LogoFort Folly Nation Logo
1815 to 1950's

By 1815, peace had returned to America and Europe.  Peace meant the release from active military and naval service of thousands of British soldiers and sailors.  In the British Isles, there had been a reorganization of the farmlands to make them more profitable and this resulted in the removal of thousands of tenant farmers.  The industrial revolution in England was well on its way creating factories that required fewer workers.  General health was improving and more children were reaching adulthood.  All these factors resulted in a surplus population in the British Isles.

In New Brunswick after 1815 there was an increased demand for new settlers to help open up the province.  Land was cheap and wages were high.  The economy of New Brunswick increased dramatically and there was acceleration in timber-cutting, farming, fishing and shipbuilding.  Annually many ships sailed to England with cargoes of lumber for British markets and returned with cargoes of immigrants who took advantage of cheap passage fees.  In the years between 1815 and 1850, thousands of settlers came from the British Isles to New Brunswick and those living here, including the Maliseet and Mi'gmaq, were overwhelmed by the influx of immigrants, capital, technology and new cultural values.  In 1800, New Brunswick's population was 25,000 and by 1840, it was well over 200,000 due in large part to the arrival of so many immigrants from the British Isles.

Newcomers from the British Isles settled all over New Brunswick and opened up previously unsettled areas.  They got heavily involved in the timber trade that also had the effect of dispersing people still further into the wilderness.  Those possessing little capital moved to more remote frontier areas to lumber, farm and fish.  Often the poorest of these newcomers squatted on Mi'gmaq and Maliseet designated land parcels in various parts of the province.  These acts of trespass increased and resulted in numerous complaints sent to Fredericton by First Nation leaders.  Although these activities were illegal, colonial governmental authorities made few serious attempts to stop them.  In the 1820's government officials at Fredericton tried to put some order to the timber trade but the majority of New Brunswick viewed Crown lands as communal property.  They resented government's imposition of licensing fees to raise a revenue to pay for roads, schools and other public improvements.  Lumbermen resented government attempts to keep them from illegally taking timber off First Nation land or from settling on designated land parcels for First Nation occupation.

In the years after 1815, the Miramichi River valley offered the best opportunities for lumber- especially great stands of pine.  In 1819, there were over 200 square-rigged vessels loading timber and sailing from the Miramichi, and in 1824, it surpassed Saint John as a port for exporting timber.  The region was isolated and society on the Miramichi was explosive.  Gangs of sailors left their ships and wandered throughout the country, seizing and destroying property at will, burning houses and barns.  A detachment of the British military was sent to keep law and order and stop the sailors from coming ashore and rioting.  At Richibucto in Kent County, there were the same kinds of problems associated with the timber industry.  In 1826, the lieutenant governor in Fredericton had to dispatch troops to quell rioting among the lumbermen and sailors.

  • 1815
  • The colonial government at Fredericton did not have a consistent policy or plan for dealing with the Mi'gmaq and Maliseet First Nations. 

    The British colonial government viewed New Brunswick First Nations as wards of the Crown.  Each 'tribe' had a Chief and came under a single governing authority.  Each 'tribe' occupied a designated land parcel licensed for First Nation  occupation known by the same name as the 'tribe'.  Designated land parcel were licensed to Maliseet and Mi'gmaq to occupy and use, but title to these designated land parcels still remained with the Crown.  There was no administrative mechanism to allow government to maintain any continuous contact with Maliseet and Mi'gmaq scattered throughout the province.  Relief supplies were distributed on the initiative of a sympathetic official and only when necessary.

