Representative Settlements – Planned and Unplanned
An Irish Village Transplanted in New Brunswick

By Linda Evans

Irish immigrants flocked to the colony of New Brunswick in the 1820’s and 1830’s and a considerable number stayed – but many left almost immediately for the neighbouring United States and others followed later when funds allowed. As a result of this statement, it has often been inferred that, for the most part, Irish immigrants to NB – whether individuals or families – came here because there was nowhere else to go. Some suggest that they came here because fares to British North America were cheaper and those that couldn’t afford to move on, stayed. This did of course occur but it wasn’t always the norm and examples abound to tell a different story.

It has also been inferred that once they did arrive, the new immigrants settled all over the province with no real organizational pattern of settlement and with little regard for pre-established relationships in Ireland or cultural similarities once here. Yet evidence suggests that many Irish immigrants knew exactly where they were going when they arrived in the colony.

In many cases, Irish immigrants settled in newly formed New Brunswick Irish settlements where there was already someone that they knew – someone who had left Ireland before them – be they family members or neighbours. Hence, they were drawn to settle in areas they had already heard of back in Ireland. Research is suggesting that there was indeed some pre-planning and organization involved in the process of emigration.

Often a family member would come ‘across’ first and then send back word to their family in Ireland. Before you knew it, as economy and fortune would allow, other family members – close relations and extended family – would follow – as well as neighbours. Indeed some who came here sent funds home to Ireland as they could afford it so that other family members could follow them – and that they did.

This was especially true of Melrose where intricate and complex family relationships existed between several of the Irish families who settled there. Several founding families were related in Ireland before departure. Once here in New Brunswick, they made their way to Melrose. Family members came over a number of years – a few at a time – and they not only came from the same county in Ireland but also from the same parish and in many instances, the same village. Melrose was essentially an Irish village transplanted here in the New World.

Melrose is located on Highway 16 – halfway between Port Elgin and Cape Tormentine on the road to the world-famous Confederation Bridge that brings visitors to Prince Edward Island. Located in Botsford Parish, in Westmorland County, it was originally known simply as Emigrant Road.


“In the Parish of Botsford the French people had spread eastward on the Shore of the Straits of Northumberland from Shediac to Shemogue. Farther east, were a number of Scotch settlers; while on the Baie Verte side all the lands touching the shore were taken up by English families…”1
Only the central ridge of the peninsula had not been developed – it was covered in dense forest with neither road nor clearing and no more than a few paths carved through the woods. Travel was still by sea so the central portion of the peninsula was undeveloped.
Emigrant Road
Emigrant Road, Tormentine Peninsula(a)

“In 1820, the government of New Brunswick contracted the survey of an east-west line through the centre of the peninsula tipped by Cape Tormentine. The road was meant to attract pioneering immigrants who were then flocking into the colony. Fifty parcels of land of about 200 acres each were marked off as free grants, and almost immediately Catholic Irish immigrants began arriving to claim them.”2


The first to take advantage of the free land grants were the Lane brothers, Timothy and Aneas.3 They had arrived in Miramichi in June 1819. Another brother, William, joined them later in 1822, but he married just outside the community.4

The Lanes came from Ballynamuck (sometimes spelled Bally-na-moche), parish of Murragh (known then as Moragh) in West County Cork. It is located a few kilometres southwest of the Anglo-Irish town of Bandon. Many more related families would follow them.

“Their relatives, the Savages, followed. They consisted of the mother [née Margaret Lane], six brothers, four sisters and the family of the eldest brother Daniel, who after the death of his first wife married again and had a second family in Ireland.”5

Location ticket Savage4

Location Ticket for William Savage, 1821(b)

They did not all come at the same time but over a number of years as their means permitted – in small groups arriving in various ports such as Miramichi, Saint John and even Quebec. Members of the Savage family came between the years 1820 and 1831.6 Some stayed in Melrose – others moved on to the American West as it was opening up. The first Savage to come was probably William7 who applied for his location ticket in 1821. His wife was a Lane and related to the Lane brothers who were considered the first to settle in the village.

