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THE EXODUS OF THE LOYALISTS by Jeannette Holland Austin

Where Loyalists in the Northern Colonists Went

Even before the beginning of the Revolutionary War, tens of thousands of the Loyalists shook the dust off their feet, never to return. Those who sailed for England were Royal officials, wealthy merchants, landowners, professional men, and military officers. Once in England, they pressed their claims for compensation and advancement.

But there was a poorer element whose migration into the other British colonies was the cause of upheaval in hardship.

About two hundred families went to the West Indies and Newfoundland, known afterward as Upper and Lower Canada, and a vast army removed to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.

The advantages of Nova Scotia as a field for immigration had been known to New England and New York people before the Revolutionary War had broken out. Shortly after the Peace with the Indians in 1763, parts of the Nova Scotian peninsula and the banks of the river St. John had been sparsely settled by colonists from the south. But it was during the Revolutionary War that the colonists from New England showed considerable sympathy with the cause of the Continental Congress. Moreover, Nova Scotia was contiguous to the New England colonies, and it was not surprising that after the Revolution, the Loyalists should have turned their eyes to Nova Scotia as a refuge for their families.

Boston: The First Migration

The first migration occurred soon after the tea was dumped into the sea and the evacuation of Boston by General Howe in March of 1776.

At that time, Boston was a town with a population of about sixteen thousand inhabitants, and of these, nearly one thousand accompanied the British Army to Halifax. The talk of the Declaration of Independence doubtless aroused much emotion and divided opinions among the colonists.

" Neither Hell, Hull, nor Halifax, said one of them, can afford worse shelter than Boston. "

The embarkation was accomplished amid the most hopeless confusion of carts, trucks, wheelbarrows, handbarrows, coaches, and chaises in the streets.

The Loyalists managed to assemble a fleet of every vessel on which hands could be laid. It is said that Benjamin Hallowell's cabin without berths shared the quarters with some thirty-seven persons, viz; men, women, and children; servants, masters, and mistresses. There were pigs on the floor. But the crazy flotilla arrived safely at Halifax, even after tossing about in the March storms for about six days.

General Howe remained with his army at Halifax until June. Then he set sail for New York. Some Loyalists accompanied him to New York, but the more significant number took passage for England. Only a few of the companies remained in Nova Scotia.

From 1776 to 1783, small bodies of Loyalists continuously sailed to Halifax. Still, it was not until the evacuation of New York by the British in 1783 that the full tide of immigration began.

New York: The Second Migration

As soon as news leaked out that the terms of peace were not likely to be favorable and it became evident that the hatred of the Whigs showed no signs of abating, the Loyalists gathered in New York and looked about for a country in which to begin life anew. Most were too poor to think of going to England, and the British provinces to the north seemed the most hopeful place for a resort.

On October 19, 1782, Nine Transport Ships arrived in Annapolis Royal

In 1782 several associations were formed in New York to further the interests of those who proposed to settle in Nova Scotia. One of these associations had as its president the famous Dr. Seabury and as its secretary Sampson Salter Blowers, afterward chief justice of Nova Scotia. Its officers waited on Sir Guy Carleton and received his approval of their plans. It was arranged that a first installment of about five hundred colonists should set out in the autumn of 1782, in charge of three agents, Amos Botsford, Samuel Cummings, and Frederick Hauser, whose duty it should be to spy out the land and obtain grants.

The party sailed in nine transport ships from New York on October 19, 1782, and arrived a few days later at Annapolis Royal. The population of Annapolis, which was only a little over a hundred, was soon swamped. All the houses and barracks were crowded, and many cannot procure any lodgings. The three agents left the colonists at Annapolis and went first to Halifax and then the Annapolis Valley, crossing the Bay of Fundy and the country adjacent to the St. John River. On their return, they published glowing accounts of the country, and their report was transmitted to their friends in New York.

After the favorable reports were received in New York, thousands were anxious to go to Nova Scotia. On April 26, 1783, the first fleet set sail. It had seven thousand persons, men, women, children, and servants on board. Half of these went to the mouth of the river St. John, and about half to Port Roseway, at the southwest end of the Nova Scotian peninsula. The voyage was fair, and the ships arrived at their destinations without mishap. But at St. John, the colonists found that only a few preparations had been made to receive them. They were disembarked on a wild and ancient shore, where they had to clear away the brushwood before pitching their tents or building their huts.

All summer and autumn, the ships kept plying to and fro. In June, another fleet delivered about 2500 colonists to the St. John River, Annapolis, Port Roseway, and Fort Cumberland.

The governor of Nova Scotia wrote that 12,000 souls had arrived from New York and that many more were expected. By the end of September, he estimated that 18,000 had arrived and stated that 10,000 more would come. By the end of the year, he computed the total immigration to have amounted to 30,000.

The British troops evacuated New York on November 25, 1783

Sir Guy Carleton only withdrew from the city once he was satisfied that every person who desired the protection of the British flag was embarked on the boats. During the latter half of the year, Congress repeatedly requested Carleton to fix some precise limit to his occupation of New York. He replied briefly but courteously that he was doing his best and that no man could do more. When Congress objected that the Loyalists were not included in the evacuation agreement, Carleton replied that he held opposite views; and that, in any case, it was a point of honor with him that no troops should embark until the last person who claimed his protection should be safely on board a British ship. As time passed, his replies to Congress grew shorter. On being requested to name an outside date for the evacuation of the city, he declared that he could not even guess when the last ship would be loaded and pointed out long evacuation time would be required if the more the uncontrolled violence of their citizens drove refugees to his protection.

