Celebrating Our Heritage

Shelburne County Heritage

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.


Shelburne Loyalists Shelburne Loyalists Shelburne Loyalists Shelburne Loyalists
Click on pictures for larger view. Information and some of the photos  provided by Samantha Brannen




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.

Prince of Wales Dancers Prince of Wales dancers



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

Black Loyalist heritage Society Black Loyalist Heritage Society Black Loyalist Heritage Society Black Loyalist Heritage Society Black Loyalist Museum St. Paul's Church Birchtown

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.
Barrington Year of the Planters Declaration

Old Meeting House Barrington Planters Barrington Nova Scotia

Longboat Society information provided by the Shelburne Longboat Society
The Shelburne Longboat Society was established to carry on the legacy and success of the 225th anniversary celebrations of the Loyalist Landing in 2008.  Two Shelburne Longboats were built for, and as part of these celebrations.
The boats were constructed at the Muir-Cox Shipyard in the Shelburne Museum Complex from Shelburne County wood.  History and Shelburne County boat building heritage were on display throughout the construction as several well known local former wooden shipbuilders participated in their construction, creating a sense of nostalgia for the days when wooden shipbuilding made Shelburne world famous.
Built from the plans for HMS Bounty’s launch used during Captain Bligh’s epic journey in 1789, the longboats not only represent that long-ago seafaring heritage, but they also represent passing on the knowledge of wooden boat building to the modern day.
The longboats have quickly established themselves as heritage icons of the Maritime tradition of wooden boat building on the South Shore.  The dedicated rowing teams for the two Shelburne longboats are composed of individuals from across Shelburne County, including rowers from the famed world champion Queen of Hearts Dory Club.
Row and Ride every Tuesday and Thursday night on the Shelburne Harbour. Starts at 6:30 on Dock Street.
Shelburne Longboat Society Shelburne Longboat Society Shelburne Longboat Society Shelburne Longboat Society Shelburne Longboat Society

A Cape Island style fishing boat, commonly known as a “Cape Islander”,  is an inshore motor fishing boat found across Atlantic Canada having a single keeled flat bottom at the stern and more rounded towards the bow. A Cape Island style boat is famous for its large step up to the bow. It originated on Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia about 1905.  Two families claim credit for its invention. The design is most commonly credited to Ephraim Atkinson of Clark’s Harbour, Nova Scotia. The Atkinson family builders have continued building the world-renowned and recognized pleasure and commercial boats to this day.
The other claim to the boat’s design is an accomplished boat-builder from Clark’s Harbour, William A. Kenney, who is said to have constructed the first Cape Islander entirely from wood in 1905.
Information courtesy of Wikipedia

Cape Islander Boat Cape Islanders Clark's Harbour Nova Scotia Cape Sable Island Nova Scotia

Dory building was a major industry in Shelburne in the 1800′s. The Dory Shop Museum which was built by John Williams in 1880, was one of seven businesses in Shelburne that built thousands of dories every year for US and Canadian fishing schooners.
The dory made it’s debut on the Grand Banks when the idea of trawl fishing was born.  The dories, which could be stacked on top of one another and placed aboard fishing schooners, enabled fishermen to spread themselves out over the ocean to catch more fish.
The dory, which are flat on the bottom with flared sides, were cheap to build making them economical for fishing schooners to carry as many as 14 on board their vessels.
Shelburne soon excelled in the dory building industry. In 1887, Isaac Crowell, a boat builder from Shelburne invented the “dory clip”.  This allowed builders to make dory knees in a more economical and durable way.  This idea helped boost the dory industry in Shelburne to an even higher level.
Sidney Mahaney is another recognizable name in the dory building industry in Shelburne. Sidney became a master dory builder at the JC Williams Dory Shop and built dories there from the age of 17 to the age of 96.  Every day he would row his dory from his home in Churchover to work.  You can learn more about Sidney’s story and watch Master Dory Builder Milford Buchanan at work at the Dory Shop Museum on Shelburne’s historic waterfront.

Rowing a Dory dory racing Historic Dory Museum Shelburne Dories Shelburne County Dory Shelburne County

Switch to our mobile site