Monday, October 24, 2011

The Royal Townships : The hard life of the Loyalists

By : Dennis Stein

  The end of the American Revolutionary War meant difficult times for those who remained loyal to the crown. Most of the 'Loyalists' fled with only the clothes on their backs, leaving their homes, livestock, and all possessions behind. They took refuge in Quebec, under Governor Haldimand, who took on the responsibility of caring for the Loyalists. Most were former militia or British regulars, along with their families. Their situation quickly became dire, and they petitioned the Governor, who in turn sought help from the British government. England wanted to reward the Loyalists for their service, and set out to award lands to be settled to the west. Nine townships were surveyed, with lots being awarded by lottery to the loyalists and their families, in acreages based on their rank. Even lone men who had no families with them, and were not from the military in any way still received small parcels of land. The lottery upset some of the former British officers, who argued that they should be able to choose their lots as opposed to drawing them by ballot. The system remained in place however, and by the spring  of 1784, the loyalists were settling on their lands, having been brought up the St.Lawrence river by batteaux, which were capable of handling 3 to 4 tons. Seed and some livestock had been procured, and each settler was given an axe and a hoe, while several families would share blacksmith and carpentry tools. Glass and nails were hard to come by, dificult to transport, and expensive to buy, and to add to that, most of the loyalists had not arrived until summer on their lands, leaving little time to plant any kind of crop, let alone clear land or build suitable shelter. During the summer of 1784, tents could be seen along the St. Lawrence river, and it could be imagined that the Loyalists suffered a tough first winter. But after two years, after meeting criteria for clearing land for crops and/or livestock ( 5 acres ) and building of a house, the settlers would receive crown patents for their land.
  As time progressed, more settlers came, and things became somewhat easier. The land became 'improved' with roads along each concession, and cleared land for farming. Buildings and small towns sprang up slowly, and the earliest beginnings of Ontario were carved from the wilderness. The Royal Townships seeded the birth of a new British colony, and Canada was truly born.

No comments:

Post a Comment