The American Rebellion and Loyalist Settlement on the Island of Saint John, 1783-1795. This is a passage written for Robert Alan Rankin for the book for its first printing in 1983:.


Robert Allan Rankin

With the evacuation of New York virtually conceding victory to the Rebel forces of Washington, Great Britain was faced with the extraordinary task of re-settling between fifty to sixty thousand exiled loyal Americans in what remained of British North America. Putting aside all discussion of "motivation" or "myth," it is a fact that in 1784 a large-scale migration of Loyalists occurred, and that a significant part of that migration made its way up the Atlantic coastline to the Province of Nova Scotia. In terms of numbers, the most important settlements were made a Port Roseway (Shelburne), the mouth of the St. John River, and in the area of Passamaquody Bay.

Another Loyalist refuge along the seaboard, smaller but important for other reasons, was the tiny Island of St. John lying in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

It had been made a separate Government in 1769, however, war-time security and a premature state of development resulted in a temporary re-annexation of the Island to Nova Scotia in the 1770s. In 1784 when the Loyalists streamed into the Maritime region, the Island of St. John was a dependency of Governor Parr of Nova Scotia, its chief administrator having been reduced in status to a Lieutenant-Governor.

The purpose of this introduction is to explore the somewhat unique circumstances surrounding the settlement of about 4-500 Loyalists on St. John's Island between 1784-87. These circumstances reflect the corruption of the Island's administration, the hypocrisy of is proprietory landowners, and the problems involved generally in settling the Loyalists. It should also be noted that the immediate miseries suffered by many refugees in other areas of Nova Scotia were averted on the Island of St. John, partly because of Governor Walter Patterson's empathy, suspect as it was, and undoubtedly because of the relatively small numbers who sought land.

Loyalists might have had several reasons for choosing the Island as a new home, not the least important of which was the collapse of Shelburne as a great immigrant metropolis by the Spring of 1784. Those who drifted to the Island from this "city of tents" are illustrative of a unique characteristic of Loyalist migration to St. John's as a whole. It was largely a migration of late arrivals from other parts of Nova Scotia, rather than directly from the American colonies. Also noteworthy in attracting Loyalists to the Island was the availability of land and the overzealousness of Patterson. Finally, the colony was not without its natural advantages.

Historians have almost ignored Loyalists settlement on the Island of St. John primarily owing to the small numbers involved, however, careful analysis of land grant records shows that accepted estimates - the Summer 1784 Muster and scattered official reports - require some readjustment upwards. Loyalism in Prince Edward Island's only scholars, Professor W. Siebert and Florence Gilliam, failed in their numerical guess to include the reduced Provincials who had been stationed in the colony during the War. The interpretative question is whether or not these soldiers should be classified as Loyalists. I would argue that as the entire contingent of Provincials, excepting a few members of the St. John's Volunteers regiment, had been raised and sent from New York, they can justifiably be termed "Loyalists". Together with the civilian refugees from New England who settled, the provincials represent the largest single English immigration into the colony before the turn of the nineteenth century. For this last reason alone, Loyalist settlement on the Island of St. John is significant.


The prospects of "Loyalist Refugees" receiving land grants on the Island of St. John, were not hopeful prior to 1781. The civil administration of the colony was in a state of constant chaos, and the Island struggled beneath the yoke of an unworkable land system which all but denied its future. Absentee proprietorship had been a thorn in the backside of a premature colonial Government since the fatal "lottery" of 1767, by which the country was divided into sixty-seven township lots and casually granted away to notorious friends of the Crown.

By virtue of having been placed in His Majesty's favor, the acceptable proprietorships were bound to fulfill specific obligations with respect to their grants. Quit Rents were to be paid to the Royal Treasury at an annual rate of "either 2,4 or 6 shillings per one hundred acres." The land was to be settled within a ten year period, and only by Protestants in a proportion of one person for every two hundred acres. Settlement was also expected to be one-third completed at the end of four years.

