Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB
June 9, 1892


Contributions to the History of Charlotte County and the Border Towns.


[Rev. W. O. Raymond, M. A.]

The exhaustive researches instituted by the respective agents of Great Britain and the United States under the provisions of the treaty of Ghent indirectly supply a good deal of  valuable information regarding the Passamaquoddy Indians.

The principal question at issue between the two powers was the determination of the true river St. Croix, which river, according to the treaty of 1783, was agreed upon as the boundary between the United States and the old province of Nova Scotia.

It should be borne in mind that the question of the western boundary of Nova Scotia or Acadia had been a burning question for years, we might almost say for centuries.

The award of the treaty of Utrecht, confirmed by that of Aix la Chapelle, it is true, settled the question as far as France was concerned, but another controversy immediately arose.

At the close of ‘the old French war,’ in 1762, the Lords of Trade and Plantations, entertained the idea of the formation of a new province eastward of the Penobscot; whereupon the old Puritan land-hunger led the government of Massachusetts Bay to strongly press the claims of their province for jurisdiction over the territory in question.  Early in 1763, Governor Hutchinson submitted to the Massachusetts house of representatives an elaborate document entitled ‘A brief State of the Title of the Province of Massachusetts Bay to the Country between the rivers Kennebeck and St. Croix.’1

The discussion that ensued between the respective governments of Nova Scotia and Massachusetts had not been definitely settled up to the time of the commencement of the Revolutionary war.

In April, 1764, Francis Bernard, governor of Massachusetts Bay, despatched John Mitchell, a surveyor, with Israel Jones as his deputy, and a small exploring party under Capt. Nathan Jones, to procure such information as would determine which of the rivers flowing into Passamaquoddy bay was the true and ancient St. Croix.

In connection with the boundary question, the opinion of the Passamaquoddy Indians was sought, both by the agents of Massachusetts and by those of Nova Scotia, and if we are to believe the testimony given by the various witnesses before the boundary commissioners the statements of the Indians were not always consistent, and they seemed disposed with about equal readiness to fall in with the predilections of either party.  John Mitchell, the surveyor just mentioned, testifies that after the arrival of his party at the bay of Passamaquoddy-

‘We accordingly assembled upwards of forty of the principal Indians upon an island then called L’Atereel2 in the said bay of Passamaquoddy.-After having fully and freely conversed with them upon the subject of our mission, the chief commissioned three Indians to show us the St. Croix, which is situated nearly six miles north and about three degrees east of harbour L’Tete and east-north-east of the bay or river Schuduc and distant from it about nine miles upon a right line.  The aforesaid three Indians having shewn us the river and being duly informed of the nature and importance of an oath, did in a solemn manner depose to the truth of their information respecting the identity of the said river St. Croix, and that it was the ancient and only river known amongst them by that name.’

The testimony of John Mitchell is corroborated by his colleague Israel Jones and by others of his party.  Joseph Bradbury, one of the number, mentions that on June 4th, 1764, they proceeded in two whale boats, accompanied by some Indians in their canoes, to harbor L’Tete, where a considerable number of Indians were encamped, and that

‘On the 5th, four Indians came on board the whale boat I belonged to.  We proceeded to a river called by our people St. Croix, but called by the Indians, Macadavia.  At 12 o’clock we landed at a point of rocks near the mouth of the river.  The interpreter Sqr Fletcher talked with the Indians some time and to the best of my knowledge an oath was administered, but I will not be positive as to that circumstance.  After he had done conversing with the Indians, Sqr Fletcher said in my hearing that the Indians said or swore that the river, where we then were, was the true river St. Croix and that they never knew any other river by that name.’

Abraham Duncan, another member of the party, mentions that Mitchell surveyed from the mouth of the river westward to Point Leiue, where there appeared to have been an ancient settlement and burying place where crosses were on the graves.  The site of this burying ground was at St. Andrews point, the crosses erected are described as being twenty or more in number, erected from two to eight feet high, ‘some higher than others, of wood roughly finished.’

James Boyd, at one time a resident on Indian Island, gave evidence before the boundary commission in 1798, in which he made use of a journal which he had kept from time to time.  His testimony in part is here given:

Passamaquada, May, 1763.  I arrived on an island, called by the Indians Jeganagoose or Indian Island.  After I built a store I set out with a whale boat and explored every Island in the Bay; and when I met any of the Natives I got from them what name they were called by the Natives.’

In his explorations Mr. Boyd visited harbor LeTang, LeTete, Magegadewee, Dicteguash river, Boquabeck, Chamkook, Conasquamkook (now St. Andrews), Wachweig, Schooduck, and Cobskook.

