Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Loyalist Landscapes

Earlier this week I gave an after dinner speech about the arrival of the United Empire Loyalists in the Annapolis Royal region. Thankfully, I have given a version of this presentation before so it was a matter of updating the powerpoint and switching things around to add a bit of relevance to the audience. Well, to be honest, since I have gotten into the habit of making presentations without written notes, I first had to figure out what my original powerpoint was all about before adding additional material.

I actually have a bit of fun with this presentation since the usual perception of Loyalists (the elite Tories who looked down their noses at everyone else) is far from the truth. While there were wealthy Tories among the Loyalists, there were also merchants, carpenters, clergymen, tradesmen, slaves, free blacks, German mercenaries, and a wide variety of first nations tribes. In fact, the Loyalists are comprised of a motley cross section of about 10-15% of whomever was living in the American Colonies at the start of the Revolution.

I also have a bit of fun debunking the myth that Nova Scotia was always a Loyalist stronghold. At the start of the Revolution Nova Scotia could have easily become the 14th colony to jump into the fracas. Many of the British settlers in Nova Scotia had strong leanings to the American colonies. These people were third or fourth generation New Englanders who had arrived in the 1760s as Planters (colonists). These settlers were recruited by the British Crown to fill land which the Acadians had occupied prior to the 1755 deportation. Their sympathies were in many cases similar to their families in New England. In fact, a small force of Americans, Planters, Acadians and Mi'Kmaq under the leadership of Jonathan Eddy held a three week siege of Fort Cumberland. The siege, which had the approval of George Washington, was crushed by British re-enforcements from Halifax. Without the presence of the British Navy in Halifax and a provincial legislature dominated by Halifax merchants who made their fortunes supplying the Navy, Nova Scotia may be part of the United States today. I should hasten to add that after a number of American privateering raids on coastal communities that the sentiments of most Nova Scotians had become firmly British by the middle of the war.

One of the things I added to this presentation was a section on local Loyalist landscapes. While it is more than 225 years since the Loyalists started to arrive, they have left traces in our community. For example, both the Sinclair Inn Museum and North Hills Museum were a part of the Loyalist story. The Sinclair Inn provided shelter for Loyalists after they arrived in Annapolis Royal and North Hills was purchased by the Loyalist Amberman family. Perhaps the most interesting of our local Loyalist landscapes is the area featured as today's image. These houses are found along Lower St George Street in Annapolis Royal. The houses along the right side of the image all date to the 1860s to the 1880s. These houses were either built by Loyalists (Bonnett House located behind the tree) or owned by Loyalists. Those of you who know this section of street well will notice that the third house from the right (Robertson House) looks very different today. This house was damaged in a fire during the 1930s and one third of the building was removed.

All for now,
RGS

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