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The New Brunswick Ostles

Most of the research on the Canadian side of this family has been carried out by Gail Browne. Gail is a descendant of James Forster, a brother of the Mary Forster who married Jonathan of Seaville and Richibucto. I am deeply indebted to Gail for her help and also for the pictures of the Ostle graves and the field map of Richibucto.
Jonathan's direct descendant, Donald Thompson, has generously made available his father's extensive research on Jane Ostle Thompson's family.
Many thanks for their help also to Pauline Harkness, Bob Ostle, Betty Telford of the Cumberland Mailing List, Bill Morris of the Kent County website and Susan Chandler, another Ostle relative by marriage, and the late Kathleen Scott.

Any enquires relating to this family should be addressed to Linda Douglas of Athens, Georgia, USA who now holds all the documents relating to this branch of the Ostles.

Thomas and Joseph Ostle were born in Maryport. Their second cousin, Jonathan, was born at Seaville (pronounced Civil), near Silloth. All three were great grandsons of Jonathan Ostle and his wife Jane Saul. Complete details of their families can be found on the Saul Ostles pages.

Joseph and Thomas were the sons of Thomas Ostle and his wife, Frances (neé Smith) who ran a cloth merchant's business. Thomas died in 1805 at the age of forty-three and Frances died only two years later, leaving three orphan children: Ann who was 19, Joseph, 15 and Thomas, 10. In 1817, Ann married Jonah Scott who was a currier (leather dresser) and came from a local sea-faring Quaker family. Joseph went to sea but Thomas may well have been brought-up by his father's cousin, Jonathan, at Seaville. It would be there that he met young Jonathan who would later accompany him to the New World. He married Phoebe Saul at Wigton in March 1822. She also came from a Quaker family although the wedding took place in the parish church, apparently with no members of either family present.

By the time his brother married Phoebe, Joseph, aged 28, was a ship's master, commanding the brig 'North Star'. In December 1819, he had formed a syndicate to buy the vessel. His partners were his grandfather, Joseph Ostle of Newtown, his uncles Jonathan Ostle of Little Broughton, Wilkinson Ostle and Jonah Scott both of Maryport, William Bell of Beckfoot and two others - John Tordiff of High Laws and Matthew Smith of Gilcrux who must have been a relative of his mother. The price was £800. The vessel which was 74'7" (27.7m) long and weighed 146 tons (148 tonnes) had been built at Pittenweem, Fife, Scotland in 1797 and modified at Liverpool in 1815 where she was registered.

The Hannah
A ship of similar design to the 'North Star'

Under their ownership, the North Star sailed three times from Maryport to the timber port of Bouctouche in New Brunswick. She was certainly not the only ship engaged in this timber trade. The Shipping Intelligence column of the 'Cumberland Pacquet' for these years is full of such voyages. In just one week, it lists The Nymph, sailing to Richibucto, The William, to Miramichi, The Fortune, to St. John, all in New Brunswick, and The Commerce, to Quebec. The North Star's log records the Isabella arriving at Bouctouche from Maryport on 29th May, 1820 and that the Fortune of Workington, under Captain Tickel, dropped down river at Bouctouche on July 16th, 1820.

Map of New Brunswick
Map of new Brunswick showing location of Bouctouche
and Richibucto.

Before Joseph became master of the North Star, he must have been second in command or master of another ship, having served his time aboard from an early age. Since Thomas, his younger brother, is recorded as having made land purchases in 1819 in both Bouctouche and Wellington, NB, it is reasonable to suppose that he travelled on the ship that Joseph was serving on at that time. He presumably settled at Bouctouche and set up a provisions business to serve the ships that arrived to pick up timber.

Map of Richibucto. Thomas's properties are highlighted.

The North Star's log contains details of a purchase of supplies costing £76.4.0d from Thomas Ostle & Co. on Master Joseph's first voyage. The entry May 30th, 1820 describes the discharging of goods with 'Mr Thomas Ostle attending'. These goods may have been for Thomas to sell in his store. However, on Joseph's second voyage, in June 1821, Thomas is not mentioned at all during the thirty-nine day stay of the North Star at Bouctouche; he must have been elsewhere. At the end of this second trip to Bouctouche, which was relatively trouble-free compared with his first one (fog, grounding, flooded holds, damaged cargo, recalcitrant crew members), Joseph spent seven days grounded at Skinburness on the Cumberland coast, unloading timber. His last entry is concerned with unloading on August 22nd, 1821 and there is no entry subsequently concerning either unloading or sailing back to Maryport. It has an unfinished air. Was he taken ill? Ten days later, on September 1st, Thomas Grayson is master, about to sail the North Star on its last voyage to Bouctouche.

