A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #2: Settlement, Revolution & War. TOC
Part 3, "Post-Revolution -- The Loyalists (1782-90)" TOC
Ch. 5 - Loyalists At Other Centres:


The final evacuation of New York by the British forces in 1783, brought to Halifax over 25,000 Loyalists. James S. Macdonald told of it:

"Halifax at close of the year, was so crowded with refugees and soldiers, that the cabooses of the transports were brought on shore, and ranged along Granville and Hollis streets, and there the people fed and warmed. There was terrible distress; most of the transports, -- over 150, -- were detained by the government all winter, for shelter for the women and children until the spring of 1784, when the most of them were distributed over the province.1
Macdonald in an other article, wrote:
"Every shed, outhouse, store, and shelter was crowded with people. Thousands were under canvass on the Citadel, and at Point Pleasant, everywhere indeed where tents could be pitched. Saint Paul's and St. Matthew's churches, were crowded, and hundreds were sheltered there for months. Cabooses and cook-houses were brought ashore from the ships, and the people were fed near them on Granville and Hollis streets. There were many deaths, and all the miseries and unsanitary conditions of an overcrowded town. For four months, the bulk of these 10,000 refugees were fed on our streets, and among them were many reared and nurtured in every comfort and luxury in the homes they had to fly from."2
Governor Parr, in residence at Halifax, wrote of it:
"I cannot better describe, the wretched situation of these people, than by enclosing a list of those that just arrived in the transport Clinton, chiefly women and children, scarcely clothed, utterly destitute, still on board the transport, crowded like a sheep-pen as I am totally unable to find any sort of place for them, and we cannot move them by reason of the ice and snow."3
With the arrival of spring, 1784, there was to be no difficulty in convincing the Loyalists to move along. They had a fresh memory of a very tough winter at Halifax, and relying on the promises for free land and government support for a couple of years, gladly took ship for other parts of the province. I am not sure, at this point, where these 25,000 refugees got off to; it was, at least in no great number, not to Shelburne nor to Digby as the Loyalists came to these places directly from New York the previous year, 1783.


Loyalists came to Digby in the same year as those that had come to Shelburne. The Digby group (and thus we know the origin of the name) were shepherded by Rear Admiral, The Honourable Robert Digby. Digby, at the time was in command of the fleet off New York until that city was evacuated by the British in 1783. He "personally convoyed the 1783 settlers to the town and had left ships to help provision and protect them through the winter."4 The settlers that came up under the escort of Digby's war ships were not all put down at Digby, we read: "It appears that the Loyalists settling around the shores of Annapolis Basin were convoyed to their destination by the warship Atalanta the flag ship of Admiral Robert Digby."5 The places that were settled by Admiral Digby's Loyalists included Digby, Digby Neck, the shores of Annapolis Basin and the shores of St. Mary's Bay.6

We go back a few years in order to give a proper setting. In 1765, Alexander McNutt and Sebastian Zouberbuhler, among others, were given a grant of land on the western end of Annapolis Basin. In 1766, a party of English settlers landed and named the community Conway. Apparently,7 the American privateers paid one too many visit to the struggling community of Conway for it was soon emptied of occupants. When the Loyalists arrived in the area, they saw the old Conway site as an attractive one. Its lands had been partially worked ten or fifteen years earlier. As MacLellan observed, it was this factor combined "with the fact that there was an existing township at Annapolis nearby and working farms upriver to provide at least some provisions, made their experience somewhat different than that evidenced in other areas, most notably at Port Roseway (Shelburne)."8

A muster roll of 1784 taken a year after the first of them arrived showed almost 1,300 people at Digby.9 However, predictable problems -- too many idle hands and too much cheap rum -- unfolded in Digby as much they did elsewhere in these times. The churchmen complained to the authorities, as a Reverend Roger Viets (1738-1811), a Yale-educated Loyalist who had moved from Connecticut to Digby in July, 1786, did -- "Drunkenness, idleness, tavern haunting, slandering, profane swearing, lying, defrauding, and stealing all call loudly for the exertions of the magistrate, to raise the sword of the law and justice, for the suppression and punishment of these vices."10

Like the other centers, particularly that at Shelburne, a great number of the Loyalists deserted Digby. Viets wrote of this alarming decrease in population which occurred within the first year. Viets estimated upwards to two thirds of those that first arrived had left, many, like those that had fled Egypt in biblical times back from where they had come.11 Notwithstanding the bad start, the community of Digby did take hold. Unlike the experience with Shelburne which became an economic ruin with deserted buildings and no people to be seen in its streets, Digby, by 1786,

