1833 New Brunswick Special Census of the Madawaska Settlement

Carleton County, New Brunswick and Penobscot County, Maine

(includes communities on both banks of the Upper St.John River valley in what are now Madawaska Co., New Brunswick, and Aroostook Co., Maine)

Transcription of
"Returns showing the number of Inhabitants in the Settlement of Madawaska"
The 1833 New Brunswick Special Census of Madawaska on both sides of the St.John River, Carleton County, New Brunswick (now Madawaska Co., New Brunswick and Aroostook Co., Maine)

(Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, RS24/1834zz2, Microfilm F10422)

This is a transcription of a special census of the Madawaska Settlement undertaken by the Province of New Brunswick in late 1833. The full title of the document transcribed here is "Returns showing the number of Inhabitants in the Settlement of Madawaska with their Stock. Also the quantity of Seeds sown last spring and the crops raised, together with an average increase of past years." The census covers 400 households on nine pages.

Although in the Provincial Archives this document is filed under the 1834 Provincial Census category, it was in fact a separate enumeration; the legislative act calling for the 1834 census was not passed until March 1834, three months after the Madawaska Census returns were submitted to Fredericton.

Indeed, the census seems to have been undertaken in November 1833; it was signed by J.A. MacLauchlan, Comissioner, at Fredericton on 3 December 1833, and "laid before the House of Assembly by order of His Excellency" on 13 February 1834 under the name "Mr. MacLauchlan's Report on Madawaska," dated 11 December 1833.

The census is very interesting for several reasons. First, like many of the censuses and surveys undertaken in this area, which was in dispute between Great Britain and the United States, it covered communities on both sides of the Upper St.John River, in communities that are now in both Madawaska Co., NB and Aroostook Co., Maine. It is thus an invaluable resource for information on the population of Madawaska, especially when compared to other contemporary documents such as the 1820 US Census of Matawascah Parish, the 1830 US Census of Madawaska, the 1831 Deane and Kavanagh Survey of Madawaska, and the 1840 US Census of Madawaska, all of which survey both north and south banks of the St.John.

Another interesting aspect of this census is the kind of information it collected. It was a head of household census, meaning it listed the names of heads of households, along with the numbers (but not the names) of women, boys and girls in the household. In this it was similar to the US censuses, but unlike the 1834 NB Provincial census, which collected only aggregate information by township.

Along with the name of the head of household, the census collected several other kinds of information, detailed below. Apparently the purpose of the special census was to ascertain which inhabitants were in need of governmental assistance; a good number of them are described as "very poor, needing immediate relief," and based on the information on the harvest, the Madawaska Settlement was going through a very difficult time.

In fact, from at least 1828 or so the area had suffered bad harvests. In 1829 the New Brunswick provincial government had conducted an investigation into near-starvation conditions in Madawaska. (See my page on the 1829 Report for details and transcription. See also a report in a New Brunswick newspaper from July 1829 on the bad harvests in Madawaska.) Apparently bad harvests continued for the next several years.

Here are the categories of information collected in this 1833 census:

Here is an aggregate of the information gathered in this survey:

Men - 426 Women - 394 Boys - 844 Girls - 854

Total population of 2,518 persons living in 400 households.

Of those households, 137, or over 34 percent were listed as "requiring almost immediate relief."

The livestock owned by the population:
Horses - 436 Oxen - 347 Cows - 723 Young Cattle - 647 Sheep - 2,864 Pigs - 7,105

Here is the information on crops:

No. of Bushels

Wheat  - 2,647 Barley - 264 Oats - 1,684¾ Buckwheat  - 61¾ Peas  - 861½ Potatoes - 5,208½

No. of Bushels

Wheat  - 5,873 Barley - 1,073½ Oats - 4,563 Buckwheat  - 423½ Peas  - 1,945 Potatoes - 36,000

No. of Bushels

Wheat - 17,946  Barley - 1,922 Oats - 11,804 Buckwheat  - 524 Peas  - 6,243 Potatoes - 57,141

Comparing the 1833 harvest with the average crop of previous years, it becomes obvious why the Provincial government decided to survey the settlement to determine the households in need of aid: the wheat crop is only 1/3 of the usual; oats are at 39 percent of normal; peas at 31 percent; potatoes at about 2/3.

This is all the more striking because, as MacLauchlan notes at the end of the census, "The Quantity of Grain sown in this Settlement last Srping exceeds by one-third that of former Years."

But to make matters worse, within this very reduced harvest, the quality of the crops was less than optimal (amounts in number of bushels):

























In addition, in written comments at the end of the enumeration, Maclauchlan has written "The Potatoes raised throughout the Settlement are not only exceedingly small, but set and apparently no substance in them."

The census pages are signed by J.A. MacLauchlan, Commissioner, and dated Fredericton, December 3rd, 1833.

Under that there is a note added, "Tuesday 10th Dec. Alexander Corneau, Wife, 7 boys and 2 girls, called this day for assistance. JAM"


Sign the Upper St.John Valley Guestbook

Check out the Message Board

Return to Upper St.John Valley Communities page

This page is maintained by

Terms of use
Last revised 20 Jan 2011
©2004-2011 C. Gagnon