LEE, SAMUEL, office holder, judge, businessman, and politician; b. 28 March 1756 in Concord, Mass., son of Dr Joseph and Lucy Lee; m. Sarah –; d. 3 March 1805 in Shediac, N.B.
Samuel Lee was born to one of the most influential families in the Concord area. After graduating from Harvard College in 1776, he established himself as a successful merchant at Penobscot (Castine, Maine). A supporter of the loyalist cause, in 1784 he went to Restigouche in northern New Brunswick. There he was to acquire large grants of land, some in rather questionable ways.
While on a trip to England in 1785 Lee leased a block of land on the Restigouche River which formed part of a grant previously ceded by the Nova Scotia government to John Shoolbred. When, to provide land for the loyalists, the New Brunswick government moved to escheat many of the grants issued earlier by the Nova Scotian authorities, Lee petitioned for some of Shoolbred’s property on the grounds that it had not been improved. Shoolbred considered this action “unprincipled & perfidious, the Trait of a base Heart.” By 1789 Lee had acquired 1,800 acres, including part of Shoolbred’s grant and a further 200 acres to which others laid claim. Since he was a staunch supporter of the loyalist government, all disputes over land were settled in his favour. At his death settlers in the Restigouche area claimed that he had obtained “more land than he was entitled to hold” and that much of it “now lays waste and uncultivated to the Great Injury of the Settlement.” He was also accused of having acquired land “under borrowed names.” His honesty was further impugned after his death when a group of 15 men, mostly Acadians, petitioned the government for grants of the lands they occupied. Lee had supposedly agreed to apply for the grants and to pay the grant fees in exchange for goods the men had supplied him; however, the grants had not been issued, Lee had not paid the fees, and the men were in danger of losing their lands.
On 17 Nov. 1787 Lee was appointed the first justice of the peace for Restigouche, which formed part of Northumberland County, and on 10 July 1789 he was made a judge of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas. He supported government candidates in the province’s first election in 1785 and in the by-election of 1791; in 1795 he was himself elected to the House of Assembly as one of the two members for Northumberland. He ran again in 1802 but was defeated by Alexander Taylor, who had the support of the Scottish pre-loyalists.
In 1789 Lee mortgaged his land for £7,950 to the firm of Maitland and Company of London, England, and using these funds he bought supplies and built a storehouse. By 1790 he was shipping fish to Europe; a year later he built a sawmill and began exporting timber. He also attempted to develop his land, bringing out settlers from Scotland and England. His various business activities were not successful, however: at the time of his death he owed the London company £19,000, and his property was sold in an attempt to pay his debts.
Although he was a failure in business, Lee was a leader in promoting English-speaking settlement in the Restigouche area (by 1798 he had 25 families on his lands), and he helped establish government control in this remote region. His death occurred as he was returning to Restigouche from Halifax, N.S.
N.B. Museum, F71, nos.101 (lease to Samuel Lee, 1785), 102 (petition of John Shoolbred, 12 Jan. 1788); Petitions, Northumberland County, no.18 (abstracts). PANB, “New Brunswick political biography,” comp. J. C. and H. B. Graves (11v., typescript), XI: 51; RG 2, RS6, 2: 34; RS8, Appointments and commissions, 2/1: 8, 10; Unarranged Executive Council docs., 1787, 1802–3, 1807; RG 10, RS108, Petition of Adam Gerrard, 1800; Petition of Benjamin Marsden, 1785; Petition of Ebenezer Whitney, 1802. PRO, CO 188/3: f.94 (photocopies at UNBL). Winslow papers (Raymond). Concord, Massachusetts, births, marriages, and deaths, 1635–1850 ([Boston, 1895]). 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: 112, 124. Lemuel Shattuck, A history of the town of Concord; Middlesex County, Massachusetts, from its earliest settlement to 1832 . . . (Boston, 1835).