 179 1, was similarly very busy and could merely establish a simple judicial system in which bailiffs, sheriffs, and justices of the peace were appointed to take care of minor legal cases. There was no government department in charge of education and no system of education. Except in Quebec City and Montreal where the religious orders had been conducting schools for many years, schools existed only where a settlement was lucky enough to have a teacher among its inhabitants or where someone took the initiative and set up classes paid for by the parents. A Loyalist, Mr. Benjamin Hobson, began a school in New Carlisle and kept on teaching until he was an old man of 84.
It appears when looking at the signatures on petitions and other documents that the children around Gaspe Bay did not grow up in total ignorance of the ABC's in spite of their environment and in spite of the struggle for a livelihood which must have occupied their parents. There is little evidence surviving on which to base an understanding of what formal education went on. However, in some families whatever learning the parents had was passed on at least in part to their children, perhaps during the long winter evenings. Some families like the O'Haras, the McPhersons and the Johnstons were able to send their children up to Quebec to be educated. But this was the exception.
The absence of churches and schools was much regretted, both by the Government at Quebec and among the citizens themselves. Some of the new settlements built small chapels where they worshipped under the leadership of one of their own or of a missionary travelling along the coast during the summer. One such community was Douglastown where the Roman catholic people built a small church in 1800. Soon after that Catholic chapels were also built at St. George's Cove and Point St. Peter. The Church of England sent a bishop to Quebec in 1793. The presence of this man, Bishop Jacob Mountain, and of other clergy who came with him and in succeeding years, added new support to those who were concerned about the lack of churches and schools.
Plans for a system of schools were discussed for some years until finally in 1801 a concrete step was taken. An Act of the Legislature was passed to establish "free schools and the advancement of learning in this province" and under it was created a "Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning". The RIAL was run by a board of trustees and made recommendations to the government on the opening and closing of schools and the appointment of teachers. The teachers were expected to charge the pupils a tuition fee to supplement their salaries but were to allow any who could not afford to pay to attend free. Hence the description of the schools as "free".
At this time the Governor and the rest of the Government were too preoccupied with the Napoleonic Wars, which soon moved to this side of the Atlantic in the War of 1812-1814, and with other pressing aspects of governing Upper and Lower Canada to pay much attention to this new institution. In fact, the legislation of 1801 was not legally put into effect until the year 1818. However, in the meantime, various communities in Lower Canada undertook to provide schooling under this new system and one of these communities was Douglastown.
Douglastown's First-School On September 20th, 1811 the heads of the families in "Douglass-Town and Haldimand Town" sent a petition to the Governor, Sir Georges Prevost. Having read many letters written by Henry Johnston, 1 believe it was he who composed and wrote out the petition. Although the petition states that the two "towns" were settled by 16 families, 18 heads of families actually signed, fourteen from Douglastown and four from Haldimand. As can be seen (the letter is reproduced on the following two pages), the petitioners asked for a teacher of "the English language, writing and accounts" to be provided with a salary of not more than thirty pounds a year. They in turn would build a school house 40 feet long by 24 feet wide at their own expense which when completed would be conveyed (turned over) to the government.
To His Excellency Sir George Prevost
The Petition of the undersigned inhabitants of Douglass-town & Haldimand-town, in the Bay of Gaspe, Inferior District of Gaspe.
Most Humbly Showeth,
That your Excellency's petitioners have chiefly resided in the said towns, ever since the period 1783 when the Government of this province undertook their establishment in the view of thereby providing for the future support and utility of such persons, who were Loyalists and disbanded soldiers, at the conclusion of the American war.
That the said towns are contiguous and are at present settled by sixteen families and in which your Excellency's Petitioners are heads and the children who have been born in the said towns since their settlement are in proportion numerous; and many of them are become useful in the fisheries which are carried on by the said towns and which are of a considerable importance. That your Excellency's petitioners humbly represent that as the fathers of families, in whose welfare they feel deeply interested, they have long been sensible of the disadvantage of their local residence, in respect to the total want of means for the education of youth; and that the procurement of a fit person for the office of a Teacher of the English language, writing and accounts appears to your Excellency's petitioners to be an object unattainable by them, without the aid of government. Inasmuch as a person could not be induced to settle among them from a reliance of obtaining thereby permanent maintenance and as also your Excellency's petitioners are not generally in circumstances of sufficient affluence to contribute to that end, in an ample manner, without experiencing personal difficulty.