It is easy for historians to condemn the proprietors for not carrying out their responsibilities, however, one must be judicious. The land system worked to the disadvantage of both the tenant and the landlord; the latter's job was not one blessed with simplicity. Colonization in British North America at this time was a slow process, necessitating the involvement of ambitious entrepreneurs. Although a few proprietors did bring settlers to the Island during the years which preceded the American Revolution, most of these "men of position" possessed neither the conviction, the capital, nor the talent to achieve large-scale colonization. And the interest of those who made an attempt to affect settlement was tempered by the growing tension between Britain and her American colonies before 1775, together with a later official sentiment on the part of the Mother Country that her population was her own:

I hope (the Island) will continue to flourish and its numbers increase by the natural increased longevity of its inhabitants and the accession of new settlers from the revolted provinces, but I must not encourage you to expect that any measure for inviting Emigrants from the British Dominion in Europe, will meet with countenance here, this country and Ireland being too much exhausted to admit to sparing any of our inhabitants to people distant territories.

Apart from the question of who should bear the guilt, or if in fact there was a "crime," it was a reality that at the close of the Revolution, almost all the Island (approximately 1,500,000 acres) lay idle and unattended in the hands of disinterested landlords, most of whom resided in England. And although most of the proprietors clearly defaulted from the very outset, in many ways they were the victims of the circumstances and an unrealistic colonial policy.

By the time Walter Patterson arrived in Charlottetown as the Island's first Governor in 1769, a group of landowners had already made arrangements with the Crown certain to make his job a tumultuous one. When the Mandamuses were issued in 1767, the Board of Trade ruled that the payment of the Quit Rent was to commence five years following the date of the grants. But the proprietors, using this condition as bargaining leverage, agreed to begin payments earlier than required (May 1769) if the British Government would grant the Island full colonial status. The Lord obliged willingly and the Island was made a separate colony on June 28, 1769. One obstruction that would almost single-handedly wreck the new administration quickly took shape. The expense of running the Government was to be borne by the collection of Quit Rent. Patterson's continued efforts to retrieve the rents, however, were frustrated by the proprietors' reluctance to pay them! A second difficulty arose over the legality of the proprietors' agreement with the Board of Trade.

The Quit Rent Bill of 1774 was intended to rectify this legal impasse and fix the "commencement of the Quit Rent on all the lots which it comprehended." But the proprietors were not impressed by Governor Patterson's statue and ignored all attempts by the Government to enforce it. The colony's public coffers remained empty and its officials toiled without pay. Patterson returned to England for personal reasons in 1775, leaving his Attorney-General Phillips Callbeck in command of the so-called colonial administration. The Lieutenant-Governor, Desbrisay, would not arrive on the Island until 1779.

Callbeck was fast to become neurotic in his new position, and occupied the greater part of his time writing desperate dispatches to the Secretary of State's Office, requesting protection from the "disaffected Americans." "It will be absolutely necessary," urged Callbeck, " for a vessel of force to be constantly stationed at this Island." The Attorney-General spoke from some experience. In the Fall of 1775, an American privateer had sailed unmolested into Charlottetown harbour and absconded with Callbeck as hostage. After a non-violent journey to New York, he was returned safely to the Island the following year, possessing a letter of apology from General Washington and a heightened sense of insecurity. The beleaguered Callbeck would spend the next four years exercising this fear, by squandering vast amounts of money on fortifications that would never be built and on troops who would never be mustered. He succeeded finally in persuading the British Admiralty at New York to augment his local "Saint John Volunteers" with four Provincial Companies from that city. No doubt this troop addition did much to improve inland security but an attack from the sea loomed a threat to the colony until the end of the war.

Thomas Desbrisay was a man of distasteful character. Soon after taking up his post as Lieutenant-Governor of the Island, he began to use the 'uncertainty of the times' to his personal advantage. Desbrisay acquired by fraudulent means, fifty-eight Town and Pasture Lots in the Royalty of Charlotte Town, then granted the entirety to members of his family. He was severely reprimanded by Patterson for this loose behavior, on the latter's return, and "pleaded to be removed from his duties" and away from Patterson, whom he obviously hated. The Provost-Marshal, William Allanby, represented yet another inefficiency in Revolutionary Island politics. Allanby was absent from his post from 1775 to 1780, accrediting this absence to the "catching of various illnesses."

