Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB
April 27, 1893
GLIMPSES OF THE PAST
Contributions to the History of Charlotte County and the Border Towns.
LXIV THE UNITED EMPIRE LOYALISTS.
[Rev. W. O. Raymond, M. A.]
We have now to consider the expatriation of the Loyalists-an event destined to lay the foundation of the Canadian Dominion of to-day.
Gathered in the sea ports of the Atlantic coast, crowds of the exiles awaited the ships expected for their relief.
From all over the seaboard of the continent, refugees made their way to New York to embark for all parts of the world-for England, for Ireland, for Scotland, for Canada, for Nova Scotia, for Cape Breton, for Newfoundland, for the Bermudas, Bahamas, Florida, Jamaica and the West India Islands. Some who had the means formed companies and hired vessels themselves; those who had not were sent away in fleets of transports provided by the British government. The newspapers of the day contained numerous advertisements of the sailing of the former and official notices regarding the latter.
The Loyalist emigration was naturally attended with some confusion, owing to the excitement engendered by the closing events of the Revolution; yet it was not undertaken in quite the haphazard way that has generally been supposed. True, lack of time prevented careful and diligent examination of the lands on which settlements were to be made; but in many instances agents were sent in advance to make such inquiries and explorations as would suffice to give some idea of the capabilities of the country, and thereby afford a better opportunity of selection on the part of intending immigrants. The largest settlement established at any one place was that at Port Roseway, (afterwards called Shelburne,) which it was fondly imagined would be the Carthage of the Loyalists, and although the selection of Port Roseway as a site for a town of some 12,000 inhabitants eventually proved very unwise, it was not fixed upon without some precaution. The situation had been warmly commended by Sir Andrew Snape Hamond, also by Governor Parr, and by Surveyor General Morris, and it had the further approval of two agents sent from New York to make special examination and inquiry.
Among the arrivals at Annapolis in October, 1782, were Amos Botsford and others employed as agents to ascertain the most favorable localities for establishing settlements. A valuable member of this exploring party was Frederick Hauser1, a man well fitted by practical experience as a land surveyor to form an intelligent idea of the general character of a wilderness country.
Upon their arrival Mr. Botsford and his companions set about their task. They made good use of the time and opportunities at their disposal, and on January 14th were able to transmit to their friends in New York quite a full account of the country. In their letter they describe the region from Annapolis to St. Marys bay as very good soil, and the situation as favorable to fishing; they praise Annapolis basin and St. Marys bay and then go on to say:
After viewing this we proceeded to St. Johns river, where we arrived the latter end of November; at this season we found our passage up the river difficult, being too late to pass in boats and not sufficiently frozen to bear. In this situation we left the river, and steered by a compass through the woods, encamping out several nights in the course, and went as far as the Oromocto, about seventy miles up the river, where is a block house and a British post. The St. John is a fine river, equal in magnitude to the Connecticut or the Hudson. At the mouth of the river is a fine harbour, accessible at all seasons of the year-never frozen or obstructed by ice.
After an accurate and interesting description of the Falls and general character of the St. John river, the letter continues,
There are many settlers along the river upon the interval land. The interval lies on the river and is a most fertile soil annually matured by the overflowings of the river, and produces crops of all kinds with little labour; and vegetables in the greatest perfection. . . These intervals would make the finest meadows. The uplands produce wheat both of the summer and winter kinds as well as Indian corn. Here are some wealthy farmers having flocks of cattle. The greater part of the people, excepting the township of Maugerville, are tenants, or seated on the bank without leave or license, merely to get their living. . . . Some of our people chuse Conway (now Digby); others give the preference to St. Johns. . . . Immense quantities of limestone are found at Fort Howe and at the mouth of the river. We also went up the Kennebecasis, a large branch of the St. Johns river, where is a large tract of interval and upland, which has never been granted; it is under a reserve, but we can have it. Major Studholme and Capt. Baxter, who explored the country, chose this place and obtained a grant of 9,000 acres. On each side of this grant are large tracts of good land, convenient for navigation. . . .
