The Town of Dalhousie is the most northern point in New Brunswick. It is situated in the Restigouche River valley at the tongue of the river where it discharges into Chaleur Bay. The valley lies in a hilly region, part of the Appalachian mountain range, although the Dalhousie town site is situated on a hill side several decameters above sea level with some development to its south on a low ridge of approximately 260 metres elevation. The town is surrounded by salt and fresh water bodies, which are home to many species of wildlife, unique birds, and fish. The area is rich in natural resources.
Dalhousie faces Miguasha, Quebec on the Gaspé Peninsula to the north. The city of Campbellton lies 20 km (12 mi) upriver to the west and the city of Bathurst is approximately 80 km (50 mi) southeast along the shore of Chaleur Bay. There are no major centres south of Dalhousie as this is the undeveloped and heavily forested geographic centre of the province.
The Town of Dalhousie is the shire town of Restigouche County and dates European settlement to 1800. Captain John Hamilton, a native of Kingscross Arran, Scotland was the first merchant who settled at Dalhousie. He performed many benevolent actions, including building St. Johns Presbyterian Church.
The Town of Dalhousie has been through some very distinct periods between its founding in 1825 and today. Prior to 1825, few showed much interest in the northern part of the province, but in that year the Great Miramichi Fire raged through central New Brunswick and into Maine, destroying the forests that were the mainstay of the province’s economy. Lumbermen looked north to the great pine stands of the Nipisiguit and the Restigouche.
Dalhousie began to grow. Soon it was a booming town. Lumber and fishing were the main interests, although agriculture was more important in the early days than it is today.
Dalhousie was the leading town of the area until the arrival of the railway following confederation. With steep hills at its back, the Intercolonial Railway (ICR) bypassed the town while its nearby rival, Campbellton, surged ahead. That would be the situation until the late 1920s, when Dalhousie was picked as the site of a giant paper mill. The International Paper Company built what was then one of the largest newsprint mills in the world and the town changed forever. From 1929 on, the mill would dominate life in Dalhousie. For a time, the deepwater port attracted ships to move ore from the Bathurst Mining Camp deposits to various offshore smelters.
Parents of some of the older citizens would tell their children that, in some ways, it was a better town before the mill. Certainly the mill is one of the town’s most imposing features. It occupies much of one side of the main street, blocking access to and even views of the shore. Dalhousie has been called “a waterfront town without a waterfront.” The mill also meant that the town had a high average income. It brought a new and different kind of prosperity. Still, Dalhousie was in the situation of many one-industry towns – dependent on the success of that one main sector of its economy.
The hilly town site was first laid out in 1826 with the first settlement established by Scottish settlers in 1827. It was named after the 9th Earl of Dalhousie, who was then the governor of both Upper Canada and Lower Canada. Some Acadians displaced in the Great Upheaval also settled in Dalhousie, and to this day there is a very close balance between anglophones and francophones. Many of the present residents can trace ancestry back to the original European settlers in the region. The Eel River Bar First Nation, adjacent to Dalhousie, is home to many Micmac natives, who were the original residents of the region.
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