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 IX. The New Tory Province

THE settlement of the province of New Brunswick, like the settlement of Upper Canada, is conspicuously a result of the American Revolution. Before that event both provinces were almost uninhabited, except for the wandering tribes of Indians, the smoke from whose scattered wigwams rose heavenward from the shore of many a lake and stream in the dense virgin forest. The Loyalist emigration to the Nova Scotia woods, both in its causes and in the character of the people who composed it, is certainly unique in history. The emigration is sometimes spoken of as if it had been impelled merely by excess of sentiment, and was in the main a voluntary movement. But this is not true. If it had not been for the fierce legislation of the Whigs in the various colonies against the adherents of the crown, the history of this part of the country, both secular and religious, would be vastly different from what it is. In New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas, acts of such severity were passed against the sympathizers with Britain, that when the issue of the conflict was decided, longer residence for them in the revolting colonies was practically impossible. So, stripped of their estates, proscribed by the new laws, and in some cases fresh from prison, with the aid of the British commander, Sir Guy Carle-ton, they sadly sought new British soil on which to plant themselves.

The attention of the New York Loyalists seems to have been early directed towards the almost uninhabited province of New Brunswick, then known as the County of Sunbury, a part of His Majesty's loyal province of Nova Scotia. In the beginning of 1783, Amos Bots-ford, Reverend John Sayre, and others, whom the Loyalists had sent from New York to explore the country, wrote from Annapolis Royal to their friends, of the beauty of Annapolis Basin, St. Mary's Bay, and the river St. John, which they represent as equal in size to the Connecticut or the Hudson.

They also describe minutely the harbor, the port, the intervale land along the Kennebe-casis, and the few inhabitants already in the country, and give much encouragement to their fellow Loyalists to settle there. Accordingly, in April, a fleet of twenty vessels left New York for the River St. John, having on board three thousand Loyalists, men, women, and children, who, in October, were joined at St. John by twelve hundred persons, who came in the fall fleet, and others who came in single vessels. In all, it is estimated, at least five thousand persons passed the winter of 1783-84 on the site of the new city, many of whom in the spring received land in other parts of the province, and moved to their new homes. New Brunswick was created a separate province in 1784, and the city of St. John was chartered in 1785.'

'The chief Acadian fort next to Port Royal was Fort la Tour, on the River St. John. It was there that Charles la Tour, when the whole of Acadia was divided between him and his rival, d'Aulnay Charnise, had his headquarters; there that that heroic woman, "Constance of Acadia," Madame la Tour, in the absence of her lord, with a handful of soldiers bravely defending her husband's rights, earned for herself a lasting fame. When Acadia came finally under British rule, another fort, called Fort Howe, was built on the opposite side of the river, not far away from which grew up the city of St. John.

The English settlers in New Brunswick in 1782 did not number over a thousand, five hundred of whom lived in the settlements of Maugerville, Burton, and Gagetown, along the River St. John. Like so many of the old inhabitants of Nova Scotia, these people had come from New England long before Revolutionary troubles began; but, as we learn from old documents, they were not New England farmers, but rather, chiefly, disbanded provincial officers and soldiers, who had served in various campaigns, and now desired a settled agricultural life. [An interesting old manuscript, formerly in the possession of the Perleys of Fredericton, describes the first English settlement of New Brunswick as follows: "In the year 1761 a number of DISBANDED Provincial officers and soldiers in New England who had servd. in several Campains During the then french war agreed to form a settlement on St. John River in Nova Scotia, for which Purpose they sent one of their number to Halifax who obtained an order of Survey for Laying out a Township in miles squares in any part of St. John's River (the whole being then a Desolate wilderness). This Township called Magerville was laid out in the year 1761 [or 1762?] and a number of settlers entered into it; Encouraged by the King's Proclamation for settling the land in Nova Scotia in which among other things was this clause that People emigrating from the New England Provinces to Nova Scotia should enjoy the same Religious Priviledges as in New England--and in the above mentioned order of Survey was the following words--viz., 'you shall Reserve four Lots in the Township for Publick use, one as a Glebe for the Church of England, one for the Dissenting Protestant; one for the maintenance of a School, and for the first settled minister in Place.' These orders were strictly complyd with IN THE YEAR 1763, but finding Difficulty in obtaining a Grant of this Township from the government of Nova Scotia on account of an order from home that those Lands should be Reservd. for Disbanded forces, the settlers Did in the year 1763 Draw up and forwarded a Petition to the Lords of Trade and Plantations setting forth the services they had done for government in the last war. The encouragement they received for Removing to Nova Scotia at a great expense, their efforts for bringing forwd. a survey of the land and Praying for a grunt of land which they had settled." The fact of these colonists being disbanded soldiers is important, and serves to differentiate this colony from others founded in Nova Scotia about the same time. A writer in the Magazine of American History for February, 1891, says they came from Byfield, Ipswich, Rowley, Boxford, and Marblehead.] To these people, as to the Indians in New Brunswick, that indefatigable missionary, the Reverend Thomas Wood, had made a visit from Annapolis in 1769, but with the exception of occasional services held by Mr. Eagleson, in Westmoreland County, near his Cumberland mission, there is no record of any other Church clergyman's visiting the province, until the arrival at St. John with their fellow Loyalists, in 1783, of the Reverend John Sayre, and the Reverend John Beardsley, well-known clergymen of the Church in the older colonies. Mr. Sayre did not stay long at St. John, but before winter set in, moved sixty miles up the river, to the settlement of Maugerville, where he preached in the Congregational meeting house to a company of old settlers and refugees. Mr. Beardsley, however, stayed at St. John, but at Mr. Sayre's death, the next year, he also went to Maugerville, where, and at Burton and other out-lying stations, he labored faithfully until 1802, St. John remaining without a missionary until the arrival of Dr. Samuel Cooke in September, 1785.

