The first substantiated record of settlement in the Village of Doaktown began with the arrival of a United Empire Loyalist, Ephraim Betts (b. circa 1730), and his associates in the years following the American Revolution. Betts had been a sergeant in the 2nd Battalion of DeLancy’s Regiment but when the war ended in 1783, he settled in Fredericton where he found employment as a tanner, cordwainer and jailer for York County. In 1795, he and five other men petitioned the Crown for a substantial portion of land between the Nashwaak Portage and the Etienne or Cain’s River at what came to be known as Betts Settlement.
Ephraim moved his family there about 1799 and officially registered the settlement — the first official allocation of land on the Upper Southwest Miramichi — on June 20, 1809. By that time, there were 60 families living in the area, all of whom regarded Betts as their leader, as well they might, given that during the course of his life on the Miramichi, Ephraim served as Overseer of the Poor, Overseer of the Fisheries, Commissioner of Roads, and Justice of the Peace. He also maintained his interest in military life and was made a lieutenant in a company consisting of men residing in the upper district of the Southwest Miramichi. In 1809 he was promoted to captain in the 1st Battalion of Northumberland County militia, and was a major when he retired in 1813. A sword said to have belonged to Ephraim Betts is on display at the Doak Provincial Heritage Site.
By 1816 Betts and his immediate family were experiencing serious financial difficulties and while it is not known when or where he died, property originally owned by him was certainly for sale by 1825 when the area’s second citizen of note arrived from Scotland by way of Blackville. Robert Doak (b. April 4, 1785) had been born in Ochiltree, Ayshire, the son of Agnes (Duncan) and Robert Doak, Senior. In 1808, he married Jane Kirkland and in 1815 when he was only 30, he and his family arrived on the Miramichi where he worked for several years as an innkeeper. In 1818, however, his elder brother James and his family joined Robert on the Miramichi. The brothers formed a partnership with Alexander MacLaggan who was operating a sawmill in Blackville. In the early 1820s, while continuing their partnership with MacLaggan, the Doak brothers moved twenty miles up river where their father, Robert Doak, Senior, had recently settled. Here in what was to become known as “Doaktown,” they acquired a considerable amount of property (some of it from the family of Ephraim Betts) and established water-powered carding and grist mills, a sawmill, an oat mill, and an extensive farming operation.
Robert Doak, rather than his elder brother James, became the settlement’s leading citizen, serving not only as the community’s largest employer but also as a School Trustee, Town Clerk, Clerk of the Market and Justice of the Peace. Such was his prominence that he became known far and wide as “Squire” Doak.
Ephraim Betts and Robert Doak are only two of the multitude of people who have left their imprint on the history of the Village of Doaktown.
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