The representations of Amos Botsford and his companions seem to have determined the large emigration from New York to the St. John river the following spring. The agents chosen to arrange for the settlement of the Loyalists in Nova Scotia, as given in Lawrences Foot prints, were Lt. Col. Benjamin Thompson, Lt. Col. Edward Winslow, Major Upham, Rev. Samuel Seabury, Rev. John Sayre, Amos Botsford and James Peters. After due consideration it was agreed that the Loyalists leaving the thirteen old colonies should be provided with proper vessels to carry them and their horses and cattle as near as possible to the places appointed in Nova Scotia where they were to settle. Besides provisions for the voyage, they were to be allowed one years provisions in their new homes, or money to enable them to purchase the same. They were also to have an allowance of warm clothing, in proportion to the wants of each family, and an allowance of medicine. They were to be granted pairs of millstones, necessary iron work for grist mills, and other necessary articles for saw mills. They were to receive a quantity of spikes, nails, hoes, axes, spades, shovels, plough irons and such other farming utensils as appeared necessary, and also a proportion of window glass. They were to be provided with tracts of land free from disputed titles and conveniently situated, so as to give from 300 to 600 acres to each family. It was also arranged that 2,000 acres in every township were to be allowed for the support of a clergyman and 1,000 acres for the support of a school; and that these lands should be unalienable forever. They were further to receive a sufficient number of muskets and cannon, with a proper quantity of powder and ball for their use.
These liberal terms were afterwards considerably extended; the Loyalists who came to Nova Scotia were allowed full provisions for their families the first year, two-thirds provisions for the second and one-third for the third year. Those who settled at the town of Parr were further provided with 500 feet of boards, together with shingles and bricks, for their houses. Those who settled on the St. John river were provided with boats and tents to facilitate the work of settlement.
The account given by Walter Bates doubtless very fairly illustrates the general mode of procedure in the emigration.2 In this particular case the agent, Rev. John Sayre, came to announce to the Loyalists at Eatons Neck, Huntington, Lloyds Neck, and places in the vicinity on Long Island, that the king had granted to all Loyalists who did not incline to return to their homes and would go to Nova Scotia the privileges just mentioned. The kings offer was duly considered and gladly accepted. Then followed the hasty collection of such possessions as the unfortunate exiles had been able to preserve amid the wreck of their fortunes, and their embarkation in the transport Union, Capt. Consett Wilson. The vessel took in her complement of Loyalists at Huntington, Long Island. The embarkation began on Friday, April 11, and was completed on Wednesday following, in which time there were placed on board 209 souls, viz., 65 men, 35 women, 107 children and 2 servants. The deputy agent in charge was Fyler Dibblee, of Stamford, Conn., attorney-at-law.
The Union proceeded through East River to New York, the place of rendezvous. A week was consumed in getting together the transports, preparatory to setting sail, but at length, on Saturday, April 26, a fleet of upwards of twenty vessels under convoy set sail from Sandy Hook light, bound for St. Johns river, Nova Scotia. This fleet sailed in company with a large number of transports bound for Shelburne and Halifax. The total number of passengers, including some troops, amounted to 7,000, with all their effects, also some artillery and public stores. According to Walter Bates, the Union was the best ship in the fleet. She proved her capacity as a fast sailer by leading the van for fourteen days and arriving at Partridge Island before the other vessels had come in sight. She was soon afterwards moored in the most convenient situation for landing, the place of anchorage being under the shelter of Fort Howe, opposite Navy Island, in sight of the position where once stood Fort la Tour. To the right lay the upper cove, and beyond rose the rocky peninsula, named by the Indians Monneguash, now the site of a city of nearly 50,000 inhabitants, but then covered for the most part with scrubby pine, spruce and cedar-a rough and forbidding prospect indeed to eyes familiar with the fertile lowlands of Connecticut and New Jersey, and the undulating cultured fields of Long Island.
The 18th of May has been held sacred by the descendants of the founders of St. John as the day on which their Loyalist forefathers landed. Whether there was any formal or systematic act of landing is problematical. The Union, and the majority, if not all of the vessels of the fleet, must have arrived (according to Batess account) on the 10th of May. It had taken the Union more than five days to embark her contingent of refugees and their effects. It may therefore be taken for granted, as the facilities for landing were of the rudest description, that the work of getting upwards of 3000 people and their effects on shore was a work of several days. Moreover, there was no common mode of procedure employed. Walter Bates speaks of Capt. Wilsons kindness in allowing his passengers to remain on board the Union whilst a deputation was employed in exploring for a proper place of settlement up the river, and contrasts their good fortune with that of others who were precipitated on shore.
We may conclude that on Sunday, May 18, the wearied Loyalists were safely sheltered beneath their tents along the shores of the harbor. Not improbably they may then have held some service of thanksgiving, and fixed upon the day as one to be annually commemorated.