One brother, Daniel Savage, who had stayed back in Ireland, eventually lost the family farm and it went into the Lane family’s hands.8

Other related families continued to come into the Emigrant Road settlement from the Ballynamuck area and the parish of Moragh and surrounding areas. Besides the Lanes and Savages, there were also: Hartnetts, Mahoneys, Murphys, Splanes, Sheas, Walshs, Donovans, McCarthys, Sweeneys, Hennesseys, Barrys, Hollands, Noonans, Hurleys and O’Learys. Through marriage, most of these families were related in Ireland before emigrating. Through parish, family records and the tithe applotment records, we can place many of these families within the Ballynamuck region of the parish of Murragh, or the neighbouring parish of Farranalough.

A thorough search of records shows that the following families were related in Ireland before emigration:

The Savage family was related to the Lanes, Murphys, Hartnetts and Sheas.
Hartnett family was related to the Mahoneys.
Mahoney family was also related to the Barrys and Donovans.
Donovan family was also related to the Hollands, Walshes and McCarthys (Cartys).
Holland family was also related to the Sweeney family.
Sweeney family also related to the McCarthys, Hollands and Hennesseys.
The Barry family was also related to the Creeds.9

The other names associated with the early arrivals are the Noonans, Hurleys and O’Learys but no direct connection has yet been made with these families and the others in Ireland before emigration.

Although there is evidence of extended family immigration into Irish New Brunswick communities,10 the number of inter-related families to have settled in Melrose (Emigrant Road) is strong enough to suggest that the small village of Ballynamuck, Parish of Moragh in County Cork was in many ways transported across the seas to southeastern New Brunswick.

There were, of course, others who joined this group – the Carrolls of County Kilkenny (via Newfoundland), the Houlahans from County Kerry and the Hayes from County Waterford to name but a few.

Most of the Melrose settlers arrived throughout the 1820’s and early1830’s. One family – because of their wayward journey – deserves mention. The Stack family came to Melrose from Ireland via Brazil and were known in the community as the ‘Brazilian connection’.

“James Stack and his sister [Mary] accompanied their father Thomas. In Ireland, Thomas had enlisted among a number of soldiers to go to Brazil to fight the wars of Don Pedro…[and] mutinied against their new rulers…choice was given them to either remain in the new country and take up farms, be deported back to Ireland, or to any British possession. They chose the latter, coming to St John and finally to Melrose.”11
Whether the Stack family had relations in Melrose before arriving there is not known and requires further research.

Other families – many of them related to the early arrivals in Melrose – trickled into the community as conditions worsened in Ireland during the 1840’s.

‘Timothy Hartnett must have had numerous relatives, because we know of 3 or 4 families closely related to him, but only one member of each came.12

Late arrivals included the Noonans, Hurleys, O’Learys, more Sweeneys and Mahoneys and the Mulrines of County Donegal. Further evidence of the inter-familial connections is further confirmed when one reads the following: ‘Wm Mahoney…came later than the others and was followed shortly afterwards by his mother and two sisters, Mrs Murphy (later Mrs. Edward Walsh) and [Johanna] (Mrs Daniel Donovan).’13

Later arrivals to the community had difficulty finding land grants near the main settlement. They settled on back lots north of the main road. Most of this land – away from the central ridge of the peninsula – was in poorly drained bog land and unsuitable for any lucrative farming.

Away from markets, most families practiced subsistence farming and supplemented their incomes by working in the woods – first their own lots – and then further a-field to make ends meet. With the collapse of the shipbuilding and timber industries in the late 1850’s and 1860’s, the first out-migration occurred at this time. Many families moved on to the US mid-west where they were offered free land. As a result, some of the names associated with the community in the early years were lost to time.14

Life was not always easy – especially in the early years of the settlement. As in Ireland, the potato crop was sometimes poor or failed all together here as well. As early as 1832, Melrose sent a petition to the New Brunswick government applying for relief:

To his Excellency Sir Archibald Campbell, Baronet G.C.B. – Lt. Gov. and Commander in Chief…province of New Brunswick…The petition of sundry poor emigrants settled on the Emigrant Land in the Parish of Botsford and County of Westmorland

