Who was John Paterson, and what brought him to Gaspe?

by Andrew Patterson

Both Eugene Roy (1934) and Raymond Patterson (1959) stated that John Patterson was a Lieutenant in Wolfe's Army. The important question here is did they assume this because they found records of John on army lists, or did they have some other source?  Clear records exist for a "John Paterson," a lieutenant in 15th Regiment of Wolfe's army on the muster rolls of 1765. However it has recently been established that this John settled in PEI.

Family tradition states that John was with Wolfe at the Siege of Quebec, but did this originate from some obscure fact, or from assumptions made by subsequent generations. Considering that he settled in about 1764 it would certainly appear that he was directly connected with the take-over of Quebec by the English forces. After the siege of Quebec English settlers were encouraged to accept land grants throughout the province to establish a presence.

What made John select Gaspe, and furthermore, the desolate, forested parcel of land, far from the ocean which served as the only means of transportation at that time? His new home in Sunny Bank could only be reached by canoe or skiff and was about 10 km from the Port of Gaspe and his nearest neighbor. Once again family tradition provides a clue, as he was supposed to have been more interested in farming than fishing.

Did John decide to inhabit some cleared land left abandoned by the French in the vicinity of the mill that had been destroyed by General Wolfe's Army? It is known that The French settlement in Gaspe included a mill and several houses located on the Mill Brook in Sunny Bank. Though probably not a permanent settlement, these pioneers likely grew vegetables for their own use. According to the journal of Captain Bell, there were a few acres of cleared land nearby, which could easily have been the site where John took up residence. If he had hailed from a farming family it is not unlikely that he would seek out some arable land in the new world. Now, how did he happen upon this spot. In my opinion, the only solution is that he was in attendance when the expedition was sent to destroy the mill. The following is an Extract from the Journal of Captain Bell. A.D.C. to General James Wolfe on the Gaspé Expedition.

"on the 7th at day break we went up the father arm having heard some of the people were there, ‘tis ten mile up to the Morass, the Channel the same in regard to its difficulty as to other, we took 8 men here & sent them down in the Barge (1 an Indian) then went to a sawmill just by where we found a vast number of plank, we immediately fell to work & set fire to the Moulin, plank & 3 houses which blazed very handsomely to the no small grief of the poor people we found a great many shaloupes here & there; we came back by land along the shore, which was not the pleasantest walk in the world, nothing but stones extremely slippery & every 3 yards a great tree to get over..."

Was John Patterson one of the soldiers on that expedition? We will probably never know, but we do know that he chose Sunny Bank as his permanent home, when all of North America was practically uninhabited.

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