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Restigouche River, New Brunswick

PEOPLE OF THE RESTIGOUCHE

   To know something about the people of the Restigouche River and their background, let us go back in history and find out where they came from and why they came.
   In the year 1745 a dashing young man left England and journeyed to Scotland. His name was Charles Stuart, later called "Bonnie Prince Charles", the Chevalier or later the Young Pretender. He was there to claim the Scottish throne for the Stuarts. The highlanders flocked to his support. He was able to be crowned "King of Scotland." He marched to Edinborough and defeated the national army there. This gave him confidence and with an army of six thousand he crossed the Scottish border. His army was young and poorly trained and badly armed, although France helped with arms and money.
   He had planned to march to London, but he was advised not to take such a chance.- Some of his followers went back home to Scotland but he did manage to recruit three hundred men in England. So he began a slow retreat defending himself nobly but he was forced into a showdown at "Cullodon" Moor 1746 at the edge of the Highlands. His troops were young and as I mentioned before, poorly armed and poorly trained and tired and no match for the well disciplined and well trained British soldiers in lines three deep. The highlanders charged with their claymores, two edged swords, but the British poured grape shot into the Scottish ranks and cut them to pieces and the Scots fell back. Then the British divided their lines leaving a hole in their center. Prince Charles, thinking he had breached their ranks, made a fatal blunder. He charged again and passed through that hole as the British had expected him to do, it was suicide. Those Scottish lads, some hardly more than boys, fought bravely to the end, but were soon overcome. Those who were left were cruelly killed. Bonnie Prince Charlie managed to escape to the Highlands and later to France where he died a broken man. The British under George II, left an army in Scotland.
   They hunted down, the Hicchlanders and burned their homes, destroyed their crops, killed their cattle, ravished their women and nearly destroyed the Highland clan. Through the winter many died or were killed. Many fled and scattered to many parts of the world, where their off-spring can be seen today. Many landed in Canada. It reminded them of the Highlands, back home, and they started in to make new homes and they were wonderful pioneers and brought many skills. Some came up the Restigouche River where you will hear such names as MacDonald, McDavid, MacDougall, MacCallum, Furguson and McBeth, many more. Some went into the hills cleared farms and eked out a living and in time became quite prosperous. More followed the river and became river men and part time farmers.
   In the year 1845 the potato crop failed in Ireland, when a wet Spring caused a disease that killed most all of the potato crop. In 1846 it was no better and as that was their staple diet, the people died of starvation by the thousands. The farmers abandoned their homes and fled that stricken country. Many migrated to Canada and Eastern United States and no doubt many landed on the east coast of New Brunswick. There they went their separate ways.
   They followed the rivers, the Miramichi, St. John and Restigouche and of course other rivers as well, but we are only interested in our own fair river, the Restigouche. The Irish, a rugged and tough race, the Fitzgeralds, Mahoneys, Haleys, Caseys and Delaneys, and many more with not so Irish sounding names, such as Broderick, Murray and Myles to name just a few. They were very poor as they brought very few worldly goods with them from the Auld Sod, but they brought other things, courage, muscle and the great Irish sense of humor. On the Restigouche River they did not establish Irish settlements as they did on the lower New Brunswick, but intermingled with the other pioneers and as a result, over the years, have lost most of the Irish brogue, but you can still detect a faint accent and to me it is the most beautiful dialect in the world.
   Not all the people on the Restigouche came because of the potato famine or the battle of Calloden. The French and the English were already there. Some came with the early explorers, others just came for adventure.
   The first settlers on the Restigouche must have suffered great hardships with just the bare necessities of life. They built log cabins.
   In the winter the river was their highway and with nothing more than a gun and a pair of Indian snowshoes and an axe, they struggled through the winter snows and bitter cold. Without doctors or medicine, except what they made for themselves, the mothers looked after the children with great courage and fortitude. Their families were large - eight or ten children was not considered a large family. Even in my time I know one family with seventeen children and another seated sixteen at the dining table, not counting the parents. Gradually things changed for the better, they cleared the land, raised cattle and pigs, chickens and sheep.
   But wait - we still have other men that I almost forgot about. In the old days many ships such as full riggers and windjammers came up the Restigouche as far as Campbellton for their cargoes of timber. They came from overseas from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. No doubt when they left their home port they signed on for the return trip, but when they arrived in Campbellton they jumped ship. They would hide in the near bush for a few days and when they thought the ship had cleared port, they would make their way up River avoiding the roads, if they could, taking no chance because the captain always detailed a couple of trusted members, perhaps the second mate would be the one to hunt them down, but it would be almost impossible to find a man in those hills and those fellows did not have long to hunt because the ship would be clearing port shortly. The farmers and lumbermen would hire them. Although the people on the river didn't approve of their daughter marrying a runaway sailor, but knowing the way of a man with a maid, they couldn't stop them and usually the parents accepted them as one of the family and sometimes became a favorite. They were fine fellows and became good citizens.
    Speaking of runaway sailors brings to my mind an experience I had with one of them when I was a boy perhaps ten or twelve years old. A bunch of us boys were down by the river when we saw a sailor on a horse coming up the railroad track of all places, perhaps he thought he would be safer there. He stopped and spoke to us in a language we didn't understand but he made signs and we knew he wanted to know where the ford was to cross the river. We pointed it out to him and told him to go up the river till he came to a bridge, then wade out to about the middle of the river and then down about opposite where we were standing, then go straight to the Island.
   He misunderstood us and didn't go far enough up and waded his horse into a deep hole. When the horse started to swim he tried to steer him by the reins and a swimming horse is hard to steer and in this case the horse upset. The sailor could not swim or was a poor swimmer, but managed to grab the horse by the tail and got ashore, badly soaked but unharmed. He tied the horse to a tree, said a few words, perhaps telling us what to do about the horse or just maybe he was telling us that we didn't know anything about the ford. We didn't understand anyway. What happened to the horse I don't remember but I do remember the sailor going up the track, a very wet man and I think a very lucky sailor because the ford we knew would only take him to the Island then he would have to ford again to get to the Quebec side and that was very dangerous for only an experienced man could make it.