 That your petitioners are settlers on the tract of land laid out in the parish of Botsford aforesaid for poor emigrants that in consequence of the difficulties attendant in procuring a living from new and uncultivated lands without any means of subsistence other than their own labour, and also in consequence of their crops having failed for the [two] last seasons.Your petitioners are now in a very destitute situation, and having heard that your excellency has humanly extended relief to persons in the province who are unfortunately in a similar situation with your petitioners, they have been induced to hope your excellency and honour will be pleased to take their case into your favourable consideration and grant them such relief as your excellency and honour may think advisable. Your petitioners also beg leave to state that a road formally laid onto their settlement but a consequence of the land through which the said road was intended to – being of inferior quality the said land is unsettled and likely to remain in that state. They are therefore destitute of a road, and should your Excellency and honour, open your petitioners a sum to relieve them in their present distressful situation, they would cheerfully perform labour on the said road to the amount of the relief afforded…Dated at Botsford this 27 January 1832.15

The petition gives an insight into the large number of families who had settled in the community between the founding of the community in 1821 to the petition in 1832. The male signatures on the petition included the following: James Carroll, Patrick Hayes, Jeremiah Mahony, John Mahony, Daniel Mahony, James Savage, Patrick Kelly, John Roach, Thomas Lane, Gilbert Wall, Michael Butler, Richard Mitton, Charles Allen, Maurice Savage, William Lodge, Timothy Sullivan, John Savage, Jr., Daniel Savage, Thomas Hayes, James Barry, John Holland, Thomas Cluny, James Sweeney, Dennis Sweeney, John Kennedy, Aneas Lean, Michael Wallace, Patrick Byrne, John Downing, Dennis Murphy, John Reilley, James Stack, Cornelius Murphy, Denis Mahony, William Hartnett, John Spelane, James Mansfield, Thomas Stack, William Savadge, John Savadge, James Mahony, James Fitzgerald, Timothy Hartnett, William Savadge, Denis Savadge, John Davis, Edward Brody, Timothy Lean, Daniel Lean, John Wall, William Lean.16

Even with the suggestion that the new settlers were willing to do roadwork in exchange for poor relief, the long awaited construction of a trunk road through the community of Melrose didn’t begin until 1846 and even then it was only a cart track through the forest.

There were also other difficulties.
‘The grants of land came through the County representative, William Crane…but this was before the days of responsible government, and at once the new settler found himself under a landlord almost as exacting as some he had left in Ireland. Under one pretext or another, Crane would oblige the new settler to work in and around Sackville on his own marsh lands and those of his friends, the Allisons. The grants may have been nominally free, but by the time they reached the new settler, payment of application, registration fees, etc., kept him busy building dykes to keep the restless Fundy tides from the marsh lands of Sackville. Though no actual charge of extortion was ever made against Crane, he was always looked upon as a hard task-master – sympathetic indeed with the people after the manner of a good-natured Southern planter with his slaves.”17

Despite these difficulties, the community of Melrose grew. Primarily farmers and lumbermen, the settlers worked their farms in the summer and carried on lumbering – first on their own lots – and then further afield – through the long winter months. At one time, the County representative, William Crane, suggested the village go by the name ‘Savagetown’ but the name never stuck.18 There was enough of a population for two post offices at one time – one was called “Emigrant Road” and the other “Emigrant Settlement” – but this was confusing.

General Store
Melrose General Store and Post Office

Eventually the community was given two new names for postal simplicity. The eastern (or lower) portion was named Malden on 1 Jun 1901. The first postmaster was Charles Mulrine from 1868 until his death in 1875. It closed in August 1948 when Joseph Timothy Barry was postmaster19 and mail then went to the nearby Melrose post office. The western (or upper) portion of the settlement was named Melrose (after a town in Scotland) on 1 April 1890. The post office was located at the back of the general store. Ben Corrigan was the postmaster from 1868 until his death in 1911. The last postmaster in Melrose was Mrs Claudette Marcella Noonan when it was permanently closed in October 1968.20 There were then two few people in the community to justify a post office ‘due to its limited usefulness’ and it then became a rural route of the Port Elgin post office.

