Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine


Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

Nova Scotia: The Province that has been Passed By
Chapter IX. Shelburne and the Loyalists


There are, apart from the capital, six famous historical shrines in New Scotland—Annapolis Royal, Louisbourg, Grand Pr£, Fort Lawrence, and Shelburne. How many English readers know anything of Shelburne ? How many have ever so much as heard the name ? And yet, once, a century and a quarter ago, the uprising of this town, in a single night as it were, the sufferings of the 12,000 American Loyalist refugees who had landed there to found it, evoked a widespread interest. The tale of the Loyalists of Shelburne rang through the hall at Westminster, and in the Colonial Assemblies. It was told in the closet of the King and was set forth in the newspapers; and what a story it was! English history scarce can show its parallel. It is the tale of the exiled Huguenots, but the impelling motive was not loyalty to a form of faith, but to an earthly sovereign and a flag. How much fanaticism, how much bigotry, is interwoven with religious sacrifice! We may respect, but we cannot love the cold and narrow minds who, whether called Protestant, or Catholic, or Puritan, fled from their country because of the doctrine they disliked or an article they distrusted, who were ready to put seas of salt water between them and a rubric, or to risk seas of human blood to escape the sight of a chasuble or the necessity for a genuflexion.

But personal loyalty one understands—the love for one’s flag and one’s own people strikes a responsive chord in warm bosoms. The Puritans, I fear, who founded New England, were but indifferent patriots. The cry of “St. George and Merry England!” would amongst them have proved a feeble tocsin.

The Loyalists were, as I have said, the best class in America, comprising the most notable judges, the most eminent lawyers, most cultured clergy, most distinguished physicians, most educated and refined of the people north and south. Long before the war broke out, the Boston mobs had persecuted them for their political professions. Any official or merchant sympathising with the British Army or British Government of the day w as a target for their insolence. They set Governor Hutchinson’s mansion in flames; sheriffs and judges were mobbed, feeble old men were driven into the woods, and innocent women insulted. With the progress of the war, the violence of the revolutionists increased in intensity. Thousands sought safety with the King’s troops; many others armed themselves and fought valiantly for the King and the British connection. To be suspected of being a Loyalist was to have one’s estate confiscated, and even to be punished with death.

But what the Loyalists suffered during tile war, when the issue of the contest was doubtful, was nothing to what they had to endure after 1783.

The British Empire had been badly served by the officers England had sent out to America. If Wolfe had lived to direct her armies, the end might have been different; but mismanagement reigned, and such Generals as Gage, Burgoyne, and Cornwallis, planned feebly and fought halfheartedly. If there was any doubt as to the result, that doubt was speedily set at rest when England’s hereditary enemy, France, espoused the cause of the American insurgents. French money, ships, and men poured into America. The Americans fought with French muskets, they were clad in French clothing, and they were paid with gold which the impoverished people of France could ill spare. Great is the debt America owes to the French Kin and statesmen of that time.

With the conclusion of the war. the men who had stood staunch and faithful to the United Empire were destined to undergo a further ordeal. As “traitors” they were pursued through the streets; their families were driven into the woods; they were shot down remorselessly. Rows of them were hung up like felons! At the battle of King’s Mountain, in North Carolina, ten of the prisoners, men of character and influence, were hanged in cold blood. There were many instances of ferocious executions upon prisoners.

Under the Treaty of 1783 they had been abandoned by the Mother Country to the tender mercies of the American conquerors.

“When I consider the case of the Loyalists,” said Wilberforce in Parliament, “I confess I there feel myself conquered; I there see my country humiliated; I there see her at the feet of America!” “A peace founded on the sacrifice of these unhappy subjects,” another, “must be accursed in the sight of God and man."

Nova Scotia proper, during the war, had not been molested, and to it the Loyalists now turned in large numbers as a refuge under the flag. Acadia was to be the Canaan of the Loyalists.

Somewhere—for most of them knew it but vaguely— in that northern land, in the virgin forests of pine, and maple, and hemlock, in the solitudes of seashore, lake, and river, which no man of English blood had yet seen, was the refuge the Loyalists sought.