After the evacuation of New York, the number of refugee Loyalists who came to Nova Scotia was small and insignificant. In 1784 and 1785, there arrived several persons who had attempted to remain in New York but gave up. And in August 1784, the Sally transport from London cast anchor at Halifax with three hundred destitute refugees on board!

" As if there was not a sufficiency of such distressed objects already in this country," wrote Edward Winslow from Halifax," the good people of England have collected a whole shipload of all kinds of vagrants from the streets of London and sent them out to Nova Scotia.

Many new settlers quailed at the prospect of carving out a home in the wilderness country. Their journals and diaries reflected their discouragement in a rough land. We have nothing but His Majestys rotten pork and unbaked flour to exist on... It is the most inhospitable clime that ever mortal set foot on.

The most careful analysis of the Loyalist immigration into the Maritime Provinces placed the total number of immigrants at about 35,000. And these were the settlements scattered over the face of the map. There was a colony of 3000 in Cape Breton, which afforded an ideal field for settlement since, before 1783, the governor of Nova Scotia had been precluded from granting lands there.

Cape Breton

In 1784 when Cape Breton was erected into a separate government with a lieutenant-governor of its own, settlers flocked into it from Halifax and even from Canada. Abraham Cuyler, formerly mayor of Albany, led a considerable number down St. Lawrence and through the Gulf to Cape Breton. On the mainland of Nova Scotia, there were settlements at Halifax, Shelburne, Fort Cumberland, Annapolis, Digby, Port Mouton, and other places. In New Brunswick, there was a settlement at Passamaquoddy Bay and other settlements on the St. John River extending from the mouth up past the city of Fredericton. In Prince Edward Island, then called the Island of St. John, there was a settlement that is variously estimated in size but which was insignificant.


In 1775 Colonel Alexander McNutt, a notable figure of the pre-Loyalist days in Nova Scotia had obtained a grant of 100,000 acres about the harbor. It had induced about a dozen Scottish and Irish families to settle there. This settlement was named New Jerusalem. In a short time, however, New Jerusalem languished and died, and when the Loyalists arrived in May 1783, the only inhabitants of the place were two or three fishermen and their families. It would have been well if the Loyalists had listened to one of these men's testimonies, who, when asked how he came to be there, replied that poverty had brought him there and had kept him there.

The most interesting of these settlements was at Shelburne, situated at the southwest corner of Nova Scotia, on one of the finest harbors of the Atlantic seaboard. The harbor's name was originally Port Razoir, but this was corrupted by the English settlers into Port Roseway. The place had been settled previous to 1783.

Port Roseway

During the autumn of 1782, one hundred and twenty Loyalist families, whose attention had been directed to that part of Nova Scotia by a friend in Massachusetts, banded together with the object of emigrating.

They appointed a committee of seven to make arrangements for their removal, and a few weeks later, they commissioned two association members, Joseph Pynchon and James Dole, to go to Halifax and lay their desires and intentions before Governor Parr.

Pynchon and Dole, on their arrival at Halifax, Pynchon, and Dole had an interview with the governor and obtained very satisfactory arrangements from him. The governor agreed to give the settlers the land of Port Roseway, which they desired. He promised them that surveyors should be sent to lay out the grants, that carpenters and a supply of 400,000 feet of lumber should be furnished for building their houses, that for the first year at least, the settlers should receive army rations, and that they should be free forever from impressment in the British Navy. All these promises were made on the understanding that they should not interfere with the Loyalists' claims on the British government for compensation for losses sustained in the war. Elated by the reception they had received from the governor, the agents wrote home enthusiastic accounts of the venture's prospects.

The first installment of settlers, about four thousand in number, arrived in May 1783. They found nothing but the virgin wilderness confronting them. But they set to work with a will to clear the land and build their houses.

" As soon as we had set up a kind of tent," wrote the Rev. Jonathan Beecher in his Journal, " we knelt down, my wife and I and my two boys, and kissed the dear ground and thanked God that the flag of England floated there, and resolved that we would work with the rest to become again prosperous and happy."

By July 11, clearing work had been so advanced that it became possible to allot the lands. The town had been laid out in five long parallel streets, with other streets crossing them at right angles. Each associate was given a town lot fronting on one of these streets, a water lot facing the harbor, and a fifty-acre farm in the surrounding country. With the aid of the government artisans, the wooden houses were rapidly run up; and in a couple of months, a town sprang up where the forest and some old fisherman huts had been.

The autumn of 1783 brought a considerable increase to its population, and in 1784 it seems to have numbered no less than ten thousand souls, including the suburb of Burchtown, where most of the Negro refugees in New York had been settled. It became a place of business and fashion. For a time, there was an extensive trade in fish and lumber with Great Britain and the West Indies. Shipyards were built, from which the first ship was launched in Nova Scotia after the British occupation. Shops, taverns, churches, and coffee houses sprang up. At one time, at least three newspapers were published in the town. The military was stationed there, and on summer evenings, the military band played on the promenade near the bridge.

But Shelburne fell into decay. The region appeared ill-suited for farming and grazing and needed help supporting a large population. The whale fishery the Shelburne merchants had established in Brazilian waters proved a failure. The regulations of the Navigation Acts thwarted their attempts to set up a coasting trade. Failure dogged all their enterprises, and soon the glory of Shelburne departed. It became like a city of the dead.