  • 1819
  • Francis Julian received permission to clear an area for growing hay and to practice lumbering in support of First Nation families residing on the Pabineau River.  The government in April 1841 finally granted a license for First Nation occupation.  The first attempt to register a land parcel on the Pabineau River was when Andrew Julian and 9 petitioners wrote to Fredericton in 1809. 
  • 1824
  • February 25, 1824 the land parcel designation originally issued on September 9, 1805 for the licence of First Nation occupation on the north side of the Richibucto River was modified.
  • 1825
  • The Lieutenant Governor received approval from London to spend up to £60 each year out of the colonial revenue to assist First Nations by providing farm tools and seeds to encourage agriculture. 
  • 1825
  • Ancestors of today's Fort Folly First Nation, Francis Xavier, Francis Noncourt, Joseph Noncourt and Peter Non court applied for a land grant located in Aboushagan, New Brunswick on September 30th, 1825.
  • 1825
  • The Miramichi Fire broke out on October 7th, 1825 after a hot dry summer.  The fire, fanned by gale-force winds, destroyed 6,000 square miles or 3,000,000 acres of forest, burnt the towns of Newcastle and Douglastown, and killed 160 people.  The fire burnt the designated First Nation land parcel on the Northwest Miramichi, destroyed much valuable timber, and damaged soil making the land suitable only for growing blueberries.  It was a severe blow to the prosperous economy of the region.  The lumbering industry moved north into Restigouche County where encroachments on First Nation land parcels again took place.
  • 1826
  • The Lieutenant Governor appointed Indian Commissioners to supervise the distribution of funds and persuade the Mi'gmaq and Maliseet people to settle on designated land parcels and take up farming.

    The reports of the Indian Commissioners in 1826 indicated that there were between 40 and 50 First Nation families on the Kingsclear designated land parcel, and about 5 or 6 families at Meductic where about 60 acres had been cleared.  It was reported that a small chapel had been built at Tobique.  The First Nation people at Bouctouche numbered 4 or 5 families.  They had put up large fences to keep livestock and had made additional improvements.  During the previous winter, there was a lack of provisions and several families had left the designated land parcel but were returning in the spring.  At Aboushagan, there were 4 or 5 Mi'gmaq families.  At Richibucto there were 46 Mi'gmaq families amounting to 240 people.  At Miramichi there were 87 families consisting of 359 individuals.  These families possessed oxen, farming tools, supplies and grain for planting. 

    Another role of the Indian Commissioners was to investigate the many complaints forwarded to Fredericton by First Nation people regarding trespasses by lumbermen and squatters on the designated land parcels licensed for their occupation.  Reports on these complaints were constructed and government tried, in a few cases, to prosecute the trespassers, but had little success.

  • 1828
  • The federal government bought the Hayes farm that became the new St. Mary's or North Devon designated land parcel for First Nation occupation
  • 1829
  • Last known member of the Beothuk First Nation dies.
  • 1838
  • Requests for information from the Colonial Office led to a list of 'Reserves' compiled in 1838.  This list did not include First Nation lands at Kingsclear in York County, other lands granted to the First Nations or lands that they had purchased.  In addition, it did not include ancient territories claimed by First Nation people at Meductic and other communal sites within the province that the government had not issued licences of First Nation occupation for one reason or another. 

    A designated land parcel was licensed for First Nation occupation on September 19 consisting of 15 acres encompassing 3 islands called the "Brothers" in the Kennebecasis Bay.

  • 1840
  • Land purchased from Amasa and Sally Weldon for 30 pounds was formally created as a designated First Nation land parcel by the colonial government.
  • 1841
  • During the mid-nineteenth century Moses Perley was New Brunswick's recognized expert on the province's rivers, natural resources and fisheries and the foremost authority on Indian affairs.  In 1841, Moses Perley, as an advisor on Indian affairs to Lieutenant-Governor Sir William Colebrooke, was instructed to visit the First Nation communities and prepare a report on what he discovered.  This report is a matter of public record thus provable by the presentation of the record.

    Perley reported that in New Brunswick, at that time, there were 442 Maliseet or "forest Indians" and 935 Mi'gmaq or "saltwater Indians" for a total population of 1,377 First Nation people .  This sum did not include Mi'gmaq at Eel Ground and Dalhousie in Restigouche County because they were counted as living on the Quebec side of the Restigouche River. 

    Perley observed that the First Nations lived within the province but were not part of New Brunswick society even though interaction with settlers had made changes in their habits, customs and dress.  A number of families had abandoned the wigwam, had built framed houses, and were farming or working for wages.  In his interviews with the elderly, he learned that many First Nation children died in infancy from measles, whooping cough, scarlet fever, croup, typhus, smallpox and other diseases previously foreign to them.  First Nation people relied almost entirely upon their own medicinal knowledge with no assistance from other sources. 

