A Blupete Biography Page

Winckworth Tonge

I know nothing of Winckworth Tonge's early life, other than he was born, County Wexford, Ireland. We first pick him up in 1746, when, as an eighteen year old ensign, he would have been found at Louisbourg as part of the English garrison: the "Gibraltar troops."1 Tonge, in 1749, at which time Louisbourg was given back to the French, came down to be part of the newly establish military establishment at Halifax. By 1752 he was serving at Fort Lawrence. In 1755 (described then as an engineer) Tonge was with Monckton at the capture of Fort Beausejour; with Amherst at the capture of Louisbourg, and, with Wolfe in 1759 at Quebec. Therefore, it would appear that Winckworth Tonge was to participate in most all of the major North American battles during the Seven Years War, a war which resulted in the dislodging of the French military in America, the most victorious war that England ever fought.2

With the fall of Quebec, it would appear, Tonge found his way back to Halifax and to civilian life. In post-war Nova Scotia there was to be much speculation in land. Tonge was not left out, as he acquired considerable tracks, indeed, it would seem that he held grants to much of what we now know as Hants County. He spent his wealth and much of his energies in developing his holdings and things were shaping up quite nicely for him -- then came the American Revolution, an event which had a considerable impact on Nova Scotia and her inhabitants. Tonge was made a colonel in the militia. A combination of him being tied to his military duties, the deprivations of American privateers and the running up of debt; was to lead to Tonge losing most all of his property. He did however, in 1773, receive a very important appointment as the naval officer, whose duty it was to receive copies of all manifests and entries in the Custom-House at Halifax. He was to receive a salary for this position, but he sought, in addition, to receive fees; further he sought to appoint deputy naval officers to act throughout Nova Scotia. Tonge was to come into conflict with both the governors of the time (especially Campbell) and with the merchants as represented by members who sat in the legislative assembly.

In addition to being the naval officer, Tonge had been a Justice of the Peace; the provincial surveyor or superintendent of roads, bridges, and public works; and, for various periods, a member of the Assembly. He settled himself and his family at Newport in an impressive estate which was called "Winckworth," a place he was forced to sell in 1789.

Tonge married Martha Grace Cottnam and they had four sons, including William Cottnam Tonge, a subject of another biographical sketch. Winckworth Tonge died at Halifax on February 2nd, 1792.


[1] In Harry Piers's The Evolution of the Halifax Fortress (Halifax: PANS, Pub. #7, 1947) at p. 107, we see where Tonge was in Warburton's Regiment. The relieving troops had come over from Gibraltar, but not directly as they had wintered over at New York (maybe Virginia). The following spring, on the 21st of April, 1746; 1219 of them disembarked at Louisbourg. They were of the 29th Foot (Fuller's) and the 56th Foot (Warburton's) under the command of Lt.-Col. Peregrine Thomas Hopson and Lt.-Col. John Horsman, respectively. [The Royal Navy and North America (London: Navy Records Society, Vol. 118, 1973), fn at p. 148 & p. 263.]

[2] See DCB; and see Brebner's, The Neutral Yankees, fn at p. 216.


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Peter Landry
2012 (2020)