Bay of Fundy

In 1783, no less than ten thousand people settled on the north side of the Bay of Fundy. These were primarily civilian refugees and disbanded soldiers. All the above regiments were reduced to a fraction of their original strength. Many men had been discharged in New York, and many officers had gone to England. The count, including their women and children, was about four thousand on the Bay of Fundy.

The arrangements that the Nova Scotia government had made for the reception of this vast army of people needed to be revised. In the first place, there was an unpardonable delay in the surveying and allotting of lands. This may be partly explained by insufficient surveyors at the governor's disposal and the tedious and challenging process of escheating lands already granted. Still, it is only possible to convict the governor and his staff of want of foresight and expedition in making arrangements and carrying them into effect. When Joseph Aplin arrived at Parrtown, as the settlement at the mouth of the river was for a short time called, he found 1500 frame houses and 400 log huts erected, but no one had yet received a title to the land on which his house was built. The case of the detachment of the Kings American Dragoons, who had settled near the mouth of the river, was exceptionally touchy. They had arrived in advance of the other troops and had settled on the west side of the harbor of St. John, in what Edward Winslow described as " one of the most pleasantest spots I had ever beheld." They had already made considerable improvements on their lands when word came that the government had determined to reserve the grounds about the mouth of the river for the refugees and to allot blocks of land farther up the river to the various regiments of provincial troops. There was great indignation when news of this decision reached the officers of the local company.

Ultimately, many of these men had to go up the river more than fifty miles past what is now Fredericton.

Even the Kings American Dragoons, evicted from their lands on the harbor of St. John, were ordered to build their huts without any public expense. Many were compelled to spend the winter in tents banked up with snow; others sheltered themselves in houses of bark. The privations and sufferings which many of the refugees suffered were piteous. Some, especially women and children, died from cold, exposure, and insufficient food. Also, there was a great inequality in the area concerning the lands allotted. When the first refugees arrived, so many more would not be expected to follow; consequently, the earlier grants were much larger than the latter.

Parrtown shrank in size to one-sixteenth of what it had originally been. There was doubtless also some favoritism and respect of persons in granting lands. At any rate, the inequality of the grants caused many grievances among a particular class of refugees. Governor Parr sent Chief Justice Finucane of Nova Scotia to attempt to smooth matters out. Still, his conduct seemed to accentuate the ill feeling and alienate from the Nova Scotia authorities the goodwill of some of the better Loyalists.

It was not surprising, under these circumstances, that Governor Parr and the officers of his government should have become very unpopular on the north side of the Bay of Fundy. Governor Parr was much distressed over the ill feeling against him among the Loyalists, and it should be explained that his failure to satisfy them did not arise from an unwillingness to do anything in his power to make them comfortable. The trouble was that his executive ability had not been sufficient to cope with the severe problems confronting him. Out of the feeling against Governor Parr arose an agitation to have the country north of the Bay of Fundy removed from his jurisdiction altogether and erected into a separate government. Edward Winslow suggested this idea as early as July 1783.

The distance of Parrtown from Halifax made it very difficult and tedious to transact business with the government, and the Halifax authorities, being old inhabitants, needed to be in complete sympathy with the new settlers.

The erection of a new province, moreover, would provide offices for many of the Loyalists who were pressing their claims for a place in the government at home. The settlers, therefore, brought their influence to bear on the Imperial authorities through their friends in London. In the summer of 1784, they succeeded in effecting the division they desired, despite the opposition of Governor Parr and the official class at Halifax. Governor Parr, indeed, had a narrow escape from being recalled.

New Brunswick: the New Province

The new province, which it was intended at first to call New Ireland, but which was eventually called New Brunswick, was to include all that part of Nova Scotia north of a line running across the isthmus from the mouth of the Missiquash river to its source, and thence across to the nearest amount of Baie Verte. This boundary was another triumph for the Loyalists, as it was placed in New Brunswick Fort Cumberland and the more significant part of Cumberland County. The province's government was offered first to General Fox, who had been in command at Halifax in 1783, and then to General Musgrave, but was declined by both. It was eventually accepted by Colonel Thomas Carleton, a brother of Sir Guy Carleton, by whom it was held for over thirty years. The chief offices of government fell to Loyalists who were in London. The province's secretary was the Rev. Jonathan Odell, a witty New Jersey divine who had been secretary to Sir Guy Carleton in New York. The attorney-general was Jonathan Bliss of Massachusetts, and the solicitor-general was Ward Chipman, the friend, and correspondent of Edward Winslow. Winslow himself, whose charming letters throw such a flood of light on the settlement of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, was a council member. New Brunswick was indeed par excellence the Loyalist province.

The First Government House, Fredericton, was built in 1787.

The new governor arrived at Parrtown on November 21, 1784, and was immediately presented with an enthusiastic address of welcome by the inhabitants. They described themselves as several oppressed and insulted Loyalists and added that they had formerly been freemen and again hoped to be under his government. Next spring, the governor granted Parrtown incorporation as a city named St. John. The name Parrtown had been given, it appears, at the request of Governor Parr himself, who explained apologetically that the suggestion had arisen out of female vanity, and given the unpopularity of Governor Parr, the change of name was very welcome. At the same time, however, Colonel Carleton greatly offended the people of St. John by removing the province's capital up the river to St Anne, to which he gave the name Fredericktown (Fredericton) in honor of the Duke of York.

