Benjamin Franklin Papers

Montagu Wilmot to Alexander McNutt and Associates: Two Land Grants, 31 October 1765

Montagu Wilmot to Alexander McNutt and Associates: Two Land Grants1

Copies: Department of Lands and Forests, Halifax, Nova Scotia

In the spring of 1764 Franklin’s English friend Richard Jackson aroused his interest in the possibility of acquiring land in Nova Scotia as a speculative investment and in the settlement of people from other colonies on it; above, XI, 186–7, 358–9. At about the same time or perhaps somewhat earlier, Alexander McNutt, an optimistic Virginian adventurer of Scotch-Irish descent who was actively engaged in projects of this nature, had made contact with John Hughes and other Philadelphians, perhaps including Franklin, and had interested some of them in organizing syndicates for this purpose. In the fall of 1764 McNutt arrived in Philadelphia to push forward his schemes, and before Franklin sailed for England in November he had committed himself to a share in a project under McNutt’s leadership.2

The time was ripe because the home government had recently revised and expanded its program of granting townships of 100,000 acres in Nova Scotia and the newly acquired territories to groups of men willing to recruit prospective settlers and place them on such grants. Furthermore, as events were to prove, Governor Wilmot and at least a majority of his Council were eager to promote the growth of Nova Scotia, even to the extent of making lavish grants to a variety of speculators: British army officers who had served in the last war, inhabitants of the older colonies, and prominent residents of Nova Scotia itself, not omitting in the last category members of their own body.

Early in 1765 John Hughes and other interested Philadelphians sent young Anthony Wayne3 to Nova Scotia to survey desirable tracts and to negotiate for grants. McNutt, who had been in the province before, introduced him to the governor and the councilors; Wayne and others traveled about, crossing the Bay of Fundy to look at lands in what later became the province of New Brunswick but was then a part of Nova Scotia, and reported back from time to time to Hughes in Philadelphia. Though, like many others, he became disillusioned with McNutt, Wayne was unable to shake him off, and when Wilmot and the Council at last made grants to the Philadelphians, Alexander McNutt’s name (like Abou Ben Adhem’s under other circumstances) led all the rest.4

The granting of land in Nova Scotia reached its frenzied climax during the last half of October 1765. Wilmot and his Council made township grants during this short period that totaled more than two and a half million acres in addition to other smaller but still substantial ones.5 The reason for this concentrated activity is clear: on November 1 the Stamp Act would go into effect and the expenses of the grantees would mount considerably. In addition to the ordinary fees paid to the governor and other officials, the stamped paper on which the necessary documents were to be written would cost the grantees of a 100,000-acre township a total of £15 16s. 3d.—not a prohibitive charge, it is true, but one to be avoided if possible.6

On October 31, 1765, Governor Wilmot and his Council made three grants to syndicates involving chiefly residents of Philadelphia. One of these, for land at Pictou on the north shore of Nova Scotia proper, did not concern Franklin; the two in which he did participate were for tracts on the St. John River and the Petitcodiac River, respectively, in what is now the province of New Brunswick. It would be pleasant to extend this note with some account of the settlement and flourishing development of these two townships; the fact is that, although a few Pennsylvania families did migrate to the Petitcodiac, the promoters of both settlements failed to fulfill the stipulated terms of settlement and cultivation and their claims ultimately lapsed. The two grants, abortive though they finally proved to be, are recorded here in abstract form.

Grant No. 1.

Abstract: Montagu Wilmot, captain general and governor in chief of the Province of Nova Scotia or Acadie and its dependencies, with the advice and consent of his Majesty’s Council, gives, grants, and confirms to the 23 men listed below and in the proportions indicated, a tract of 100,000 acres more or less, with allowance for roads, etc. on the north side of the River St. Johns (sic), beginning at the southwest corner or boundary of lands granted to Beamsley Perkins Glazier and associates, thence to run north 11 degrees east, 12 miles on such lands, thence north 79 degrees west, 13 miles on ungranted land, thence south 11 degrees west, till it meets the said river, thence the several courses of the said river to the first boundary,7 together with all unopened mines excepting those of gold, silver and coals:

One equal undivided one-twelfth with all privileges, profits, commodities, and appurtenances to Alexander McNutt, his heirs and assigns forever; one equal undivided quarter of the remaining eleven-twelfths similarly to Matthew Clarkson, Edward Duffield, and Gerardus Clarkson, their heirs and assigns forever in severalty; a second equal undivided quarter of the remaining eleven-twelfths similarly to Benjamin Franklin,8 Anthony Wayne, John Hughes, and John Coxe, Jr., their heirs and assigns forever in severalty; a third equal undivided quarter of the remaining eleven-twelfths similarly to Isaac Caton, John Relfe, and James Caton, their heirs and assigns forever in severalty; and a fourth quarter of the remaining eleven-twelfths similarly to William Smith, Hugh Neil, Thomas Barton, William Moore, Joseph Richardson, John Hall, William Craig, Joseph Jacobs, John Bayley, Israel Jacobs, and Benjamin Jacobs, their heirs and assigns forever in severalty.