In November 1783, New York was evacuated by the King’s troops under Sir Guy Carlton. lie carried with him all the stores belonging to the Crown, all baggage and artillery, and he was accompanied by 40,000 men, women, and children. New York was the stronghold of the Loyalists; Pennsylvania had been equally divided between Loyalists and Revolutionists; there were more Loyalists in Virginia than adherents of Congress; and Georgia had at least three Loyalists for every rebel. Thousands had perished; thousands had sought refuge in England; thousands had recanted. Fifty thousand now set out with their wives and children and such belongings as were left to them to traverse the hundreds of miles which lay between them and their new homesteads in Canada. These United Empire Loyalists were the fathers of English Canada.

There are few tales which history has to tell so stirring and so noble as the exodus of the Loyalists. Most of them had been brought up in comfort and even luxury; their women were tenderly nurtured and unaccustomed to hardship. But one spirit animated them all; one hope fired all their bosoms; one faith drove them out of the American Republic into the wilderness.

The exiles were, divided into two main streams, one moving eastward to Nova Scotia and the country where, a century and a half before, Poutrincourt and La Tout had fought and flourished. The other moved westward to the region north of Lake Ontario. Those who followed the eastern course landed at the mouth of the St. John River, New Brunswick, on the 18th May 1783, a day still celebrated in the city of St. John’s. They took up settlements in the meadows of the Bay of Fundy, and at Port Rasoir in Nova Scotia. There, like the city n the Arabian tale, there sprang up, as if by magic, the town of Shelburne, with 12,000 inhabitants, where yesterday had been but solitude.

“No one will know because none has told all that these brave pioneers underwent for their devotion and fidelity. You will see to-day on the outskirts of the older settlements little mounds, moss-covered tombstones which record the last resting places of the forefathers of the hamlet. They do not tell you of the brave hearts laid low by hunger and exposure, of the girlish forms wasted away, of the babes and little children who perished for want of proper food and raiment. They have nothing to tell of the courageous high-minded mothers, wives, and daughters, who bore themselves as bravely as men, complaining never, toiling with the men in the fields, banishing ail regrets for the life they might have led had they sacrificed their loyalty. . . . No great monument is raised to their memory; none is needed; it is enshrined for ever in the hearts of every Canadian and of every one who admires fidelity to principle, devotion, and self-sacrifice.”

In the spring of 1783 a fleet of eighteen large ships and several small vessels, convoyed by two warships, brought 471 Loyalist families from New York to a fine harbour called Port Roseway (Rasoir), where the redoubtahle Colonel M'Nutt had a few years before intended to build the city of New Jerusalem. There, too,

The breaking wave dashed high On a stern and rock bound coast; but the shiploads of Americans, whose cause of King and United Empire had been lost, hoped they were destined to a propitious spot where they could begin their fortunes anew. When these Loyalists, who called themselves “True Blues,” landed, what a picture was then presented!

“As soon as we had set up a kind of tent we knelt down, my wife and I and our two boys, and kissed the dear ground and thanked God that the flag of England floated there, and resolved that we would work with the rest to become again happy and prosperous.”

And the spirit which animated the bosom of worthy Jonathan Beecher and his flock dwelt with nearly all of those five thousand foregathered on the sloping shore of this beautiful harbour. Lanterns and torches flamed that night; laughter and tears intermingled. Hundreds of forms moved about restlessly. There was singing of hymns, trolling of glees, and toasting of His Majesty and Governor Parr. Trunks, and packing-cases, and valises were opened. A table was brought from the ship, and round it sat a number of ladies in silk dresses and powdered hair. A few desired a dance as an outlet for their tumultuous thoughts; and so there in the moonlight the young, the hopeful, the light-hearted, that all their recent sufferings could not wholly dismay, danced a quadrille—danced out of sheer high spirits, and only separated at dawn.

And the woods behind a group of swarthy Micmacs and their squaws came to overpeer and wonder at the spectacle-—thinking a host of mad folk had been blown across the Big Drink. Mad indeed they were—mad for joy—mad in their hopes and schemes—mad :n their utter improvidence.