On October 15, 1785, writs were issued to elect members to serve in a general assembly. The province was divided into eight counties, among which were apportioned twenty-six members. Governor Carleton gave the right to vote to all males of twenty-one years of age who had been three months in the province, the object of this very democratic franchise being to include in the voting list settlers who were clearing their lands but had not yet received their grants. The elections were held in November and lasted for fifteen days. They passed off without incident, except in the city of St. John. A struggle took place, which shed light on the bitterness of social feelings among the Loyalists. The inhabitants split into two parties, the Upper Cove and the Lower Cove. The Upper Cove represented the aristocratic element, and the Lower Cove the democratic. For some time, the class feeling had been growing; it had been aroused by the attempt of fifty-five gentlemen of New York to obtain for themselves, on account of their social standing and services during the war, grants of land in Nova Scotia of five thousand acres each; and it had been fanned into flame by the inequality in the size of the lots granted in St. John itself. Unfortunately, among the six Upper Cove candidates in St. John, there were two government officers, Jonathan Bliss and Ward Chipman; thus, the struggle appeared between government and opposition candidates. The election was bitterly contested under the old method of open voting, and as it proceeded, it became clear that the Lower Cove was polling a majority of the votes. It was felt that the defeat of the government officers would be such a calamity that at the scrutiny, Sheriff Oliver struck off over eighty votes and returned the Upper Cove candidates. The election was protested, but the House of Assembly refused, on a technicality, to upset the election. A strangely ill-worded and ungrammatical petition to have the assembly dissolved was presented to the governor by the Lower Cove people. Still, Governor Carleton refused to interfere, and the Upper Cove candidates kept their seats. The incident created significant resentment in St. John, and Ward Chipman and Jonathan Bliss could only obtain a majority in that riding for a few>
There is evidence in the early records that, while there were members of the oldest and most famous families in British America among the Loyalists of the Thirteen Colonies, the majority of those who came to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and especially to Upper Canada, were people of very humble origin. Governor Parr expressed his regret to the settlers in Nova Scotia that there needs to be a sufficient proportion of men of education and abilities among the present adventurers. The election in St. John was adequate evidence of the strength of the democratic element there, and their petition to Governor Carleton is evidence of their illiteracy. Some settlers assumed pretensions to which they were not entitled. An amusing case is that of William Newton. This man had been the groom of the honorable George Hanger, a major in the British Legion during the war. Having come to Nova Scotia, he began to pay court to a wealthy widow. He introduced himself to her by affirming that he was mainly connected with the honorable Major Hanger, that his circumstances were relatively affluent, having served in a money-making department, and that he had left a considerable property behind him. The widow applied to Edward Winslow, who assured her that Mr. Newton had been closely connected with the honorable Major Hanger and that he had left a large property behind him. The nuptials were immediately celebrated with great pomp, and Mr. Newton is at present, wrote Winslow, a gentleman of consideration in Nova Scotia.

During 1785 and subsequent years, settlement work went on rapidly in New Brunswick. There was hardship and deprivation at first, and up to 1792, some indigent settlers received rations from the government. But astonishing progress was soon made in the region, and New Brunswick entered an era of prosperity.

Prince Edward Island

Not many Loyalists found their way to Prince Edward Island, or, as it was called at the time of the American Revolution, the Island of St. John. Probably there were only a few more than six hundred on the island at any time. But the story of these immigrants forms a chapter in itself. Elsewhere the refugees were well and loyally treated. In Nova Scotia and Quebec, the English officials strove to the best of their ability, perhaps only sometimes significant, to make provision for them. But in Prince Edward Island, they were the victims of betrayal and duplicity.

Prince Edward Island was 1783 owned by several large landed proprietors. When it became known that the British government intended to settle the Loyalists in Nova Scotia, these proprietors petitioned Lord North, declaring their desire to afford asylum to such as would decide on the island. To this end, they offered to resign certain lands for colonization because the government decreased the quit rents. The government favorably received this petition, and a proclamation was issued promising lands to settlers in Prince Edward Island on terms similar to those granted to settlers in Nova Scotia and Quebec.

Encouraged by the liberal terms, several Loyalists went to the island direct from New York, and a number went later from Shelburne, disappointed by the prospects there. In June 1784, a muster of Loyalists on the island was taken, which showed a total of about three hundred and eighty persons, and during the remainder of the year, a couple of hundred went from Shelburne. Therefore, at the end of 1784, it is safe to assume that there were nearly six hundred on the island, or about one-fifth of the total population.

These refugees found great difficulty obtaining the land grants promised to them. They were allowed to reside on certain lands, ensuring their titles were secure. Then, after they had cleared the grounds, erected buildings, planted orchards, and made other improvements, they were told that their titles lacked validity and were forced to move. Written title deeds were withheld on every possible pretext, and when granted, they were found to contain onerous conditions out of harmony with the promises made. In inflicting these persecutions, the proprietors' object was to force the settlers to become tenants instead of freeholders. Even the Loyalist lieutenant governor, Colonel Edmund Fanning, was implicated in this conspiracy. Fanning was one of the proprietors in Township No. 50. The settlers in this township, being unable to obtain their grants, resolved to send a remonstrance to the British government, and chose as their representative one of their number who had known Lord Cornwallis during the war, hoping through him to obtain redress. This agent was on the point of leaving for England when news of his intention reached Colonel Fanning. The ensuing result was as prompt as it was significant: within a week afterward, nearly all the Loyalists in Township No. 50 had obtained their grants.

Others did not have friends in high places and could not obtain redress. The minutes of the council, which contained the records of many of the allotments, were not entered in the regular Council Book but were kept on loose sheets; thus, the unfortunate settlers could not prove by the Council Book that their lands had been allotted them. When the rough minutes were discovered years later, they were found to bear evidence of having been tampered with in erasures and using different inks.

