Chapter I. Native and French Population--Arrival of the Loyalists
THE origin of the Church of England in New Brunswick is peculiar. In almost every instance, elsewhere, the establishment of the Church has been the result of the work of missionaries in places where previously there was little knowledge of the truth. So it was in this Province before the time of the American Revolution. The inhabitants in the interior of the country were native Indians. Religious instruction was afforded them by Roman Catholic missionaries. Theirs must have been an arduous, self-denying work, and worthy of high regard. At intervals along the coast, and on portions, of the river banks, were French settlers, who shared with the natives in the ministrations of the French priests. After the conquest of Quebec, and the final triumph of the British arms in the prolonged contest waged with France in America, a few English settlements were established on the St. John and Miramichi rivers, at Passamaquoddy, and in the County of Westmorland. The great majority of the new-comers were of Puritan stock, and strongly antagonistic to the Church of England. With the exceptions referred to, the whole Province at the time of which we speak, was for the most part, an unbroken forest. All at once a great change came over the scene. That sad, unhappy war, between Great Britain and the Colonies, was at an end. Separation and independence were secured. Among those who contended to the last on the Royalist side were those who were members of the Church of England, resident in New York, Connecticut, and the adjoining states of New England. Their position was necessarily a trying one. They could not endure subjection to the recently established republican government, and they were objects of aversion to the majority now in the ascendancy. The downfall of the monarchy seemed to imply the downfall of the Church. [How little did those hardy, devoted men know of the future of the Church which they considered was "finished" in the United States! There it is now passed from "darkness to dawn." Merging in fuller light, the American Church is to-day the most important branch of the Anglican Communion outside the British Isles. There is no Diocese in the Dominion of Canada to compare with that of Connecticut, from whence a large portion of the Loyalists came. It has its churches, schools, hospitals, and church homes, with over one hundred and fifty clergy. A church recently destroyed by fire in the Parish of Stamford, whence one of the earliest missionaries in New Brunswick came, has lately been rebuilt at a cost of about $200,000. Surrounding the church are grand buildings for schools, a church home, and hospital.] Excepting in the City of New York, and in a few other favoured places, the ministrations of the Church of England ceased, in some places they were forbidden by the civil authority. Among the Loyalist minority were many of considerable means and culture, who, previous to the war, had occupied prominent positions in their several localities. It must have been a trying wrench to leave their homes, in many instances so dear, for new, untried regions. This, those loyal to their Church and King felt must be done, at all hazards. In their migration we are somewhat reminded of what poets told, ages ago, of early settlements on the coasts of the Mediterranean. There was, however, one great difference. In the latter case, everything was attractive to the exiles in the way of climate and many other advantages. The Loyalists left comfortable homes, and a more favourable climate, for that of New Brunswick, with its long, stern winters, its native Indians, its unbroken forests. Aid, indeed, was generously and promptly afforded by the British Government. Means of transport were provided for those who wished to seek new homes. On the 18th May, 1783, the first band of exiles, numbering three thousand souls, landed near the mouth of the River St. John, where is now the flourishing commercial city of that name. The father of the present writer was one of those exiles. He was at the age of thirteen. In after years he would tell of that landing on the shore, of the brushwood extending to the water's edge, and of the encampment on the banks of the harbour. In the same year vessels continued to arrive throughout the summer, and a considerable party of disbanded soldiers were added to the colonists.
At the time we speak of New Brunswick formed a part of the Province of Nova Scotia. Careful and minute arrangements were made by the government for the comfort of the new settlers. Farming utensils, seed, and other necessaries were liberally provided. To each family tracts i of land were granted from three hundred to six hundred acres. Over and above two thousand acres in every township were allotted toward the support of a clergyman, and one thousand acres for the maintenance of a Church school.
A small minority of the refugees were non-conformists. Several clergymen of the Church of England accompanied the new settlers. At that time there does not appear to have been a minister of any other communion. Soon after, by the kind and bounteous aid of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, Loyalist clergymen from the new Republic arrived. To that Society many of the most important missions in the colonies, now independent, owed their maintenance. The seed, thus cast upon the waters, was plainly seen after many. days. It can be traced out to-day. It was now felt that grants from the Society should be transferred to those in greatest need and to loyal subjects of the Crown. By this means men well trained and well fitted for most trying work were provided with partial means of support. Among the number were graduates from King's College--now Columbia--New York. They had received ordination in England. The names of many of these devoted men are remembered with reverence and deep regard. Opportunity has not been often found to minister to congregations like those which met together in those trying times. The very line they had taken, their loyalty so fully proved, the trials they were called to undergo, their cheerful endurance, marked them as men of no ordinary character.
It is hard to imagine greater difficulties than those which beset the work of the clergy, at the period of that early settlement. Though in most instances roads were wanting, and there were only paths through the primeval forest, the most distant residents were not neglected. Ere long, as the country prospered, additional missionaries were provided for by the Society in England. Churches were built and schools established. In many respects there was much wanting, which churchmen of our modern days look for and provide. But, best of all, sound teaching in the principles of the Church was uniformly afforded. The young, both in the schools and in their homes, were well trained in the teaching of the catechism and prayer book. Whenever public services were performed there was a large attendance of devout worshippers.
The following interesting account has been kindly furnished by the Honorable Mr. Justice Hanington, respecting one of the few pre-Loyalist settlers who was a churchman:
The first English settler at Shediac was Wm. Hanington, Esq., of London, England, who came there early in 1775 in company with a friend, a Mr. Roberts, who only remained a short time, and then returned to Europe. Mr. Hanington had purchased from the representatives of Governor Williams a tract of about five thousand acres of land, thinking it lay near Halifax, but on his arrival found it was at "Chediak." There were then no other settlers but a few families of French Acadians about that harbour. The feeling against their then recent conquerors was strong, and, in consequence, Mr. Hanington was subject to many privations incident to the early settlement of the country. Mr. Hanington for some years, so far as English neighbours went, was alone, but quite early in the present century, having afforded every encouragement to good neighbours, several families were added to the neighbourhood; and as soon as two or three could be gathered together he began and maintained, till the advent of a clergyman to the parish, morning prayers and evening services each Sunday. This good work, as the families increased, was very successful, and has borne good fruit in creating and fostering a strong Church feeling in the village. As early as 1810 works of the S.P.C.K. were kept and circulated as part of the Church work at Shediac, and these books may yet be found doing missionary work for the Church. The rector of Sackville, the late Rev. Mr. Milner, occasionally visited Shediac, which, was then within his charge, and administered the sacraments and ordinances as often as he could. In about the year 1824, chiefly through the liberality of the S.P.G., and of Mr. Hanington, the present church was erected in the parish, and the Rev. Mr. Arnold took charge there until about 1831, when he was succeeded by the Rev. Mr. Black, after whose removal to Sackville in 1886 the late Dr. Jarvis was inducted and remained rector there until his death in 1881. Shediac was visited by the Lord Bishop of Nova Scotia about 1823, it being a part of his Diocese. He came there in one of H. M. warships, and also then visited Prince Edward Island. The parish was again visited and confirmations held by the Bishop of Nova Scotia down to about 1843, and since the year 1845 it has been under the pastoral charge of our late Lord Bishop Medley, whose constant visitations have done so much to maintain a good Church feeling there.