Alexander Brotherton: A Gaspesian Pioneer 

by Raymond Garrett 


This paper is an attempt to reconstruct the life of Alexander Brotherton (1748 - 1821), a Loyalist and Gaspesian pioneer. He did not hold any important government positions, he did not found a commercial empire, nor did he write his own memoirs. He was an ordinary man. 

Most of the documents consulted are to be found in the Public Archives of Canada (PAC), Ottawa and or the Protonotary's Office in New Carlisle. 

I am deeply indebted to Gerald Brotherton of Gascons who loaned me many documents that he had gathered by his relentless efforts in pursuit of our ancestors. 

Alexander Brotherton: A Gaspesian Pioneer 

Alexander Brotherton settled in New Carlisle, Quebec, in 1784. Unlike many of Canada's immigrants, he did not come from Europe but from the Cambridge/Salem in what is now the northern part of the state of New York1. During the American War of Independence (1776-1783), many residents of the Thirteen Colonies (United States) remained loyal to Britain.  Alexander Brotherton worked as a carpenter in the Engineering department under Captain Twiss at the time of the series of battles commonly called Saratoga (1777).   These British supporters, or United Empire Loyalists as they are often called, suffered many injustices in the United States during and after the war. In effect, they became political 

refugees. Their property was confiscated, many were tarred and feathered.   The Loyalists, with the help of the British government, moved to other British possessions. Alexander Brotherton, like most Loyalists, came to Canada. 

The process of making a new home was not easy. For almost one year, Alexander Brotherton and his family lived in a refugee camp at Pointe aux Trembles2 on the island of Montreal. Then he moved to the City of Quebec. There Alexander, a carpenter by trade, formed a partnership with James Chambers and created the firm of "Chambers and Brotherton"3 (joiners and cabinetmakers). The partnership was shortlived and was officially dissolved on the 13th of August 17824. Alexander then tried to carry on the business alone. In 1783, the war ended and the British government offered free land to all loyalists who wanted to resettle. 

Alexander, a family man with a wife and four children, petitioned for land on the Baie-des-Chaleurs on the 14th of March 17845. The family left for their new home on the 9th of June aboard the brig "POLLY". The Brothertons were not traveling alone nor in ignorance. Eight ships carrying about 500 Loyalists and former soldiers left Quebec that day to create a new settlement at Petit-Paspébiac. Petit-Paspébiac, now called New Carlisle, was then a wilderness but apart from being flat and suitable for farming it was by the sea. For neighbors, the new settlers would have the Acadians at Bonaventure to the west and the Jersey (an island in the English Channel) fishing station at Paspébiac to their east. The fleet reached Paspébiac on the 25th of June and their chosen place of settlement at New Carlisle a few days later on the 2nd of July 17846

The new settlement was quickly organized and the land distributed. Alexander Brotherton (one of 171 men that drew lots in August 1784) received three hundred acres7. Although few documents exist describing the early years of the settlement at New Carlisle, the author assumes that Alexander continued to practice his trade of carpentry and engaged in subsistence farming. Alexander again petitioned for land, first at Miguasha on the 18th of July 17878, and later on the Restigouche river on the 14th of February 17919. Although there is no indication of whether or not he received these grants, they do indicate that Alexander had become involved in the salmon fishery. 

In spite of the initial hardships of pioneer life, Alexander's new home town prospered and soon became one of the administrative centers of the Gaspé peninsula. Nicholas Cox, Lieutenant-Governor of the Inferior District of Gaspé and Inspector of Trade and Fisheries for the Coast of Labrador, made his home there10. A courthouse was erected (records exist since 1789)11 land later a jail constructed. Benjamin Hobson, a Loyalist, was schoolmaster since 1785 and was paid a salary by the provincial government12

One of the major problems facing Alexander Brotherton and the other settlers in the Gaspé was communication with the rest of the province. The only method of communication or travel was by ship and as the sea was frozen during the winter, the settlements were isolated. The handicap this isolation created for the settlers is illustrated in a letter from William von-den-Velden, member of the Legislature of Lower Canada (Québec) for the county of Gaspé to Sir Robert Milnes, Lt.Governor of the province of Lower Canada 

dated at Quebec on the 11th of February 180213

That your Excellency's Proclamation and the advertisements from the Executive Council's (government) office dated the 11th November last, inserted in the Quebec Gazette relative to the granting of his Majesty's wastelands, were published after the close of the navigation (season), when it was impossible to forward communication thereof to the remote county of Gaspé...may it please your Excellency in Council to grant, in respect to the said county of Gaspé such extension of the time limited in the said Proclamation... .  

Alexander took advantage of this proclamation and claimed (1802) lots 13, 67, and 68 in Cox Township14 (New Carlisle and Paspébiac). 

As time passed, Alexander's family grew up. Isabella, the eldest, married Jacques Ahier (also called James), a Jerseyman. Adam, the oldest son, married Jane McKinnon, daughter of a Loyalist. Joanna married James Scott son of a Loyalist. Margaret first married Francis Gallie, a Jerseyman, and after his death she married Jacques Lamy. John Alexander, the youngest, married Esther Duguay15, a FrenchCanadian. Even as a grandfather, Alexander Brotherton's vibrant life continued. 

