Revolutionary War Tory Descendants in Nova Scotia Part 2

A slice of American history about the descendants of the Tories after the Revolutionary War in Nova Scotia, Canada.

The Revolutionary War Tory Descendants in Nova Scotia

The British Government itself undertook to reimburse its loyal subjects to some degree, and set up a commission to receive claims. Although some pound 8 million in claims was filed, actually only about pound 3 million was awarded. Relocation of the Loyalists, however, was carried out on a large scale, and land grants were freely given to make immigration easier. Not all Tories took advantage of this, some preferring to remain in their familiar homes and adjust themselves to the new Government. Many returned to England, where Colonial officers were generally given jobs or put on pension, but few were happy in exile. These exiles eventually found ways of picking up their lives again in America.

Far more successful was the movement of Tories to Canada. Here, in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Upper Canada, and Ontario, the British Government made farsighted arrangements to assist them. To heads of families, it granted 500 acres of land, with 300 acres allotted to single men; each township was awarded 2,000 acres for the support of religion and 1,000 acres for schools; rations, fuel, clothing, and other assistance were freely given for a period of years after settlement. Under this program, more than 3 million acres of land were handed over to the United Empire Loyalists, as they were called, and about $9 million was spent on their relocation.

The Digby settlers' experience was a typical one following the end of the American Revolution. Arriving in early winter made theirs a hard task. Unable to put up shelters before the cold weather set in, many passed that 1st winter aboard ships commanded by the Hon. Robert Digby, anchored close to shore. Digby had commanded the British fleet off New York during the Revolution and had a special interest in the relocation of those who had provided hospitality and support to British troops during the fighting. He now made every effort to ease the lot of the new settlers. Food, however, was in short supply, and they quickly learned to rely heavily on the herring caught in the harbor, a meal that became so monotonous that some, in jest, referred to it as "Digby chicken," a name that persists today for herring from the Fundy shore area.

In April, 1783, another group of Loyalists packed all its possessions, including a large number of slaves, aboard 18 ships and sailed from New York to Port Roseway, Nova Scotia. These Loyalists laid out a city complete with 5 streets, while their black retainers felled trees and built houses. Soon the city was populated by 5,000 Tories and 1,000 slaves. One rich Loyalist, Stephen Shakespeare, had 20 slaves; another Loyalist, Charles Oliver Bruff, a goldsmith, owned 15 slaves. Four other families had 9 slaves each. After a number of years, these slaves were freed. Under Colonel Burch, they formed their own neighboring community of Burchtown, today called Birchtown. One of their black leaders, a mulatto schoolteacher named Colonel Stephen Black, once entertained Prince William Henry, a future King of England.

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