The emigration of the Loyalists from New York began in September, 1782, when a party of three hundred sailed for Annapolis Royal.(1) These were a few men from New York and Long Island, with many who had gone to the city early in the war for protection within British lines, or later, for conveyance to some other English colony. New York was the chief point of departure, and to arrange for their removal and settlement in Nova Scotia, a Board of seven had been appointed. Of these, all were fro New England.(2) but the Reverend Samuel Seabury, son of the rector of Saint Georgeís, Hempstead, and later, first Bishop of Connecticut, and James Peters, son of Valentine Hewlett Peters, and a leader among The Fifty-five. Official records at Halifax show that fully thirty-five thousand Loyalists went to Nova Scotia, and, except in a few individual cases, that bleak country was the destination of all the Long Island exiles.
England had meant to be generous to her provision for those cast upon her bounty. From three hundred to six hundred acres of land were assigned to every family; a full supply of food for the first year; two-thirds for the second, and one-third for the third year. Warm clothing, medicines, ammunition, seeds, farming implements, building materials and tools, millstones, and other requirements for grist-mills and saw-mills were granted and given out with tolerable fairness, but there were many delays, much poor material, and errors in distribution which worked great individual suffering, enhanced by the unexpected severity of the climate.(3)
In every township two thousand acres were reserved for the maintenance of a clergyman, and one thousand acres for the support of a school.
Port Roseway,(4) just east of the southern point of Nova Scotia, had been first chosen as their destination by the New York Loyalists, and in the fall of 1782 arrangements were making for their removal thither. A Board was formed of which Beverley Robinson was President. Four hundred and seventy-one heads of families were divided into sixteen companies, each having a captain and two lieutenants to preserve order, to distribute provisions, and to apportion lands. Each company was given a transport-ship for its conveyance, cannon and ammunition. The fleet, composed of eighteen square-rigged vessels, several sloops and schooners, and protected by two men-of-war, left New York April 27, 1783.
Favouring winds brought them in seven days to the snow-wrapped coast on which they were to find a home. They were met at Port Roseway by surveyors from Halifax. Examining the country and sounding the harbour, they chose the site of their town at itís head. Five parallel streets, sixty feet in width, were laid out, crossed by others, each square making sixteen lots, sixty feet front by one hundred and twenty deep. A Common was cleared, temporary huts of bark and sods thrown up, the hill levelled, its hollows filled, and, earl in July, the town was separated into the North and the South Divisions, the streets were named, the lots numbered, and each settler given a farm of fifty acres, besides a town and water-lot. The work of clearing and building went on rapidly, and the semblance of prosperity shone upon the settlement. Early in August it was visited by Governor Parr, who conferred upon the town the name of Shelburne. We are told by Haliburton that he was received by a procession which marched through King street, after which "A Collation" was served. One wonders what might have been the menu.
In October another fleet arrived from New York, contrary to the stipulations of the Associates, bringing five thousand more Refugees and doubling the population of Shelburne. The Common was given up to the new-comers, set off in two Divisions, Parrís and Pattersonís, and the winter was an anxious struggle for subsistence. The Association which planned the settlement of Shelburne had based their expectations of prosperity upon its beautiful harbour and stately forest, where every tree was fit for
"Of some great ammiral."
Commerce and ship-building were encouraged by special legislation. Whale-fishery was attempted in 1784, but the ambitious venture proved failure. The West India trade was monopolised by Newfoundland and New England, and licenses could not be easily obtained for the carrying-trade between the United States and Newfoundland. They were too far from the mouth of the harbour to make the fisheries profitable, while the town was isolated from the other settlements of the Province and surrounded by the pathless woods. The settlers were, by all the habits of their previous life, unfitted for pioneers. As soon as it was possible to escape from this forest prison they removed to other parts of the Province---to New Brunswick, or some even returned to the United States. In twenty-five years Shelburne was a deserted town, whose vacant houses looked down on silent, grass-grown streets.