Melrose School

The community was large enough in the latter years of the 19th century to have two schools – District 4 and 5 – one at one end of the community, and one at the other end.21

There was a general store and even a hotel ran by Creed[ens] – though some would say that it
was more of a halfway house and tavern then a ‘hotel’.22 At one time there was a sawmill (Hayes) and even a local tailor (William Shea) and a cobbler (Michael Wallace). Eventually Melrose was a stop on the NB-PEI Railway, a trunk line of the B & NA Railway (eventually the Intercontinental Railway and then CN) that was built as a federal promise to Prince Edward Island to bring it into Confederation.

Like many Irish communities in New Brunswick, Melrose eventually lost the later generations and descendants of the early settler families. Located away from markets and, for the most part, on poor agricultural soils, there was little to keep the children and grandchildren within the community. Gradually, the community emptied. The initial out-migration was in the 1860’s, and a mass exodus followed in the 1880’s and 1890’s to the US “Boston States” to work in the factories of New England.

Denied a decent education in Ireland, families in Melrose – as in other Irish NB communities – revered education above all else. Families knew that their children could make a decent way in the world with a good grounding in the basics. The village scraped together enough to have paid teachers almost from the beginning and long before education became universal in 1871. After a basic education, many left to go to high school and university or teacher’s college and beyond, and most never returned. Melrose produced more educators, lawyers, and businessmen than any other Irish community in the region. The legal professionals included P J Mahoney, Hon E.A. Reilley – a lawyer and Member of the Legislative Assembly, and F.P. Murphy, a Moncton lawyer whose sons all became members of the legal or medical profession. Albert McAuley,23 who lived next to the Melrose parish church, even became Mayor of New York. There were many who were called to religious orders as well – one of particular note was Monsignor Edward Savage – long-time pastor at St Bernard’s parish – Moncton’s Irish parish. He was regarded in high esteem and his benevolence assisted many Melrose families through the Depression years. He is buried in the Melrose cemetery – in the community he held close to his heart. Others went into business – and many who grew up in Moncton would remember Lane’s bakery on Lutz Street. It was owned and operated by a descendant of the first Irish family to settle in Melrose.

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01
Melrose Train Station

When the railway came to Melrose, it was viewed as the community’s good fortune – a lifeline to the future – and it generated tremendous excitement. Instead the railway became the means of departure, and they left in droves. Some took the CN24 train to Moncton – others continued on to Saint John, switched to CP to Vanceboro, Maine and from there switched to Maine Central or the Boston-Maine Railway – depending on which way they were going [to the Boston States (New England)]25. Those who did not leave for the United States went into Moncton – and many found work at the new Inter-colonial Railway (ICR) maintenance shops. Others found their way to Nova Scotia and beyond. Many farms were abandoned.

A second influx of immigrants came to Melrose in the late 1920’s. Part of a British resettlement scheme organized by the Soldiers Settlement Board, many families arrived in 1928 and 1929 from Britain. Only three of these families were Irish. The Murrays, McGowans and McCaffertys were all from Northern Ireland. They were not farming families however and many of these have also left the community as well.26

St Bartholemew's Roman Catholic Church (after the steeple was removed)

St Bartholemew’s Roman Catholic Church (after the steeple was removed)

As they say “Blink and you’ll miss it!” There is little evidence left of the large Irish community of Melrose today. Melrose was once a large inter-related and complex community settled by families from the same Irish village in County Cork – transplanted here on Canadian soil. Except for a few descendants, the parish church of St. Bartholemew’s and her graveyard are almost all that remain today.

There are still a few family farms in the community. However, the forest and scrub have reclaimed much of the farmland so laboriously carved out of the New Brunswick wilderness almost 200 years ago. Some farms still exist – reclaimed from the wilds yet again by German and Dutch settlers who came here after WWII – but Irish Melrose is now relegated to the history pages.

Houlahan home 1993
Abandoned farm in Melrose, 1993, before demolition

Tourists, racing down Highway 16 on their way to the new world-famous Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island pass through Melrose. There is a road sign telling them where they are. Little do they know, however, that they are passing through a village that was so full of life so long ago – a village peopled almost exclusively from a little crossroad called Ballynamuck, parish of Murragh, County Cork, Ireland.


