Revolutionary War Tory Descendants in Nova Scotia Part 3

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

But initially, the settlers faced hard times. Conditions in Halifax were especially bad, and hundreds of settlers lived in tents on the Common or in cellars and attics, eating anything they could find. The dog and cat population of Halifax was decimated as the town's human population increased. As one disillusioned newcomer wrote as late as 1784: "We have nothing but his Majesty's rotten pork and unbaked flour to subsist on. It is the most inhospitable clime that ever mortal set foot on."

These displaced Loyalists played a crucial part in the building of modern Canada. Out of the Nova Scotia contingent have come such figures as Joseph Howe, the reformer, who was born in Halifax in 1804, the son of refugee John Howe. Even today, the Howe name is prominent in Halifax. Thomas Chandler Haliburton (1796-1865) emerged from Windsor to become a satirist of international fame, and this family, too, remains quite active in Nova Scotian affairs and politics. And Samuel Cunard (1787-1865), founder of the Cunard North Star Steamship Line, was born in Halifax to a Dutch Quaker family who fled Pennsylvania to escape the Revolution. The ancestors of Cyrus Eaton, chairman of the board emeritus of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway in 1974, were engaged in the shipping industry between Halifax and Havana in the early 1800s.

Today, descendants of those 1st settlers carry on the fishing industry established by their forebears, as well as the pulpwood and lumber industries that came later. Their scallop fleet is the largest in the world. Still prominent in the little town of Digby (population 2,363)--named for the man who supported its 1st wooden church with pound 100 sterling and gave it a bell brought from England, and who dug the well that provided most of Digby's fresh water supply--are families whose names have roots in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. From New Jersey came one John Edison, who moved on to Ontario in 1810. From there, his grandson, Samuel Edison, moved back to the State of Ohio, where Thomas Alva, his 3rd child, was born. Thus one branch of the Loyalist refugees completed its cycle of immigration.

For further reading: Bird, Will R. This is Nova Scotia. Toronto, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1950. An excellent guide for the off-the-beaten-path traveler who wants to visit Tory enclaves in Nova Scotia today.

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