Other immigrants followed, and within a short time 16,000 inhabitants were here. A fort was built, troops were stationed, and warships continually paraded the harbour; and much work was done, particularly wharf and road building. In 1788 the exports comprised 13,151 quintals dry cod, 4193 casks of pickxed fish, 61 casks of smoked salmon, 149 barrels fish oil, and 14,793 gallons sperm oil. During the year Prince William Henry (afterwards William IV.) visited the town, a ball being g-ren in his honour. Yet even then Shelburne was existing on an artificial basis. For the first three years 9000 of the “True Blues” (or Blue Noses) drew rations from the British Government, and demoralisation set in. Then came a great storm in 1798 which wiped out wharves and shipping; other calamities followed, and by 1818 the population had dwindled to 300 souls.

As I walked through the ghost of that old Shelburne, all the scenes and events of the next few weeks, months and years, as I had once read of them i» Colonial records and in old journals and letters, came back to me, and I could in my mind’s eye reconstruct it all. This wide street, overgrown now with grass, running up from the harbour, was Ring Street; this other was Queen Street; this other Princes Street. For months carpenters and masons were busy hewing timber, hammering and hoisting, digging and mortaring. Rows after rows of houses appeared, and in a short rime Shelburne, but yesterday a wilderness, presented all the appearance of a flourishing town. Some of the houses are still standing. There is the Governor’s house, a stately edifice enough, of that old Colonial pattern that the modern builder seems to have lost the recipe for making. It stands not far from the water’s edge, and is reached by a fright of steep steps. Its face is half hid by Virginia creeper. An old, old man came to the door and bade me enter. His name is Frith, and he is a carpenter by trade. He has long lived in the old house, and his father could remember the landing of the Loyalists. The house is panelled throughout, and there are fine and spacious fireplaces and chimney-pieces. Here was the social centre of Shelburne in its prime.

The fine dwellings dropped to pieces, or were burnt, cattle and sheep might graze in the streets, the fort was dismantled. A few clung, however, to Shelburne, and their descendants are to-day witnessing the revival of the town’s fortunes.

Lockeport is charmingly situated on an island, connected with the mainland at its nearest point by a substantial iron bridge. To the left of the island the bay runs inland for several miles; to the right a low shielding promontory juts out to sea. The harbour is safe and free from squalls, affording splendid opportunities for yachting. The bathing beach, a glistening crescent of hard, white sand, extends for a mile or more. It is the general playground and fashionable promenade of the town.

Good salmon and trout streams are easily accessible. The Jordan River, back on the road to Shelburne, is especially famous for hard fighting salmon and gamy trout. Feathered game are in abundance. The extensive moose country of the Sable River district is within easy reach, and moose are plentiful enough for those who know the way of the woods. For black duck and wild geese the vicinities of Port Jolie, Port L’Herbert, and Jones Harbour enjoy great local repute.

The district about Lockeport was for a long time known as Ragged Islands. Just a century and a half ago Dr. Jonathan Locke, of Chilmark, Mass., and Josiah Churchill came here, selecting with great discrimination the spot best situated with regard to the fishing grounds.

Throughout the war of the Revolution the settlers of Lockeport, unlike their neighbours at Liverpool, seem to have kept out of active hostilities, though their sympathies were strongly American. Their feelings were very much hurt, therefore, when in 1779 some American privateers came ashore and looted their houses, and an indignant protest, signed by Jonathan Locke and several others, is still to be found in the archives of Massachusetts, After reciting how the scoundrels took from one house nineteen quintals of codfish, four barrels of salt, three salmon nets, some cheese, and a great many other things, this memorial continues:

“These things are very surprising that we in this harbour have done so much for America, that we have helped three or four hundred prisoners up along to America, and given part of our living to them, and have concealed privateers and prizes too from the British cruisers in this harbour. All this done for America, and if this be the way we are to be paid, I desire to see no more of you without you come in another manner,”

During the war of 1812 some excitement was caused by the approach of a hostile vessel, at a time when most of the men were away. The women and children were promptly lined up on the bluff, with red coats and broomsticks to lend a martial appearance, while some of the women marched up and down with a drum, and shots were fired with the available muskets and fowling pieces. The enemy made good their escape.

