The Tobique Valley Genealogy and Local History Group of Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, Canada has much of interest to folks with connections to the Scotch Colony. Dedicated individuals have done the hard work of recording cemetary records and making the data available on their website.
Another nugget on the Tobique Valley website is a newspaper clipping which describes the beginnings of the Scotch Colony. The photograph of the article is very valuable and interesting reading. Here is the transcription which readers may find easier to read.
The Settling of the Scotch Colony
By Chris Allen
The settling of the Scotch Colony in Victoria County by families from Aberdeenshire and Kindardineshire, Scotland, was in large part an exercise in faith and personal fortitude. Most of those who emigrated to New Brunswick were fairly well educated and had skills and trades which provided the families with a decent livelihood, although by no means were they well off. The Scots people had cultural and family ties that went back hundreds of years, they were proud of their heritage and strongly united in religious beliefs.
At that time, in the late 19th century, life in Kincardineshire, as elsewhere, was lived at a much slower pace than in our modern day. People were secure in their social positions, and they knew what to expect from life. However, the aristocratic “lairds” (lords) in each parish owned all the property and most people had to work under the laird’s directions.
Working for the lairds also meant that people would never change their situation. But that was not a concern for people—it was just how life was—until the Scots became inspired by the idea of owning their own land and obtaining it for free in far away New Brunswick.
There was a lot to lose by their emigration to Canada, but they figured they could bring the good qualities of their Scottish culture and transplant it to a Scotch colony provided only people of good character partook in the emigration to New Brunswick.
Their way had been organized and prepared by a Captain William Brown of the Anchor Line of steamers from Stonehaven, Scotland. Capt. Brown had negotiated with the New Brunswick government for a block of land large enough for 50 families with provisions made to build roads, clear two acres of land and erect a cabin for each family who wanted one.
In April 1873, 545 Scots sailed from Glasgow, Scotland, on the steamer S. S. Castalia for Saint John. It was a difficult farewell for the people as they left family member, friends, and their secure way of life behind in Scotland. All they had to carry them into the unknown was their dreams of being masters of their own domain and their religious faith. By these, they would be guided safely through whatever was encountered.
The S. S. Castalia landed in Saint John in May after a rough voyage. The colonists embarked aboard smaller boats to sail up the St. John River to Kilburn. The colonists discovered that there were no roads built or cabins prepared on the lots as has been negotiated by Capt. Brown with the provincial government. The woods were thick and still had more than a foot of snow on the ground, which made it difficult to move their baggage and supplies out to their new properties.
Most of the families tented in Kilburn or slept in granaries for the first three or four weeks, until paths were cleared and small cabins constructed on the lots.
The settlers were not used to the hard physical work such as chopping trees and dragging heavy logs for land clearing and construction projects.
The settlers were not used to the hard physical work such as chopping trees and dragging heavy logs for land clearing and construction projects. After six weeks of exhausting work, 30 of the settlers gave up and went to work in Woodstock, Fredericton, or Saint John.
The next three years was a trying time for the Scottish settlers. The climate was much harsher than what they were used to and consequently they lost much of their planted crops to bad weather. Their living conditions were primitive and there was much work to be done just to survive.
Many families were going into debt, were often hungry, and their clothes were down to rags. There were no jobs in the area for earning more money, and they had no doctor or minister to tend to their physical and spiritual needs.
At the time Rev. Peter Melville arrived in the Scotch colony in 1875, he found the settlers in a sorry state. People were depressed and apathetic, social tensions among groups threatened to break up the colony. Most families kept only to themselves and held private religious services at home, and taught only their own children. There was no longer the high idealism as before or the social cohesiveness they knew in Scotland when life was easier and their church was foremost in their culture.
However, Melville was a great leader and organizer. He quickly brought people out of their depression and apathy by encouraging them to organize schools, prayer meetings, Bible classes, and elect Elders and Deacons to the church. He got the settlers to actively participate in their community again. This, in conjunction with his religious services, helped revive the positive attitudes the settlers had enjoyed before in Scotland.
The Scottish colonists were remarkably strong to so quickly shed their apathy, forget about personal grievances, and come together again as a colony of Scotsmen. Life was still physically hard, but it improved each year through much hard work.
Under the guidance of Melville the settlers built four schools and their first “Kirk” (church). Schools were built in Bon Accord, Kincardine, Upper Kintore, and Kintore. The first kirk was built in Kincardine from lumber supplied from each district.
Melville left the Scotch colony in 1878, and various ministers periodically resided in the colony, supported by the Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church, as the colonists had no cash to pay the stipend for a regular minister.
Nearly 20 years of hard work passed before the colonists were established enough to provide the money for a permanent minister. In 1896, Rev. Gordon Pringle became the minister and his stipend was set at $500 per year.
Pringle served as minister for the Scotch colony for 58 years. He was well loved and respected for his untiring work for the settlers. Under his direction and energy the colony grew and prospered. Churches were built in the other districts, and people grew well enough off to have an active community life with Scottish dances, poetry and music sessions, Burn’s Night, St. Andrew’s Day, and more.
Their dreams of starting a Scotch colony in New Brunswick where people could enjoy the rewards of their labours on their own places eventually came true. Through continuous labour and despite desperate times, the settlers persevered to at last build a comfortable life style with their Scottish heritage and church foremost again in their lives.