In command of the Provincials sent from New York was a colorful old soldier by the name of Major H. Hierlihy, probably the first Loyalist to request land on the Island as restitution for "loyal" deeds. Hierlihy had "served his country well." He said, " and was solicited to accept of a Regiment in the Rebel Services," but refused with the contempt the offer deserved. In Connecticut he had organized a brigade of Loyalists who "scourged the countryside." Hierlihy's Memorial to Lord Germaine in 1779 related one such instance of loyalty and bravery:

Your Lordships Memorialist came off in September 1776 at the risk of his life with dispatches from Governor Brown to the Commander-in-Chief, leaving his wife and nine helpless children, now suffering the cruelest tyrany and oppression among the Rebels, himself exposed to great danger, taken up by a Commander of Inspection, of which he got clear by much adroitness, crossed the Sound (Long Island) in the dead of night, 26 miles wide, in a little open leaky boat, passing by a Rebel Battery of 12 guns, poised to fire upon my tired wretched body.

Hierlihy was not of humble sorts, yet his situation must arouse our sympathy. The land he requested was situated on Lot 24, a tract forfeited by Charles Lee, Esquire. Lee had been a Lieutenant-Colonel in The British Services but defected to the American side soon after the war started. He was now a full General in the Rebel Forces. Hierlihy argued, and rightfully so, that he was entitled to a grant of land given up by a "Rebel and Traitor." The Crown's response to Hierlihy's dilemma was sympathetic, but without consent. Undaunted by this denial, Hierlihy purchased from Desbrisay a number of the controversial Town and Pasture Lots, but with their return to the Crown on Patterson's orders, the Loyalist lost his family's refuge from war. He spoke with disdain for the colony's land system:

I got these lots conveyed to me in the form of the law, and had them duly registered. I know my title is good beyond dispute, otherwise, there is hot security for any property on this Island.

Major Hierlihy's indignation was laden with prophecy. He would not be the last Loyalist Refugee to become entangled in the land squabbles, administrative corruption and personal rivalry that seemed to characterize this period in the Island's history.

Walter Patterson returned to his charge in the Spring of 1780 determined to solve conclusively the Quit Rent problem. While in England he had marshalled support for the introduction of "binding measures" and was successful in getting the treasury Board to order all arrears of Quit Rent due immediately. The Board also conceded to establish a parliamentary grant system for the operation of the Island's government. Armed with these decisive victories, Patterson took the offensive in his battle with the proprietors. At a special session of the legislature, a new Act was passed, putting teeth into the old legislation of 1774. The proprietors would either pay their arrears or be sold out.

The resulting seizure by the government of "eight whole and six half-lots," the sale of these lands by public auction on November 17, 1781, and Patterson's subsequent downfall, can be described as the first real crisis in the history of the colony. Patterson was undeniably on solid legal footing. He later told Agent John Stewart that the Receiver-General was "indespensibly bound by his instructions, and a positive law, to act as he has done." But the proprietors did not share Patterson's view. Upon hearing of the land sales they petitioned directly to the King. Of course there was no grounds for appeal. The original conditions of settlement had not been met. Nevertheless, the proprietors claimed that the land was sold "at an under value," that many of the lots were purchased by officials of the Government, including Patterson, and that the "petitioners had been at great expense in the improvements of their lands." Patterson wrote to Lord North in defense of his government's actions:

Tis' only the change of time and circumstance which occasions any complaint. There is prospect now of a speedy settlement of this country, but had the War continued twenty years, your Lordships would not during that time have heard a word on the subject of escheat.

