ictou During the American Revolution


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Pictou County History


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The population of Nova Scotia was divided in its loyalty during the American Revolution, but Nova Scotia did not become the fourteenth state in the new United States of America. The Scots in Pictou, the Yorkshiremen in Cumberland, and the Acadians remained loyal to the British Crown, and influential citizens and officials at Halifax were definitely interested in remaining under British rule. Many settlers had come from New England only a decade before, and naturally sympathized with their families and friends still in New England. They refused to serve in the provincial militia or any force that might have to attack their relatives in New England. The men of Onslow and Truro, mainly New Englanders and Irish, asked for exemption from military service out of their townships. At Chignecto, the American party spread the rumor that Govern or Francis Legge would call out the local militia and draft them to Boston to fight for the British. This made the New Englanders of Annapolis, Kings, and Cumberland refuse the Muster.


Nova Scotian were ordered to take the Oath of Allegiance to King George III. Robert Patterson, the loyal Scots magistrate of Pictou, decided to go to Halifax for a copy of the oath. In Truro one of the Archibalds invited him into his house, brandished a pistol and forced the magistrate to return to Pictou. They were opposed by the Philadelphia settlers of 1767-1769 who were familiar with the agitation in the Thirteen Colonies to the south. These men had refused to drink tea, had called their children after Adams and Washington, and had persuaded two visiting American privateers to make a raid on Charlottetown.


Jonathan Eddy, the leader of the revolt at Chignecto in the autumn of 1776, sent some of his men to seize a British ship loading lumber in Pictou harbour. This was the ship Molly, owned by Captain William Lowden of Dumfries. Eddy's men were helped by some Pictou men. Captain Lowden was invited on shore to visit Wellwood Waugh, an old Scotch Covenanter who at this time sympathized with the American Cause. The unsuspecting and unarmed Captain was taken prisoner by the Americans who then rowed out to the vessel and easily overpowered the mate and the few sailors on board. Then the rest of the crew returned with more of the cargo they were also taken prisoners and locked in the forecastle.


The next day the rebels sailed their prize to Bay Verte, taking dr. Harris and the mate and part of the crew to navigate the vessel. John Crockett and Colin Douglas started to walk to Halifax to notify the Governor about the capture of the vessel. Captain Lowden was released from Waugh's house and immediately started in a canoe for Charlottetown. There he found a British man-of-war which started in pursuit. At Bay Verte the Americans discovered that Eddy and his men had failed to capture Fort Cumberland and had retreated. They abandoned the ship and took to the woods. The Molly was restored to Captain Lowden by the British warship.


Waugh was punished by the confiscation of his goods. Rev. George Patterson remarks that there was so much ill feeling against him that he left Pictou and afterward settled at Waugh's River, Tatamagouche. He repented his disloyalty and later was hired by the Government as mail courier between Truro and Tatamagouche.


Both Dr. John Harris and his brother Matthew Harris were strong American patriots during the Revolution and sympathized with the colonies in their struggle for independence. Dr. John's son, John Washington Harris (1777-1863) became a loyal British subject and served as sheriff of Pictou County for many years. Matthew's tenth child, born in Nova Scotia in 1778, was named William Washington. He moved to Philadelphia about 1800 where both his brother Robert and his uncle Robert Harris were doctors. Mrs. Matthew Harris died in Philadelphia in October, 1813, but Matthew returned to Pictou although several of his family were living in the United States.


Matthew Harris had gone to Philadelphia on some business maters during the American Revolution. On 10th June, 1781, he acknowledged himself as a Prisoner of War to the United States of America, and arranged to go to Nova Scotia on parole to effect an Exchange for a person of equal rank to be sent to Philadelphia. Major Gilfred Studholme, commander of Fort Howe at the mouth of the Saint John River received a letter in October 1781 telling how Col. McNutt "a subtle designing fellow" who was well known in Nova Scotia had pawned himself upon the Congress of Philadelphia as an agent to look after Nova Scotian affairs. The letter warned him that McNutt would try to smuggle letters and pamphlets into Nova Scotia.


