Project Canterbury

The Church of England in Nova Scotia and the Tory Clergy of the Revolution

By Arthur Wentworth Eaton

New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1891.

Chapter II. Halifax and the Venerable Society

THE scheme for founding a settlement on Chebucto Bay is said to have originated with the people of Massachusetts, who, calling the attention of the Home Government to the claims and encroachments of the French on this part of the continent, and the consequent insecurity of its possessions in Acadia, at the same time suggested that the establishment of a trading post here would be of great commercial benefit. The Lords of Trade and Plantations took the matter up, and the government soon issued a proclamation offering to men of all ranks discharged from the army and navy, and to a certain number of mechanics and farmers, who would emigrate, a free passage to Nova Scotia, subsistence for a year after landing, arms, ammunition and utensils, free grants of land in the province and a civil government, with all the privileges enjoyed in the other English colonies. To this proclamation so many responded that early in May two thousand four hundred and seventy-six persons under command of the Honorable Edward Cornwallis, M.P.,'as captain-general and governor of Nova Scotia, in thirteen transports and a sloop of war set sail. [The Hon. Edward, afterward Lord Cornwallis, was the fifth son of Charles, third Baron Cornwallis, by Lady Charlotte Butler, daughter of Richard, Earl of Arran, uncle to the celebrated Duke of Ormonde. He was born February 22, 1713, was M.P. for the borough of Eye in 1749, and in 1753, shortly after his return from Halifax, was elected for the city of Westminster. He married the same year a daughter of Lord Townshende, but left no family. In 1759 he was made a major-general, and was afterward governor of Gibraltar. General Cornwallis was brother of Dr. Frederic Cornwallis, Archbishop of Canterbury, and uncle to the Lord Cornwallis who defeated General Gates at Camden, South Carolina, in 1780, and afterward surrendered at Yorktown to General Washington.] Over fifteen hundred of these settlers were men, and over five hundred men-of-war sailors. In July the fleet sailed into Halifax harbor, a magnificent sheet of water where the navies of the world might safely ride, and on the fourteenth of that month on board one of the transports--the "Beaufort"--a civil government was organized with Colonel Paul Mascarene, Captain Edward Howe, Captain John Goreham, Messrs. Benjamin Green, John Salisbury, and Hugh Davidson as councillors. The first four of these were from the garrison at Annapolis, the last two were probably members of His Excellency's suite. The name Halifax was given the new settlement in compliment to George Montague, Earl of Halifax, then at the head of the Board of Trade.

The old part of the city of Halifax is built on the ascent of a hill, and slopes gently from the harbor to the commanding citadel, which overlooks and guards the town. On this high hill the settlers naturally built their block house, while all about the green slope, from Buckingham Street on the north to Salter Street on the south, they scattered their log and tent dwellings, replacing these as soon as they were able with frame houses, the materials for which were brought from Massachusetts Bay. In August, 1750, three hundred and fifty more settlers arrived in the ship "Alderney," and in September, three hundred German Protestants from the Palatinate in the ship "Anne." In 1751 and 1752, over a thousand more came, and these German people formed an almost distinct town by themselves in the north part of the city, where they built a little Lutheran church which still stands--the quaintest building in Halifax--to which later generations have facetiously given the name of the "Chicken-Cock" church, from the rather disproportionate size of the cock on the top of its little spire. These people were chiefly Lutherans, and after a few years they moved farther west along the coast, to what is now Lunenburg, where, under the influence of the S. P. G. missionaries, many of them came into the Church of England, the little church they had built in Halifax also becoming Church of England property.

