A difficult life for Black Loyalists
Upper Big Tracadie
Photo by Ruth Holmes Whitehead,
Nova Scotia Museum
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.
British had promised free land and rations for three years to the
Black Loyalists. A family was supposed to receive 100 acres for
each family head and 50 acres for each person in the household (wife,
son, daughter or servant). Each military officer was to receive
1000 acres; a private was to receive 100 acres. But it never happened
that way. Out of 649 Black men, only 187 received land. Those who
served in the Black Pioneer militia companies received very little
land and in many cases none at all. The
exception was Colonel Stephen Blucke at Birchtown who received 200
acres of land at Birchtown, but had to wait four years to get it..
Click on the map for more detail.
the initial settlement in the 1700s, Tracadie was an all-inclusive
place-name for the area that today has been split into
the smaller communities of Tracadie, Big Tracadie, Monastery,
Rear Monastery, East Tracadie, and Upper Big Tracadie.
Most of the Brownspriggs grant was located around East
Tracadie, Monastery and Rear Monastery.
The Black Loyalists who moved to Chedabucto from Port Mouton got fed up with being landless. In 1787, their representative, Thomas Brownspriggs, presented a petition to the government signed by seventy-four people requesting land. By September of that year, 74 Black Loyalist families were granted 3000 acres in Tracadie, around the mouth of Tracadie Harbor, in what was then called Sydney County and is now Guysborough and Antigonish Counties
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, coopers, boatbuilders, laundresses, seamstresses, tailors, military persons, midwives, domestics, cooks, waiters, sailors, a doctor, pilots of boats, and navigators were in a better position to make some kind of a living.
But Black workers were not paid as much as White workers. In July 1784, a group of disbanded White soldiers destroyed 20 houses of free Black Loyalists in Shelburne in what was Canada's first race riot, because the Black Loyalists who worked for a cheaper rate took work away from the White settlers.
of those who did not have a trade had to indenture themselves or
their children to survive. Indentured Black Loyalists were treated
no better than enslaved persons. Slavery was still legal and enforced
in Nova Scotia at this time. People could still be bought and sold
until 1834, when slavery was abolished in the British Empire. One
of the biggest fears of Black Loyalists was to be kidnapped and
sold in the United States or the West Indies by slave traders, who
sometimes sailed along the coast of Nova Scotia. At the same time,
since Nova Scotia did not have a climate to support the plantation
system, many White Loyalists abandoned their slaves because they
could not afford to feed them.
Poverty, epidemics and suffering were widespread among the Black
Loyalists. Harsh winters, sickness, and lack of healthy food killed
many. Accounts written by Black Loyalists and others at this time
tell how terribly difficult it was for these new Nova Scotians.
Next: Next: Finding a Way
Previous: Black Loyalist Communities
in Nova Scotia