Thomas Calhoun was one of the first English settlers in Albert County. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1735. His Father was John Cohoon, who immigrated to the United States from Ireland in 1714. Thomas had two brothers, William and James. James was known for his fight against the trade restrictions that the English blockade of American ports placed on the United States, during the Revolutionary War. James also became the first mayor of Baltimore, Maryland.
Thomas worked as a trapper and a fur trader, in an area near the western boundary of Pennsylvania. He was issued a trading permit by the commander of Fort Pitt, Colonel Henry Bouquet, in 1760, and he soon began trapping and trading furs with the local Indians. A few years later Thomas began operating a trading post in Tuscarawas (near present day Canton Ohio). The area where Thomas operated the trading post was part of the western frontier. During this period the western frontier was a very dangerous place because of the fighting going on there between the French, aided by their Indian allies, and the British during the French and Indian War from (1754 - 1763). On May 27th, 1763 a group of Indians arrived at Thomas's trading post in Tuscarawas and warned him that he was in great danger because a number of English fur traders had been killed. They then sent three Indians to guide Thomas and fourteen other men to Fort Pitt. On the way to Fort Pitt, they were ambushed by a band of Indians, everyone except Thomas and two other men were killed in the attack. The two other men arrived safely at Fort Pitt on May 31st, while Thomas arrived a day later because he had lost his way. Thomas believed that he and the other men had been ambushed because the three guides disappeared when the shooting began, and also because they were not permitted to bring their guns with them when they left Tuscarawas. Thomas later fought to defend Fort Pitt from the Indians.
While Calhoun was a fur trader, he got to know the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in North America, General Haldimand. He also knew Colonel Henry Bouquet, who was in charge of the war with the Indians. Colonel Bouquet was also the commander of Fort Pitt and had issued Calhoun his fur trading permit. General Haldimand and Colonel Bouquet were both given large grants of land for their unpaid wages, this land was to be used for settlement by people from the American Colonies. Land was scarce in Pennsylvania and other Colonies during this time, so many settlers were eager to settle on larger plots of land where they could make a better life for their families. In return for being given plots of land in these new settlements, the settlers had to agree to pay the land owners part of their earnings each year. The land granted to General Haldimand and Colonel Bouquet was situated along the southern banks of the Petitcodiac River in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia, this area is now part of Albert County, New Brunswick. Thomas was put in charge of managing the lands in the Germantown area of Albert County, and was given his own plot of land in the New Horton area. The settlers were given adequate provisions when they arrived in the fall of 1765. However, by December 28th most of the food had run out. Thomas gave as much food as he could to the settlers, but it was not enough. He could not get word out to bring more provisions because the river was frozen and the snow was too high. The settlers kept demanding more, some started to threaten Thomas, saying "they would have it [supplies], or lose their lives". However, Thomas would not budge insisting that he could not spare any more food. Some of the settlers then set out for Cumberland in the snow to complain about the land and the lack of provisions but they soon returned after not getting very far in the deep snow. After returning some of the settlers began to fight with each other, Thomas, who was a Justice of the Peace, tried to stop the rioters but could do very little since he could not send the men to the Jail across the river in Fort Cumberland because there was too much ice in the river and the bay. The settlers, to show their displeasure with Calhoun, then appointed their own Magistrate.
In the summer of 1766 two of the settlers arrived in Halifax with a letter of complaint from the residents of the settlement. They charged that they had not been given their plots of land in time to plant crops so all they managed to plant was a few potatoes. They also claimed that they were refused provisions by Calhoun unless they signed a bond. In addition they claimed that they were in such dire need of warm clothing during the winter that they had to go to Fort Cumberland and barter away some of their provisions in exchange for clothes. Finally they claimed that Calhoun had given them plots of land which had not been cleared (the trees on the land had not been cut down) and that their lands did not have any access to the fertile marshlands. We must remember that it was these marshlands that contributed so greatly to the success of the Acadian Settlements. Thomas Calhoun countered their charges by saying that the settlers had not done any work and instead spent most of their time complaining and meeting to devise schemes. He believed that the settlers were planning to leave the settlement. The Government in Halifax asked the land company (owned by General Haldimand, Colonel Bouquet, and others) to resettle the residents on lands that would be better suited for farming. However, Calhoun and the land company didn't heed this advise.
By the fall of 1767 some of the settlers had, as Calhounpredicted, run away from the settlement, displeased with their land. By the winter of 1767 many calves had died because of a lack of good pasture land, so some settlers decided to move their cattle to better marshlands the next summer, despite Calhoun's objections. During that winter the settlers were forced to feed potatoes to the cattle because they had not grown enough hay to feed the cattle during the summer. Almost naked and out of provisions the settlers once again had to struggle to survive another long cold winter.
It is difficult to understand why the settlement suffered such difficulties when the Acadian Settlements of the same area had prospered for so many years. Much of the difficulties can probably be blamed on Thomas and the settlers not getting along well together. The question arises why did they not get along well... Was it because Thomas was not well suited to manage the settlement?... Especially given his confrontational style... Did he not get along with the settlers because he felt superior to them? - Due to the fact that most of the residents of the settlement were German speaking settlers and he was English... Or did he have problems communicating with them? - Again because they were German Speaking settlers. Perhaps Thomas's claim that the settlers were lazy and unprepared for the harshness of life in Albert County was correct? Calhoun's opinion of the settlers may have been reflected in a July 1771 journal entry by his brother William Calhoun who recounts Thomas'sexperiences at the settlement during the year 1765.
"... and left management of the Settlement to my brother, which did not succeed according to their wishes [the land companies wishes], occasioned by their [the land company] sending a number of worthless settlers, some of whom had been brought up in the army, others had lived in Philadelphia, and had never been used to farming, but thought they were coming to get land, which produced spontaneously, without cultivation."
We will never know why the settlement experienced such difficulties. What is known is that the decision by Calhoun and the land company not to allow the settlers access to the best farming lands hurt the growth and prosperity of the settlement. The reason the company may not have wanted the settlers to have access to the best land was so the land company could sell that land to wealthier settlers.
The 1766 Hopewell Census shows 159 people living in the settlement. In the years that followed more than 100 of these people would leave the settlement. Despite the difficulties encountered by the settlers, in 1767 a ship departed for Boston from Hopewell carrying between four and five hundred weight of cheese, potatoes, spruce lumber, and 60 grindstones, as payment to the land owners by the settlers for their land and the supplies sent to them by the land company.
Thomas married Rachel Peck, in 1768, Rachel was the daughter of Abiel Peck, a prominent settler who had moved to the settlement in Hopewell Hill from Sackville. After five years of managing the area, Thomas asked to be replaced. On the 26th of July, 1771, he was replaced by Robert Cummins. Thomas eventually had to sue the land owners to recover his unpaid wages.
After he was replaced as manager of the Hopewell Settlement in 1771, Thomas stayed in the area and started a business with his brother William selling grindstonesharvested from Grindstone Island. William had a sloop from Baltimore come up to Grindstone Island to collect the grindstones for the market in Baltimore. The Petitcodiac is a very dangerous river because of the strong currents caused by the high tides of the Bay of Fundy. In 1772, Thomas, William, Thomas's brother-in-law, and two other men were drowned when the canoe they were traveling in capsized near Grindstone Island.
Attorney Robert Dixson represented Thomas in his lawsuit to recover his unpaid wages from the land company that managed the Hopewell Settlement. Mr. Dixon continued to represent Rachel in the lawsuit following Thomas's death in 1772. The case was finally settled in Rachel's favour and she was awarded a large grant of land in Albert County as part of the settlement. Rachel later married attorney Robert Dixson and they had ten children together.