Thus began this quaint English-looking city, with one of the finest harbors in the world, and an ancient citadel, where flags are always flying, and regimental guards pacing their daily or nightly rounds. Halifax is superbly located. Its glorious harbor, in which the fleets of the world might safely anchor, opens westward into Bedford Basin, the scenery around which is of rare beauty. About a mile and a half west of the town one finds the almost equally picturesque North-west Arm, along which lie many beautiful residences. About seven miles west of the centre of the city, near the head of Bedford Basin, is a beautiful spot, now much used as a picnic ground, which every Haligonian knows as "the Prince's Lodge." It is part of the estate in old times leased by Sir John Wentworth to the Duke of Kent for his royal residence during the seven years that that prince, the father of Queen Victoria, lived in Nova Scotia. Sir John Wentworth had his country mansion there, and called it, in allusion to "Romeo and Juliet," "Friar Laurence's Cell." The Duke enlarged the original house until it was a fine two-storied villa, somewhat in the Italian style, with extensive wings at the north and south and a great hall and drawing-rooms in the centre. Back of the house were stables for his horses, and the grounds, though rustic, and having all the marks that nature had originally put upon them, contained many charming surprises. His Royal Highness, who was at this time commander of all the forces in North America, had a telegraph battery on an adjoining hill, by means of which he could send his orders to the citadel in town. In 1800 the Duke of Kent began the erection of the present citadel in Halifax, first removing the old insecure fortifications, and then building the massive walls that now inclose the fort. A conspicuous monument of his Royal Highness, still remaining, is the square wooden clock tower below the glacis, directly above the middle of the town. At the north end of the city lies the dock-yard, with its half-mile of water-front, the foundations of which were laid in 1788. Within its wall of solid masonry are the commissioner's residence, and the houses of other employees, whose official duties include the landing and shipping of naval stores. At the extreme north of the dock-yard is Admiralty House, where the naval commander lives from May till October, when the war ships move to Bermuda, Nassau, or Jamaica for the winter. There is hardly a week all summer long when more than one war ship of the fleet is not flying its flag in the harbor, hardly an evening when the music of some magnificently trained ship's band is not floating from mid-stream to the Halifax and Dartmouth shores. Not far from Admiralty House, high above the harbor, rise the naval and military hospitals, the Wellington Barracks, and the huge garrison chapel, where every Sunday hundreds of soldiers sing and pray.

Halifax was re-founded in the days of the American Revolution, in March, 1776, when, the British fleet having evacuated Boston, ten thousand people sought the little town, and in 1783, when more than thirty thousand Loyalists took refuge in the British maritime provinces. On its social side the Revolution was in great part the revolt of democracy against aristocracy, and this tide of Tory emigration swept into Nova Scotia a positive sympathy with England, strong aristocratic feeling, and a distaste for republican government that have never essentially weakened. A large number of these Loyalists, many of whom were people of the highest culture, and who had held leading positions in the revolting colonies, received grants of land in the large unsettled province of New Brunswick, hitherto part of Nova Scotia, but many remained in the latter province, on whose southern shore they founded, with great ceremony and high hopes, the little town of Shelburne. By this means the population of Halifax rose in six or seven years from three to twelve thousand, and so influential, and in the cases of some who left the United States before their goods were confiscated, so rich were these new citizens, that no little jealousy was aroused on the part of the old inhabitants, especially when they found them monopolizing all the leading offices in the gift of the crown. It was at this time that Government House was built, the fine stone mansion on Pleasant Street, where many successive royal governors have held their stately little courts. The house is an exact reproduction of the famous Lansdowne House in London, and the first governor to live in it was Sir John Wentworth, who before the Revolution was governor of New Hampshire, and while governor of Nova Scotia received the honor of a baronetcy. Besides Government House, there are two buildings in Halifax that have great historic interest. One of these is the Province Building, where the Provincial Legislature in both its branches meets; the other, St. Paul's Church, which contains more mural tablets and escutcheons than any church on the continent, not even excepting the old cathedral at Quebec. The Province Building was begun in 1811, and finished in 1819. Herein the legislative council-chamber is the only noteworthy collection of paintings Halifax owns, the finest of them being a portrait, by Benjamin West, of Chief-Justice Strange, in a scarlet robe and wig. Of St. Paul's Church and the parish that built it we shall have much more to say.

