By Ann Breault
Charlotte County, located along the Bay of Fundy in the southwest corner of New Brunswick adjacent to the State of Maine, was one of the original eight counties of New Brunswick established in 1785. In the beginning its civil parishes numbered seven: Pennfield, St. Andrews, St. David, St. George, St. Patrick, St. Stephen and West Isles.1 The county boasts a significant system of rivers: the St. Croix, the Digdeguash, the Magaguadavic and the Lepreau. Not particularly fertile, the hilly terrain is best suited to growing trees.
It may come as a surprise to some that, historically, Charlotte County is one of the most Irish counties in New Brunswick. Bearing witness to this fact is the number of old roads (many now just trails), brooks, lakes and coves carrying the names of Irish pioneers. Examples abound: Birney Lake, Burns Brook, Devlin Road, Doyle Lake, Flynn Road, Kelly Road, Kerr’s Ridge, Linton Road, McAleenan Road, McCann Cove, McCarthy’s Point Road, McMinn Road, McQuade Lake, Milligan Brook, Reardon Road, Taggarts Brook.2
[click on picture above for larger view]
Although there were some Irish-born Loyalists, for example, Peter Clinch, who founded St. George, immigration from Ireland to New Brunswick began in earnest after 1815 following the Napoleonic Wars in Europe and the blockade of the Baltic States, the source of much of England’s timber supply. This led England to look to North America to replace those supplies and thus burgeoned the young timber trade in New Brunswick and the need for labourers in the forests and mills.3 Ships carrying lumber overseas, although ill-equipped for carrying passengers, provided cheap passage, and a returning payload for their owners in the form of human cargo.
New Brunswick has four major concentrations of Irish settlement: Saint John, the St. John River valley, the Miramichi Valley, and Charlotte County (and they spread out from there).
In Charlotte County, in the eight-year period from 1823 to 1831, 4, 044 immigrants landed at St. Andrews and 90 percent of them were Irish. Between 1820 and 1835, 75 percent of the Irish immigrants were from Ulster (Scots-Irish) and 25 percent from the South. The large group of Ulster Irish that came in 1835 formed 24 settlements, ten around St. Patrick’s Parish, seven at St. James, three at St. George, two at St. David and one at St. Andrews.4 Most of these settlers later acquired farmland and any that were skilled craftsmen came to locate in the growing towns.
In the years between 1835 and 1855 thousands more arrived and the proportions of immigrants were reversed, with 75 percent coming from the South and 25 percent from the North.
In Charlotte County in the 1840’s one-third of the population consisted of Southern-born Irish, mostly Roman Catholics. They settled about the periphery of St. Andrews and later up around St. Stephen. They became a labour force of railway and dockworkers. They also moved into the countryside becoming farmers, woodsmen and millworkers. By 1840 the population of Charlotte County had risen to 18,176, second only to Saint John County and City.
By 1851 in Charlotte County where the population was just short of 20,000, 40 percent of the heads of households had been born in Ireland.5 In the Loyalist town of St. Andrews 52 percent of the heads of households had been born in Ireland. Historian T. W. Acheson, Writing on the historical demography of the county, said that by 1860 the Irish formed “the dominant element in the populations of this Loyalist county.”6
Charlotte County has an interesting heritage of both Protestant and Catholic Irish, and of those who remained in the county by 1871, well over 60 percent were Protestant Irish. To get a sampling of early Irish surnames of both groups, one might visit two cemeteries: the Bocabec Presbyterian churchyard on Route 127 where Ulster-Irish are buried who built a church there in 1836; and the Catholic cemetery in Rolling Dam.
A visit to a number of Charlotte County cemeteries to review the surnames of Irish immigrants and their county of origin in the old country (as depicted on tombstones) reveals that over 20 of Ireland’s 32 counties are represented. Some of the names still remaining in Charlotte County include: Haley, McMullon, McFarlane, Murphy, O’Neill, O’Brien, McCullough, McLean,Connors, McGowan, McShane, McVey, Cloney, Dowling, Monaghan, Devlin, McCarroll, Kerr, Cathcart, McBride, Doyle, Doherty, McCarty, Eagan, Casey, Donahue, Brynes, McCann and Kennedy.