It is quite improbably that Patterson could have sold the escheated property without dissatisfaction, whatever the future of settlement on the Island. But that a sizable portion of this land should end up in the hands of civil officials, enraged the proprietors. What motivated Patterson to involve himself personally by purchasing a number of the seized lots himself? It appears that he felt entitled to them as part of unpaid salary, though he later told Lord North "he would then much rather have had the money than the land." The Island officialdom had, it is true, worked for five years without compensation. But for the leader of the administration to risk position and character for a chance to speculate was, at its best, bad judgment. For Patterson, the land auctions of 1781 would haunt the remaining years of his governorship and discolor an otherwise admirable career. In retrospect one is tempted to dismiss his actions as a weak moment of petty self-interest. Writing to John Stewart in 1781, on the eve of the land sales, Patterson appeared both cautious and just:

With respect to the measure of bringing the lands for sale for the arrears of Quit Rents, my situation has and is very delicate - to draw a line between the Justice due to the Public, and the respect that should always be had to private property, is neither an easy nor a pleasant task.

On May 12, 1783, Patterson was ordered by the Colonial Office to stop all sales of escheated property immediately. A further directive arrived that fall in the form of a revised Quit Rent Bill, of which the "prime import," said Patterson, was "to set aside and annul the sales of land by auction in 1781." This new Bill was ignored. A draft copy was not placed before the Island's Assembly until the Spring. The Government's tardiness in acknowledging "a positive injunction of His Majesty" was deliberate. The displaced Loyalist Refugees were just beginning to move into Nova Scotia, and the fanciful Patterson was determined to procure his share of "those valuable settlers." If the escheated land reverted back to the original proprietors no free grants could be held out and settlement would not take place. The arrival of Loyalist settlers might also neutralize the Stewart-Desbrisay faction, who stopped Patterson at every turn. Thus, 1784 marked the beginning of a feud between the proprietors of the escheated lots and the Government of the Island. In the end, most of the 1781 sales would stand, but Patterson was to go down in disgrace. Caught in the middle of the feuding and instability, the Loyalist settler would, as suggested by D. C. Harvey, be "bandied about from pillar to post."


Why did Loyalists (civilian refugees and disbanded troops) choose to settled on the Island of St. John?

More than a partial explanation lies with the availability of land in the colony at the end of hostilities in America. We have seen how the land auctions of 1781 made proprietors out of government officials, and placed in their hands a number of escheated lots (44, 24, 31, 33, 32, 35, 49, 67; and half-lots 17, 18, 25, 26, 48, 65). The new proprietors were anxious to further settlement and saw an opportunity to preserve their political power by obtaining the support of a new population.

On June 29, 1783, a group of eighteen proprietors, including a few of the less militant original owners, forwarded a petition to the Crown offering one-quarter of their lands to the Loyalist Refugees. The plan would surrender about 109,000 acres of land to the Government of the Island, whose duty it would then be to make free grants to deserving Loyalists. The list of proprietors on the petition included five officials of Government who had purchased lot in 1781: John Stewart, Walter Patterson, John Patterson, John Townson and Isaac Todd. Prepared by John Stewart, the petition recommended that the whole of the land owned by a particular proprietor be "divided by the Surveyor-General into parcels of not less than one thousand acres, each, and drawn for by ballots before the Government and Council of the Island." (This method was modified somewhat, each section divided instead into four equal parts and a Refugee share drawn).

The proprietors officially gave as their reason for making the offer, a desire to increase the prosperity of the Island:

The undersigned are the more zealous in promoting this measure, as they are persuaded it will greatly advance the prosperity of the infant colony, from its natural and vital situation, is peculiarly adapted to becoming a permanent and valuable possession of Great Britain.

The petitioners concluded:

We have the fullest confidence that your Lordship will send instructions to the Commander-in-chief of His Majesty's Forces at New York to furnish such Loyalists as prefer a settlement in St. John's, with provisions and transport to convey them to Charlottetown.

A copy of the petition was placed before the Council of the Island on October 13th, and the Government was told in an accompanying letter that "all was entirely acquiesced in, and approved by, Lord North." But such was not the truth. North did not reply to the petition of the proprietors until late in November, one month after Patterson had taken the initiative and issued a Proclamation. It is clear that the Governor had no authority to inform "refugees and provincial cops of His Majesty's gracious intentions", for His Majesty's intentions were not known! Patterson explained to North in a later dispatch that Stewart had assured him of approval by the Crown. The eager Governor was also of the belief that instructions had been sent to New York authorizing Sir Guy Carleton to "furnish passage" to those who desired to come to the Island. In possession of this ill-founded information, Patterson obtained permission from his Council to formulate a Proclamation. On October 14, 1783, it was distributed throughout British North America. It read as follows:

Whereas a number of the Proprietors of this Island have very generously given up a considerable portion of their estates to be distributed among such of the Refugees, Provincial Troops or other American Emigrants, as are desirous to become its inhabitants, the lands to be granted by the Governor and Council in the same proportion and on the same terms as are offered in Nova Scotia, and to be given out of the different townships by Lot; in the fairest and most equitable manner, according to the quantity assigned for by each proprietor.