For seventy-five years, the Loyalists continued to agitate for justice. As early as 1790, the island legislature passed an act empowering the governor to give grants to those who had yet to receive them from the proprietors. But this measure did not entirely redress the grievances, and after a lapse of fifty years, a petition of the descendants of the Loyalists led to further action in the matter. In 1840, the House of Assembly passed a bill granting relief to the Loyalists but was thrown out by the Legislative Council. As late as 1860, the question was still troubling island politics. In that year, a land commission was appointed, which reported that there were Loyalists who still had claims on the local government, and recommended that free grants should be made to such as could prove that their fathers had been attracted to the island under promises which had never been fulfilled.


It was a tribute to the stability of British rule in the newly-won province of Quebec that, at the very beginning of the Revolutionary War, loyal refugees began to flock across the border. As early as June 2, 1774, Colonel Christie, stationed at St. Johns on the Richelieu, wrote to Sir Frederick Haldimand at Quebec notifying him of the arrival of immigrants; and it is interesting to note that at that early date, he had already complained of their unreasonable expectations. In 1775 and 1776, large bodies of persecuted Loyalists from the Mohawk Valley came north with Sir John Johnson and Colonel Butler; in these years, the first Loyalist regiments were formed in Canada. It was not, however, until the defeat of Burgoyne at Saratoga in 1778 that the full tide of immigration set in. Immediately after that, Haldimand wrote to Lord George Germain, on October 14, 1778, reporting the arrival of loyalists in great distress seeking refuge from the revolted provinces. Haldimand lost no time in making provision for their reception. He established a settlement for them at Machiche, near Three Rivers, which he placed under the superintendence of a compatriot, Conrad Gugy. The militia captains in the neighborhood were ordered to help build barracks for the refugees, provisions were secured from the merchants at Three Rivers, and everything in reason was done to make the unfortunate comfortable. By the autumn of 1778, there were in Canada, at Machiche and other places, more than one thousand refugees, men, women, and children, exclusive of those who had enlisted in the regiments. Including the troops, probably at least three thousand had found their way to Canada.

With the conclusion of peace came a great rush to the north. Government resources were strained to provide for the necessities of the thousands who flocked over the borderline. At Chambly, St. Johns, Montreal, Sorel, and Machiche, Quebec, government officers were stationed to dole out supplies. At Quebec alone in March 1784, one thousand three hundred and thirty-eight friends of government were being fed at the public expense.

At Sorel, a settlement was established similar to that at Machiche. (Mishish is a phonetic spelling of Machiche). The seigneury of Sorel had been purchased by the government in 1780 for military purposes. When the war was over, it was turned into a Loyalist reserve, on which huts were erected and provisions dispensed. In all, there must have been nearly seven thousand Loyalists in the province of Quebec in the winter of 1783-84.

Removal to Upper Canada

In the spring and summer of 1784, the great majority of the refugees within the limits of the province of Quebec were removed to what was afterward known as Upper Canada. But some remained and swelled the number of the old subjects in the French province. Considerable settlements were made at two places. One was Sorel, where the seigneury the crown had bought was granted out to the newcomers in lots; the other was in the Gaspe peninsula, on the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Chaleur Bay shores. The seigneury of Sorel was well peopled, for each grantee received only sixty acres and a town lot, taking the rest of his allotment in some of the newer settlements. The settlement in the Gaspe peninsula was more sparse; the chief center of the population was the tiny fishing village of Paspebiac. In addition to these settlements, some exiles took up land on private seigneuries; however, there were few, for the government discouraged the practice and refused supplies to all who did not settle on the land of the king. A trace remains of all these Loyalist groups in the province of Quebec: they have all been swallowed up in the surrounding French population.

The United Empire Loyalists did not settle the Eastern Townships in the province of Quebec. In 1783 Sir Frederick Haldimand set his face like flint against any attempt by the Loyalists to settle the lands along the Vermont frontier. He feared that a settlement there would prove a permanent thorn in the flesh of the Americans and might lead to much trouble and friction. He wished that these lands should be left unsettled for a time and that, in the end, they should be settled by French Canadians as an antidote to the wild New England population. Despite the prohibition, some more daring Loyalists settled on Missisquoi Bay. When the governor heard of it, he sent orders to the officer commanding at St. Johns that they should be removed as soon as the season should admit it; and instructions were given that if any other Loyalists settled there, their houses would be destroyed. By these drastic means, the government kept the Eastern Townships a wilderness until after 1791, when the townships were granted out in free and standard socage, and American settlers began to flock in. But, as will be explained, these later settlers have no claim to the appellation of United Empire Loyalists.


Sir Frederick Haldimand offered the Loyalists a wide choice of places to settle. He was willing to make land grants on Chaleur Bay, at Gaspe, on the north shore of St. Lawrence above Montreal, on the Bay of Quinte, at Niagara, or along the Detroit River. If something other than these places was suitable, he offered to transport those who wished to go to Nova Scotia or Cape Breton. At all these places, settlements of Loyalists sprang up. That at Niagara grew to considerable importance and became, after the division of the province in 1791, the capital of Upper Canada. But by far, the largest settlement was that which Haldimand planned along the north shore of St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario between the western boundary of the government of Quebec and Cataraqui (now Kingston), east of the Bay of Quinte. Here the great majority of the Loyalists in Canada were concentrated.