[1] Edward Savage, Rev, The Story of Melrose, Privately Published, @1900.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Sometimes Lane is spelled Lean.
[4] Ibid, p. 199 and Savage, p. 5. Rev Savage, in his book suggests that the Lanes only came to Melrose after the Great Fire of 1825 in Miramichi. However, they had location tickets to the land grants in Melrose in 1821 and so they probably came to Melrose before the fire.
[5] Savage, p. 7
[6] __________ Census, Botsford parish, Westmorland County, various entries.
[7] It has been suggested that the Savages only came to join their Lane relations in the late 1820’s but William Savage’s location ticket is for 1822 and he so must have come before his other relatives. Location ticket is from Houston and Smyth, p. 126.
[8] Virginia Lyons-Ratteree, Unpublished family Lane genealogy.
[9] These are the families who are confirmed as related in Ireland before arrival in Melrose. Reference sources include, Savage, Story of Melrose; Parish Records, Cap Pelé and Barrachois, 1851 Census, Botsford parish and Tithe Applotment book, Parish of Moragh, County Cork 1851– various entries.
[10] Through parish records and family histories, inter-related families can also be confirmed within the communities of McQuade and Shediac Road in Westmorland County, and in South Branch, Kent County, among others.
[11] Savage, pp. 19-20
[12] Ibid. p. 21
[13] Ibid. p. 26
[14] Bernard Houlahan of Moncton, who grew up in Melrose in the 1950’s recalls that “the family names I knew and knew of were Hartnett, Mahoney, Lane, Savage, Walsh, McCafferty, Sweeney, Hennessy, Barry, Noonan, and Holland.
[15] Parish of Botsford records, Bell Collection, Mount Allison University
[16] Parish of Botsford records, Bell Collection, Mount Allison University
[17] Savage, p. 13
[18] Perhaps the Melrose people didn’t agree to the name because it was a Crane’s suggestion as he was disliked within the community for obvious reasons.
[19] Library and Archives Canada, Post Offices and Postmasters, Malden, PSFD 303-17852.
[20] Library and Archives Canada, Post Offices and Postmasters, Melrose, PSFD 303-17894.
[21] Melrose residents hated when people referred to the two ends of the community as ‘Upper’ or ‘Lower’.
[22] Savage, p. 22
[23] Sometimes spelled McCully.
[24] First called the NB-PEI railway, a trunk line of the Intercolonial Railway (ICR) which eventually became known as Canadian National Railway.
[25] Interview with Joseph Murray, Fredericton NB.
[26] Ibid.

Picture credits:
(a) Cecil J Houston and William J Smyth, Irish Immigration and Canadian Settlement,
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990, p. 198.
(b) Ibid. p. 126

______, Griffith’s Valuation of Ireland, Murragh, County Cork,

­­­­_______, History of Port Elgin-Melrose Parish, Church pamphlet, 1927.

Houston, Cecil J and William J Smyth, Irish Immigration and Canadian Settlement, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990.

Hynes, Rev Leo J, The Catholic Irish of New Brunswick: 1783-1900, Fredericton: Privately Published, 1992.

Library and Archives Canada, Post Offices and Postmasters, Malden, PSFD 303-17852.

Library and Archives Canada, Post Offices and Postmasters, Melrose, PSFD 303-17894

Lyons-Ratteree, Family Lane genealogy, Unpublished.

______, Interview, Joseph Murray, Fredericton, NB 2003.

______, Parish Records, St Bartholemew’s Parish, Melrose, NB.

______, Parish Records, Paroisse Saint-Henri, Barrachois, NB.

______, Parish Records, Sainte Thérèse d’Avila, Cap Pelé, NB.

______, Parish Records, Saint-Timothée, Shemogue, NB.

______, Petition of sundry poor emigrants settled on the Emigrant Land in the Parish of Botsford and County of Westmorland,Parish of Botsford records, Bell Collection, Mount Allison University .

Savage, Rev. Edward, Rev, The Story of Melrose, Privately Published, @1900.