That your Excellency's petitioners humbly therefore represent that they would implore, the beneficent attention and patronage of your Excellency towards the effecting of such an object, as the establishment of a common Schoolmaster for the benefit of the said Towns, whereby their children may enjoy the blessing of instruction, which must necessarily tend to the forming of their morals and the improvement of their abilities for proper and useful conduct in life.
That your Excellency's petitioners represent that should your excellency be pleased to direct their attention to erecting and completing a house with suitable apartments and a school-room for a schoolmaster to be appointed and established on a small salary from Government, your Excellency's petitioners will thankfully, and without any delay accomplish such an undertaking on their part, the apartments and school room to be in the whole of the dimensions of forty feet in length by twenty four feet in depth, and the school room to be fitted up with a good iron stove and which when erected and completed would be conveyed by them for the said uses, for ever.
That your Excellency's petitioners humbly represent that there is vacant and unlocated ground in Douglass-town convenient and central for the erecting of such a house; and that a school-house, being there, would be sufficiently convenient for the neighbouring town of Haldimand.
That your Excellency's petitioners further most humbly represent that they approach your Excellency with the hopes, that your favour and protection will be extended to them in this instance by the endowment of a School in Douglass-town, on a salary which would be of sufficient encouragement for a Schoolmaster though, not exceeding the sum of thirty pounds currency per annum; as your Excellency's petitioners will also annually contribute by an allowance of wages.
May it therefore please your Excellency to take the premises into consideration and to be pleased in your Excellency's wisdom and bounty to dispose thereof as may be proper; And your Excellency's petitioners as in duty bound will ever humbly pray.
The petition has been typed for you to read but the signatures are a true copy from the original document.
On October 25th, 1811 the Governor sent his approval for the new school and appointed Henry Johnston, Thomas Kennedy and Alexander McRae as commissioners.
Two years later on September 30, 1813 the Douglastown Commissioners reported that the school house and an apartment for a schoolmaster were nearly complete. The commissioners were recommending a Jeremiah Shea for the position of Schoohmaster. Mr. Shea had agreed to commence teaching the children of Douglastown and Haldimand as of November 1st, on the assumption that his Excellency, the Governor, would approve.
They also petitioned for four acres of "unceded" land attached to the new schoolhouse. The land was described as being in the "common" between Front Street No. 1 (the King's highway) and the Salt Marsh (St. John river) giving it about one acre in depth; and between Cross Streets 3 & 5 for about four acres in length. This request was approved by the Executive Council in early November.
There are few surviving letters about this school's earliest years, but one letter in 1814 from Henry Johnston states that Mr. O'Shea had begun teaching November 1, 1813, and had eighteen "youths of different ages under his tuition". The schoolhouse was not quite finished, but it was in use. It was the first official school opened around Gaspe Bay.
Alexander McNeil was the teacher who succeeded Jeremiah O'Shea. He started teaching in August of 1817. His course of study was rather breathtaking: "English, Writing, Arithmetic & Bookkeeping, Practical Geometry, Mensuration of superficies & solids, Trigonometry and navigation. He said a few scholars were taught "gratis" and "the others pay, or promise to pay, five shillings per month besides fuel for the school furnished by the parents".
Henry Johnston wrote a series of letters in 1820/21 complaining about McNeil. He accused him of spending his time farming and surveying instead of teaching. He also treated the school boys with "brutal ferocity". His pupils were few and his course of study got scant attention. The R.I.A.L. decided in 1821 not to reappoint McNeil.
Another problem besides inadequate teaching plagued Douglastown and the other R.I.A.L. schools. The community was required to build a schoolhouse, and, once it was complete, it and the school property were to be conveyed to the ownership of the R.I.A.L. As the conveyance had to be done by a notary and as there was no notary in the Gaspe Bay area, it was very hard to get such a document prepared. In the case of Douglastown, the school came into use in 1813 and had not yet been conveyed in 1821.
In November of 1821, the secretary of the R.I.A.L., Rev. James Mills, wrote Johnston that a new teacher would not be appointed until the conveyance was completed. A rather indignant Henry Johnston wrote back in May of 1822 to say:
"I and the other Commissioner, Mr. Kennedy, had formally executed such Deed before a respectable Magistrate Henry O'Hara Esquire & witnesses and such Deed in duplicate was regularly transmitted to you Sir by Courier."
