SHELBURNE RE-ENACTMENT ASSOCIATION
New Jersey Volunteers, 3rd Battalion
Shelburne which was founded in 1783 by the Port Roseway Associates, Loyalists of the American Revolution, has retained much of it’s historical charm through it’s many preserved buildings and displays of living history.
The Shelburne Re-enactment Association demonstrates, via costumed animation, the history of the first settlers of Port Roseway now known as Shelburne.
This living history group re-enacts the life of the 3rd Battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers, a British regiment of soldiers that fought during the Revolutionary War under the leadership of Col. Abraham VanBuskirk. Some 13 members of this regiment and their families actually settled in Port Roseway (Shelburne) in May of 1783 after choosing to remain loyal to the British Crown.
They also represent civilian members of this regiment known as camp followers and would include the soldier’s families, officer’s wives, refugees, hired workers and artisans, trades people who attached themselves to the armies of the day either to provide needed services or to receive much needed relief from poverty. Other members demonstrate and display their talents in period crafts as sutlers and include tinsmiths, leather workers, potters, coopers and spinners/weavers, seamstresses etc.
PRINCE OF WALES HISTORIC DANCERS
Shelburne Re-Enactment Association
The Prince of Wales Historic Dancers is a group of talented artists and re-enactors that perform actual 18th century English Country dances. This group is the only one of it’s kind East of Ontario and has been requested to perform at various events including the Democracy 250 celebrations in Halifax, N.S., the Tall Ships visits, launching of the book, “Loyalists and Layabouts”, Black Loyalist celebrations and many others.
It was 1775 and Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor ofVirginia, had a strategy to subdue the rebellious Colonists. He offered freedom to any enslaved person who would escape from his rebel master and fight on the side of those loyal to the British Crown. More than 300 Blacks immediately found their way behind British Lines and formed The Ethiopian Regiment. Black Soldiers fought with the belief that they were securing freedom, not only for themselves, but for all enslaved Blacks. The British were confident, because enslaved blacks made up 20% of the American population, that if they could convince them to join the ranks, the Colonial uprising would be squelched.
By 1779, the British saw another reason for luring enslaved persons from the plantations. Their departure from rebel-owned estates would seriously undermine the southern plantation’s economy. The British extended their offer of freedom to the Black Loyalists to include grants of land and provisions in the British Colony. By the summer of 1782, it became evident that the Americans were winning the war and the British began to make preparations for their departure from their last strong hold in New York. Negotiations began in New York with the awarding of General Birch’s Certificate and those who were evacuating the city, were listed in the log book Carleton’s Book of Negroes.
Resettlement was hard for White Loyalists, but it was worse for Black Loyalists. Nova Scotia, under the direction of Governor Parr, was not prepared for the arrival of so many people. Many arrived late in the fall and had no opportunity to clear land, build a home, or plant crops. Many spent the winter in tents and makeshift huts in the thick woods. Others built pit homes. There was an archeological dig in 1994, led by Dr. Stephen Davis and assisted by Laird Niven that confirmed the remains of a structure built to survive at least the first winter – this was this Pit House.
The British colonies were not equipped to handle the influx of thousands of new citizens. A priority system was established to serve the newest citizens to British North America. White officers and gentlemen were served first in terms of rations and land grants. Ordinary Privates and laboring people, among the whites, had to wait. The Black settlers who provided the labour force were last and rarely received the land or rations promised to them.
With a population of more than 2,500, Birchtown Nova Scotia became the largest settlement of free Blacks outside Africa. Out of bureaucratic incompetence and racial inequality, only 28% of Black families received small amounts of the promised crown land. Their granted lands measured an average of 34 acres compared to 100 acres for White people.
Most Black Loyalists couldn’t make a living from farming because either they had no land, or their land was unsuitable for growing crops. Black Loyalists with skills as blacksmiths, bakers, shoemakers, carpenters, teachers, ministers, cooper, boat builders, laundresses, seamstresses, tailors, military persons, midwives, domestics, cooks, waiters, sailors, doctors, pilots of boats and navigators were in a better position to make some kind of a living in Shelburne.
Black workers were not paid as much as White workers and the Black Loyalists worked for a cheaper rate which the white disbanded British Solders frowned upon. As tension and resentment grew, in July 1784, a group of disbanded White soldiers destroyed twenty (20) houses of free Black Loyalists in Shelburne in what was Canada’s first race riot which continued into Birchtown and lasted for more than a month. Many of those who did not have a trade had to indenture themselves to survive. Indentured Black Loyalists were treated no better than enslaved persons.
When the Sierra Leone Company entered the scene in 1791, it is unsurprising that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick saw the exodus of almost half of the Black Loyalist community. The British formed company offered Blacks more land, and a chance to establish their own governing policies in the West African country. Dissatisfied with the Canadian Government’s failure to provide land, support and equality amongst the races, 1,200 Blacks boarded ships for Sierra Leone.
Information and Photos courtesy of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society
The summer of 2010 was been designated as a celebration of the arrival of the New England Planters to Nova Scotia 250 years ago.
The planters were settlers from the New England colonies who responded to an invitation by the Governor of Nova Scotia, Charles Lawrence, to move to this province. They were to settle on the lands left vacant by the Acadians, 1755-56. Eight thousand Planters, largely farmers and fishermen arrived from 1759 to 1768. The farmers settled mainly on the rich farms of Annapolis Valley and southern New Brunswick. The Planters laid the groundwork for many communities in the province, including Liverpool, Yarmouth and Barrington Township.
In 1759, Governor Lawrence, in preparation for settlers in southern Nova Scotia, had established the Township of Barrington, a grant covering 100,000 acres.
It was the fishermen from the New England coast who decided to take advantage of the offer of a fresh start in this Township. Some of these people had already been fishing seasonally along our coast and knew the area very well. The arrival of the people to Barrington was unlike the arrival to other townships where groups came in larger ships in greater numbers and with some degree of fanfare. Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Chatham were places of quieter departure for the Barrington groups. Their mode of travel was in fishing vessels and not always in company of others.
By 1761 there were 20 families and 180 individuals in the new Barrington Township. Additional families and individuals arrived in 1762 and in subsequent years.