This was the beginning of the Church in New Brunswick, and these Loyalist clergymen were its pioneer missionaries. To their number must be added, also, the name of "the Honorable and Reverend" Jonathan Odell, who, although on the formation of the new province in 1784 he assumed the post of provincial secretary, and became active in the government, in the absence of a missionary at St. John, often performed the service for his fellow Churchmen. [The first officers of the new province were: Governor, Colonel Thomas Carleton, a brother of Sir Guy; Provincial Secretary, Rev. Jonathan Odell; Chief Justice, Judge George Duncan Ludlow, of New York; Judges, James Putnam, of Massachusetts, Isaac Allen, of New Jersey, and Joshua Upham of Massachusetts; Attorney-General, Daniel Bliss, of Massachusetts.]

The third Loyalist missionary to New Brunswick was the Reverend Dr. Samuel Cooke, of New Jersey, whose long, arduous labor in the province earned for him the title of "the father of the Church of England in New Brunswick." In 1774 he went to England, where he remained until August, 1785, when he sailed for Halifax on his way to his new field. September 2d, he reached St. John, where he found awaiting him, not only an expectant and kindly congregation, but a temporary house of worship, which he at once set to work to make more comfortable, until a new church could be built. From St. John he soon made a missionary tour to Campobello Island, St. Andrews, and Digdeguash, where he found Church people longing for services, and where he baptized many children and adults. At St. John, Dr. Cooke remained until August, 1786, when, the seat of government being removed to Fredericton, he was transferred to that place, where he labored until his sudden death in 1795. He was followed at St. John by the Reverend George Bissett, formerly of Trinity Church,

Newport, and at Fredericton by the Reverend George Pidgeon, a son-in-law of Bishop Inglis. In May, 1786, three more clergymen came to New Brunswick from Connecticut; the Reverend Richard Clarke, who went to Gagetown, the Reverend Samuel Andrews, who went to St. Andrews, and the Reverend James Scovil, who went to Kingston. A little later was founded the mission of Woodstock, whose first minister was the Reverend Frederick Dibblee, ordained deacon by Bishop Inglis in 1791; the mission of Westfield, whose first minister was the Reverend Robert Norris, an Englishman, formerly a priest of the Roman Catholic Church, who came to New Brunswick in 1801; and the mission of St. Stephen, under the jurisdiction of the minister of Gagetown. In 1789, Dr. Mather Byles came to St. John, assuming the rectorship of Trinity Church and the chaplaincy of the garrison, which double post he held until his death, in March, 1814. For twelve years, already, he had been garrison chaplain and assistant to Dr. Breynton at Halifax, and the advent of so distinguished a clergyman was of no small importance to the rising New Brunswick Church. Under his ministry the parish of Trinity Church, St. John, rose to a position of much dignity and influence in the new Loyalist colony. At the close of the century Dr. Byles reports that his church is crowded with earnest people, and that he has built a decent parsonage; Dr. Cooke reports at Fredericton a large congregation; while from Mr. Beardsley at Maugerville, Mr. Scovil at Kingston, Mr. Andrews at St. Andrews, and Mr. Clarke at Gagetown, come similar reports of good work done, and of growing interest in religion and the Church.

From the beginning of the century until 1845, the work of the Church in the new province went steadily on, the bishops of Nova Scotia keeping the oversight of it, and making annual tours throughout this part of their vast spiritual domain. At last it was felt that the diocese must be divided, and in 1845, the present Metropolitan of Canada, the venerable Bishop John Medley, was consecrated bishop of Fredericton, his see including the whole Tory province. This bishop was born in London, December 19, 1804, graduated at Oxford in 1826, and ordained priest in 1829. In 1838, he became vicar of St. Thomas', Exeter, and prebendary of the cathedral there, from which preferment he was called to the diocese of Fredericton. In 1864 he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity, and in 1879, became Metropolitan of Canada.

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