As soon as Haldimand received instructions from England about granting the lands, he ordered Major Samuel Holland, surveyor-general of the king's territories in North America, to proceed with doing the necessary surveys. Major Holland, taking with him as assistants Lieutenants Kotte and Sutherland and deputy-surveyors John Collins and Patrick McNish, set out in the early autumn of 1783, and before the winter closed in, he had completed the survey of five townships bordering on the Bay of Quinte. The following spring, his men returned and surveyed eight townships along the north bank of St. Lawrence, between the Bay of Quinte and the provincial boundary. Names now distinguish these townships, but in 1783-84 they were designated merely by numbers; thus, for many years, the old inhabitants referred to the townships of Osnaburg, Williamsburg, and Matilda, for instance, as the third town, the fourth town, and the fifth town. The surveys were done in great haste, and, it is to be feared, not with great care; for some tedious lawsuits arose out of the discrepancies contained in them, and a generation later, Robert Gourlay wrote that one of the present surveyors informed me that in running new lines over a great extent of the province, he found spare room for a whole township in the midst of those laid out at an early period. Each township was subdivided into lots of two hundred acres each, and a town site was selected in each case which was subdivided into town>
The task of transporting the settlers from their camping places at Sorel, Machiche, and St. Johns to their new homes up St. Lawrence was one of some magnitude. General Haldimand could not oversee the work, but he appointed Sir John Johnson as superintendent, and the result of the settlement went on under the care of Johnson. On a given day, the Loyalists were ordered to strike camp and proceed in a body to the new territories. Any who remained behind without sufficient excuse had their rations stopped. Bateaux took the settlers up the St. Lawrence, and the various detachments were disembarked at their respective destinations. It had been decided that the immigrants should be placed on the land as far as possible according to the corps they had served during the war and that care should be taken to have the Protestant and Roman Catholic community members settled separately. This arrangement brought about the grouping of Protestant and Roman Catholic Scottish Highlanders in Glengarry. The first battalion of the Kings Royal Regiment of New York was settled on the first five townships west of the provincial boundary. This was the regiment of Sir John Johnson; most members were his Scottish dependants from the Mohawk Valley. The following three townships were settled by part of Jessup Corps, an offshoot of the Sir John Johnson regiment. Of the Cataraqui townships, the first was determined by a band of New York Loyalists, who were of Dutch or German extraction, commanded by Captain Michael Grass. On the second was part of Jessup Corps; on the third and fourth was a detachment of the second battalion of the Kings Royal Regiment of New York, which had been stationed at Oswego across the lake at the close of the war, a detachment of Rogers Rangers, and a party of New York Loyalists under Major Van Alstine. The parties commanded by Grass and Van Alstine had come by ship from New York to Quebec after the evacuation of New York in 1783. On the fifth township were various detachments of disbanded regular troops and even a handful of disbanded German mercenaries.

As soon as the settlers had been placed on the townships they had been assigned, they received their allotments of land. The surveyor was the land agent, and the percentages were apportioned by each applicant, drawing a lot out of a hat. This democratic method of allotting lands roused the indignation of some officers who had settled with their men. They felt they should have been given the front lots, unmindful that their grants as officers were five to ten times as large as the grants their men received. Their protests, contained in a letter of Captain Grass to the governor, roused Haldimand to a display of warmth to which he was, as a rule, a stranger. He wrote that Captain Grass and his associates were to get no special privileges, most of whom came into the province with him being mechanics, only removed from one situation to practice their trade in another. Mr. Grass should, therefore, think himself very well off to draw lots in common with the Loyalists. Many difficulties also arose from the fact that many allotments were inferior to the rest from an agricultural point of view. Still, Johnson and Holland adjusted problems of this sort on the spot.

By 1784 nearly all the settlers were needy and dependent on the generosity of the British government. They had no effects, no money, and in many instances, they were sorely in need of clothes.

Upper St. Lawrence River

The settlers on the Upper St. Lawrence and the Bay of Quinte did not perhaps fare as well as those in Nova Scotia or even the Mohawk Indians who settled on the Grand River. They did not receive lumber for building purposes, bricks for the inside of their chimneys, and a little assistance of nails, as did the former, nor did they receive plows and church bells, as did the latter. For building lumber, they had to wait until sawmills were constructed; instead of harbors, they had at first to use hoes and spades, and there needed to be more hoes and spades to go around. Still, they did not fare badly. When the difficulty of transporting things up St. Lawrence is remembered, it is remarkable that they obtained as much as they did. In the first place, they were supplied with clothes for three years or until they could provide clothes for themselves.

Each group of five families was also allotted one firelock ... intended for the messes, the pigeon, and wildfowl season. Still, later on, a firelock was supplied to every head of a family. Haldimand went to great trouble in obtaining seed wheat for the settlers, sending agents down even into Vermont and the Mohawk Valley to get all that was to be had; he declined, however, to supply stock for the farms, and although eventually, he got some cattle, there were not nearly enough cows to go round. In many cases, the soldiers were allowed to loan military tents, and everything was done to erect sawmills and grist mills in the most convenient places with the greatest possible dispatch. In the meantime, small portable grist mills, worked by hand, were distributed among the settlers.

Among the papers relating to the Loyalists in the Canadian Archives, there is an abstract of the number of settlers in the five townships at Cataraqui and the eight municipalities on St. Lawrence. There were 1568 men, 626 women, 1492 children, and 90 servants, totaling 3776 persons. These were the original settlers.

