New Brunswick was originally inhabited by Native Indians of the Algonquin nation, from the Micmac and Maliseet tribes. These tribes settled mostly in the eastern and southern areas of the province, primarily engaging in fishing. In 1534 Jacques Cartier, a French explorer arrived in Chaleur Bay, marking the first European expedition into this region. However, no further explorations continued until 1604, when Samuel de Champlain and Pierre du Gua sailed into the Bay of Fundy.
The Frenchmen established a settlement on St. Croix Island, attracting more migrants, until the region was named Acadia by the French government. As the French settled in the region they started engaging in fur trading, which led to rivalries among them to control trade. As these rivalries heightened, it allowed the British, who were expanding from the south, to gain control of the region twice in the 1600s. However, New Brunswick was returned to the French on both occasions due to treaty agreements.
In the 1700s, as the French and Indian wars intensified, the French were forced to surrender their claims on Nova Scotia and NB. These events drove many Acadians out of the area. In 1763, Britain officially claimed NB, making it part of Nova Scotia. They also allowed the Acadians to return to this region. Many British Loyalists also migrated to this region in 1783 due to the American Revolution, settling in St. John and founding Fredericton. As the population had increased significantly, the British established NB as a separate province in 1784 and St. John was the first incorporated city in the Canada, in 1785.
In the 1800s, many Irish and Scottish migrants arrived seeking employment as their native countries were unable to support them. They started engaging in the timber trade that was gaining popularity in NB, and the province gradually moved out of its ‘crown land’ status in 1837. However, the timber traders were still paying taxes to the British. This became a problem, especially in the Aroostook River Valley where both NB and Maine labourers worked. As the British and Americans couldn’t decide on the boundaries, militiamen from both regions assembled to fight it out. To prevent bloodshed, a truce was called by both governments in 1842, when they drew the Brunswick-Maine boundary. Meanwhile, due to higher economic activity and population growth, NB started demanding for increased political autonomy from the British. They were granted with almost full autonomy in 1848. In 1864, the autonomous provinces in southern and western Canada (NB being one of them), congregated, creating the Dominion of Canada. This dominion improved NB’s provincial infrastructure, allowing better economic performance.
However, in the early 1900s, NB’s economy deteriorated as people moved out of the province seeking more profitable opportunities. Nevertheless, after WWII, NB’s economy resurged as their paper and mining industries boomed due to discoveries of metal ores. They maintained their economic competence over the years, which allowed for significant political changes that have influenced present-day NB, such as the Equal Opportunities Plan and the Official Languages Act (passed to make French an official provincial language). You can explore much of this history in the many historic sites located around the province.