History of the Loyalists: Settlement of Nova Scotia

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History of the Loyalists: Settlement of Nova Scotia
James Hannay
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HISTORY OF THE LOYALISTS SETTLEMENT OF NOVA SCOTIA Emigration to it from New England— Effects of the Treaty of Paris—The St. John River Settled — Messrs. Simonds and White at St. John. BY JAMES HANNAY. CHAPTER III. Leaving Massachusetts and its conflicts for the moment, it is now proper to turn to Nova Scotia which, during the war of the revolution, became the refuge of those Loyalists who were unable to make a successful resistance to the revolutionary party, and which at the close of the conflict received so many thousands of those who had fought for their king and for the unity of the empire, and who were robbed of their estates and exiled for their loyalty. Nova Scotia had been visited by Champlain as early as 1604, and Port Royal had been founded the following year, but the progress of settlement under the French regime was slow, and when the English obtained possession of it in 1710 the French continued to occupy the best lands and no effort was made to introduce English settlers. It was not until the settlement of Halifax in 1749 that any serious attempt was made to cause Nova Scotia to become in fact, what it had been long in name, a British colony. A war with France followed almost immediately and while its issue was in doubt new settlements in Nova Scotia were not to be thought of. Then came the expulsion of the Acadians, a measure rendered absolutely necessary by their attitude of hostility towards English interests, and at length, after France was exhausted by the hopeless struggle, in which she had been worsted in every quarter of the globe, peace was made. EFFECT OF THE TREATY OF PARIS. The close of the war and the treaty of Paris brought a surprising change in the aspect of affairs on the North American continent. For 150 years France and England had been contending for supremacy in that portion of the New World; now the flag of England alone floated over the vast region which had been the scene of so long a struggle. The border settlers of New England there no longer exposed to the attacks of an enterprising enemy, and the Indians so long their courage, having lost the support of France, were reduced at once to a position of insignificance. A powerful emigration movement commenced from the more densely peopled portions of New England to the territory to the eastward which prior to that time it would have been hazardous for an English settler to inhabit. Under the stimulus of this movement numerous settlements in Eastern Maine were founded and the beginnings made of what soon grew to be thriving and prosperous communities. Nova Scotia, which after an English occupation of 50 years had not more than 5,000 inhabitants of British origin, did not fail to share in the benefits of this movement. No portion of North America was better prepared to absorb a large immigration for most of the marsh lands which had been occupied by the Acadians were lying waste, and the scarcely less valuable intervales of the St. John and other great rivers of the province were without inhabitants. Governor Lawrence whose energy and capacity had been very conspicuous during the war, long before peace was proclaimed, began to give his attention to the peopling of the vacant lands. In 1768, immediately after the capture of Louisbourg, a proclamation was issued by him calling attention to the vacant lands in Nova Scotia and inviting proposals for their settlement. Early the following year, in response to inquiries which had been made of Thomas Hancock, the agent of the province at Boston, as to the terms on which the lands could be had, a second proclamation was issued. In this it was explained that townships were to consist of 100,000 acres, to include the best land and to front on the sea. Each head of a family was to receive 100 acres of land, and 50 acres additional for every person in the family, subject to a quit rent of one shilling for each 50 acres; the quit rent to begin 10 years after the date of the grant. The grantees were required to cultivate or enclose one-third of their land in ten years; one- third in 20 years; and the remainder in 30 years. PROGRESS OF SETTLEMENT IN NOVA SOOTIA. These liberal terms commended themselves to many persons in New England and agents for associations of residents of Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts were in Halifax the same year making arrangements for the removal of colonists to Nova Scotia. Governor Lawrence and his council gave them every facility for the proper fulfilment of their mission, placing a vessel at their disposal for the purpose of visiting the places which they proposed to settle and sending Mr. Morris, the chief land surveyor with them to give information, and, if necessary, to lay out townships. Nor did the liberality of the government end here. It was arranged that the new settlers should be transported with their move-ables and stock from New England to Nova Scotia at the expense of the government; and that a certain number of poor families should be supplied with arms and ammunition and with an allowance of corn sufficient to feed them for one year. It was on these terms that the splendid marsh lands of Horton and Cornwallis were settled in 1760, and the same terms were also given to the people of Falmouth and other settlements which were founded about the same time. THE CHIGNECTO SETTLEMENT. In 1759 a township a Chignecto had been granted to an association of persons in Connecticut who proposed to remove to Nova Scotia. This settlement was retarded by the threatening posture of the Acadians who still cherished the hope of returning to the lands on the isthmus from which they had been driven. In 1762, however, the difficulty had been so far removed that there were 35 families of English settlers in Cumberland and 25 in Sackville. In 1764 Cumberland, which then embraced the present county of Westmorland, was estimated to contain 750 souls, but an exact census of the same territory taken in 1767 gives the population at 806 of whom 683 resided in what is now New Brunswick. Of these 334 resided in Cumberland proper, 349 at Sackville and 60 at Monckton, which was the name then given to Hillsboro. Nearly all of these people were from New England, the census classifying them by nationalities as Americans 619, Germans 54, Scotch 7, Irish 37 and English 19. Most of the Germans in this enumeration were residents of Monckton. All these people, with the exception of nine, were Protestants, and the great majority of the Americans were members of the Congregational churches of New England. THE ST. JOHN RIVER SETTLED, The St. John river, with its wide intervales and fertile islands, should have been among the first portions of Nova Scotia to be settled, but for various reasons it was one of the last. It had become the refuge of a considerable body of Acadians who had been rendered desperate by their misfortunes, and it was the home of a tribe of Savages who had been in a state of almost constant warfare with the English for nearly a century. These and other causes prevented the influx of English settlers until the war was practically over. Daring its continuance a large body of troops from New England was stationed at Fort Frederick and traders from Massachussets occasionally visited the mouth of the river with supplies for the garrison. In this way the great advantages of the St. John both for trade and for settlement became known in New England. In 1760 Mr. James Simonds was at St. John and was so much struck with its excellent position for trade that be determined to establish himself there when a favorable opportunity offered. In the following year Israel Parley and 12 others, all from Massachusetts, reached the St. John by way of the Oromocto and after exploring the country carried back a favorable report of it to Massachusetts. On the 28th August, 1762, James Simonds, James White, Jonathan Leavitt, Francis Peabody, Hugh Quinton, and a number if others, about 20 in all, arrived at the month of the St. John River, from Newburyport, Fort Frederick, on the Carleton side, was then occupied by a considerable garrison The Newburyport party brought with them the frame and materials for a home which they set up on the ruins of an old French fort which Charnesing had built at Portland Point in 1645, after the destruction of Fort Latour. This house was the residence of James Simonds for many years. Francis Peabody was the oldest of this party, Simonds, White and Leavitt being married to daughters of his. He had the title of captain which he obtained in the old French war. Peabody did good service at the siege of Quebec and in the operations before that event as an officer of the Rangers, a body of light troops specially adapted to forest warfare. Peabody afterwards took up his residence at Maugerville where he died in 1773. Samuel Peabody, his son, had a farm and residence in the township of Conway at Manawagonish and was living there when the Loyalists came in 1783. Conway, it should be stated, was the name then given to the territory on the west side of the river St. John, from the falls to a point about a mile below the foot of the Long Reach, embracing also a portion of the coast of the Bay of Fundy. [To be continued.]