    Perley recommended re-surveying and clearly marking the boundaries of each designated land parcel.  He also recommended that the farm lots that non-First Nation people illegally inhabited be sold to resident squatters, prevalent on the designated land parcels licensed for First Nation occupation.

    At Kingsclear, Perley reported 158 Maliseet living on a designated land parcel licensed for First Nation occupation of ~320 acres.  Here they had constructed 9 frame houses (some with stone basements), 1 house partially completed, and 11 large wigwams.  They requested additional lands so that their people who were nomadic could settle down.  They were in the process of constructing a new chapel and reported that a Catholic priest from Fredericton visited regularly.  Perley noted that the Maliseet at Kingsclear were in close contact with non-First Nation people and had become 'settled'.  They were very industrious with the women making baskets and the men supplying the materials and farming.  He reported that land was suitable for farming, each family had a portion of ground, and crops of corn and potatoes were cultivated.  The community owned 2 horses, 4 hogs and ~150 fowls and there was considerable meadowland from which grass was cut and sold.  The men hunted but it was not for as long as seasons in the past.  The First Nation people requested a school since none of their children could read or write.

    At the ancient community of Meductic, Perley reported 29 Maliseet living there.  The land was rich and fertile but the First Nation people claimed that over the years they had lost a considerable portion of it to local settlers.  Perley reported that the First Nation people had possessed this land since ancient times and wanted possession of it confirmed by government.  The settlers, who also wanted the land, were able to persuade the government in Fredericton to issue them grants to the land in question.  Later that year government moved the Maliseet to a site 3 miles below Woodstock.

    At the Tobique designated land parcel Perley reported 30 families consisting of 123 people living in 11 framed houses and in 12 large wigwams.  The designated land parcel consisted of 16,000 acres, extending eight miles in front of the river St. John and running back the same breadth four miles.  Crops had been planted (chiefly potatoes) but some neglected, previously cultivated land was returning to its wilderness state.  The men primarily lived by hunting and fishing and occasionally worked in cutting trees, rafting logs and piloting the rafts down the Tobique and Saint John Rivers.  They made some money by selling hay and timber-cutting privileges to local settlers.  They were gathering lumber to construct a chapel.  They also reported that a Catholic priest from Madawaska visited them twice a year. 

    At the mouth of the Madawaska River Perley reported 27 Maliseet.  The land was rich and fertile and the First Nation people and a nearby French settler jointly farmed the land with both supplying half the seed.  Perley reported that in the past, the First Nation people had possessed a considerable amount of land but their Chiefs had leased much of the land to local settlers.

    On the Renous River, Northumberland County Perley reported 43 Mi'gmaq.  A few years later, the First Nation people abandoned this location and joined the Eel Ground community, which then claimed the Renous tract as their own. 

    At the Eel Ground community on the North West Miramichi Perley reported 108 Mi'gmaq.  With the exception of one family who had built a framed house, all the people lived in wigwams.  This land parcel consisted of 3,033 acres and licensed for occupation on January 10, 1789.  The valuable timber had long since been stripped.  The Mi'gmaq had planted potatoes, wheat and oats.  The men were employed in gathering lath wood, treenails, timber, and bark for the tanning industry and as coopers.  A number of women made a variety of baskets, brooms and boxes for sale.  In winter, the community members fished for bass and eels. 

    Perley noted that a portion of the designated 750 acres on the north side of the North West Miramichi, opposite the Little South West Miramichi, licensed for occupation by First Nation people and called Indian Point or Indiantown was partially leased to non-First Nation settlers by First Nation Chiefs.  The Mi'gmaq people lived on only 3 acres of river frontage.  They had erected a picket fence around their lot to try to prevent further encroachment.  Illegal squatters occupied the remaining land.  A short time later, the First Nation people abandoned the community at Indiantown / Sunny Corner.

