Letter from William Duncan, Stonehaven Journal – Thursday 10 July 1873

Letters from New Kincardineshire, Victoria County, New Brunswick to Scotland

The following letter from a working man to a fellow workman in Stonehaven shows the philosophical spirit with which some persons endure the greatest hardships. It bears a marked contrast when compared with the grumbling epistles of colonists in much easier circumstances:—
Carron Terrace, Stonehaven Road,
New Kincardineshire, Victoria County, N. B.
June 1, 1873
Dear Friend,
I am happy to say that we are all well. The fact is I was not so lucky as to get away from St John with the first lot of the Colony. They left on Saturday morning, and we did not leave the Castalia till Monday morning. We had a grand time of it in St John. I was offered a good job there the very day we landed, but of course I was looking for great things then up the country. The river was in heavy flood when we started, and it was late at night ere we reached Frederickton, where we were provided with lodgings in the Court House, and slept on the floor, men, women and children, till 3 o’clock in the morning. We got on the boat again, and as the river was still getting higher, with great difficulty we only made Woodstock late at night; there was no accommodation provided for us there and we spent a cold and most miserable night in the boat on the river. All the way between Fredericton and Woodstock the river was almost closed with lumber in rafts and loose logs, going to market at St. John. I could not have believed that any vessel could have torn through such a mass on a rapid river—many of the logs 3 and 4 feet through. St John is a very rapid running river all the way except near Fredericton. We started early again, and landed at the Colony wharf on Kilburn’s farm, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon of the 14th May. We then came to know that we were a year too soon. The houses were not all built, the roads not made, and the clearances not burnt. For all this disappointment we are indebted to Captain Brown, as he must have known that the Surveyor was not able to make ready for us, it has been such a bad winter, However, the Government took all our interest in hand and gave Brown the kick at once, and we are all right. I camped in a tent on Kilburn’s farm at the river side for a whole week, with many more. I got up to my place on Wednesday, 21st May, and now I am into the backwoods forever. I have got a house and a good farm, four acres of it chopped, the most part hardwood, birch, maple and beech. I believe Brown has told the truth about the number of trees on my lot. On one end of the land I have some monsters of pines very heavy. The birch and maple many of them are two and a half and three and a half feet thick, but no brushwood. The two oldest boys and myself have been working on the roads till this week. We earn three dollars a-day working ten hours a -day. We have been some days in a contractors squad where we work longer and have more pay. We used to joke about tickling the land with the hoe, but we use the hoe in road making. It is a tool about the same size and shape as a carpenter’s adze, and a thing something like a coal heavers shovel, but less. We don’t work hard, but we have to travel a long way sometimes, and such roads you never saw. A good many went down the river again the first week, but I have never thought of giving it up. Dunbar is down to Woodstock to a foundry there, he only hung out a week here. You may judge what I think of my position when I tell you that I had a first rate offer on Friday last to go down to a manufacturer near Fredericton to spin. He came all the way up here, and sent for me to meet him at the cross roads. He offered me one dollar and a quarter a-day, a free house, and work for all my family, and besides he would pay my expenses down the river. I promised to write him after consulting my better-half, and we resolved to stop in the forest. There is a great demand for labour here, of all kinds, and good pay. A good many of the young men and women have hired with the farmers round about, at from 16 to 20 dollars a month with board and lodging.
I like the country well, and getting as ragged as a Hottentot and a skin like a red Indian. If I had an afternoon in the Brewery with Russel and Willox now I could spin an interesting yarn without telling any lies. If you only knew what strange ways and hardships we have gone through, you would be astonished that Duncan has not gone altogether crazy. I am sitting this very day in the neuk of what was a whole house last week, and I am tempted to give you a good laugh by telling you how this came to pass. My friends, D. Taylor and J. Allan, came up to see me the other morning for the first time since I got to No. 30; they were to oblige me by chopping down a very heavy birch that stood about 3 feet from the back of my house. It was about 40 ft. high and more than 2 ft. through. They were practical hands and could cut so that it would fall the right way! It fell the wrong way and so fell right over the roof of the log house and sent it forward body bulk like a paste board house, but broke nothing, not even a pane of glass but of course it could not be left in that position, and so I sent to the next house for some lumbermen to get it off the stump. As soon as it was fairly cut, it slid over then end of the house taking the half along with it. I was very much vexed about the affair, it made such a talk up and down the colony; however, it is built up again since I began this letter, which I have wrote bit and bit when I could spare a minute. Alick is with a farmer up at Tobique. I was up there on Sunday; he is in a good place and extremely well treated, and the people are well pleased with him. I am at home this week burning and planting. I will not get all my land cropped this season, but I will have more than many will have. I have about an acre of potatoes, some Swedish and yellow turnips, a piece sown with buck wheat and a lot of peas, carrots, onions, and other vegetable, and a small patch of Indian corn. I have got a dog, some hens, and will have a pig next week. James and Annie are both going to places up beside Alick. James is to get clothes and schooling for a while till he is able to work, I could get rid of all my family, but I could not do without Willie and David. I am resolved to go down to Ram’s Head Woolmills, for some months through the winter. The firm is Geo. Lister & Co. They have been seeking me this week again. They are all Scotchmen about the work except he that was up at me. The foreman is Alexander Skene. He says he comes from Aberdeen. He is getting out a wife from home this summer, and get fairly settled here.
P.S.—I had not a broken package, and only two bowls and two cups inside the packages, and if you had seen all the usage they got you would be astonished that a board of them could hold together—they were shifted eleven times between Old and New Stonehaven.