Many hundred families of Loyalists were meanwhile making their way by Lake Champlain and the Sorel, or through the forests of Northern New York, over weary portages between the water-ways of the Mohawk and the Oswego, to found settlements at Kingston on the Bay of Quinte, at York, and elsewhere on the northern shores of Erie and Ontario. To them, by an Order in Council in 1789 was given the name of United Empire Loyalists applied to all who had remained with or joined the royal standard before the Treaty of 1783, and from them has been built up the prosperous province of Ontario.
But the migration which most affected Long Island, which was really the exodus of Queens, was "The Spring Fleet" of 1783.Plutarch has said "Exile was a blessing the Muses bestowed upon their favourites." But not alone by this mark of favour did the expatriated stand high; professional men and men of scholarly leisure, tenderly reared women and little children, left their old homes of comfort and refinement for the hardships of pioneer life in the unbroken wilderness of a country whose climate, then unmitigated by civilisation, was described in a contemporary letter as "nine months winter, and three months cold weather."
The Fleet.(5) conveyed more than three thousand persons to the mouth of the River Saint John.( 6) There were then on the shores of that beautiful harbour, visited b De Monts and Champlain in 1604, but the ruins of Fort de la Tour, rebuilt by the English as Fort Frederick, and burned by rebels from Machias, and, near the Carleton Ferry, the half-dozen huts of a few men engaged in fishing and lime-burning.( 7) The site of the future city was broken ground descending from the heights of Fort Howe to the deep ravine which ran through the present course of King Street. There were bald knobs of granite, but scantily fringed with cedar, rising above the heavy spruce forest,( 8) filled in with tangled undergrowth of moose-wood and hobble-bush.
On Sunday, May 18th, passing Partridge and Navy Islands, and the shore of Carleton on the left, the Fleet anchored in the upper cove,--what is now Market Slip at the foot of Market Square. That spot is the Plymouth Rock of New Brunswick, for there landed her founders, men eminent through the three generations of their descendants. The spring was unusually late; snow was still on the ground and the slow verdure of the North had not yet come. Tents for the women and children were hastily made of ship-sails, and te building of log cabins was at once begun.
In June, came "the Second Spring Fleet" of fourteen vessels, bringing about two thousand immigrants. Two of the ships, the Union and the Two Sisters, had sailed direct from Huntington Harbour. The Fall Fleet arrived October 4th with twelve hundred more settlers. Various transport with troops and stores continued to arrive until December. The soldiers were tented along the Lower Cove and in the present Barrack Square. The winter passed drearily to those who struggled against its rigour with but slight shelter and scant sustenance. Old diaries and letters in fast-fading characters still attest the sufferings and endurance of the first-comers, and the traditions of these years linger among the old families of New Brunswick as a precious legacy of sorrow, a sacred inspiration for the present.
Parrtown and Carleton were begun on opposite sides of the river, and b winter there were at least five thousand people there.(9 ) On May 18, 1785, the settlement was incorporated under royal charter as the City of Saint John. Its first mayor was Colonel Gabriel Ludlow of Queens County, who held the office until his resignation in 1795. Meanwhile, the County of Sunbury, Nova Scotia, which included the country from Chignecto Bay to the St. Croix, on August 16, 1784, had been established as the Province of New Brunswick, with Colonel Thomas Carleton, brother of Sir Guy, as General and Commander-in-chief of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Canada.