And Whereas, His Majesty has been graciously pleased to extend his Royal Bountys and Gratuities, to all persons of the above description in every respect, and in the manner as to those who settle in Nova Scotia.

I do therefore, by and with the advice of His Majesty's Council, issue this Proclamation hereby giving notice to all such of the Refugees, as wish to become settlers in this colony, that in a few days after their arrival at Charlottetown, they shall be put in possession of such lands, as they shall be entitled to, free of every expense. That they may depend upon the lands being good, neither mountainous, rocky nor swampy, continuous to navigable harbours, many ports convenient for the fishery, and in every respect preferable to any lands unoccupied throughout His Majesty's American Dominion, and as to further encouragement, they will meet with a Government very warmly inclined to give them every assistance and protection in their power, and with loyal fellow subjects, from whom they will receive a most cordial and hearty welcome.

Also of considerable importance in bringing about Loyalist settlement on the Island of St. John, was the inability of the government of Nova Scotia to cope effectively with the great mass of refugees going upon the lands in that province. Nova Scotia became a lucrative shelter owing to an extensive programme of land escheat. By the beginning of 1783, about half a million acres had been seized, almost all of which was granted to Loyalists. Between 1783 and 1788, an additional 1,488,871 acres was escheated by the Provincial Court of Escheat and Forfeitures. As the fall of 1784 approached, however, Nova Scotia officials were trying desperately to settle nearly 28,000 Loyalists and Disbanded Troops. The machinery set in motion to deal with this influx proved inadequate. Confusion and speculation reigned supreme. Many refugees arrived only to discover that the good farmland had already been granted to early-comers and those with influence. Friction developed between the settlers and the government, and amongst the settlers themselves.

The port of Shelburne, situated on the southeast coastline of Nova Scotia, became a natural distribution point for Loyalists on their way to areas such as the Saint John and Annapolis Valleys. Consequently, its population increased drastically in a short time, peaking at about seven thousand during the summer of 1784. Shelburne was to have been the great Loyalist city, and there was some grandness, if not greatness, as evidenced by the many "expensive houses" built by a number of rich Loyalists who settled in the port town "in expectation of trade". But for the majority of Loyalist Refugees, Shelburne during the winter of 1783084 was a complete disaster. It was, as Hansen and Brebner described it, a "great concentration camp". The Loyalist at Shelburne waited in desperation for his promised land. A good number of granted locations "were not made out and completed for two years." Those settlers who came to the Island from Shelburne late in the fall of 1784 had spent a wicked winter without sufficient food or shelter. When spring promised only further hardship and thought of yet another winter, they left the Nova Scotia port and made one last migration to the shores of the Island of St. John.

Although six cargoes of settlers did come to the Island from Shelburne in 1784, Patterson thought this number could have been considerably larger had it not been for the activities of Governor Parr. The Island Governor accused Parr of threatening the Loyalists at Shelburne into remaining there.

If Governor Parr had not went last summer (1783) to Shelburne, and told the people that the Island was not under his Government, and that he would give them no provisions in case they went to it, I say, my Lord, had it not been for this, there would have been two thousand inhabitants here today more than there are.

Parr's attitude is curious, especially considering his rather jaded view of the loyalty of the "loyalists," however, the Governor probably acted properly. The administrative connection between the Island and Nova Scotia was still present and undefined.