The terms and conditions of this grant are as follows:

1. Each grantee binds himself, his heirs, executors, and assigns to pay to the King, the commander in chief of the province, or any authorized agent, a free yearly quitrent of one farthing per acre for one half of the granted land, beginning at the expiration of five years from the date of the grant, and the remaining half to be payable after the expiration of ten years from the date of the grant. In case three years’ quitrents shall be in default and no distress is to be found on the premises, then the grant to each grantee in default shall be null and void.

2. Each grantee binds himself, his heirs and assigns to plant, cultivate, improve, or enclose one third of the granted premises within 10 years, another third within 20 years, and the remaining third within 30 years of the date of the grant, otherwise to forfeit such lands as shall not actually be under improvement and cultivation at the time the forfeiture is incurred.

3. Each grantee binds himself, his heirs, executors, and assigns to plant one rood (a quarter of an acre) for every 1000 acres with hemp within 10 years from the date of the grant and to keep planted the same or a like quantity of land during the successive years.

4. If any grantee fails to settle one fourth of the granted premises within one year after Nov. 30, 1765, in the proportion of one Protestant person for every 200 acres, a second fourth within two years, a third fourth within three years, and the remaining fourth within four years from the aforesaid date, the lands that remain unsettled shall be forfeited and revert to the Crown. The governor, lieutenant governor, or commander in chief may then at his pleasure regrant the land to any other person as if the present grant had not been made.

5. Whereas a representation has been made to the King on behalf of Alexander McNutt and his associates praying for a mitigation of the above terms, it is agreed that whatever easier or better terms than those here mentioned the King may allow to McNutt and his associates shall be the terms on which these lands are granted to the listed grantees and shall be annexed hereto.

Signed and sealed at Halifax, October 31, in the sixth year of his Majesty’s reign and in the year of our Lord 1765. By his Excellency’s command with the advice and consent of his Majesty’s Council. Richd. Bulkeley Secy. Endorsed: M. Wilmot No. 35: Dated Octr. 31st. 1765 Regd. Novr. 1st. 1765.

Grant No. 2.

Abstract: Except for the description of the lands granted, this document is virtually a verbatim repetition of Grant No. 1, listing the same grantees with the same proportionate grants, and stipulating the same five terms and conditions. The lands granted consist of 100,000 acres, with allowance for roads, etc., lying on the River Petitcoodiac (sic), beginning at the mouth of Panaccadie Creek on the northeast side of the said river, thence up the eastwardmost branch of the said creek to the northwest corner of lands granted to Charles Proctor, Esq., thence to run north II miles on ungranted lands, thence west 13 miles on ungranted lands, thence south on ungranted lands till it meets the said river, thence the several courses of the said river to the first mentioned boundary.9 The document is similarly signed, sealed, consented to, and attested, Oct. 31, 1765. Endorsed: M. Wilmot No. 30. Dated Octr. 31. 1765 Regd Novr. 1st. 1765.

1Montagu Wilmot (d. 1766) was governor of Nova Scotia from 1763 until his death. On Col. Alexander McNutt (c. 1725–1811), see above, XI, 470 n, and DAB; Arthur W. H. Eaton, “Alexander McNutt, The Colonizer,” Americana, VIII, pt. 2 (Dec. 1913), pp. 1065–1106; W.O. Raymond, “Colonel Alexander McNutt and the Pre-Loyalist Settlements of Nova Scotia,” Royal Society of Canada, 3 Proc. and Trans., V (1911), sect. II, 23–115, esp. 28–32, 60–102.

2It seems impossible to piece together from scattered and incomplete sources and secondary authorities a full and exact account of BF’s ventures in Nova Scotian land speculation. Most puzzling, perhaps, are the minutes of the Nova Scotia Council, April 30, 1765 (Public Archives of Nova Scotia), that record discussion and favorable consideration of a proposal by McNutt which listed fifteen applications “Made by Mr. Alexr. McNutt, and others,” with their places of origin and dates and the number of acres applied for. Second in the list is one from “Dr. Francklin & Co.” from Philadelphia, June 20, 1764, for 200,000 acres. It is possible that this entry represents the application for the two grants dealt with below and that McNutt, always one to put the best possible face on matters, had used BF’s name simply as that of the most prominent person in the group of associated applicants. But the date seems extremely early for BF’s participation in such a scheme; there is no record among his surviving papers for 1764 of such participation; and among the names of other men heading similar groups of applicants from Philadelphia in McNutt’s list are four men who are included among the recipients of the two grants described here. On the other hand, the editors have found no specific grant of 200,000 acres to a group (or two grants of 100,000 acres each) in which BF’s name appears other than the present two. In addition to the article by Archdeacon Raymond cited in the previous note, most of the material used in the present headnote and accompanying footnotes is derived from his edited text of [Edward Winslow], “A Sketch of the Province of Nova Scotia and chiefly of such parts as are settled. 1783,” New Brunswick Hist. Soc. Coll., II (1904), 142–62, esp. 160; his “Old Township on the River St. John,” ibid., VI (1904–5), 302–57; and from William F. Ganong, “Historic Sites in New Brunswick,” Royal Society of Canada, 2 Proc. and Trans., V (1899), sect. II, p. 333; Esther Clark Wright, The Petitcodiac A Study of the New Brunswick River and of the Peoples Who Settled along It (Sackville, N. B., [1945]); and John B. Brebner, The Neutral Yankees of Nova Scotia (N.Y., 1937), pp. 95–9.