A schoolmaster by the name of Ambrose Howell had begun teaching in Douglastown on November 5th, 1821, and was not paid by the R.I.A.L. for some years. He must have managed on the payments made by the parents, usually two or three shillings a month per pupil.
The schoolmaster's life was not luxurious, often not even comfortable, and the society in which he lived was very primitive. A medical doctor by the name of Von Iffland, who came down from Quebec in the summer of 1821 to vaccinate the children of Gaspe, spent some time in Douglastown, Grande Greve, Point St. Peter, and Gaspe Basin and wrote a detailed report of his observations of life here at the time. 30 He observed "drunken savagery", terrifying forest fires, extremely high prices for goods sold in the stores of the only fish merchant and failing prices for fish and whale oil. He found great ignorance and little education and commented, "I cannot undertake to predict how education can be promoted, given the present state of things." Education was promoted, however, and little by little, grew in significance.
Unfortunately, Henry Johnston died suddenly in October 1824. The new commissioners, Thomas Kennedy, Alexander McRae, Captain Walter Graham McArthur, Isaac Kennedy and Daniel Scott were directed to repair the schoolhouse which was described as being "in ruins". Howell had stopped teaching during this period, no doubt because of the state of the school and the fact that he continued to have difficulty being paid. In the eyes of the R.I.A.L. the school still had not been conveyed. By November of 1825 the school had been repaired and with his salary renewed, Howell was once again teaching. Howell continued to teach until his death (before 1830).
A brief report signed by Henry O'Hara and Isaac Kennedy and dated March 27, 1827 stated that they had visited the Douglastown school and found "the master's conduct every way agreeable to the rules of the Royal Institution". Attached to their report was a list of twenty-three scholars in attendance, given under three headings as follows:
Writing: John & Mary Gaul
This list must have been made by the schoolmaster, as an unsigned note under it states that the "poverty of the settlement and the want of books prevent more from attending and puts it entirely out of my power to form the school into regular classes." It appears that the children who had a spelling book studied spelling and those who had a reading book studied reading, and that only two children, John and Mary Gaul, had a slate or other writing material.
Although the Haldimand people signed the petition for the school in 1811 and Alexander McRae of that place continued as a commissioner for some years, it appears that none of the Haldimand children attended the Douglastown school. The St. John river was probably the main obstacle preventing them.
From the school lists one can see that a few new families had come to Douglastown since 181 1 and that there were numerous children growing up, many of them not in school. Other families continued to come and some left from time to time. School lists like the one opposite for 1829 show new names like Condon, Rail and Costello. An 1830 list of scholars shows two Costley children and Henry Spruen.
The "want of books" mentioned by the schoolmaster, as well as the "want of money" were constant problems for many more years and were referred to again and again in letters not only from Douglastown but from the other communities once they undertook to operate schools. It is not easy for us to imagine a family with not even one book with which to equip the children for school. But that was the state of affairs in 1830.
The least advanced pupils were taught the alphabet and the next class words of two letters and the next words of three letters. After that the children learned reading and spelling. The pupils would be promoted according to their progress and did not necessarily remain a whole year in a class or always move ahead at the end of the year.
The R.I.A.L. schools were supposed to be non-denominational, but the fact that the Church of England Bishop at Quebec and his clergymen, such as Dr. Mills, took a leading part in the operation of the Board created the impression that it was a Protestant organization. Although the Roman Catholic Bishop of Quebec was invited to be on the Board, he refused because of this impression and, as a result, comparatively few Roman Catholic communities had a School of Royal Foundation. Douglastown was one which did. In the correspondence concerning this school, there is no evidence of any reference on the part of the Royal Institution to denominational teaching.
Because so few Catholic parishes were participating in the Royal Institution, the Government of Quebec passed an Act, called the Fabrique Act, in 1824 by which every fabrique or church council was authorized to acquire land and to found and support one or more elementary schools. This was followed in 1829 by an Act for the Encouragement of Elementary Education which enabled the government to grant subsidies to school boards made up of five elected trustees. These boards could establish and have complete charge of schools in their communities, thus involving fewer restrictions than there were under the Royal Institution. The only requirement was that before the teacher was paid, a semi-annual "return" had to be forwarded to the government, signed by the trustees.