Major Studholme passed this warning along to Michael Francklin, a prosperous Halifax merchant who had been Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia from 1766 to 17776, and who was still a member of the Council and Superintendent of Indian affairs. Francklin was well known as a loyalist. He wrote that on October 20th, "being informed that a Matthew Harris of Pictou brother to the Doctor of Cobequid was in the Port lately come from Philadelphia and bound to Cobequid, and as I knew the Doctor was formerly connected loosely with Col. McNutt, and that he the Doctor had also given many Specimens of this Disafection and had even as it was said acted openly in favor of the Rebells; it occurred to me that Matthew his Brother might be Charged with Dispatches from the Sd. Col. McNutt, he was therefore suddenly ordered up to Fort Howe, and an Officer took possession of his Little Baggage to attend him which was compleatly (sic) searched in presence of Major Studholme my self and others when we found the papers from No. 1 to No. 10 concealed and wrapped up in his Trouzers, the large Bundle of news papers and other letters of Little consequence being in a separate parcel open to view, and not in the Trouzers, he deliverd (sic) himself as his whole papers. Those in the Trouzers were secreted and to all appearance not designed to be known"


Matthew Harris was not arrested for going to New England without a pass, or for treasonable practices, but he was kept in close confinement. On November 5, 1781, Francklin sent Matthew Harris and his papers from Windsor to Halifax for further examination by Hon. Richard Bulkeley, Secretary of the Province of Nova Scotia. Harris was escorted by Constable Garret Vandergrift and two soldiers of the King's Rangers. In a postscript Francklin instructed Bulkely "please to pay the Constable and I realy (sic) think the soldiers should have a trifle to pay for Shoes worn in there Extra Dutys." (sic)


Rev. George Patterson relates how the soldiers guarding Harris went into the inner room of the tavern in Halifax, leaving him to move about on his parole. He was walking around when a woman rushed into the tavern calling "Your prisoner is escaping." One of the soldiers hit Harris over the head and wounded him. Matthew Harris was shortly released from custody although Francklin had written "if a Stop is not put to this Intercourse with the Rebells the most dangerous consequences may result from it."


Most of the people living in Nova Scotia during the American Revolution were too busy tying to earn a living in a pioneer country to bother about politics. All the settlements were separated from one another by great stretches of forest. Windsor and Halifax were connected with a road of sorts, but elsewhere there were only forest trails. The sea was the highway between the settlements, and the sea was controlled by the British navy. Nova Scotia remained apart from the United States because of its geographical isolation from the main body of the rebellious colonies, and because at Halifax influential citizens and officials wished to remain under British rule.


The following is his letter>


Sir:


On or about the 16 October last Major Studholme having received at Fort Howe a letter of Information or Intelligence (sic) part of which is extracted and marked with the letter A which was communicated to me, and on the 20th being Informed that a Matthew Harris of Pictou brother to the Doctor of Cobiquid was in the Port lately come from Philadelphia and bound to Cobiquid, and as I knew the Doctor was formerly connected closely with Col. McNutt; and that he the Doctor had also given many Specimens of his Disafection and had even as it was said acted openly in favor of the Rebells; it occurred to me that Matthew his Brother might be charged with Dispatches from the sd Col. McNutt, he was therefore suddenly ordered up to Fort Howe, and an Officer took possession of his Little Baggage to attend him which was compleatly (sic) searched in presence of Major Studholme my self and others when we found the papers from No: 1 to No: 10 concealed and wrapped up in his Trouzers. The large Bundle of news papers and other letters of Little consequence being in a separate parcell open to view, and not in the Trouzers, he delivered himself as his whole papers. Those in the Trouzers were secreted and to all appearance not designed to be known: upon this I desired Major Studholme to confine the said Matthew Harris in order to be transmitted to Halifax. It was done Accordingly, he is now here and I send him to you with the Original papers found on him attended by Vandergist the Constable and two soldiers of the Kings Rangers, and you will be pleased to examine him and do otherwise with him as shall be thought proper. He had no pass to go to New England I did not chuse (sic) to committ (sic) him in a formal manner for Treasonable practices as I understand such cannot be Immediately tried, but thus much I shall venture to say that if a Stop is not put to thos Intercourse with the Rebells the most dangerous consequences may result from it. You will be pleased to lay this letter before the Lieut Governor


I am Sir


Your most obedient and most humble Servant


Mich Francklin


Please to pay the Constable and I realy (sic) think the soldiers should have a trifle to pay for Shoes worn in these Extra Dutys


Honble: Richard Bulkeley Esqr


Secy of the Province of Nova Scotia


Endorsed 5th Nov 1781


Concerning the apprehension of Matthew Harris



I tried to mention all the spelling errors, because I tried to keep it exactly as written.

Kristen McKay Willard

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