MUNRO, HUGH, businessman, jp, judge, politician, office holder, farmer, and agriculturalist; b. c. 1764 in Ross-shire, Scotland; m. Martha—;father of three sons and three daughters; d. 25 Sept. 1846 in Bathurst, N.B.
Hugh Munro received his early education in Scotland and immigrated with his parents to New York in 1774. Nine years later he went with other loyalists to Quebec, and when Gaspé was opened to loyalist settlement in 1784 he moved to New Carlisle; he was described at this time as a lumberman. In 1792 he was appointed a judge of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas, only to be removed in 1794 when the judicial district of Gaspé was reorganized. He then crossed the Baie des Chaleurs and settled near St Peters (Bathurst), N.B., where he began operations as a merchant and shipper of fish.
Munro soon expanded his activities into lumbering. In 1818 he claimed his was “the first and most ancient establishment” in the timber trade of Nepisiguit Bay; that year he cut about 5,000 tons of timber and had many people employed in the woods. He also built ships but records of this activity are sparse. One vessel constructed in 1818 was valued with its cargo at approximately £2,000. For many years Munro was to dominate the commercial life of St Peters. He was a friend and associate of Robert Ferguson* of Restigouche and did business as well with Gilmour, Rankin and Company of Miramichi [see Alexander Rankin*].
In 1807 Munro was appointed a justice of the peace and judge of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas for Northumberland County. He entered politics in 1819 as a candidate for one of the two county seats in the House of Assembly; defeated, he lodged a protest claiming that the sheriff had shown favouritism to his opponent. He was successful in the election of the following year, and was to hold his seat until 1827, when Northumberland County was divided and the county of Gloucester created. That year, as the most influential settler in the new shire, he was appointed justice of the peace, judge of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas, registrar of wills and deeds, and trustee of the grammar school. He was also elected the county’s first representative in the assembly.
Munro had a keen interest in agriculture. At his residence, Somerset Vale, he had what was described as “a skillfully disposed and well cultivated farm, which like an Oasis, smiles upon the wilderness, from which years of unremitting industry have reclaimed it.” In 1825 he was a member of the committee appointed by the assembly to consider ways of improving agriculture and promoting immigration; it recommended the creation of the New-Brunswick Agricultural and Emigrant Society. Active in this association until it ceased to exist, Munro sat on its central committee from 1828 to 1830. He was also the organizer and first president of the Gloucester County society, formed in 1828.
Over the years Munro became unpopular for a number of reasons. He was thought to acquire property by claiming that others had not fulfilled the conditions of their grants and, after the land was escheated, using his influence in Fredericton to have it re-granted to himself. Accused of tyranny in his dealings with Acadians, he reportedly imprisoned a man for no reason on one occasion and then assaulted him before his release. He was also said to have withheld from his constituents money that had been authorized by the assembly for work on the roads and for bounties on grain, on the grounds that they would spend the money unwisely and in any case ought not to receive the bounties, which he, their representative, had voted against in the house.
In the election of 1830 Munro’s political dominance in Gloucester County was challenged by William End*. End claimed that Munro held power through the support of the local magistrates, who were corrupt and owed their appointments to his influence. Promising to end despotism, End gained the backing of Acadian and Irish voters and was able to defeat Munro. At about the same time Munro’s commercial power was threatened by the expansion into the Nepisiguit area of other entrepreneurs, notably Joseph Cunard*. Munro was among the lumbermen of the region who protested against the huge timber reserves granted to Cunard by the commissioner of crown lands, Thomas Baillie*. Cunard was to lose his reserves, but he continued to expand his activities and local lumbermen were no longer able to control the region.
On several occasions Munro tried to get compensation from the government for the office he had lost when the district of Gaspé had been reorganized in 1794. When he made a last attempt, in 1840, Lieutenant Governor Sir John Harvey* claimed he was “too old for office” and, though “very worthy and respectable, not sufficient indigent to make any relief acceptable (which can be offered to gentlemen).” Munro lived out his last years quietly on his farm, where he died in 1846.
N.B. Museum, W. F. Ganong papers, box 32, memorial of Hugh Munro, 25 Feb. 1840; Hugh Munro, letter-book; SB 2, F1, no.11 (E. B. Biggar, “Bathurst, its first settlers and their many and strange adventures,” paper read before the N.B. Hist. Soc., 1894) (typescript); J. C. Webster papers, packet 1, Sir Howard Douglas, letter-book, Douglas to Lord Dalhousie, 7 May 1827. PAC, MG 24, A17, ser.i, 1: ff. 185–86; L6, 3, N.B. Agricultural and Emigrant Soc., minute-book no.1 (1825–30). PANB, MC 1156, IX: 64; RG 3, RS538, B5: 26, 38, 80, 106; RG 4, RS24, S28-P28; RG 7, RS64, A, 1846, Hugh Monro; RG 10, RS108, Hugh Munro, 1805, 1807, 1820, 1828. PRO, CO 188/41: 144–49; CO 189/13: 29–30, 421–23, 521–22. Robert Cooney, A compendious history of the northern part of the province of New Brunswick and of the district of Gaspé, in Lower Canada (Halifax, 1832; repub. Chatham, N.B., 1896), 195. Gleaner (Miramichi [Chatham]), 21 Sept. 1830; 24 Jan. 1843; 24 Jan., 3 Oct. 1846. Mercury, 29 May, 26 June 1827; 19 Feb. 1828. New-Brunswick Royal Gazette, 7 March 1820. M. M. Hunter, Pioneer settlers of the Bay Chaleur in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Bathurst, N.B., 1978), 13, 17. MacNutt, New Brunswick. Graeme Wynn, “The assault on the New Brunswick forest, 1780–1850” (phd thesis, Univ. of Toronto, 1974), 5–6, 43–44, 97–100, 220, 224–25, 271, 286. Observer [E. S. Carter], “Linking the past with the present,” Telegraph-Journal (Saint John, N.B.), 10 April 1930.