The work of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, in Nova Scotia, begins with the founding of Halifax by Lord Cornwallis. The Society's report for 1748 states, that: "Upon an application from the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations the Society hath agreed to send over to the new Colony of Nova Scotia, as soon as Settlements are made and the Occasions of the Colony require, six Missionaries and six School-masters at a very large Expense, and even beyond their present Ability, for the Support of Religion in that Infant Colony, and to prevent the first Settlers from being perverted to Popery, there being a great Number of Priests residing among the present Inhabitants, who are mostly French Papists and under the Direction of the French Bishop of Quebeck." In pursuance of this agreement the Venerable Society sent with the Cornwallis fleet to Halifax, two clergymen, the Reverend William Tutty and the Reverend William Anwell, and a schoolmaster, Mr. Edward Halhead, the clergymen to receive the usual stipend of seventy pounds a year each, the schoolmaster a salary of fifteen pounds. Of these two clergymen, the Reverend William Tutty is known to have been educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, but of the antecedents of the Reverend William Anwell, no record has been preserved in Nova Scotia. In the report of the Society presented in 1750, it is stated that "Mr. Tutty is happily fixed as minister in the first settlement, viz., in the town of Halifax, which is already become populous, and that he behaves very properly and is very useful in his station; but the Society being not so well-satisfied with the conduct of Mr. Anwyll, they have recalled him from Nova Scotia; and have appointed the Reverend Mr. Moreau, a worthy clergyman of French extraction, to be their missionary to a settlement now forming, which is chiefly to be composed of French Protestants." Mr. Anwell, though removed from his post, did not return to England, as the St. Paul's parish register states that "William Aynwell, clerk, late missionary, was buried, February 10, 1749-50." Mr. Tutty, in 1753, went back to England to attend to some private affairs, and while there fell ill and died. In the report of the Society for 1754, it is recorded, that "the new settlers in Nova Scotia have suffered a great loss this year in the death of the Reverend Mr. Tutty, the Society's worthy missionary to them, and to supply it in some measure, the Society hath approved of the removal of the Reverend Mr. Wood, from New Brunswick, in New Jersey, to this colony, and appointed him missionary in it." Mr. Halhead's name appears for the last time in the report of the Society for 1752.

In 1749 the nearest Episcopal church to Halifax was Queen's Chapel, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, of which the Reverend Arthur Browne was rector. In Boston Dr. Timothy Cutler was the minister of Christ Church, and Dr. Henry Caner rector of King's Chapel. At St. Paul's, Newburyport, Reverend Matthias Plant was minister, and at St. Michael's, Marblehead, Reverend Mr. Malcolm. Stratford, Connecticut, had Dr. Samuel Johnson as its minister, and Trinity Church, Newport, Reverend James Honeyman, while Trinity Church, New York, had as rector the Reverend Henry Barclay. The little church colony in Maine, "Gorge's ever faithful settlement on the Kennebec," of which McConnell writes that "through all the years they had held steadfastly to their Church and Prayer Book," had been without a minister since the Reverend Robert Jordan was driven away in 1675, and did not have one until 1756. Its first church was organized at Pownalboro, June 19, 1760, and Reverend Jacob Bailey, who labored also at Frankfort, and occasionally at George Town, Brunswick, Harpswell, and Richmond, and a few years later with so many other Loyalists took refuge in Nova Scotia, was its minister. The origin of Halifax being what we have described it, we shall naturally expect to find the Church of England taking the highest place in the people's life. The old inhabitants were not by any means all Churchmen: there were among them not a few Roman Catholics and New England Congregationalists, but as we shall presently see, the Church of England was, as a rule, the church of the governing class, the officers of the army and navy, and when the American Revolution drove them here, of the New York and New England Tories, who thronged the older settlements of the sparsely populated province, and in the Nova Scotia wilds built themselves new towns. Before we trace more fully, however, the history of the Church in Halifax, we must examine the legal standing given it in the newly organized colony.

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