   The English, Scotch and Irish settled close to the river and depended on it for their livelihood whereas the French stuck to their farms well back from the river, but one thing they all had in common, all depended greatly on lumbering. Of course there are always exceptions to every rule. Some French did stay close to the river and intermingled with the English and married English speaking girls. There you may hear such names as Boudreau or Latoirneau and they speak no French. The French usually stayed on their farms. They were quite independent. They made their own cheese, ground their own grain, grew tobacco, made their own moccasins, raised sheep and made what they called home spun clothing, made their own mitts and socks. One French settlement stands out in my memory more than any other, a place called St. Alexis. I worked there one winter in the bush. The farmers there raised more livestock than they needed for themselves so they delivered it to the settlements along the river. One familiar figure was the meat man. He bought meat from the farmers in St. Alexis and delivered it twice weekly from house to house as far as Campbellton. Our favourite meat man was one Joe Pineault.
   He must have arisen early in the morning as he had about twenty miles to go by horse and wagon and stop at every house on the way and he would arrive at our place about eleven A.M. in Tide Head. We kids would hear his familiar cry: "Any meat to'day." We would rush to tell mother, then to the road. He always seemed to have time to talk a little about the weather or the crops in St. Alexis. He had a democrat wagon with a little house built on and a set of beam scales and of course a big knife and meat saw. He always had some meat cut up but he never wrapped his meat as they do to-day. He also had a quarter of meat hanging up and he would give you any cut of meat you wanted and one thing you could be sure of and that was, when you wanted a roast, you got a roast, not just a piece of meat wrapped around any bone and tied with a string and called a roast, as they often do to-day. Meat was very cheap by to-day's standards, steak fifteen cents a pound, roast ten cents a pound and if you were a good customer and paid him when you promised to, and he was honest and trusting himself, he may throw in a soup bone, a liver or a pig's head free. This was very exciting for us kids and we looked forward to it. We would hear him going home late at night but Joe's heart was not in the meat business.
   He had too much ambition for that. He wanted to be a big lumberman and he got to be one of the largest jobbers on the Restigouche River where he logged for many years and employed quite a few men. He moved to the west end of Atholville, which they named Pineaultville in his honour. To entertain the folks around there he built a merry-go-round, just a simple affair - which consisted of a post sunk in the ground with three cross bars on top and six seats holding two people suspended from those bars. Then he had an old grey horse fairly close to the post. In this way the horse didn't have to go fast to make the swings go at a great rate and then he had a fiddler from St. Alexis, Larry Galant, better known as Larry Fish, I don't know why. He would play the Irish Washerwoman, Lord MacDonald's Reel and many other tunes. The attendant was also the teamster. People old and young, came to see this unique merry-go-round. It was enjoyed by everyone. He charged a terrible high price - fifteen cents for adults and five cents for children - for a five or ten minute ride. Of course when he paid all his fiddlers, attendant and other expenses, he didn't have much money left, but he did his little bit to keep the people happy. In his later years he retired to a little farm in St. Arthur. He lived the rest of his life there, a good and honest man.

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