Capt. Joseph's decanter

On this last voyage, the ship arrives in Bouctouche on October 20th after 49 days at sea. On October 21st, 1821 the entry includes 'Boat and four hands gon up to Master Ostle'. This must be Thomas since three further references are to the master (Grayson) going up to Mr Ostle's on November 11th, 17th and 18th before setting sail on November 20th, 1821 with a cargo of timber. The North Star came in off Skimburness but did no unloading and proceeded south to Maryport on December 30th, after forty days at sea. They only moored at the quay to take on board a sheet anchor and cable before immediately leaving for Belfast in Ireland to unload the whole cargo of timber. They reached Belfast by January 1st and arrived back in Maryport on January 29th after more trouble with the ship taking in water. Just over a month later, the North Star was put up for sale.

Sale notice
Sale notice for the 'North Star'

It is not clear whether Joseph continued his life at sea in another vessel or whether he settled down on shore. His health may well have been affected by the hardships of the sea-faring life since he died, in 1829 at the age of only thirty-seven. His eldest son was apprenticed as a Currier to his Uncle, Jonah Scott, in 1835.

Joseph's brother, Thomas, must have returned to England in another vessel for his marriage to Phoebe Saul shortly after which they set sail for New Brunswick. The voyage would have been hard, especially for Phoebe who must have been pregnant with her first child, a boy, whom she was to call Wilkinson Ostle after Thomas's grandmother and his uncle who ran a drapery business in Maryport. According to Loris Russell, in those days a westward Atlantic crossing could take anything from twenty-five days to over two months. Even in the best ships there were many discomforts but in the converted lumber vessels living conditions were incredibly bad. Crowded sleeping space, bad ventilation and sanitary arrangements, poor food, inadequate and fouled water supply, drunkenness and brutality among passengers or crew, all made the passage a ghastly experience. There were often epidemics, on board or after landing, of cholera, typhus, diphtheria and smallpox. It would seem that Phoebe suffered badly and may never have regained her full health.

Engraving of ship's cabin
Conditions aboard ship in the 19th century.

Wilkinson might have been born on the ship but, by February 1825, he was dead at the age of two and Phoebe was pregnant again. After this tragedy, Thomas and Phoebe decided to return to England. They were back in Wigton by August when their second child, Martha was baptised. In June 1826, their third child, Frances, was born but, sadly this was to prove too much for Phoebe and she died on July 14 and Frances lived for only ten weeks.

Thomas returned to Canada yet again but left his daughter, Martha, at home. She probably lived with her aunt and uncle, Ann and Jonah Scott, in Maryport. By 1851, she was acting as housekeeper for Jonah. On December 17, 1830 Thomas remarried in Richibucto to Euphemia McIntosh. They may have had a daughter, Margaret, who is buried with her husband, James Murray in Rexton, across the river from Richibucto. The monument to Phoebe and her children, in Wigton Churchyard, says that Thomas died on April 21, 1866 in Richibucto. In the 1861 census there, he is living alone and his occupation is given as a servant.

The family graves in Rexton

After such tragedy, it is a relief to turn to the other member of the family who settled in New Brunswick. It seems likely that Jonathan of Seaville would have arrived in Canada aboard the North Star but there is no record of this or of his marriage to Mary Forster. Mary's parents were Wilfred and Elizabeth Forster. Wilfred came from County Durham but had settled in Carlisle around 1817. He was an iron founder and also ran a pub in the Caldewgate area of the city. The Forsters had settled in St John, New Brunswick by 1824 where Jonathan and Mary's first child was baptised. Around 1825, they moved to Chatham along with Mary's parents. Family tradition has it that, in that year, a terrible forest fire engulfed Chatham and the region of the Mirimichi River. The Ostles and Forsters escaped because they knew the master of a vessel who took them aboard.

By 1840, they were in Richibucto where Mary's relatives already owned land, as can be seen from the map below. Jonathan bought some land in 1855 from Edmund Powell, a blacksmith and his wife, Ann, who was the sister of Mary (Forster) Ostle. The deed mentions Sylvanus Powell as next-door neighbour. Jonathan built a home on the land, opposite the schoolhouse.