Other names are gone, to list a few: Crangle, Costello, Dooley, Cavin, Kerney, Commins, Getty, Riordan, Foley, Patterson, Noonan, Keown, Flanagan, Ryan, Quinn, Conway, Flood, Fitzsimons.
|Aerial View of At. Andrews|
Many were the ships that came into St. Andrews during the 19th century carrying Irish immigrants. Dating back to the 1820’s they bore such names as Portaferry, Snow Dorcas Savage, Heart of Oak, James, Magna Charta, Elizabeth Grimmer, Susan, James Bailie, Hibernia, Elizabeth Clark, Pallis, Robert Watt. None was as notorious as the ill-fated Star carrying 383 people from the Wicklow estates of Earl Fitzwilliam which arrived in May 1848. And the Jeanie Johnston called at this Charlotte County port in 1853.7
The arrival of the Irish received mixed reactions from the settlers already here. There was definitely a push for settlers in the early years, and as one author has written: “The province had millions of acres of undeveloped land ready for industrious settlers. There was a need for labourers in the lumber woods, the docks, and the mills of the province. Established farmers needed agricultural labourers, who in turn could become settlers. Domestic servants were also needed everywhere.”8 However, the later arrival of sick and impoverished immigrants shocked the citizenry and taxed the resources of the county. When the destitute from the ship Star landed in St. Andrews, one prominent citizen was reported to say it looked like “all the demons of Hell have been let loose on St. Andrews.”9
Many more people arrived at that port than stayed, particularly during the famine years of 1845-1850. Approximately half the many thousands who arrived then made their way to the States as quickly as they could. Contrary to popular belief the vast majority of New Brunswickers’ Irish ancestors came out before the great famine.
By 1886 a number of Irishmen were practicing trades in Charlotte County. Blacksmithing was a popular one, and you had William Quaid in Baillie; Wm. Cunningham and Edward Henry in Bocabec; Jeremiah Quinland in Pocologan; Joseph Connick at Moores Mills, and James McBride at Oak Bay. Wm. Milligan of Baillie was a carriage maker; Robert Milligan of Bocabec, a tailor; Patrick McLaughlin, a shoemaker. Also shoemakers were Richard McKetian of Chamcook and Dennis Carson of St. Andrews. Innkeepers included James Gallagher of Chamcook.10
There were many grocers and shop-keepers: John Commins, Wm. Haley, John Reynolds, P. F. McKenna, H. O’Neil. H. and P. Cullinen dealt in dry goods, as did Dennis Bradley. There was also a liquor dealer by the name of Peter Carrol, and the St. Croix Excelsior Bottling Works which dealt in carbonated beverages, was run by F. H. Tyrill and W. J. Cummings. In Black’s Harbour the Connors brothers, Lewis and Patrick, had started canning fish.11
However, the number of Irish immigrants in business was small in proportion to their numbers. The following obituary in a 1932 edition of the St. Croix Courier tells of one Irish businessman’s life. He was Patrick Flannagan of St. Stephen, aged 91.12
PATRICK FLANAGAN DIES IN NINETY-FIRST YEARTown loses another of its oldest citizens in passing of retired grocer Tuesday morning, Native of IrelandPatrick Flanagan, one of the oldest and most highly esteemed residents of this town, died Tuesday morning at his home after a short illness. He was born in Kildare, Ireland, on October 9, 1841, and came to New York when a young man. In that city, in old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, he was united in marriage to Ellen Heffernan, formerly of Milltown, New Brunswick. Later with his family he located in St. Stephen and for many years engaged in the grocery business, retiring some years ago.Mr. Flanagan was a charter member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Calais, and was instrumental in forming that branch of the order. He is mourned as a fine type of man, always cherishing a deep love for his native land, a splendid citizen, who despite his advanced years was active and interested in the affairs of the day.He is survived by his widow, a son, Joseph P. Flanagan, of Boston, five daughters, and a sister in Ireland.The funeral was held from his late home this morning with a solemn High Mass of Requiem at the Church of Holy Rosary. Reverend Monsignor O’Flaherty, celebrant. Reverend George J. Petit, deacon, and Reverend Joseph Coughlan, subdeacon. Interment was in the family lot in the Catholic cemetery.