On a burning July day I stood on the seashore and looked out on Port Mouton (pronounced Ma-toon), and in my mind’s eye saw two ghosts. One was of the immortal sheep which fell over the taffrail of De Monts’s ship three centuries ago; the other was the ghost of the town of Guysborough. Do not be misled, dear reader; there is still a Guysborough in New Scotland; but it is another place, hundreds of miles away, which has clothed itself, so to speak, with the name of its deceased predecessor as with a garment. That Guysborough is at Chedabucto Bay, and flourishes; this Guysborough was at Port Momon, and is dead more tnan a century and a quarter.

Settled by pioneers of Massachusetts stock was Liverpool. I was told that there are even more descendants of the original Pilgrim Fathers in this little New Liverpool on the southern shore of New Scotland, in proportion to the population, than in Massachusetts itself. A warrant to survey a township was granted in 1759 by the Governor of Nova Scotia to a committee representing some one hundred and forty-two proprietors, all of New England, and many of them direct descendants of the Mayflower pilgrims.

But a century and a half before this, in 1604, Sieur de Monts had entered the harbour and named it Port Rossignol, after a certain captain whom he found unwittingly poaching on his preserves, and whose vessel he confiscated. This was on the famous voyage that led to the selection of Port Royal (now Annapolis Royal) as the hest site for a settlement.

Later Port Rossignol formed part of La Tour’s La Heve, under the protection of the fort there; and, though the fisheries were considered of some importance, the settlements were small and by no means permanent.

At the period when the hardy ancestors of the present inhabitants of Liverpool fixed on this as a site for settlement, the peninsula was almost a solitude. There were a few unfortunate Acadians who had made their homes with the Indians, and the Annapolis valley was from end to end a scene of desolation, extending for many miles to the eastward and westward. There, were two small military posts, one at Annapolis and a second at Windsor. Halifax had only been founded about ten years. At Lunenburg some unfortunate Germans had been making a desperate struggle for about six years.

Hither came in 1760 a number of New England families attracted by the well-sheltered haven, the fine river, the salmon fishing, and also, I think, already conscious of the spirit of insubordination and unrest in the older colonies they quitted. Those early Immigrants endured during the first few seasons severe privations, one winter subsisting almost wholly upon wild rabbits. But others came to join them, until, in a couple of years, they numbered eighty families. They continued to thrive; the settlement was formed into a township of 100,coo acres, and divided amongst them into 200 shares. A century ago the population was close upon 1000 souls.

During the American Revolution the American privateers proved a constant source of annoyance and actual damage, and there is ample proof that the Liverpudlians were at least justified in retaliating in kind. In 1779 several of them obtained Letters of Marque from the British Government, with assistance for arming vessels, and a grant for a block-house and bartacks.

Smuggling, too, was a popular pursuit; one citizen in 1782 is recorded as having turned informer, and shortly afterwards the Government offered a reward of £20 for information leading to the conviction of the person or persons who had cut off the said citizen’s ears.

Throughout the Revolutionary War, the subsequent strife between England, and France, and Spain, and the later war with America, Liverpool privateers are frequently heard of. Many a prize was brought in triumph into Liverpool Harbour, and the little town emerged richer and more prosperous than before. I have read somewhere that the great fortune of the Hon. Enos Collins, long reputed the richest man in the province, and himself Liverpool born, though trading from Halifax, was founded on the winnings of his privateer captains.

Haliburton, in 1829, wrote: “Liverpool is the best built town in Nova Scotia. The houses are substantially good and well painted, and there is an air of regularity and neatness in the place which distinguishes it from every other town n this province.”

“Those were busy times in the town,” writes Mr. Charles Warman, of Liverpool “Sailors and ship’s carpenters abounded. Nightly they would meet in some public-house, and many tales of interesting adventures were told, while often shipmates who had been separated for years, and had beer, to all parts of the globe, would come together and be joyful."

“Then vessels often went below the bar to complete loading—a thing practically unknown to-day, owing to the deepening of the channei—when the lumber would be rafted to them. If an easterly gale came upon them they had to hoist anchor and put back to the wharves. Occasionally from the storm there was the loss of ship and crew. As an instance, the barques Wave and Kate Campbell, that had lain below for some days completing cargoes, were caught and piled up, one near Sandy Cove, the other upon the Fort—both total wrecks, neither having ever been to sea. At that time a schooner from Newfoundland, bound west, had sought shelter here, and she also went ashore. Every one of its sailors was flung lifeless upon the beach. The loss of any craft to-day in the harbour is a rare occurrence.”