They had a large family: John, who was born in 1824 and died in infancy; Elizabeth, born in 1825; Jane in 1827; Matthewman in 1829; Mary around 1831; Jonathan in 1832. Maria Ann, who was born in 1834 died in 1837, Fanny came along in 1838, Isabella in 1840, and Maria Ann in 1843. Sadly, their mother, Mary, died in 1847, leaving Jonathan a widower at 47 with six surviving children, the youngest aged four. The Ostles also brought up an Elizabeth Rowbotham Ostle who may possibly have been adopted from some of Mary's relatives.

Matthewman was called after his great grandmother, Mary Matthewman. Details of her family can be found on the Saul Ostles page. He was a painter and doesn't seem to have married because in 1861 he was living with his sisters, Elizabeth and Fanny. There is a record of a land grant to him of thirty acres at Richibucto in 1852. He died in 1862 at the age of thirty-three. An inventory, drawn up on July 14, 1862, lists assets including "One Schooner" valued at £100 and the tools of a painter's trade.

It seems that, in 1858, his brother-in-law, John Thompson, had built a fifty-three ton schooner which he named the 'MATTHEWMAN OSTLE'. It is not clear if this is the ship referred to in the inventory but she was still sailing in 1892 by which time she was registered at Quebec under the ownership of one Sylvanus Powell of Richibucto. (Mary Forster Ostle's sister, Ann, was the wife of Edmund Powell who may have been Sylvanus' father) Perhaps the 'Matthewman Ostle' is among the ships below.

Harbour scene

Matthewman's brother, Jonathan, died at twenty-two as did Mary. Fanny and Elizabeth both died in their thirties. Their father also died at a comparatively early age, the sad story being traced on their memorial in Richibucto cemetery.

Sister Jane was made of sterner stuff. She married the John Thompson who had the ship building business in Richibucto. They had eleven children, the fifth of whom was christened Matthewman Ostle Thompson thus perpetuating the name for another generation.

John Thompson died in 1890 at the age of sixty-seven. Jane was eighty when she died in 1907 at the home of her daughter, Mary Simpson, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Today there are no Ostles living in New Brunswick and, unless Thomas and Euphemia had a son who moved away, the family name may have died out in this line. However, according to a recently discovered entry in "The Atlantic Canadians - 1600-1900", there was an Edward Ostle, working as a labourer in Richibucto, as late as 1896. Research on him is now underway.

Jane Ostle's line, the Thompsons, are still alive and kicking. Jane's son Thomas Follet Thompson set up a painting business in Brookline, Maryland and her grandson, Russel Charles Thompson, who died in 1965, served in the U.S. Navy during World War I.

Russel's son, David Leroy Thompson (1920-1987), enlisted in the army when America entered the second world war in 1941 and joined the radio section of the 310th Fighter Squadron, serving in the South Pacific and the allied invasion of the Philipines. He remained in the Air Force after the war, retiring in 1964.

David made an extensive study of the Thompson's family history but was sadly unable to trace his Ostle ancestors. There was a strong tradition in the family that, before his arrival in Canada, Jonathan Ostle had lived in Wales near Mount Snowdon and David never extended his research to Cumberland. Jonathan's descendant, Donald Thompson of Upper Marlboro in Maryland is now correcting the records.

The sun has set on the Ostles' first adventure in the new world, but many more were to follow in the footsteps of Thomas and Jonathan.

Sunset on the Richibucto River.
Must have seemed like home to the Ostles,but not quite as good as a Solway sunset; no hills.


In the 1820s, when the Ostles first arrived, New Brunswick had a population of less than 75,000, a figure which probably includes the native Maliseets and Micmacs. By 1840, the population had risen to over 200,000. The majority of the settlers came from Britain with about 70% of them being Irish. At that time New Brunswick was a British colony; Canada did not emerge as a nation until 1867. The area had originally been settled by the French and was known as Arcadia. After the United States declared independence in 1776, many French settlers fled north along with the British who wished to remain loyal to the crown. In places, New Brunswick is still more French than English speaking, especially around the Arcadian Peninsular, the location of Richibucto and Boutouche.

In the 1870s, a few hundred Danes settled around Victoria county where their distinctive community still survives. The main industry was timber with about 1,200 ships in the trade between New Brunswick and Europe. Farming and fishing were the other industries. Shipbuilding prospered around St John and, to a lesser extent, in the Richibucto River area as well as in Miramichi.

Detailed references available on request.
Ship's log of the North Star and associated documents
The Maritime History of Maryport by Annie Robinson (Published privately)
Everyday Life in Colonial Canada by Loris Russell (Batsford, 1973)
Canadian Shipping List, July 1947

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