The favorite route was the old trail from the Mohawk Valley to Oswego, where a detachment of the 34th regiment was stationed. From Oswego, these refugees crossed to Cataraqui. Loyalists, wrote an officer at Cataraqui in the summer of 1784, are coming in daily across the lake. To accommodate these new settlers, three more townships had to be mapped out at the west end of the Bay of Quinte.

For the first few years, the Cataraqui settlers had a severe struggle for existence. Most arrived in 1784, too late to attempt to sow fall wheat, several seasons before their crops became nearly adequate for food. The difficulties of transportation up St. Lawrence rendered the arrival of supplies irregular and uncertain. Cut off as they were from civilization by the St. Lawrence rapids, they were in a much less advantageous position than the great majority of the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick settlers, who were situated near the sea coast. They had no money, and as the government refused to send them specie, they were compelled to fall back on barter as a trade means, making all work local and trivial. The crops failed in the autumn of 1787, and the 1788 famine stalked through the land. There are many legends about what was known as the hungry year. If we are to believe local tradition, some of the settlers died of starvation.

The summer of 1789 brought relief to the settlers. Though, for many years, comforts and necessaries were scarce, after 1791, when the new settlements were erected in the province of Upper Canada, most of the settlers had been placed on their feet. The soil was fruitful; communication and transportation improved, and metallic currency gradually entered the settlements. When Mrs. Simcoe, the wife of the lieutenant governor, passed through the country in 1792, she was struck by the neatness of the farms of the Dutch and German settlers from the Mohawk Valley and the high quality of the wheat.

Next in size to the settlements at Cataraqui and on the Upper St. Lawrence was the settlement at Niagara. During the war, Niagara had been a haven of refuge for the Loyalists of Pennsylvania and the frontier districts, just as Oswego and St. Johns had been havens of refuge for the Loyalists of northern and western New York. As early as 1776, there arrived at Fort George, Niagara, in a starving condition, five women and thirty-six children bearing names still to be found in the Niagara peninsula. Refugees continued to come in from that date until the war's end. Many of these refugees were the families of the men and officers of the Loyalist troops stationed at Niagara. On September 27, 1783, the officer commanding at Niagara reported the arrival from Schenectady of the wives of two officers of Colonel Butler, with several children. Some people went down the lake to Montreal, but others remained at the post and squatted on the land. In 1780 Colonel Butler reported to Haldimand that four or five families had settled and built houses, and he requested that they be given seed early in the spring. In 1781 we know that a Loyalist named Robert Land had squatted on Burlington Bay at the head of Lake Ontario. In 1783 Lieutenant Tinling was sent to Niagara to survey lots, and Sergeant Brass of the 84th was sent to build a saw and grist mill. At the same time, the Butler Rangers, who were stationed at the fort, were disbanded; many were induced to take up land. They took up ground on the west side of the river because, according to the terms of peace, Fort George was not given up by the British until 1796; the river was to constitute the boundary between the two countries. A return of the rise and progress of the settlement in May 1784 shows forty-six settlers (heads of families) with forty-four houses and twenty barns.


About the settlement in Detroit, there is little evidence available. It was the intention of Haldimand to first to establish a large settlement there, but the difficulties of communication could have proved insuperable. In the event, however, some of the Rangers of Colonel Butler settled there. Captain Bird of the Rangers applied for and received a grant of land on which he made a settlement, and in the summer of 1784, we find Captain Caldwell and some others applying for deeds for the land and houses they occupied. In 1783 the commanding officer at Detroit reported the arrival from Red Creek of two men, one a Girty, the other McCarty, who had come to see what encouragement there was to settle under the British government. They asserted that several hundred more would be glad to go if sufficient inducements were offered, as they saw before them where they were nothing but persecution. In 1784 Jehu Hay, the British lieutenant-governor of Detroit, sent in lists of men living near Fort Pitt who were anxious to settle under the British government if they could get lands, most of whom had served in the Highland and 60th regiments. But it is safe to assume that no significant number of these ever settled near Detroit, for when Hay arrived in Detroit in the summer of 1784, he found only one Loyalist at the post itself. There had been a settlement of French Canadians at Detroit for more than a generation, but it was not until after 1791 that the English element became considerable.


It has been estimated that there were ten thousand Loyalists in the country above Montreal in 1783 and that by 1791 this number had increased to twenty-five thousand. These figures are indeed too prominent. Pitt’s estimate of the population of Upper Canada in 1791 was only ten thousand. This is probably much nearer the mark. The overwhelming majority of these people were of very humble origin. Comparatively, few half-pay officers settled above Montreal before 1791; most of these were, as Haldimand said, mechanics, only removed from one situation to practice their trade in another.

Where Loyalists in the Southern Colonies Went

Although the Loyalists in Boston and New York participated in the Northern Campaign of the Revolutionary War and departed the colony from 1782 to 1784, I have been able to locate some data for the Southern colonies from my own personal research on various families. There are no available passenger lists or correspondence from officials.

Although South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia played prominent roles in the most critically engaging tactical battles of the fight, the story of the prejudices and interference of the Loyalists remains untold. However, it appears that local Loyalists interacted with the British military by helping locate patriots and burning down the homes of certain patriots. Hence, "refugee soldier" describes displaced citizens who joined the patriot army and whose names appear on the pension rolls.

North Carolina Before the Revolutionary War, the Macdonald Clan from Scotland petitioned the Governor of North Carolina for a large land grant of some 40,000 acres. This was the clan of Flora Macdonald, who enraged the British by protecting Bonny Prince Charles and suffered retaliation from the British. The land was granted in Moore County, North Carolina.