The natural qualities of the Island, aside from politics and personalities, cannot be overlooked in assessing the reasons for Loyalist settlement. Its beauty and agricultural potential rendered the small colony a paradise to those who took the time to look. One of the original proprietors, in an effort to attract Refugees to the Island in 1782, described it this way:

We think it our duty to point out to you this Island, of any we know between this and New Jersey. The soil is good, it is well wooded, and free from rocks. The climate is so good that fevers and Agues are unknown. Water everywhere excellent. The Harbours spacious, numerous and safe. The Rivers, Bays, Lakes and Coasts abounding with a great variety of Shells, and almost all other kinds of fish.

Governor Patterson knew the rugged coast of Nova Scotia well, and once remarked that it had only "the Harbours to recommend it," from Shelburne "Eastward as far as Canso." He warmed Lord Sydney in a dispatch dated November 20, 1784, that unless the people still unsettled in the colony "are not immediately provided with such lands as will enable them to get their bread, " they "would be lost as subjects of Great Britain forever." Patterson was obviously unaware of the thousands of settlers pouring into the St. John River Valley where land was still available.

It is impossible to completely answer the question of why Loyalists came to the Island of St. John, without at least recognizing the overzealousness of Walter Patterson. His relationship to the Island was that of a father to his son, a paternalism which dominated his thinking, at times fatally obscuring the judgment necessary to his position. He disobeyed and ignored when it was convenient to do so, when the child needed "fostering." He acted often without consent yet seldom to the detriment of the public good.


The population of the Island of St. John numbered about 400 in 1770. In 1775, at the outbreak of hostilities in America, it had reached 1300 souls. The 900 immigrants who had arrived during this five year period included the Argylshire settlers at Malpeque (who came by their own means), John MacDonald's Highland Scots at Tracadie, Baron Montgomery's Scots at Stanhope, Robert Stewart's Prince Town settlers, the tiny settlement of Robert Clarke at New London, and a number of English families in the Tryon area. The Acadians, settled on Lots 43 and 56 (East end of Island and South shore of Malpeque Bay), comprised the remainder of the pre-loyalist population outside the small garrison capital of Charlottetown.

The first Loyalists who took up settlement following the war, were those Provincial Troops who had served in the colony. Among them were soldiers of the illusive Saint John Volunteers, the King's Rangers, the Royal Nova Scotia Volunteers, and His Majesty's Royal Fencible Americans. On September 16, 1783, Brigadier-General Fox, Commander of Annapolis Royal, ordered that "all provincial troops be disbanded." This order failed to mention the establishment of a peace-time detachment for the protection of the Island, a matter which greatly disturbed Patterson. His subsequent request for a regiment to "keep the peace of the Town" was authorized by Fox. The disbandment of troops, however, was postponed until the arrival of a nineteen-man squad from Cumberland in early November.

Between September 1783 and December 1785, 208 land grants were made to Disbanded Troops, the majority to Provincials reduced on the Island. A small number came from New York by vessel in 1784 lured by the Proclamation and an open invitation by Captain John MacDonald of the 84th Regiment of King's Rangers. MacDonald's "Address To The American Loyalists" was circulated throughout New York and New Jersey during the last year of the war. Another group of Disbanded Troops,. About 30-40 in number, arrived with their families from Rhode Island in the Spring of 1785. They were brought to the Island by Daniel Grandin who had persuaded Patterson to reserve for him the entirety of Crown Lot No. 66 (6,600 acres), on the condition that he bring back from the States fifteen hundred new settlers. Grandin was refused the grant when he failed to meet this condition. The Rhode Islanders settled instead on Lots 56 and 58.

The reduced troops were clustered primarily in the Eastern part of the colony, with grants made on Lots 24, 65, 47, 49, 50, 57, 56, and 58. Looking at Prince Edward Island in the years following the Revolution, A.H. Clark concluded that "patterns of population and land use bore little or no relation to the differences in potential utility of the land" except in the fishing communities along the Northern coastline. But when John Stewart's Lot-by-Lot settlement descriptions of 1806 are compared with Samuel Holland's classification of land and vegetation made in 1764-66, a striking pattern with respect to the settlement of Disbanded Troops is at once revealed. For example, Lots showing a marginal agricultural capability according to Holland (50) were sparsely occupied in 1806. Coastal Lots (24 and 47(, described as having fair to poor vegetation, were in a rapid state of progress. And those Lots (57 and 58) with minor fishing potential and marginal farming potential went unoccupied. Disbanded Troops reduced on the Island in 1783 actually had the best choice of land. Upon hearing of the granting most local troops requested land appropriate to their occupation which was, in most instances, fishing.