He continues

‘At my return the most of the natives had arrived at Jeganagoose.  After conversing with them I got the names of all the Islands and rivers in Passamaquada the harbour LeTand and harbour LeTete, and found wherever the natives had buried they erected a Cross, either on Islands or on the mainland.’

‘In 1764 John Mitchel, Esq., arrived in this place to survey Passamaquada.  Mr. Jones asked my leave to store his provisions and that I would call the Indians together, that he had Governor Bernard’s orders to assemble all of them.  I did as he asked me.  They met at my store.’

Boyd describes the interview between the surveyors and Indians and continues

‘We left Jeganagoose and arrived at harbor LeTete, found Bungawarrawit (the governor) ready with the other Indians.  We left this and arrived at the river, and after the Interpreter asked the Indians if this was the river known to them by the name of the St. Croix, they said “Yes.”  He asked them if they knew the nature of an oath.  They answered Yes, that they had sworn to serve the king of France and should declare the truth as they did, and the Interpreter took their oaths...’

‘Some time before Quebec was taken from the French, Captain Hector McNeil was taken prisoner in the harbour LeTang.  It was Indians which took him.  One Frenchman who married an Indian was with the Indians.  They gave Captain McNeil the names of sundry places.  The Indians carried McNeil’s vessel to Conasquamcook and there unloaded a good deal of the cargo.  McNeil had some small guns and swivels.  The Indians kept one gun to give alarm when needed.  The Indians then carried the Vessel to Saint John’s river, and carried their captives up this river to Quebeck.’

Boyd further states that when he arrived at Indian Island, in 1763, the Indians were the only inhabitants on the shores or islands of Passamaquoddy bay and the Indian bark huts were the only habitations then in existence.  Louis Neptune was a very common name among the Indians at Penobscot, Passamaquoddy and St. John, but the Louis Neptune referred to by him was a son of John Neptune or Bungawarawit, then governor or the Passamaquoddies.  He was one of those detailed by his father to accompany Jones and Mitchell and point out to them which was the true river called St. Croix, and further to distinguish and identify the said Louis Neptune he was called by the Indians Racksuces, which means, a man of great strength or having the strength of a Bear.

During the progress of the operations of the Massachusetts exploring party, a journal was kept by Mitchell in which we have a glimpse of the effect of the white man’s civilization on the Indians which is not particularly gratifying.3

For instance, under date Sunday, June 3rd, 1764, we find an entry stating:

‘Capt. Fletcher thought it most Expediant to go to St. Croix next Day, by Reason that the Indians who had for Sum Days past Bin drunk were got sober.’

From the same journal we learn that on

‘Munday, June the 4th, . . we departed from Latterell, and 1/2 after 12 we arrived at Harbor Leeteet, alias Womkoocook where we met with the Indians and Capt. Fletcher had a conference with them and the Indians appointed two to go with us on Tuisday morning.’

‘Tuisday, June the 5th, 1764 this morning at 6 of the clock, Two Sanops and Two Squaws with one Burch canow Set off with us in order to go with us to ye River St. Croix . . .  and at Eleven of the clock we arrived at the Enterance of sd River at which time Capt. Fletcher Requisted three of said Indians to swear that said River that they showed us was actually known by the name of St. Croix River.  The names of sd Indians are as followeth Lue Neptun, Meeseel and Mary Cattron.’

It will thus be seen that that Massachusetts officials had little difficulty in securing the good will of the Indians in favor of the Magaguadavic as the true and ancient river St. Croix.  The Nova Scotia authorities seem to have been almost equally successful in obtaining evidence in favor of the Schoodiac.

1This ‘brief’ document contains about 7,500 words and fills 36 pages of closely written manuscript.

2This island derived its name from a French nobleman name [sic] Lutterelle, who was settled there at the time of Colonel Church’s expedition in 1604.  It is now called Indian Island.

3The original MS. of Mitchell’s Journal is in the possession of Mr. W. H. Kilby, of Eastport, whose attractive volume, ‘Eastport and Passamaquoddy,’ is the largest and most important contribution to our local history yet published.-Ed.

Correction: Article XXIII contains the following correction to this one: "In fifth line, instead of word ‘Ghent’ read ‘1794.’" The fifth line is the first line here.

Correction: Article XXX contains the following correction to this one: "second foot-note.-For ‘French nobleman named Lutterelle,’ read ‘Frenchman named Latreille;’ and for ‘1604,’ read ‘1704.’"