Many facts suggest that Alexander Brotherton had become involved in the fishing industry. About 1800, he started to occupy a large tract of land in L'anse-aux-Gascons16 

but twenty years later, he listed his place of residence as Paspébiac. This suggests that the land in Gascons was occupied on a seasonal basis as commonly occurs in the fishing industry. In 1803, he bought land in Paspébiac17 and in 1805 in Hopetown18. Both bordered on land owned by Charles Robin and Company, a Jersey fishing firm. In 1806, Alexander and his soninlaw' Jacques Ahier, built a schooner named "GOOD INTENT". It was registered at Quebec City by Ronald McDonell, agent for the owners and described as a "two mast, square stern schooner, 50'3" by 15'10" by 7'6"' displacement 48 87/94 tons, James Ahier, master (captain)19. It is quite possible that Alexander used this vessel to transport fish to market. Similar vessels, of the same size were engaged in the coastal trade with the West Indies, New England, the Maritimes, Quebec City, and Montreal. 

Although the colonial government had been granting land in the Gaspé since 176520, few people held clear legal title to their land. Alexander and other settlers in New Carlisle in 1784 had received "Location Certificates" and later, land grants. But until these lands were surveyed and registered in Quebec City by a notary, they did not become "letters of patent" or legal land deeds. Other settlers had squatted on vacant lots and owned them only by tradition. To make matters worse, poor government administration sometimes resulted in conflicting land grants. Even if a settler had succeeded in obtaining a letter of patent for his land, a lack of notaries and land surveyors to verify and register land sales or transfers rendered them useless.21 Alexander Brotherton and other settlers expressed their discontent about the situation by sending a petition to the government in 180722

The government acted promptly and twelve years later, at the insistence of William 

Cockburn member of the Legislature for the county of Gaspé, they passed " An Act to Secure the Inhabitants of the Inferior District of Gaspé in the Possession and Enjoyment of Their Lands"23. This act created a commission led by Jean-Thomas Taschereau which had the power to settle conflicting land claims and to grant legal title. All land "owners" had to appear before the commission which operated from 1819 to 1825. In all, 631 different claims were settled by the commission. Alexander Brotherton made two different claims. First in l819, he claimed the land he had bought in Paspébiac (1803) and Hopetown (1805)24. Then in 1820, he claimed one thousand three hundred acres of land in L'anse-aux-Gascons by right of occupancy for the last twenty years25. Both claims were granted in 1824. As Alexander did not claim any other land, it is assumed that he had previously sold the land he had originally obtained in 1784 and 1802. 

In the later part of his life, Alexander became a Justice of the Peace (1814)26. This position entailed that Alexander act as a magistrate(judge) in court cases involving minor disputes. 

Alexander Brotherton had lived a varied life. He was a settler in the Thirteen Colonies a political refugee, a carpenter in Quebec City, a settler in New Carlisle, a merchant and ship owner in Paspébiac and a Justice of the Peace. Alexander died on the 19th of October 1821 at the age of seventytwo and was laid to rest in St. Peter's Anglican Cemetery, Paspébiac27

1 Land Claims. RG1 L3L vol 49, pp. 2485024852, reel C2512. Ottawa: Public Archives of Canada (PAC). 

2 War Office. MG 13 Series 2S, vol 10, part 2, pp. 221222. PAC. 

3 Quebec Gazette. 11 April 1782, No. 866, RG4,D1, PAC 

4 Quebec Gazette. 13 March 1783, No.916, RG4,D1, PAC 

5 Land Claims. RG1, L3L vol 49, pp. 24850 24852, reel C2512, PAC. 

6 Haldimand Papers. MG 21 vol 168, PAC. 

7 Flowers' A.D.. Loyalists of Bay Chaleur . Vancouver: Precise Instant Printing 1973 p 75 

8 Land Claims. RG1 L3L vol 1 pp. 910, reel C2493, PAC. 

9 Land Claims. RG1 L3L vol 49, pp. 2485324854, reel C2512, PAC. 

10 Lee, David. "La Gaspésie, 17601867" in Lieux Historiques Canadiens: Cahiers d'Archeologie et d'Histoire No.23. Ottawa: Parcs Canada, 1980. pp. 117193. 

11 Garrett, D.R.. "New Carlisle: Sources of Genealogical Information Prior to 1820". SPEC 12 July 1978. 

12 Lee, David. p 162 

13 Land Claims. RG1 L3L, vol 199, pp. 9422294224, reel C2567, PAC. 

14 Land Claims. RG1 L3L, vol 2, p. 543, reel C2493, PAC. 

15 Church Records. Protonotary's Office, New Carlisle QC 

16 Land Claims. RG1, L7, vol 80, p.443 reel C97 PAC 

17 Land Claims. RG1, L7, vol 79, p. 195 reel C97, PAC 

18 Land Claims . RG1, L7, vol 79, p. 195 reel C97, PAC 

19 Ship Registry Records. Port of Quebec, PAC 

20 Land Claims. RG1 L3L vol 1, p 34, reel C2493, PAC 

21 Lee, David. pp. 129131 

22 Land Claims. RG1 L3L, vol 199, pp. 9422594228 reel C2567, PAC 

23 Provincial Statutes of Lower Canada, 3rd Session of the 9th Parliament of Lower Canada, p. 258 

24 Land Claims. RG1, L7, vol 79, p.195, reel C96, PAC 

25 Land Claims. RG1 L7 vol 80, p.443, reel C97, PAC. 

26 Alexander Brotherton was a Justice of the Peace and tried one case of which a record exists. Sessions of the Peace 25th September 1814, Protonotary Office, New Carlisle. 

27 Church Records. St. Peter's Anglican Church, Paspébiac, 1821. Located in Protonotary's Office, New Carlisle, QC