153 land grants were made to civilian refugees between June 1784 and November 1785. Two prominent Loyalists from Shelburne, William Schurman and Thomas Hooper, journeyed to the Island in May of 1784, disappointed by the situation in Nova Scotia. Schurman had been exiled from New Rochelle, New York, and Hooper from New Jersey. They examined refugee land located on Lots 16, 17, 25 and 26 (Bedeque Bay area), and found it to their liking. The two requested that this land be reserved until such time as they could return to the colony with their families.

Schurman returned to the Island one day before his reservation ended, bringing with him 27 families of refugees and disbanded troops. In total they numbered seventy. After spending the Winter of 1784 at Tryon they settled on Lots 19, 25 and 26. Hooper did not arrive back until two months later. He brought with him 12 families, these people also settled in the Bedeque area. Hooper wrote to his brother and spoke of the Island's many attributes:

We found everything acceptable to our expectation. I have drawn five hundred acres in two divisions, two hundred and fifty on the Bedeque Harbour, where I can take every kind of shellfish within one-quarter of a mile from my door.The land appears to be good, and has eight to ten acres cleared. The Governor pays us great attention and serves us in every respect.

Hooper's son certainly managed well with the Governor. In addition to acquiring 300 acres of land in a fine location, he rode out of Charlottetown on horseback with Patterson's eldest daughter as his new bride.

A third group of civilian settlers, about 30 in number, gave up their attempts to make a living on the River St. John, and came to the Island in the Fall of 1784. Many of these refugees, led by Daniel Green, Benjamin Darby and George Linkletter, finally constructed their homes on Lot 17 (North side of Bedeque Bay), on land which now comprises the Town of Summerside.

Disbanded soldiers were apportioned land according to their rank; officers getting 500 acres, non-commissioned officers 200 acres, and privates 100 acres. Civilian refugees received 500 acres if they were married and 300 acres if they were single. The procedure for acquiring land was apparently simple. The Loyalist made application to the Council requesting a grant in a specific area or on a specific Lot. If he had not previously been granted land and the Lot requested was not already taken up, the grant was approved. The settler then took possession of his land immediately after the Surveyor had laid it out and submitted a plan to the Attorney-General. The latter was charged with completing the legal transactions between the grantee and the proprietor who had surrendered the particular parcel. Quit Rents were forgiven for a period of ten years.

The above system worked exceedingly well in the short run, however, trouble resulted when many proprietors failed to keep their promises, Consequently, a great many settlers who had gone upon their lands and made considerable improvements could not obtain legal title to it. The only alternatives were to become tenants, leave the land in frustration for a free hold tract somewhere else in the colony, or leave the Island completely. M This last choice accounted for the considerable out migration from the Island between 1786 and 1795.

It was evident from the choice of implements sent forth to be used by the poor refugees that someone was ignorant of the real wants of a frontiersman. Brass-handled locks, bronze hinges, and 'brad nails' were utterly useless to the new settlers. Patterson ordered the storekeeper to sell those articles "as were deemed useless" and to purchase more needed supplies. The unwanted articles were sold at an advance of 25-per cent above the invoice price. This action would appear commendable, however, Patterson was later accused of selling the useless articles to increase his own personal fortune, an unlikely motive.

In Nova Scotia lumber was distributed to Refugees according to the "Quality and number" of the family. Disbanded Troops were given a token quantity according to their rank. The allotment to each Loyalist family was either 500, 1000 or 1500 Board Feet. Governor Patterson regarded the Nova Scotia system as unfair and, to avoid discontent, awarded each married man 1200 Board Feet, and each single man 800 Board Feet. This liberal policy of the Island Government in giving out lumber applied to other bounty and supplies as well.