Unhappily, lack of railway communication kept the town back, hut within the past few years Liverpool is with great strides overtaking competitors. There are now a tine water and electric light service, first-class hotels, electric marine slip and shipyards, a foundry, machine-shop, and corn-mill.

The river Mersey is a rapid stream with numerous falls for nineteen and one-half miles from “Indian Garden” to Liverpool. A lake system of fifty square miles supplies the river, and when properly developed will make Milton and Liverpool cheap and popular manufacturing centres.

The canoe trip through the lakes and rivers hereabouts is well worth taking. The grounds of the old fort are now a public park. But the old blockhouse has vanished here as it has from Annapolis, and some forty cannon of early George III. type are used for street corner posts.

With its lighthouse and cannon, turf, seats, and shade, and magnificent outlook over the harbour, Liverpool Fort is a most agreeable lounging place, and a romantic terminus to Liverpool’s street of bright shops, public buildings, and -neat residences. The Fort was actually captured in 1780 by an unexpected night attack led by a Yankee named Beniamin Cole. “The townsmen,” one reads, “were inclined to think resistance useless, but Colonel Simeon Perkins (the ‘man of the time’ in Liverpool) arranged for the capture of Cole on his way through the town, and with him safely in hand was enabled to dictate to the enemy most favourable terms of redress, capitulation, and retreat. So ended the Siege of Liverpool.”

Close to the Fort is a picturesque little cove, where shipbuilding is still carried on, and where a group of old houses still remain, including the Customs House.

To-day, besides the fishery, the great resource of the town is the sawing and export of timber, surrounded as it is by almost inexhaustible forests. Large quantities of wood-pulp are also produced here. Altogether Liverpool to-day is a busy, pleasant little town, whose prosperity and whose prospects have been vastly increased by the advent of the Halifax and South-Western Railway a few years ago.

Connected with the lumber industry, the prominence now attained by pulp-wood and wood-pulp deserves a word. Owing to the increased demand made by the paper mills of America for raw materials, and the decreasing supply of home-grown w'ood, for the year ending 30th June 1910, the States imported from Canada 897,226 cords of pulp-wood, valued at $5,660,542.00, and of mechanical, chemical, bleached, and unbleached wood-pulp to the value of $4,224,500.00, an importation from Canada of pulp-wood and wood-pulp of $9,885,042.00, as against a total importation of $5000 in 1880.

The total quantity of pulp-wood consumed by the 253 paper mills of the States during 1910 was 4,002,000 cords, valued at $34,478,000.00, of which, according to the figures given above, Canada furnished more than one-fifth m quantity and one-sixth in value.

Nova Scotia, as well as New Brunswick, possesses large pulp-wood areas and excellent water-power; would it not seem that an attractive field was open either to Nova Scotian or British capitalists?

The wise policy of the Government in withdrawing from sale the remaining Crown Lands of the Province, estimated at about one and one half millions of acres, should, under proper regulations, give the country a valuable reserve.

In addition to these shipments, which were composed largely of deal, there were exports of laths, shingles, piling, and some square timber hardwood, together with the quantity used locally, which of course largely augmented the value of the total export.

Spruce is the staple lumber tree of Nova Scotia. Prices for this wood ha/e not declined or indeed fluctuated during the last two years as much as some other native woods, notably hemlock and pine.

An addition to the output of spruce, hemlock, and pine, which figures so largely as the product of the portable and stationary mills for export, consists in the cutting of “ton-timber”—hardwoods for English and South American markets, of which about 12,000 tons are taken out of Colchester woods. This variety is cut and hewed square with axes, and is brought to the shipping points when sledging is good.

Very little hardwood finds its way to the sawmills for export as deals or planks. Then there is the cutting of poplar for the manufacture of excelsior; of birch and ash, and beech and elm, for the manufacture of chairs and furniture; of yellow birch for the manufacture of spring-bed frames and peg wood; and of white birch for the making of spool wood, the latter being produced mostly in the Stewiackes. Finally, there is a cut of juniper and hackmatack, and other woods of no mean proportions used for railway ties and pit props.


Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus