A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #2: Settlement, Revolution & War. TOC
Part 3, "Post-Revolution -- The Loyalists (1782-90)" TOC
Ch. 3 - Loyalists Come To Nova Scotia:

Jas. S. Macdonald1 estimated that the total number of people that fled the new country of the United States amounted to 100,000; they scattered themselves throughout the world. Thirty-five thousand2 came north to present day Canada, mostly to the current day provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with a couple of thousand to the valley of the St. Lawrence.3 Of this number fourteen thousand went to the Saint John River, the rest came into peninsular Nova Scotia.4 Why Nova Scotia? Esther Clark Wright

"... Nova Scotia offered one overwhelming advantage: it was the nearest British territory to New York. Canada was far away, unknown, and inhabited by French settlers, whose language, religion and customs were different from those of the majority of the Loyalists, and whose parent country had been an ally of the 'revolting colonies.' Florida, and the islands in the West Indies, other possible refuges, were also far away, unknown, and peopled with alien races. Their climatic difference, and the danger of tropical diseases, especially yellow fever, presented further obstacles."5
A large concentration of those that came to Nova Scotia, as we will see from our next chapter, established themselves at Shelburne. A large contingent went to establish the new towns of Digby and of Parrsboro. Others worked themselves into the established communities of Annapolis Royal and the capital city of Halifax. A number, who managed to bring money with them, bought farms in the Annapolis Valley, land that had long been worked by the French Acadians before they were so rudely put off their lands in 1755 and replaced five years later by farmers from New England.

In 1784 Parr reported6 there was then in Nova Scotia, which return I believe would include the current provinces of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, a total of 42,747 people. He broke it down basically into two categories: Old British Inhabitants, 14,000; Loyalists and Disbanded Troops who came from 1776 through to the end of 1784, 28,347. He reported that there was 400 Acadians in the province. Parr gave no accounting of the native population7, a migratory group, which by all accounts would not have amounted to any great number. The larger count would have included 3,000 blacks which came up with the other Loyalists.8


Boston Loyalists, 1776:

Shortly after the fighting broke out in and around Boston in 1775, General Howe who was in charge of the British troops at that place, found himself hemmed in. The British army spent a bad winter in Boston such that it was forced to retreat to Halifax, arriving on April 1st, 1776. Two months later, at the beginning of June, Howe embarked his troops and brought them to New York.

The first considerable body of Loyalists that came to Nova Scotia came up to Halifax from Boston with Howe's fleet in 1776.9 About a 1,000 of them came up.10 Some of these accompanied Howe back to New York but most took passage for England.11 Of this 1776 group very few were to remain in Nova Scotia, and few if any were to come up during the war years. During the war, those in New England who remained loyal to the British crown, such as those in Massachusetts (a proportion, it is surmised, far less than those at New York) fled to the warm havens available to them during the war in the southern and less rebellious colonies.12


A Flood of Loyalists (1782-1783):

Whatever the number might be that stayed on (not many) there were those of the 1776 group of Loyalists who spent that summer scouting out Nova Scotia. They wrote their friends and family back in New England. They said that there was more to be had in Nova Scotia than just the mere necessities for subsistence: there existed "great business opportunities." "Saw-mills could be erected, and a great business carried on, with the west Indies. The fisheries would develop into a great industry."13

As we have seen in an earlier part, a peace agreement between England and the United States was signed during November of 1782. It was in that year, expecting the worst to happen to them if they stayed, that the first significant group of Loyalists, who were to stay, came to Nova Scotia. The group consisted of five hundred, and, they all landed at Annapolis Royal. This migration simply flooded the little place which then had but a population of about 100. This Annapolis Royal group of 1782 was but the first of many that flooded in during 1783. Those in this advance group served as reconnoiters and reporters. In particular there were three agents amongst the group, Amos Botsford, Samuel Cummings and Frederick Hauser. That fall and winter they fanned out.

"The three agents, leaving the colonists [the five hundred that came up with them from New York] at Annapolis, went first to Halifax, and then set out on a trip of exploration through the Annapolis valley, after which they crossed the Bay of Fundy and explored the country adjacent to the River St. John. On their return they published glowing accounts of the country, and their report was transmitted to their friends in New York."14
The large Loyalist wave which hit the shores of Nova Scotia in 1783, consisted primarily of two groups or companies. The first group was headed up by an Amos Botsford, a native of Connecticut. Botsford became associated with Colonel Benjamin Thompson, Lieutenant Colonial Edward Winslow, Major Joshua Upham, the Reverend Samuel Seabury, the Reverend John Sayre, James Peters and Frederick Hauser. The area that attracted the attention of this first group contained the best farming lands in Nova Scotia, the Annapolis Valley, which thirty years earlier had been occupied by the Acadians. Eventually the members of this first group, the "New York Association," were to settle in the Annapolis Basin area, the Parrsboro shore and the Saint John River area. The members of the second group, the "Port Roseway Association," focused their attention on the south shore of Nova Scotia at a place which was to become known as Shelburne.15

On the 27th of April, 1783, a fleet consisting of 44 ships sailed for Nova Scotia from New York.16 The fleet carried a total of 5,564 Loyalists, of which 2,437 were part of the New York group (Saint John River) and 3,127 with the Port Roseway group (Shelburne). The following spring (1784) three more Loyalist groups came to Shelburne. They were: 25 members of the Duke of Cumberland's Regiment commanded by Captain Gideon White; 289 black settlers; and a group of an undetermined number that had come up all the way from St. Augustine, East Florida.17 It is to be noted that the blacks18 came the previous year and were placed at Port Mouton, as a group, there to spend the winter. They were badly mistreated by those who had figured that they had prior rights. In the early spring these blacks saw their settlement burned to the ground.19


[NEXT: Bk. 2, Pt. 3, Ch. 4 - "Loyalists At Shelburne."]

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