Patterson was disadvantaged in his settlement efforts by the deceptive behavior of a few individuals. After the military officers of the colony were discharged of all responsibility, no one remained to supervise the activities of the Commissary and Public Storekeeper. To prevent abuses of the Royal Bounty, an agent for the disbanded troops and refugees was appointed by Patterson in November, 1783. But the abuses did occur. A senior officer of the King's Rangers, Captain Samuel Hayden, obtained provisions at Halifax by "false return of the number of men ready to be victualled." As a result of Hayden's misrepresentations, a special officer was appointed to muster troops deserved of the Bounty. This muster was to exclude tradesmen, who were expected "to be able to support themselves without any assistance". The completed muster denied ninety persons provisions for various reasons. Several of Hayden's men were disallowed provisions because they had "rendered themselves examples to an infant colony by their idle and disorderly conduct." The Governor gives us some idea of the contemptful behavior of some of the reduced troops in a dispatch to Lord North:

The officers who have commanded the troops within this Government during the late war, had been raised to their respective ranks at once, and from very low stations in life. They were sent from New York, where the military was supreme. The consequence was, they brought with them very high sentiments of their own importance, and a thorough contempt for the civil power. This has occasioned me a great deal of trouble and misunderstanding which were prejudicial to the country.

The expense of settlement was to be bourne by the Crown in all provinces but Patterson's ardor constantly jeopardized his financial position. Anxious to procure settlers before settlement had naturally reached the Island, he bore personally the total expense of bringing most Loyalists to the Island, and Patterson's account was never reimbursed. He also paid the expense of surveying, which was to have come out of the collection of the Quit Rents. Unfortunately, no Quit Rent Bill existed in the colony at this time.


By the spring of 1786 the Proprietors were stalling. The Loyalists, in possession of their land by official grant of Council, had no other title. Only a few "letters of Attorney" had been sent from England for this purpose. The proprietors had consented to the "one-fourth" granting with the view of peopling their Lots. But with Patterson's attempt to enact a Quit Rent Bill of some strength having failed, and the prospects of obtaining settlers who would be willing to rent land having improved, the proprietors saw no reason to give their land away and broke the agreement of 1781. It was not until July of 1793 that the whole mess was finally clarified. In that year an Act was passed which achieved redress for the Loyalists. It empowered the Lieutenant-Governor to give legal title to those settlers in possession of lands by virtue of Council's sanctions. In the final analysis, therefore, most Loyalist settlers who remained on the Island in 1793 were permitted to retain their grants. But for many the bestowing of legal title had come too late.

An examination of the social composition of the Loyalists who settled on the Island of St. John reveals, as similar studies have done elsewhere, a varied cross-section of American society before the revolution. Not having the benefit of exact occupational studies, it is still possible to comprehend the spectrum. The majority of Island Loyalist settlers were undoubtedly farmers, fishermen and tradesmen. Schurman and the Bedeque group are representative of this class. Slightly higher in the spectrum is the merchant business class of Peter McMahon and his Charlottetown comrades. Then comes the professional class, of which the Lawyer Andrew Lake and Dr. Ebenezer Nicholson are prominent members.

The religious leanings of the Island Loyalists seems to have been just as varied as their social stations. Between 1783085 the Island Legislature passed enabling acts allowing for the free practise of the Papish, Quaker and Methodist faiths. It is probably that a few of the Loyalists were also either Presbyterian, Anglican or Roman Catholic in conviction. We do know that William Wright of Bedeque founded a Methodist congregation in that settlement soon after his arrival.

In conclusion, it can be said that bout 315 Loyalists received land grants on the Island of St. John immediately following the American Revolutionary War, that these settlers met with difficulties, and that around half of them left the colony before 1790. Nevertheless, population estimates show that in 1784, Loyalists accounted for nearly 60-per cent of the Island's inhabitants. The 1798 colonial census also suggests that even after consideration emigration, Loyalists and disbanded troops probably still represent one-quarter of the total population. The family histories which follow provide a more detailed view of these settlers and their descendants, and the Island refuge which became their home.

Much more information is in the book, followed by the lineages of a large number of known loyalist families, muster rolls, and loyalist lists!.