3Anthony Wayne (1745–1796), known during the American Revolution as “Mad Anthony,” had recently qualified as a surveyor.

4Several of Wayne’s letters to Hughes from Nova Scotia are printed in Wright, The Petitcodiac. During October 1765, either alone or in combination with various “Associates,” McNutt managed to get his name on fifteen grants for the enormous total of 1,745,000 acres. Royal Soc. of Canada, 3 Proc. and Trans., V (1911), sect. II, 91–2.

5Margaret Ells, “Clearing the Decks for the Loyalists,” Canadian Hist. Assn. Report of the Annual Meeting, 1933, pp. 43–58, esp. 50; Brebner, Neutral Yankees, p. 99.

6In an “Explanatory Note” to the article cited immediately above, Margaret Ells worked out the detailed costs. Canadian Hist. Assn. Report of the Annual Meeting, 1934, p. 109.

7This township, named Francfort or Frankfort, seems to have been situated on the north side of the St. John, west of the present Fredericton. The southeast corner, where the description of the boundaries in the grant begins, is said to have been about four miles downstream from the mouth of the Keswick River. New Brunswick Hist. Soc. Coll., II, 160; Royal Soc. of Canada, 2 Proc. and Trans., V (1899), sect. II, map facing p. 330. An advertisement in Pa. Gaz., Feb. 6, 1765, announced a meeting of the grantees of Frankfort and Monckton (the township on the Petitcodiac granted to the same men) to be held on the 14th. There seems to be no evidence, however, that either McNutt or the Philadelphians concerned ever moved effectively to put settlers on the St. John River tract. Beamsley Perkins Glazier, mentioned in the grant as an abutting landowner, was a captain in the Royal American Regiment who, somewhat in the manner of McNutt, was the leading spirit of a group of army officers and colonials, including Thomas Hutchinson and Sir William Johnson, that succeeded in procuring grants to five townships on the St. John, totaling 395,000 acres, in October 1765. His activities are described in some detail in William O. Raymond, The River St. John, edited by J.C. Webster (Sackville, N.B., 1943), pp. 176–87.

8BF’s undivided share of this 100,000-acre grant works out to 1729 acres; his share of the second grant, described below, was the same. DF wrote him, Jan. 12, 1766, that she had paid Anthony Wayne £53 for BF’s share in the Nova Scotia grants. APS.

9The Petitcodiac River, in eastern New Brunswick, flows in an east-north-easterly direction roughly paralleling the coastline until it reaches the site of the present town of Monckton, when it turns almost at a right angle and flows southeasterly into Shepody Bay, the northernmost arm of the Bay of Fundy. Panaccadie Creek empties into the Petitcodiac from the northeast at the bend. The township here described, named Monckton, extended along the upper stretch of the river from the mouth of the creek to about the falls that mark the limit of tidal flow and included the sites of the present town of Monckton and the village of Salisbury. Ganong lists a grant of 5,000 acres to Charles Proctor and five others “near the Petitcodiac” on Oct. 22, 1765, but gives no further particulars of this abutting grant. Royal Soc. of Canada, 2 Proc. and Trans., V (1899), sect. II, p. 335. On Jan. 27, 1766, John Hughes contracted with the heads of nine German families in Pennsylvania that if they would migrate to Nova Scotia in the following April and fulfill the requirements of settlement and cultivation stipulated in the grant, he would release to each of them a town lot and additional land in the proportion of 200 acres for each family of five persons. Five of the nine families did move to the Petitcodiac in April 1766, but it appears that most if not all of them later moved to Hillsborough in another township on the other side of the river. A census of 1767 shows 60 persons living in Monckton: 12 men, 9 women, and 39 boys and girls. Who sponsored the settlers not sent by Hughes is unknown. Wright, The Petitcodiac, pp. 16–22, 38–48; Nova Scotia Hist. Soc. Coll. VII (1889–91), 56.

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