At the onset of the war, the Scots sided with Great Britain and avoided being conscripted into service. The pension record of Hugh Macdonald, a boy of sixteen years who was persuaded to join the American Army, described how his father ran off and hid in the woods at the sight of American soldiers. The Battle of Moore's Creek was a decided American victory. When peace came, the MacDonald Clan, the oldest and largest Clan, returned to the west highlands and the Hebrides.

South Carolina The British occupation of Charleston was a harrowing experience for the patriots. As a result, local militias adopted the war tactics of Indians of surprise attacks and run. Such diversions prevented the British from also seizing the port city of Augusta. The famous prison ship "Jersey," known to inflict cruelty and starvation upon its prisoners, was probably docked in the Charleston harbor.

South Carolina had one of the strongest Loyalist factions of any state. About 5000 men took up arms against the Patriot government during the revolution, and thousands more were supporters who avoided taxes, sold supplies to the British, and avoided conscription. Also, many prominent Rebels and Loyalists are believed to have occupied the Ninety-Six Judicial District.

It is estimated that about 4500 Loyalists left South Carolina after the war. In contrast, those who remained behind were re-integrated into society by the South Carolina General Assembly two years later.


Some of the wealthiest landowners in Georgia were Loyalists from Scotland. From my studies, I have learned that the Scots who occupied Barbados came first as indentured servants and that, after they were freed, they became wealthy on their sugar plantation owners.

The kinfolks of General Lachlan MacIntosh were Loyalists and were removed from Georgia. Most of these people were fishermen who had come to the colony from Inverness, Scotland, at the behest of General Oglethorpe and settled near Darien, Georgia.

Fortunately, a traitor's list (available to members of that described their location and acreage was kept in occupied Savannah. For example, George Baillie owned over 3,000 acres of land in Georgia that was acquired by several purchasers.

When victory was declared, General Anthony Wayne rushed to Savannah to take control of the city and thus be awarded one of the large plantations. His written observations were that the British had wrecked the city and destroyed its economy. Yet, although Wayne restored order, General Greene, a major player in the Southern Campaign, was awarded the best plantations.

Loyalist to East Florida 1774-1785

Note: The Spanish Armada was in St. Augustine, Florida, before the 16th century. This territory attracted French Huguenots and local Indians. Indeed, a wide variety of peoples inhabited the region as travelers from the West Indies and the European Continent. After the War with Spain (known as the War of Jenkins Ear), when General James Oglethorpe defeated Spain in 1742 on the American Continent, the Spanish Armada left St. Augustine and went to Cuba. This trade war lasted from 1739 to 1748, mainly in New Granada and among the West Indies of the Caribbean Sea. Great Britain gained control of the Spanish Colony in 1763 due to the treaty which ended the French and Indian War (known as the Seven Years' War in North America). From 1783 to 1821, East Florida became a province of Spanish Florida. By the 1800s, Spain lost interest in East Florida, and American settlers commenced moving into the territory without authorization.

The settlement of East Florida was heavily linked in London with the same interests that controlled Nova Scotia. The East Florida Society of London and the Nova Scotia Society of London had many overlapping members. Council frequently followed their suggestions on granting lands to powerful merchant interests in London.

After the Revolutionary War, British troops evacuated Charles Town, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, to go to East Florida and beyond. Several claims against Great Britain ensued between 1774 and 1785. These claims dealt with plantations and commodities the British settlers had previously lost to Spain. The shares are pretty exciting and relate several personal details, such as where the immigrants were born, the number of acres, etc. These documents ultimately ended up in London. They are helpful to the genealogist as they help to complete the story of what happened to Loyalists in America!

Loyalists' Exodus to Barbados, Jamaica, St. Lucie, and the Bahama Islands

The British offered these lands to its fractured American Loyalists. This was a wise choice. because the lucrative sugar plantations had a booming trade with Europe, thus creating wealth and prosperity throughout the Caribbean.

Barbados was part of the British colonial system from 1625 to 1966 and was self-governing. The Portuguese landed there in the early 1500s. The first owner was a Scottish Lord, Sir William Courten, a London Merchant. In 1639 the first Earl of Carlisle (James Hay) gained the title. The immigration of indentured servants from England to Barbados commenced from 1640 to 1660. By 1707, five thousand Scots that had settled as indentured servants gained their freedom. The Scots claimed the land in St. John's district.

The indentures who first occupied northern Barbados and scratched out a living in the islands were referred to by the natives as "old couches." The Scots and Irish were known as "red legs" and settled in the Scotland district.

By 1788, the new Loyalist households amounted to 330 and superseded the original families on the isles of New Providence, Exuma, Cat Island, Andros Crooked, Acklin, and Caicos. The relocated Loyalists brought 3,762 slaves!

Ultimately, there were one hundred large tobacco and sugar plantations, but the economic prosperity of the islands ended in the mid-1830s.

Records to Search

Sources: The United Empire Loyalists: A Chronicle of the Great Migration by Author: W. Stewart Wallace; The Loyalists of America and Their Times (2 vols., 1880) by Egerton Ryerson; The Party of the Loyalists in the American Revolution (American Historical Review, I, 24); Loyalism in New York (1901); The Loyalists of Massachusetts and the Other Side of the American Revolution (1910) by James H. Stark; The Connecticut Loyalists (American Historical Review, IV, 273; The Winslow Papers edited by W. O. Raymond (1901); History of the Settlement of Upper Canada (1869) by William Canniff.