One of the early settlers in Hopewell Cape was Robert Dickson. He was born in 1748 in Middletown Connecticut, and moved to Nova Scotia in 1760. He later studied law, and in 1771, represented Thomas Calhoun in a lawsuit to recover wages that were owed to Calhoun from the land owners for whom Calhoun had managed lands in the Hopewell area. Calhoun died before the lawsuit was settled, but Dickson continued to represent Calhoun's widow, Rachel, in the legal action. He eventually won the lawsuit and Rachel was awarded £509 9s 6d. This sum was paid for by auctioning off land in the Hopewell area, Dickson himself purchased some of the land sold at auction. Dickson also put his legal knowledge to good use working as a clerk for the Hopewell town parish, as well as in negotiating land grants for himself and other settlers. He and Rachel were later married and lived near the site of the Hopewell Rocks, with their 10 children, and Rachel's two children from her marriage to Calhoun. Robert Dickson passed away in 1825, and his wife Rachel passed away in 1803.
Much information can be found about what life was like for the early settlers of Albert County from the account book of Robert Dickson, dated 1776-1828. In the account book he kept a record of his many business transactions, as well as a register of births, marriages, deaths, and a record of the earmarks of cattle of the various farmers in the Hopewell area.
One of Dickson's many occupations was a ferryman. He owned a boat which he had purchased for £16 4s 7d. At one time, he ran a ferry, carrying people and cargo, to and from destinations like Grindstone Island, Horton, Cumberland, and Saint John. Ferries were how people in those days transported goods like crops and cattle to market to be sold or traded. One entry shows a charge of 16 shillings each for transporting 9 oxen to Horton. Dickson also transported cattle over land to be sold at market. One such account entry records that he charged Mr. Lockhart with 8 days driving cattle to "Petitquajack" (Hillsborough), at 3 shillings per day, plus 7 shillings for hay, and 2 shillings for one days work on a sled.
Dickson may also have sawed lumber. One account entry lists him as selling boards for 4 pounds 10 shillings per thousand. Dickson was also a carpenter. He was paid for work he had done on the new school being built in Hopewell in June of 1801. Dickson's work as a farmer ranged from mowing a field for Abiel Peck to selling apples, which he may have grown in his own orchard.
Yet another of Robert Dickson's jobs was as an innkeeper. He kept lodgers for 4d. a day, and provided them a meal for an extra shilling. He also sold rum from Jamaica in 32 gallon barrels at 4 shillings a barrel. Among his other occupations were: trader, butcher, solicitor, and blacksmith.
Robert Dickson's account book also recorded births, marriages, and deaths. For example, one entry reads:
Hopewell January 13th 1827
William Dickson Departed This life
and in the fourth year of his age
William Dickson the Father of the above named deceased departed this life Sept. 29th 1849 he whas making an attempt to get on board of his boat he sank to rise no more
The earmarks for cattle are also recorded. For example:
Eseakel Cornstalks Earmark - a hallow Crop under the left ear & a ½ under the same
Daniel Dewolf - a square crop of the right ear
Robert Dickson's many occupations and many different skills, made him a very valuable member of the community in which he lived. The new and growing community must have benefitted greatly from his hard work.