Notes about the people mentioned in the letter:

Alexander Dunbar, age 41, machinist of Woodstock, New Brunswick, his wife Matilda Adam, age 31, and children Alexander 4, Helen 5, and Andrew 2, were also Castalia passengers.

David Taylor, former editor at the Stonehaven Journal, age 26, took lot 2 and hoped to start a newspaper in the Scotch Colony. He arrived a few weeks ahead of the Castalia to procure provisions for a Colony store. His wife, Mary Ann Torry, age 26, arrived on the Castalia with their three children, John 5, Catherine 3, and Henry age 1.

James Allan and his wife of four years, Margaret Barrie, took lot 4 on the Stonehaven Road.

The author of the letter, William Duncan, age 44, spinner in Scotland, (1829-1914), his wife Elizabeth Linton, age 42, (1831-1921) and nine children arrived in New Kincardineshire, New Brunswick via the Castalia in May 1873. The children were: William Linton “Willie” 17, David Linton 15, Alexander C. “Alick” 13, Annie Rae 12, Barbara 10, James M. 9, Elizabeth Linton 6, Mary Linton 4, and Stuart 2. Their home on lot 30 on Stonehaven Road in the Scotch Colony was called “Carron Terrace” in 1873.

“Alick” Alexander C. Duncan (1860-1906) was a potato farmer and merchant. He married Hannah Getchell of Limestone, ME in 1886 and had nine children. He gave singing lessons in Washburn, ME and was a member of the brass band. Tragically, he was killed at age 46 while firing cars for the railroad.

James Duncan (1864-1925) was only nine years old at the time. He never married, moved to Washburn, ME about 1892 where he lived with his parents, and farmed with his father and older brother William. James, age 60, drowned in the Aroostook River in front of the family farm.

Annie Rae Duncan (1861-1945) was the eldest daughter but just twelve years of age when her father wrote the letter. In 1884 when she was 23, Annie married William Spence Cumming, a farmer age 27, (1857-1940) who arrived in Upper Kintore via the Sidonian in 1874. They had six children born in the Colony and three more in Easton, Maine. Annie and William are buried in Easton.

“Willie” William Linton Duncan (1856-1941) married the girl who lived next door in the Colony, Catherine Cocker (1864-1939), and had four children in Kincardine, NB and five in Washburn, ME. They resided on the Gardner Creek home farm next door to his parents and brother James.

David Linton Duncan (1858-1947) and Catherine Chapman (1868-1949) were child Scotch colonists on the Stonehaven Road. Six children were born to them in Washburn, ME where David was a mill manager and postmaster. David’s 1873 Castalia voyage diary resides at the Salmon Brook Museum in Washburn, ME.

Source of the letter: The British Newspaper Archive, https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/; Stonehaven Journal, Thursday 10 July 1873; Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

1 thought on “Letter from William Duncan, Stonehaven Journal – Thursday 10 July 1873

  1. I think the name of William and Elizabeth’s farm, in New Kincardine, was “Carron Brae.” Their home in Stonehaven, Scotland, was 11 Carron Terrace.

Leave a Reply