The Madawaska Settlement in 1829 was facing famine. The wheat crop had failed the two previous years, and many in the Settlement were near starvation.
In the early summer of 1829, a group of people from the Madawaska Settlement presented a petition to William Black, the President of New Brunswick's Legislative Assembly, requesting help for their community. Black recommended that the Magistrates and members of the Legislative Council and House of Assembly who were in Fredericton at the time (the legislative session having ended in February) inquire into this situation.
Thomas Baillie, the Comissioner of Crown Lands and Surveyor General of New Brunswick, volunteered to check out the situation, and on June 24th received instructions from President Black to proceed to Madawaska, "ascertain the extent of suffering from famine which existed amongst the Inhabitants", and "to make arrangement for such temprorary relief, to a limited extent, as circumstances might demand". [Black letter to the Legislative Assembly, 5 Feb 1830]
Baillie travelled to Madawaska in July:
I called together the leading men and accompanied by them visited the dwellings of a number of the poorer class, where I found the most ample testimony that ... without immediate assistance not only great privations would be experienced but actual starvation to an alarming extent must ensue. [Baillie letter to William Black, January 29, 1830]
The Chatham, NB newspaper The Gleaner and Northumberland Schediasma, reporting on Baillie's mission, provided some details in an article published on July 28, 1829:
Many families have for some time existed on the flour made from blighted wheat, kneaded into bread with the inner bark of the white birch. Berries and roots, procured from the forest, have been the sole dependence of others; and the prospect of procuring even such a miserable fare was obscured by rapidly increasing weakness. In one house which Mr. Baillie visited, there were 16 children, five of whom were unable to walk from the united causes of untended infancy and pinching debility. [source]
Given this dire situation, Baillie formed a committee made up of Madawaska "leading men" Simon Hebert, Pierre Lizotte, Antoine Bellefleur and Francis Rice, who were "to enquire into all the particular cases of distress, and superintend the judicious distribution of such relief as might be extended."
Baillie then travelled to Woodstock, NB and purchased 400 bushels of "Indian corn" (corn or maize) which was distributed to those families in need, under the suprervision of Rice.
As part of this process, Rice drew up a report for Baillie on the families who received assistance. That is the report that is transcsribed here.
The report lists the head of each household that was deemed to be in need, or in the words of the report, "sufferers," and the number of persons in each household. In addition, it lists the amount of corn given to each household.
The situation in Madawaska continued to be dire over the next several years. In 1833 New Brunswick commissioned a full census of the Madawaska Settlement, identifying which households were in need of assistance, but also specifying the crops and livestock of each household. For information on the 1833 census, as well as a full transcription, go to my 1833 census of Madawaska page.
The report itself is a listing of heads of households, number of persons in each household, and the amount of corn, in bushels, provided as relief to the household. Families are on both sides of the St.John; the Madawaska Settlement was still disputed territory, so New Brunswick considered the entire settlement to be within the jurisdiction of the Province, in York County.
The list of households was written out over three pages; each page had two columns. In the transcription each column has been put on a separate page.
As is the case with other censuses and reports taken by anglophones, in this report too French names are often written quite differently from the actual spelling. In the online name index I have indicated the correct spellings.
Thanks to Norm DeMerchant for pointing me to the online database of the Legislative Assembly at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick website.
Documents on this website:
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Last revised 6 Jan 2015
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