    At Red Bank at the mouth of the Little South West Miramichi Perley reported several families consisting of 50 Mi'gmaq who had settled on both sides of the river.  The community was established on a designated land parcel of ~10,000 acres located on both sides of the Little South West Miramichi at its confluence with the North West Miramichi.  The licence of First Nation occupation was issued on August 13, 1783.  A number of non-First Nation settlers on this land parcel had leased land from a former First Nation Chief.  Perley noted that the Mi'gmaq were so crowded by squatters that they were left with only a few acres of land for their own occupation.

    At Burnt Church Point on the Miramichi Bay Perley reported 201 Mi'gmaq living in 4 framed houses and 17 wigwams on 240 acres.  They had planted potatoes, oats and corn and were raising several pigs.  On the north side of the river there was another land parcel of 1,400 acres which was in wilderness state.  The river furnished oysters, lobsters, sea trout and an abundance of eels, as well as large quantities of salmon, bass and waterfowl.  Aided by funds from the legislature the community had built a chapel and an adjacent presbytery to house visiting missionaries.  In winter, the Mi'gmaq moved to Tabusintac and to other places to work at lumbering and to spear eels through the ice for food.  Annually on St. Anne's Day, the Mi'gmaq of the Miramichi area assembled at Burnt Church and met with the Catholic missionaries to receive religious instruction and to have marriages solemnized and children baptized.  Perley noted that First Nation people married young, the males at age 16 or 17 and the females at 13 years of age.  At these annual meetings, disputes were settled and public business was transacted.  Chiefs were elected or deposed, and all arrangements were made for the upcoming year.  Perley reported that the First Nation people wanted a school in which to learn reading and writing and they requested instruction and assistance in agriculture methods and practices.

    At Tabusintac, Perley reported no First Nation people residing there in the summer.

    At Pokemouche in Gloucester County, Perley reported 75 Mi'gmaq residents.  They subsisted in summer by fishing and fowling and in winter, the men worked in the woods as lumbermen.  The First Nation people in the area did not cultivate the soil, or live in houses, but continued their nomadic lifestyle of harvesting and in pursuit of game that was readily abundant in that part of the coast because there were not a lot of settlers.  Some of the Mi'gmaq spoke a little broken French and a very few spoke some English.  This community had little interaction with non-First Nation people .  Perley reported that these people adhered more closely to the ancient habits, forms and ceremonies of their ancestors than Mi'gmaq in other parts of the province and that they gained their subsistence in a similar manner as their ancestors before the settlement of the country by Europeans.

    On a small strait between Pokesudie Island and the mainland, Perley visited a new, small First Nation community of 12 individuals who had cleared ~10 acres and had planted corn, potatoes, cabbages and other vegetables.  They had cut 4 tons of hay, owned 3 cows and some pigs and had built a snug little house.  Local settlers had threatened to drive the family off the land and Perley requested that government might issue the family a land grant so that they would be protected and able to continue to develop the land.

    On the northwest side of the Nepisiguit River, Gloucester County 7 miles upriver on  the Pabineau River Perley reported some 27 Mi'gmaq on a 1,000 acre land parcel with 500 acres on each side of the river including 2 islands.  In earlier times, the First Nation people had lived at Bathurst but had moved to the Pabineau River, their traditional hunting and fishing grounds.  Their first attempt to obtain a license of occupation was in 1809 when Andrew Julian and nine petitioners wrote to Fredericton.  In 1819,  Francis Julian received permission to clear an area for growing hay and to practice lumbering in support of First Nation families residing there.  The license for First Nation occupation was granted in April 1841.

    On the Restigouche River Perley reported a large Mi'gmaq community in Quebec at Mission Point just opposite Campbellton.  The settlement contained some 355 individuals living in 30 framed houses and the same number of wigwams.  Mi'gmaq men in this region were excellent axe men and employed as lumbermen along the Restigouche River.  The men spent a large part of the year in the woods but when the timber was floated downriver in spring, they returned to their homes for a time.  Non-First Nation lumbermen who had married Mi'gmaq women joined them.  First Nation people in this part of the colony frequently crossed back and forth from Quebec to New Brunswick and it was difficult to ascertain who the actual residents of New Brunswick were.

    At Eel River, about 5 mile from Dalhousie Perley reported 3 Mi'gmaq families numbering 12 individuals.  This land parcel consisted of 400 acres of wilderness land unfit for agriculture because the land was low-lying and covered with scrub spruce and fir.  The river supplied abundant salmon and eels and at certain seasons, wild geese.