By the time Patrick Flanagan died the economy was in a tail-spin. Indeed, there had been a series of depressions since Confederation, accompanied by out-migrations. By 1934 the number of Irish in business and trades was about the same as 50 years before, and a few had made it into the professions. In St. Andrews the Conleys were dealing in lobster; there was a shoe merchant named Finnigan; hotel keepers by the names of Kennedy and McLaughlin; a garage owned by McQuoid; O’Neils were merchants; there was a Dr. O’Neil; and the sheriff was a Maxwell, sometimes an Irish name in this county. In St. Stephen, Annie Breen had a grocery store; Albert Burns, a restaurant; the Caseys were barbers; Wm. Coyne, a plumber. Frank Dooley was a barber; the McBrides, into tailoring, coal and groceries; Arthur McConkey, about to go into the hardware business; John McCarroll and W. Robinson were grocers; the Ryders, harness makers; Mr. Wm. McCormick had a restaurant; P. E. McLaughlin was a barrister; A.W. Sullivan, the postmaster; and E. V. Sullivan, a physician. Up in Milltown W.H. McLaughlin was also a physician and Charles Casey was the postmaster. Restaurants were kept by Joe O’Brien, and Denis McMahon. Henry Bell was a milk dealer; Robert Carroll, an electrician; Pat Casey, a barber; Martin Daley, a blacksmith and Harry Haley, a druggist.13
Today in Charlotte County, as in all of New Brunswick, those of Irish ancestry are in all walks of life, all professions; well-known businessmen and women; successful athletes, politicians, artists; part of the fabric of Canadian society, proud Canadians.
 Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB), Charlotte County Genealogical Guide: 2006, p.2
 New Brunswick Backroad Mapbook (Burnaby B.C.,2007) maps 2-5; and 1851 Census, Charlotte County
 William A. Spray, “Reception of the Irish in New Brunswick,” New Ireland Remembered Historical Essays on the Irish in New Brunswick, ed. Peter M. Toner (Fredericton: New Ireland Press, 1988) p.14
 Rev. Leo J. Haynes, The Catholic Irish in New Brunswick, 1783-1900, ed. J. Edward Bellieveau (Canada, 1992) pp. 145-146
 1851 Census, Charlotte County
 Spray, p.11
 PANB, Reports of Ships’ Returns for Charlotte County
 Spray, p.18
 As told by the late Judge Earl Caughey of St. Andrews
 PANB, Charlotte County Directory 1886-1887. F763
 St. Croix Courier, 7 April, 1932
 The New Brunswick Provincial Directory, 1934 (Moncton, Maritime Press Ltd.) St. Croix Public Library, F12386
——1851 Census, Charlotte County
Hynes, Rev. Leo J., The Catholic Irish in New Brunswick 1783-1900, Fredericton, Privately Printed, 1992
——, New Brunswick Backroad Mapbook, Burnaby BC: MapArt Publishing Corp., 2007.
Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB), F763, Charlotte County Directory 1886-1887.
Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB), Charlotte County Genealogy Guide, a pamphlet, Fredericton, 2006.
Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB), Reports of Ships’ Returns for Charlotte County
——, St Croix Courier, 7 April 1932
Spray, William A, “Reception of Irish in New Brunswick”, in New Ireland Remembered: Historical Essays on the Irish in New Brunswick, Peter M Toner, ed., Fredericton: New Ireland Press, 1988.
——-, The New Brunswick Provincial Directory, 1934, Moncton: Maritime Press Ltd, 1934.