next The Township previous The Acadiens
The Loyalists Arrive
I don't mean to suggest that before the Loyalists and other than the Acadiens the area was deserted. There were grants of large tracts of land to various people long before the Loyalists came. These land grants were popular in the 18th century, they were given out all over Nova Scotia to people who never lived on the properties. I haven't been able to find the names of any of these early grantees in church registers and nobody who received a grant before 1784 is on the township tax roll for 1792. This, however, is a weak reason for supposing that none lived there before 1784. The census information for that era is unreliable and there's a paucity of other documentation. It is my belief, though, that the early grantees were mostly absentee owners who had land for sale when the Loyalists arrived.
The story handed down to me was that the Loyalists who settled in Aylesford Township originally landed on the South Shore, somewhere around Dublin Shore, near Lunenburg. This would have been in November, 1783. All the Loyalists seem to have landed on the South Shore from Shelburne to Lunenburg so this is not surprising. It's difficult to guess how long they lingered on the South Shore, living on handouts from the government, but it couldn't have been less than one winter and possibly two. In the traditional version of the story they walked from there to get to Aylesford Township when grants of farms became available.
There are massive amounts of letters from anybody, who was anybody at the time, to everyone else on the subject. It leaves me with the impression that the government was acutely aware of the Loyalist's plight and was actively trying to do something about it. James Morden was not a young man in 1784 when he was granted 5000 acres in Aylesford Township, mostly on the North Mountain but some of it was in the Valley. As far as I can gather he never lived there and I think that his sole motivation was to do something to help the Loyalists. James Morden died in Halifax in 1792. I think that the area was chosen for exactly the same reason that the Acadiens wintered there during the Expulsion. It had good access to the Bay of Fundy and that was important because these early settlements depended on the sea for travel and transportation of goods. This is supported by their very first action which was to build the Morden Road from the Post Road to the Bay of Fundy shore. This, of course, is when they found the Acadien cross and the piles of mussel shells used later in the plaster for their church. The road is on maps dated 1787 while the church, St. Mary's Anglican, was build in 1790. On the earliest maps I found at the Public Archives this road is labeled Morden's Road and the Bay end of it is labelled French Cross. Later it became the Morden Road and French Cross became Morden.
The Loyalists in Aylesford Township were faced with difficulties and chalenges. The land was heavily timbered with virgin growth. Land had to be cleared, shelters had to be built, roads had to be built. I heard storied of burnt lands which refers to the practise of simply setting woods on fire. In the Ward Chipman papers there are many letters dealing with the settlement of refugees from the war in various parts of Nova Scarcity as Nova Scotia was called by them, among them is the following;Although it says "Township of Wilmot" I think it probably applied to Aylesford Township as well. But all was not disaster. The Winslow papers chronicle Edward Winslow senior's efforts in the war and shortly after. Among them are letters from none other than General Timothy Ruggles himself. In a letter dated 17 July 1783 General Ruggles writes;"The Loyalists settled in the Township of Wilmot have had greater difficulties to encounter than have been met with by any others, which they have endeavoured to surmount by uncommon diligence and perseverance - many of them are settled seven miles from any road, except what they have made themselves and a much greater distance from any navigable river. The land is very good, but heavy timbered, which makes it difficult to clear, therefore in this as well as some other settlements they will stand in need of provisions for a much longer timeI have the honor to be
(sgd) John Robinson"In other words it took a month and a half for the letter to travel from New York to Nova Scotia. This is an indication of the speed with which things happened then. He also writes something which we would identify with today;"By a ship bound to New York I am to acknowledge your kind favor of the 30th of May last, which I received last night.........."He also talks of more serious subjects when he mentions the settlement of the people;"Your fruit trees, when compared with those here, I mean apples, are hardly worth noticing. About ten days ago, I had a present of well toward a bushel of as fine, fair, sound, high flavored apples as you ever saw at New York in the month of January. Colo. Allen of [New] Jersey told me he had drank the best cider here, he ever drank in his life;"Ominous words indeed as this was written in July of 1783, four months before the evacuation of New York in November when the worst flood of refugees would hit. The winter of 1783-84 must have been terrible and the next two years must have been trying. But apparently they persevered, the township went on to grow apples, haul fish from the Bay of Fundy and become the sleepy backwater that I knew........ whether so happy an event may take place in the life time of you or me depends much upon the conduct of those who have it in their power at this crisis to encourage and accomplish the complete settlement of the country, according to the expectations of General Carleton. How it fares with other parts of this Province I am not able to say, but with respect to this part I hear every day lamentations making by people that came last fall, that this year's provision, which they then received and which is all they have to depend upon, will be exhausted before they can get the lands they have been long expecting to settle upon. As they have not yet obtained their patents for it, and the season is so far advanced you may clearly discover that for husbandmen the year is lost. What effect it may have upon others coming into the Province to settle, you Sir can more easily conceive that I can tell."
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