    On the Richibucto River, Kent County Perley reported 188 Mi'gmaq occupying a portion of a designated 4,600-acre land parcel on the north side of the Richibucto River and extending up to Bass River.  Perley reported that the Mi'gmaq were acquiring orderly work habits, and were gradually leading more stable and 'civilized' lives.  The land was good for farming and First Nation farms were scattered along the front of the river from Big Cove to the Molus River.  The Mi'gmaq had cleared some 120 acres on which they raised wheat, barley, potatoes and cut hay.  There were 5 framed houses and a number of wigwams.  The men were employed as labourers at local wharves, shipyards and in the lumbering industry.

    At the designated 3,500-acre land parcel on the north side Bouctouche River, Kent County above Mill Creek, licensed for First Nation occupation on November 1, 1810, Perley reported 93 Mi'gmaq living there and that they had cleared about 100 acres and were growing wheat and potatoes.  The majority of the First Nation people still supported themselves by fishing and hunting.  There was one framed house and a number of wigwams.  Perley reported that the Bouctouche and Richibucto First Nation communities met annually on Saint Anne's Day to celebrate the Mi'gmaq Festival and to regulate their affairs. In Westmorland County on the Memramcook River at Dorchester, Perley reported 126 First Nation people who occupied a piece of land amounting to 63 acres.  This land, bought in 1839 by the provincial legislature, was conveyed to the magistrates of Westmorland County.  The First Nation people owned boats and made a living by fishing in the Bay of Fundy. 

    Perley learned that there were about 12 Mi'gmaq living on a small land parcel located at the mouth of the Aboushagan River that emptied into Shediac Harbour.  These First Nation people gained a livelihood by fishing and fowling.

  • 1842
  • St. Anne's Chapel built at the Beaumont land parcel.
  • 1851
  • The government at Fredericton began to grant clear title to small portions of designated First Nation land parcels to First Nation families themselves in the hope of making them more self-sufficient and less dependent on the Crown for assistance.  .
  • 1867
  • The provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick united to form the Dominion of Canada.  The authorities at Ottawa under section 91 of the British North America Act assumed responsibility for First Nation affairs.  It took federal officials a few years to acquire an understanding of conditions of the First Nation people in New Brunswick and elsewhere and Ottawa's rights with respect to First Nation lands. 
  • 1868
  • Indian land legislation.
  • 1869
  • The Department of Indian Affairs established a day school at Tobique to provide First Nation children with an education and skills similar to non-First Nation neighbours. 
  • 1876
  • Amended several times over the years, the federal government first passed the Indian Act in 1876.  It contained most of the federal law concerning First Nation people and incorporated many of the older colonial and local statutes as well.  It sets out certain federal government obligations and regulates the management of First Nation designated land parcels, moneys and other resources.  This legislation also set up the Department of Indian Affairs. 

    The federal government officials continued the policy of treating First Nations as separate, politically independent groups with the 'Band' as the main administrative unit.  'Bands' were governed by an elected Chief and Council under regulations set forth in the Indian Act.  A status Indian was an First Nation who was registered with the 'Band' and permitted to live within the designated community.  'Bands' got land from the federal government and the 'Band' held rights to land collectively.  An individual might use the land, but the 'Band' owned the land.

    The federal Department of Indian Affairs divided the province of New Brunswick into 3 superintendence's:
    1) North Eastern Division - communities at Eel River, Burnt Church, Bathurst, Eel Ground, Red Bank, Big Cove, Indian Island and Bouctouche;
    2) Northern Division - communities at Edmundston and Tobique; and
    3) South Western Division - communities Woodstock, Kingsclear, St. Mary's and Oromocto.

    The Indian Act gave extensive powers to the Superintendant General and appointed agents, who enforced the regulations.  Each agent usually looked after more than one community and was responsible for the implementation of departmental policies.  Agents were usually local farmers, physicians or clergymen who took care of First Nation affairs on a part-time basis.  Agents were responsible for directing farming operations, administering relief, inspecting schools and homes, and checking into health conditions.  Annually agents reported to Ottawa on the economic, social, moral and health conditions in First Nation communities.  They also reported production statistics, acreage planted, bushels harvested, houses built and schools attended.  They noted if First Nation people appreciated private property, 'thrift and hard work', especially agricultural work.  They noted the ability of First Nation people to speak and write in English, and noted their attendance at Church. 