By the late 1820s some changes were made in the administration of the funds and of policies in Quebec. The former method of teachers' salaries being paid by the Assembly was abandoned and a lump sum was made over to the R.I.A.L. which was divided up among its teachers. As this sum was not greatly increased from year to year, and the R.I.A.L. had no other financial resources, the schoolmasters' salaries could not be increased and in some cases were cut back. As the funds of the Royal Institution became more and more inadequate, the existing schools were either discontinued or changed to be under the 1829 act.
Report of the School for Douglastown
in the County of Gaspe
Students John Morris Charlotte Morris William Gaul Charles Gaul Catherine Gaul Andrew Kennedy Isaac Kennedy Mary Kennedy Ellen Kennedy James Morris Cecile Morris James Kennedy Elizabeth Kennedy Andrew Real Lawrence Real Mary Real Lawrence Rooney Anastasia Rooney James Walsh Elizabeth Walsh Susan Larea Mary Condon Alexander Mcrea Jemina Mcrea Michael Costello Judith Costello James Costello Thomas McAuley Mary Scott Susan Scott
Certificate from trustees verifyinz Mr. Mahony's report.
John Mahony was the teacher in Douglastown in 1829-30 and in the report from that school dated June 30, 1830, the trustees Luke Gaul, Isaac Kennedy, Thomas Kennedy, John McRae, and William Walsh reported that "a public examination of the Scholars was held at the schoolhouse on June 8, 1830, one weeks notice having previously been given in the manner directed by the Act for the Encouragement of Elementary Education....... 1 found no documents showing how this or any of the other schools was turned over to this new authority, but in a list of R.I.A.L. schools discontinued through lack of funds, dated Dec 31, 1831, Douglastown was mentioned.
Mr. Mahony and teachers who succeeded him in Douglastown, Bernard Conly (1830-1833) and Mathew Foley (1833-1836), all received small salaries of usually 20 pounds per year.
In both Upper and Lower Canada great dissatisfaction with the government had been growing for years and came to a head in the rebellions of 1837. One of the principal causes of trouble was the lack of power of the elected assemblies over the appointed Executive and Legislative Councils which were known in Upper Canada as the Family Compact and in Lower Canada as the Chateau Clique. One power the assemblies did have was control over the money supply; in Lower Canada this was used as a weapon against the Council and Governor. The assembly refused to grant funds for the running of the government. With funds cut off, the schools had to close. The R.I.A.L. as a provider of elementary schooling went out of existence and lived on only in McGill University. Unfortunately the 1829 Act for the Encouragement of Elementary Education was not permanent and had expired in 1836, and so, there was no legal force to keep the schools operating. J. B. Meilleur, Superintendent of education, wrote in 1846 about the expiration of this law and the assembly's actions: "...1530 schools, then in full operation, were for the most pail closed and many schoolhouses fell into ruin for want of means'. The schools closed because the parents were not able to pay the Schoolmaster's salary by themselves.
1 found no mention of the Douglastown school for many years after the 1836 "return" and therefore cannot say how long Matthew Foley or his successor was able to continue after this. Bernard Conly , one of the former teachers, remained in Douglastown and Mathew Foley did, too, and is the ancestor of the present day Foleys.
This ends part one of Dorothy
Phillips story on Douglastown Schools. In a future issue we
will provide more excerpts from Dorothy's book covering the period from
183 7 (a New Beginning) until the arrival of the Sisters of the Holy Rosary
in 1900. If you ;are interested in purchasing a copy of Miss Phillips
book she can be reached at:
Did you know .... She could be called the "mother' of Douglastown. It's grand matriarch. She is the one common ancestor of the Morris, LeRhe, McAuley, Scott and Baird families as well as branches of many other early Douglastown families. Yet she was neither Irish, Scotch or English. Who was she?
Answer: The wife of Thomas Morris and then of James LeRhe was a French Canadian woman by the name of Catherine Samson. The Samson and Briand families will be featured in the next issue of the DHP.
I try not to make mistakes but mistakes will happen. If you find any errors then please let me know If you have any questions, comments, ideas or if you would like to contribute material for a, future issue (i.e. stories, pictures - copies only, do not send originals) then please send your correspondence to: