Homestead of Charlotte Taylor for sale after 220 years in the family

·4 min read
The Wishart House, known by some as the Charlotte Taylor House, was listed for sale last week for $1.375 million. (Submitted by Sally Armstrong - image credit)
The Wishart House, known by some as the Charlotte Taylor House, was listed for sale last week for $1.375 million. (Submitted by Sally Armstrong - image credit)

After more than 220 years in the same family, the homestead of a woman described as "the mother of Tabusintac" is for sale.

The Wishart House was built by Charlotte (Taylor) and her third husband, Philip Hierlihy, in 1798-1799.

Taylor is the central character in the historical novel that journalist Sally Armstrong wrote about her great great great grandmother, The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor.

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"Obviously the decision to list the property for sale has been a very difficult decision for us to make as a family," said Blake Wishart.

Wishart and his siblings inherited the property from their parents, Myles and Lorraine, who died in 2019 and 2021, respectively.

He now lives in Arizona and his brother and sisters also live in the United States.

They looked at lots of options, he said, and he thinks selling is the right decision.

"It's too beautiful a property to sit there not being utilized," he said.

To see it sitting vacant and its condition going downhill would be a shame, said Wishart.

Early pioneer

As the story goes, Taylor ran away from her home in England as a young woman with her Black butler.

Some say he wasn't the butler, said Armstrong, but the stable boy, and some say he wasn't Black.

In any case, they crossed the ocean in a cargo ship and survived a pirate attack, but when they arrived on this side of the Atlantic he died of yellow fever.

She was unmarried and pregnant when she managed, with the help of a commodore, to get on board another boat bound for New Brunswick with a load of sugar.

Once she arrived, she received help and friendship from the Indigenous and Acadian people who lived nearby to survive in the largely untamed wilderness and eventually raise ten children.

According to her obituary, Charlotte Hierlihy was the third British settler on the banks of the Miramichi River, with her first husband John Blake.

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The Wishart homestead is located on a point that juts out into the mouth of the Tabusintac River, behind dunes that line the coast of the Northumberland Strait.

Taylor and her second husband, William Wishart, "found" the spot, Armstrong recounted.

After he drowned, Charlotte went there with Herlihy and they built the house.

Charlotte died in 1841, Armstrong said, but the Wisharts have lived there ever since.

Armstrong said she was shocked and saddened to learn the old homestead was for sale.

Piece of N.B. history

"It's where all our family were born and raised," she said.

Armstrong said she and many of her cousins thought arrangements might be made to have it designated a provincial heritage site, but as far as she knows, no such application has been made.

"It is such an incredible piece of New Brunswick history," she said.

Charlotte and Philip were among the first non-Indigenous residents of the area, said Armstrong, along with the Savoies, and Charlotte was the first white English woman pioneer in the area.

A very large part of Charlotte's life was spent there, said Armstrong.

"In history we have very little about women. That's why I wanted to bring to life a character who lived at that time who struggled with those elements and managed that land."

"A piece of Canada was developed there," she said.

Submitted by Gail Harding
Submitted by Gail Harding

The house had many additions over the years, but there's still some original construction, said Armstrong.

"You can see in the basement the smooth rocks from the shore and the seaweed and the sand used to build the basement."

When asked if she or a group of her cousins might be interested in purchasing the property, Armstrong said that's something they might discuss.

With common local names like Blake, Wishart, Hierlihy and Stymiest, she said, the whole town is full of her cousins.

"It's so much a part of our roots," she said.

"All the cousins go there every summer and tell stories."

Their last gathering was in 2019, she said.

Spectacular 25-acre property

Wishart said he too has fond memories of the place.

"It's a great part of the country and was a beautiful place to grow up," he said.

Some people have commented online that the property would be well suited for a hotel or wedding resort.

"It would be a lovely place for either of those things," agreed Armstrong, "And it would break my heart.

"The first thing someone who bought it would do would be to tear it down."

"That land belongs to Charlotte Taylor."

"I have no quarrel with the fact that our four cousins in the U.S. inherited the house and they have every right to do this. What I am quarreling about is the heritage and the history that belongs to New Brunswick."

"The province should own that house."

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