TAYLOR, ALEXANDER, businessman, office holder, and politician; b. c. 1736 in Scotland, son of – Taylor and Helen Gordon; twice married, first to Ann Urquhart; father of ten sons and two daughters; d. September 1811 in Newcastle, N.B.
Alexander Taylor claimed his ancestors “for seven Centurys back, were of Consanguinity to His Grace the Duke of Gordon (N. Britain) and his Ancestors.” After the sale of his parents’ estate he went through “a very generous allowance” in Scotland and within seven years “scarce could command One Shilling.” It was at this time that he decided to join his sister and her husband who had come to the Miramichi region (N.B.) in 1777. Travelling with his wife and six children, Taylor went first to Halifax, N.S., where he obtained a grant of 700 acres at Miramichi. When he arrived at his new home in March 1784, he found only a few settlers in the area. Four years later he was appointed a justice of the peace for Northumberland County and he attended the first sessions of the Court of General Sessions in 1789. One of the most interesting of the early Northumberland County magistrates, he showed more concern for the establishment of schools and the welfare of the Indians than any of his colleagues. In 1802 he supported the Micmacs in disputes with white squatters over lands; at that time he claimed “the very road to justice seems to be entangled against these poor creatures.” In 1807 he also served as overseer of the poor and commissioner of roads.
Taylor worked hard to develop the Miramichi settlement, where he supported himself by lumbering and fishing. In 1802 he collected information on the area for Edward Winslow. In his report of the following year he complained that “we have no Towns in this County which is the ruin of the place,” and he suggested that the home government should assist in bringing over more settlers and in establishing towns. He himself claimed to have brought out to New Brunswick more than 150 of his relatives as well as other settlers, and at the time of his death there were two major towns in the area, Chatham and Newcastle, and several flourishing villages. Taylor allied himself with members of the loyalist hierarchy in Fredericton such as Winslow, and he acquired considerable political support within his large family and amongst other Scottish settlers in Northumberland County. In the by-election of 1791, caused by the death of William Davidson*, he helped elect Harris William Hailes, an outsider supported by government, over James Fraser*, a popular local merchant. In 1802 Taylor ran for a seat in the House of Assembly and defeated Samuel Lee, a loyalist. Re-elected to the fifth legislature in 1809, he held his seat until his death two years later.
Taylor was not popular with some of the county magistrates and on occasion caused them considerable embarrassment through incidents in which he was accused of drunkenness and assault and through violations of the fishery regulations. He once attacked a man at the Court of General Sessions and this and other offences led to accusations in 1799 that he had “rendered himself Odious, and a pest to the Community”; as the inspectors of the fishery at Miramichi complained, “The laws have been openly violated, justice burried in oblivion and forsed to seek an assylum in the abyss of obcurity, while licentiousness have marched in triumph Yea! and by a person in authority.” “After proper expostulation” with Taylor, who promised “to guard against any further cause of complaint,” the other magistrates were able to persuade the complainants to withdraw their charges. However, in 1806 Taylor was again in trouble and was charged with assault and battery. By 1808 he was also in financial difficulty. That year he wrote to Edward Winslow asking him to use his influence to help him retain his positions in the county. Nothing was done, it seems, for Taylor’s name does not appear in county records after 1807. Though he had considered returning to Scotland, he apparently straightened out his affairs and decided to stay.
Although frequently involved in disputes with other county officials, Taylor seems to have done more than anyone else to advance the growth of the settlement at Miramichi after the death of William Davidson. He brought out many settlers to the river and he worked for the establishment of schools and towns at a time when the government showed little concern for such matters.
N.B. Museum, Davidson papers, Alexander Taylor, land grants at Miramichi. PANB, “New Brunswick political biography,” comp. J. C. and H. B. Graves (11v., typescript), XI: 84; RG 2, RS8, Appointments and commissions, 2/1: 8, 32, 44; Unarranged Executive Council does., 1804; RG 10, Northumberland County, petition no.434 (1799); RS108, Petition of John Henderson, 1785; Petitions of Alexander Taylor, 1785, 1810; RG 18, RS 153. UNBL, MG H2, A. Taylor to E. Winslow, 15 Oct. 1791; 20 Jan., 25 Oct. 1802; April 1808. “Historical-geographical documents relating to New Brunswick,” ed. W. F. Ganong, N.B. Hist. Soc., Coll., 3 (1907–14), no.9: 342. Winslow papers (Raymond). W. O. Raymond, “The north shore; incidents in the early history of eastern and northern New Brunswick,” N.B. Hist. Soc., Coll., 2 (1899–1905), no.4: 94, 122, 124.