Saint John was a distributing point whence the exiles went throughout the Province and to other parts of British America. The river, its Micmac name, Ouygoudy, meaning highway, was the road by which they penetrated to the upper forests. Some reaching the St. Lawrence ascended its course and, settling along the Great Lakes, joined those who came directly from New York, as United Empire Loyalists, and laid the foundations of the most prosperous province of the Dominion of Canada. ( 10) It was through them that the Dominion was really created, by enterprise and ability which a different course than the one pursued might easily have retained within the United States. Goldwin Smith well sums up the matter:
"Had the Americans been as wise and merciful after their first as they were after their second civil war, and closed the strife as all civil strife ought to be closed---with an amnesty, British Canada would never have come into existence. It was founded by the Loyalists driven by revolutionary violence from their homes. These men were deeply wronged and might well cherish and hand down to their sons the memory of the wrong. They had done nothing as a body to put themselves out of the pale of mercy. They had fought, as every citizen is entitled and presumptively bound to fight, for the government under which they were born, to which they owed allegiance, and which as they fought gave them the substantial benefits of freedom. They had fought for a connection which though false--at all events since the Colony had grown able to shift for itself, was still prized by the Colonies generally, as might have been shown out of the mouths of all the several leaders including Samuel Adams the principal fomentor of the quarrel.....The intelligence and property of the Colonies, the bulk of it at least, had been on the loyal side.. nor was it possible to fix a point at which the normal rule of civil duty was severed and fidelity to the Crown became treason to the Commonwealth."(11 ) From this impossibility came that depopulation of Long Island which has influenced her subsequent history, and which has carried the sons of her Loyalists wherever the Cross of Saint George greets the rising sun. By the Saint John and the Gaspereaux, in the shadow of the Selkirks, or on the shores of Puget, steadfast at Kars, or leading the forlorn hope in the death-assault of an African fort, their blood is true to the traditions of their fathers on the Hempstead Plains, and Long Island well may honour her expatriated children.
(1) Carleton wrote to Governor Hammond of Nova Scotia, that six hundred more than awaited transportation.
(2) There were from Massachusetts, Lieut.-Colonel Benjamin Thompson (Count Rumford), Lieut-Colonel Edward Winslow, who had left Boston with General Gage, and Major Joshua Upham, of Brookfield; from Connecticut were the Reverend John Sayre, rector of Trinity Church, Fairfield, and Amos Botsford, of Newtown.
.(3) Port Roseway, Jan. 5th, 1784.
"All our gallant promises are vanished in smoke. We were taught to believe this place was not barren and foggy as had been represented, but we find it ten times worse.
"We have nothing but his Majestyís rotten pork and unbaked flour to subsist on. ĎBut can not you bake it yourself, seeing it is so wooden a country?í Only come here yourselves and you will soon learn the reason. It is the most inhospitable clime that ever mortal sat foot on."
(4) The name is a corruption, through various intermediate forms, of the French, Port Razoir.
(5) It consisted of twenty square-rigged ships:
The Camel Thames Emmett Lord Townshend Union Spring William King George Aurora Ann Cyprus Favourite Hope Spence Britain Bridgewater Otter Sall Sovereign Commerce
(6 ) SeeNew York Gazette, March 29, 1783, for letters of Amos Botsford, written from Annapolis Royal, January 14th, in which he describes lands in the Annapolis Basin, and on the Saint John River, giving the preference to the latter in climate, productions and adaptability to the exiles.
( 7) It was called Simondís Station. In 1762, a party of twenty men from Newburyport came to explore the River Saint John. The leaders, James Simonds, James White, and Francis Peabody, remained here, while the others went up the river to St. Anneís Point (Fredericton), and, attracted by the fertile intervales, settled at Maugerís Island, naming their township Maugerville.
(8 ) "The Whole City was then in a perfect State of Wilderness. The wood was dreadfully thick and greatly encumbered with wind-falls."--Early History of New Brunswick, Moses H. Perley.
( 9) An officer on the ship Duc du Chatres wrote October 19, 1783, "The great emigration of Loyalists from New York to this Province is almost incredible; they have made many new settlements in the Bay of Funday and considerable augmented those of Annapolis Royal & St. Johnís River; they are so numerous at the last mentioned place as to build two new towns, Carleton and Parrtown."
(10 ) An immigration justly valued by the English. "It may be safely said no portion of the British possessions ever received so noble an acquisition." Viscount Bury, Exodus of the Western Nations, vol. ii., p. 334.
( 11) See Canada and the Canadian Question, p. 98.
*Early Long Island
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