MANN, JOHN, labourer, farmer, and author; b. June 1798 in Kenmore (Tayside), Scotland, son of John Mann, a crofter, and his third wife, Margaret McGregor; m. 10 March 1828 Margaret MacVane, and they had seven children; d. 19 Feb. 1891 in Breadalbane, N.B.
Concerned about the slow growth of New Brunswick’s population and the fact that immigrants seemed to be bypassing the province, in 1816 the House of Assembly voted £1,000 to assist prospective settlers. For that sum merchant James Taylor of Fredericton agreed to bring out 134 immigrants from Scotland. Since New Brunswick needed labourers and domestic servants, the majority were to be adults under 40, preferably unmarried. Taylor chartered the ship Favorite at Saint John and early in October 1816 Scottish newspapers reported that it was in the Clyde and that people willing to settle in New Brunswick could apply for a free passage.
In November 1816 the Favorite landed 136 Scots at Saint John. One was John Mann, an 18-year-old labourer. Relatives of his had earlier settled in Charlotte County, and he went to join them. He was not impressed with “the dismal and wretched appearance of the country,” but in the summer of 1817 he went to work loading boats and cutting timber. After a second winter in the county, he persuaded a captain to allow him to work his passage home. However, the vessel’s departure was delayed several times and Mann disembarked at Letang Harbour to spend another winter in “this detestable cold country.” The ship sailed without him and was never seen again.
In June 1819 Maim was in Saint John; on the 17th of the month he left that city with a survey party under William Franklin Odell*, who was working with the commissioners attempting to establish the boundary between Maine and New Brunswick. Later in the year, when this employment ended, Mann returned to Charlotte County, where he remained until the summer of 1822. Then, having heard of “the fame of Canada,” he decided to pay a visit. Travelling by way of the United States, he crossed the Niagara River into Upper Canada and visited some of the pioneer areas northwest of Lake Ontario. Settlers there seemed to him as poor and isolated as they were in New Brunswick. On his way back east he took a steamboat from Montreal to Quebec and then, without a word of French and not much idea of where he was going, he set out on foot for the Saint John valley. The next year he returned to Scotland.
Mann did not find the happiness he was seeking in Scotland either. “To my great disappointment, I found that, if it ever was there, it had vanished away, ‘as the morning cloud, and as the early dew,’” he wrote. Soon after his marriage in March 1828, he decided that he would come back to New Brunswick. He sailed in August and settled with his wife in Charlotte County at Breadalbane. There he built boats for a time but eventually became a farmer. The Mann family was soon in a better situation than they had been in Scotland and not long after his return to the province, he informed his father, “I do not like to boast of our way of living here, but if you were to see our table you would not pity our bodies.”
Little is known of Mann’s later life. He became active in the Baptist Church and did some preaching. In his old age he was known as Deacon Mann. He is buried on the farm he established in the county, where some of his descendants still reside.
In 1824, while in Scotland, Mann had published two books, Travels in North America and The emigrant’s instructor. The former deals chiefly with his experiences in New Brunswick and his journey to Upper Canada. Most works of this sort were written by gentleman travellers [see Patrick Campbell*], professional soldiers [see George Drought Warburton*], or clerics [see Joshua Marsden*]; Mann’s book is unusual in that it is from a literate, intelligent, but not well educated labourer. His description of the voyage of the Favorite is the first account of life on an emigrant ship to New Brunswick. He goes on to write a lively narrative of a period when most of the province was sparsely inhabited and the most common means of communication in the interior was the canoe. His style is straightforward, simple, and factual. There is no attempt to moralize and no continual reference to conditions at home. Absent also are the sweeping generalizations common to so many travellers’ accounts. His other book, The emigrant’s instructor, was a guide for settlers intending to immigrate to New Brunswick, Canada, and New York. It resembles other such works written in the early 19th century [see Alexander Wedderburn*], although it lacks statistical information, but it does contain interesting information on places Mann visited.
John Mann is the author of The emigrant’s instructor and Travels in North America: particularly in the provinces of Upper & Lower Canada, and New Brunswick, and in the states of Maine, Massachusets, and New-York . . . from 1816 to 1823, both published at Glasgow in 1824; the latter work has been reprinted with an introduction by W. A. Spray (Fredericton, 1978).
PANB, RG 4, RS24, S25, “Number, names and descriptions of settlers brought into the province by Mr. James Taylor.” Private arch., Horace Hanson (Fredericton), Letters and family papers. Historicus, “The story of an emigrant,” New Brunswick Magazine (Saint John), 3 (July–December 1899): 23–35, 70–80. New-Brunswick Royal Gazette (Fredericton), 12 Nov., 3 Dec. 1816.