"... boasted between three and four hundred homes and was described by Jacob Bailey as a town peopled by artisans, merchants, farmers, disbanded soldiers, and 'impoverished' gentlemen, [Bailey] '... a very handsome town ... built by the Loyalists, the situation of it is exceedingly well chosen both for the fisheries and every other trade adopted for the Province.'"12

Disbanded Soldiers:

Phyllis R. Blakeley:

"Two years after the Loyalist provincial corps had been disbanded in Nova Scotia, Governor Parr informed the secretary of state that the following had been settled on lands in 1784 and 1785: three battalions of Carolina Provincials, the Duke of Cumberland's Regiment, the British Legion, one battalion of Royal Nova Scotia Volunteers, the King's Orange Rangers, and Royal Fencible Americans (Goreham's Corps)."13
A number of Loyalists that came from Westchester, New York (Delancey's Home territory) settled in Cumberland14 in such places as along the Cobequid Road, River Remsheg, River Macaan. Also quite a large number of the land grants in what was then Halifax County were to go to soldiers: Merigumish, Shubenacadie, Dartmouth, Windsor Road, Preston15, Cole Harbour, Jedore, Sheet Harbour and Musquodoboit. On September 27th, 1784, Governor Parr granted 12,250 acres of escheated land to a group of petitioning soldiers. It is generally acknowledged that soldiers do not make good settlers, especially settlers that are obliged to turn to the land or the sea to make a living. Sheet Harbour for these men was a bad choice: "They found no fertile land or cleared fields. Instead, it is rocky and sterile. In addition to these serious land deficiencies, Sheet Harbour itself was not an established seaport, there was no hinterland to feed into the settlement, and a road network linking the remote area to Halifax was non-existent."16

Some soldiers shifted from one place in Nova Scotia to another. An example can be given of Gideon White. White did not came directly to Shelburne from the new American republic, as most of the settlers in 1783 did (New York). Then there was Nicholas Olding who first settled in Sheet Harbour and then shifted to Merigomish. Olding moved from Sheet Harbour because of "the badness of the land" and "the high prices of provisions."17 At Merigomish, Olding found that his prospects brightened with the land "exceedingly good and produces fine crops."

Rawdon and Douglas:

Hants County was to get a great share of ex-military men. The late John V. Duncanson wrote of their arrival in 1784 having been granted lands at Douglas (the 2nd Battalion, Royal Highland Emigrant Regiment, 84th Regiment of Foot) and Rawdon (more generally for the Loyalist refugees from Ninety-Six District, South Carolina and St. Augutine, East Florida18). There is no need for me to go into the details, as, Duncanson has already done this in a fine manner.19 I shall here but briefly touch on these settlements.

On October 10th, 1783, at Fort Edward (Windsor), soldiers of the 2nd batt., 84th Regt., were disbanded and were offered free land. A grant was made in the Rawdon and Douglas area to Col. John Small20 for the veterans and their families. Rawdon was named after the Irish nobleman, Lord Francis Rawdon (1754-1826) who commanded a voluntary army in the Carolinas. A significant number of those loyalists that had come to settle Rawdon had originally come from Ireland to settle in South Carolina in 1761. Each field officer was to receive 5000 acres, each captain 3000, each subaltern 2000 and each non-commissioned officer and private 200 acres.21 There was to be no fees (Wentworth got into trouble charging them and was told by Parr to stop the practice) and no taxes were to be imposed for the first ten years. "As a further inducement for them to remain and become settlers, each man was to be furnished out of the public stores with the usual ration of provisions for one year and was to be permitted to retain his arms and accoutrements."22

The officers who had spent their life in America in the service of their king were much concerned that they should be summarily dismissed and turned loose. They petitioned for half pay, a petition it seems that was favourably received:

"That the officers of his Majesty's provincial Forces have sacrificed not only their Property, but many of them very lucrative professions, and all their expectations from their Rank and Connection in Civil Society. That numbers of them entered very young into the King's Service, and have grown up in the Army; and having no other profession and no Family Expectations or home to go to, (their Friends being all involved in the Common Ruin) they look forward to the day of their being disbanded with extreme solicitude. That many of them have wives (who born to the fairest expectations, and tenderly brought up) have been unaccustomed to want, and children for whose education and happiness they feel the most anxious concern."23
In March of 1788, Governor Parr was to write of the soldiers who were granted lands that many of "the privates sold their lots for a dollar or a pair of shoes -- or a few pounds of tobacco -- but most for a gallon of New England rum and quit the country without taking any residence."24