It is generally supposed that about 3000 people came in this fleet. This seems to the writer a very moderate estimate. The ship Union, according to her manifest, (still preserved,) carried 209 persons, and if, as is generally stated, the fleet consisted of upwards of twenty vessels, many of them must have been much smaller than the Union, or else the estimate of 3000 people is rather under than over the mark.
The urgent need of transport ships at New York naturally inclined the captains of the vessels which had arrived at St. John to return at the earliest possible moment; but the season was cold and backward, and many of the ships lingered until the 29th of May, when the Loyalists were pretty comfortably settled. Their landing place was at the upper cove, the site of the present Market Square, where, having cleared away the dense forest then standing on the spot, the exiles made hurricane houses with sails, under which, with their women and children, they sheltered themselves as best they could.
A New York paper of June 7, 1783, contains the following interesting item:
Yesterday arrived the Camel, Captain William Tinker, in eight days from the river St. John in the Bay of Fundy, who at the time of his departure left the new settlers there in good health and spirits. Captain Tinker sailed in company with eight other transports for this port.
On June 7, 1783, Governor Parr wrote to Lord North, the secretary of state, informing him that since his letter of the preceding January, There have arrived in different places upwards of 7,000 persons, including men, women and children, and these are to be followed by 3,000 of the Provincial forces, with several others, as I am informed, of different denomination.
The next fleet to arrive at St. John harbor was that which left Sandy Hook on June 16th, and reached its destination June 28th, six weeks after the coming of the former fleet. The Bridgewater, Thames, and possibly one or two other vessels of the first fleet, returned in the second fleet; a proof that Sir Guy Carleton allowed no unnecessary delay in forwarding the Loyalists to their destinations.
It is a little remarkable that scarcely any of our local historians3 have made any mention of the arrival of the June fleet with its important contingent of some 1,500 Loyalists. The names of the vessels composing the May fleet have often appeared in print, and their arrival at St. John is annually commemorated; the coming of the fall fleet also is frequently and familiarly referred to; but the arrival of the June fleet appears to have been generally overlooked.
The fleet consisted of thirteen ships and two brigs with a frigate as convoy. Among the vessels were the Bridgewater, (Capt. Adnet), Two Sisters, (Capt. Brown), Hopewell, Symmetry, Generous Friends, Thames, Amitys Production, Tartar, Duchess of Gordon, Littledale, William and Mary, and Free Briton. The Loyalists on board were enrolled in seventeen companies, commanded respectively by Joseph Clarke, Sylvanus Whitney, Joseph Gorham, Henry Thomas, John Forrester, Thomas Elms, John Cock, James Hoyt, Christopher Benson, Joseph Forrester, Thomas Welch, Oliver Bourdet, Asher Dunham, Abra. Camp, Peter Berton, Richard Hill and Moses Pitcher.
The minute details connected with the voyage of the June fleet are preserved in the diary kept by a lady who was a passenger in the ship Two Sisters.4 She gives a graphic description of the discomforts of a rough passage in an overcrowded vessel, during which, to add to their miseries, an epidemic of measles broke out among the children.
At the time of the arrival of the second fleet, only two log houses had been erected in the town of Parr. As in the former case, the captains of the vessels seem to have exerted themselves for the comfort of their distressed passengers, who, in some cases, testified their gratitude in a formal manner by presenting suitable addresses. One of these reads as follows:
To Captain Adnet, Commander of the transport Bridgewater.
The address of the Loyalists, that came in the Ship under your command, from New York to St. Johns River, Nova Scotia.
Your humanity, and the kindness and attention you have shown, to render as happy as possible, each individual on board your Ship, during the passage, and till their disembarkation, has filled our hearts with sentiments of the deepest gratitude, and merit the warmest return of acknowledgements and thanks, which we most sincerely desire you to accept, wishing you a prosperous voyage to your intended port; we are your very much obliged and humble servants.
Signed by the particular desire, and in behalf of the whole,
St. Johns River, July 15, 1783.
1Frederick Hauser subsequently was employed in laying out the grants made to the Loyalists at Kingston, Gagetown, Sussex and other places on the St. John and Kennebecasis rivers.
2See Kingston and the Loyalists of 1783, pp. 11 and 12.
3An exception is to be found in Moses H. Perley, who mentions the arrival of the June fleet in his well known lecture on New Brunswick history.
4See diary of Sarah Frost in Kingston and the Loyalists of 1783.
[Last weeks instalment should have been numbered xliii [sic should be lxiii], and the name Hanser, in the fourth paragraph from the end should read Hauser.]
Correction: Article LXX contains the following correction to this one: "In the estimate of the number of Loyalists in the second fleet, for 1500 read 2000."