  • 1879
  • The Department of Indian Affairs established a day school at Burnt Church to provide First Nation children with an education and skills similar to non-First Nation neighbours. 
  • 1881
  • The powers of the agents increased by making them justices of the peace with the authority to prosecute and hand down sentences for Indian Act violations.

    The Department of Indian Affairs established a day school at Eel Ground, Kingsclear and St. Mary's to provide First Nation children with an education and skills similar to non-First Nation neighbours. 

  • 1892
  • Government of New Brunswick conducted a land surrender of the designated Tobique land parcel for First Nation occupation (
  • 1896
  • The Department of Indian Affairs established a day school at Big Cove to provide First Nation children with an education and skills similar to non-First Nation neighbours. 
  • 1909
  • Some 494 acres of First Nation land was under cultivation and the return value was $6,745 for a population of 1,871 Mi'gmaq and Maliseet.  The returns from hunting were $7,025, for fishing $9,380, for basket and woodworking $23,195 and for wage labour $57,150.  The majority of First Nation people continued to support themselves by hunting and fishing.  They also did wage labour, working in the woods, lumbering, stream driving and loading vessels.  First Nation people in every community were involved in the manufacturing of baskets.
  • 1914-1918
  • World War I - a considerable number of First Nation men enlisted and served with distinction ( even though they had no right to vote.
  • 1916
  • The Department of Indian Affairs began holding crop competitions in a number of First Nation communities in the hopes of interesting First Nation people in agriculture. 
  • 1918
  • The Indian Act was amended to state that designated land parcels for First Nation occupation left uncultivated could be leased to individuals who wished to farm it for the Band's benefit.  This legislation had little effect and First Nation people continued to fish, hunt, trap and work as wage labourers.

    Relocation of Band members from the designated land parcel at Beaumont to land at Fort Folly, Dorchester owned by James Knockwood.  The Fort Folly First Nation attempted to exchange these lands and were finally successful in 1950.

  • 1918-1919
  • Indian Epidemic
  • 1930's
  • The Depression resulted in a lack of employment opportunities for First Nation men.  The Department of Indian Affairs tried to remedy the situation by employing some men repairing roads, digging ditches and in various construction projects in the First Nation communities. 
  • 1930
  • Last family moved from Beaumont to Fort Folly, the move starting in 1918.  Various attempts by the Fort Folly First Nation to exchange these lands finally succeeded in 1950.
  • 1939-1945
  • World War II - Over 3,000 First Nation soldiers and nurses enlist.
  • 1946
  • A farm adjoining the Kingsclear community was purchased so that returning First Nation soldiers could qualify for grants under the Veterans Land Act.  Fourteen new houses with cement foundations and brick chimneys constructed because of these grants.  A shingle mill was constructed here in connection with this building programme, and some 150,000 feet of timber cut.
  • 1947
  • Parliament consults with First Nation leaders about the Indian Act for the first time.
  • 1948
  • The license for First Nation occupation was issued on November 17 for Indian Island northeast of Rexton at the mouth of the Richibucto River.
  • 1950
  • Electric power was provided to the Tobique community and to 3 communities in the Miramichi Agency.  Later, a new water system was set up at Tobique, which supplied water to homes and public buildings; hydrants were installed for fire protection.  These improvements provided work for many First Nation men.
  • 1950's
  • Most First Nation people in New Brunswick were still involved in seasonal work.  In spring, they picked fiddleheads, fished, cut and planted potatoes, and later picked berries, peas and beans.  In the fall, they harvested potatoes; in the winter, they worked in lumbering operations in the woods.  In the 1950's Homemakers' Clubs were established in many of the communities and courses were taught in sewing, cooking, First-Aid, weaving and hat designing.  Men's clubs were established to conduct fund raising activities for various local needs and ladies' clubs organized social events and assisted needy families.