Lockeport, Cobequid (Westchester) and Ramshag (Wallace):

Time might be spent, which I am unable to do, writing up the settlements of Lockeport, Cobequid (Westchester) and Ramshag (Wallace). Of these settlements I can only direct the researcher to other works. There is James F. More's History of Queens County, from which we learn that Lockeport "was first settled by three families from New England, Joseph Hardy, Josiah Churchill and Jonathon Locke."25 For Cobequid and for Wallace, I would refer the reader to by W. C. Milner's article, "Records of Chignecto."26


They came to Annapolis after a long and stormy passage, sickly and destitute. They were turned out on the shore just before a Nova Scotian winter set in. Unlike Shelburne, Annapolis, while not large, had an existing population of New Englanders who had come twenty years earlier. Before the arrival of the Loyalists in 1782, Annapolis was a village of 120 people in eighteen families, then in came 2500 Loyalists.27 A contemporary observer commented, "every habitation is crowded with them." Eaton, in his History of the County of Kings28, made reference to the unhappy circumstances of those who were landed at Annapolis Royal. The town itself became very crowded and the new arrivals in short order went beyond the immediate area29 and established new townships, such as Clements and Wilmot; more were soon built up.30 During his pastoral visit in the summer of 1788, Bishop Inglis wrote in his diary, that by the Sissabo River, in addition to Captain Moody, a leading citizen in the area, there were to be found five or six other Loyalist families; and, indeed, within five miles of the north side of the river were to be found 38 families; and, to the south side, the Edinburgh side, there were another 17 families.31

Chignecto Isthmus:

I quote Howard Trueman:

"The most considerable addition to the population of Nova Scotia after the Yorkshire immigration was in 1783 and 1784, when the United Empire Loyalists came to the Province. They left New England as the French left Acadia, without the choice of remaining. The story of their removal and bitter experiences has been told by more than one historian. They were the right stamp of men, and have left their impress on the provinces by the sea. Among the names of those who settled at the old Chignecto were: Fowler, Knapp, Palmer, Purdy, Pugsley. After the Loyalists there was no marked emigration to the Maritime Provinces till after the battle of Waterloo [1815]. The hard times in England following the war turned the attention of the people of Great Britain again to America, and from 1815 to 1830 there was a steady stream of emigrants, particularly from Scotland to the Provinces."32
The arrival of the loyalists, for the most part, occurred within a period of months, beginning in the fall of 1783 and picking up once again the next year and continuing through to November, 1784. There developed in a very short time, as might be imaged, friction between this great mass of Loyalists which came into the province within this short period of time with those Nova Scotian settlers, a much smaller number, that had come up from New England before the revolution (1760-76) and had taken land grants for the best agricultural lands, much of which had been long worked by the deported Acadians.33 These new arrivals were from the aristocratic or conservative ranks many of whom held positions of power in the thirteen colonies before the revolution. They "held themselves to be more cultivated, superior socially and materially, and, above all more loyal than Nova Scotians could possibly be."34 The epic struggle between the two groups was to continue on, right into the following century and displayed itself best in the early election campaigns.35

Cape Breton:

As for Cape Breton Island, I might just give a short quote. Phyllis R. Blakeley:

"Very few Loyalists came to Cape Breton Island because Great Britain had discouraged settlement. None of the regiments were disbanded on the island, but 46 disbanded soldiers were among the 146 Loyalists who settled there. One of these was Captain Jonathan Jones of the King's Orange Rangers of New York, who was the founder of Baddeck."36
Perkins wrote in his diary on the 25th of August, 1784, that he heard a "report that Mr. Desbarres is arrived at Louisbourg with settlers, that he is Lieut. Governor, & that this province is to be divided, that the trade with America is to be stopped." It is a fact, that in 1784, the province of New Brunswick was created; and, in the same year Cape Breton was set up as a separate Colony. In that year, Lord Sydney, there having been a determination that Cape Breton was to have a separate administration, appointed DesBarres as its new governor. DesBarres was to spend time both at St. Peters and at Louisbourg. Though, given its history, Louisbourg might well have been chosen as the capital of the Cape Breton colony, DesBarres for his own reasons determined to relocate to Spanish Bay. His new capital was to be renamed, Sydney. He arrived there, at Sydney, on January 7th, 1785. He came by sailing ship (the Blenheim) stepping off with 129 persons, the nucleus of a new English settlement.37

[NEXT: Bk. 2, Pt. 3, Ch. 6 - "Conclusion to ... The Coming of The Loyalists."]

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