Wednesday 20 April 2016

The Goulden Map

   Archaeological investigations have been ongoing in Birchtown since the early 1990's.Trying to
understand the pioneers who established this community and uncovering the secrets they left behind over two centuries ago, is no easy task. (Archaeological surveys)
                         Left to right: Sharain Jones, assistant project archaeologist; Katherine Couttreau-Robins, assistant project archaeologist; Laird Niven (with buckets), project archaeologist; Corey Guye (in foreground), archaeological team.
                                                                                                           Photo: Richard Plander Nova Scotia Museum

   As people were scrambling to understand the early settlement of Birchtown and its residents, through archaeology, mapping and studying the information that was available, a mistake break through surprised those involved and anyone else who was following the story.
      Just down the road 10 km south east of Birchtown in the community of Gunning Cove, a renovator was working on an old home. When the renovator was demolishing the old walls to replace them, an old piece of paper fell to the ground along with the wall debris.This piece of paper was almost overlooked and tossed into the garbage with the rest of the debris. Luckily, the renovator noticed it, picked it up and unfolded it.

This piece of paper would turn out to be the only known map of early Birchtown and its purposed land grants.                                                               
Goulden Map
    Although the map is undated, it does show the location and size of land grants in Birchtown and contains the names of three known Black Loyalists. Joseph Blair, Robert Nickerson and William Eustace all of whom are recorded in the Birchtown Muster Book of Free Blacks in 1784.
Muster Book of Free Blacks, Settlement of Birchtown 1784

more information can be found here in "Understanding the use of space in an eighteenth century black loyalist community Birchtown, Nova Scotia" by Heather Macleod-Leslie [microform]

Wednesday 23 December 2015

The Ethiopian Regiment Part I

          Signed Nov 7,1775 Dunmore's Proclamation would be the first chance of freedom for many enslaved people in 1775. Hundreds of men and woman took this opportunity and escaped their masters to join Lord Dunmore and make up the Ethiopian Regiment. The first black unit in the British army during the American Revolution. The Ethiopian Regiment was made up of over 300 former slaves including a man named Titus who had escaped his master John Corlies in New Jersey in hopes to reach Lord Dunmore and gain his Promised freedom.

          Titus made his way to Virginia and joined the ranks of Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment. They would see combat all though not properly trained to do so. The laws prohibited slaves from possessing firearms of any kind and a shortage of ammunition would cut back on any training or practice shooting. Most of the Ethiopian Regiment most likely would have never fired a shot until actually faced with an enemy.

          In December of 1775 Lord Dunmore lost control of his forts and blockades that were holding the patriots back from entering Norfolk. As lord Dunmore planned his retreat to sea he ordered every available ship at his disposal to prepare to disembark and flee the area before the patriots advanced. Chaos was inevitable as British loyalists including the Ethiopian Regiment scrambled threw out Norfolk gathering belongings and trying to find space on Dunmore’s ships. Citizens of Norfolk panic not knowing how patriot forces will treat them when they took possession of the town and worried about the 300 former slaves roaming town most of whom were presently armed. When the ships were full only about half of the Ethiopian Regiment managed to find room on board. The other half were disarmed and left to fend for them self’s. (some returned  to their former masters, some fled for other areas, while others were thrown in jail) better fates then what lay ahead for most of the Ethiopian Regiment who made it on board of Lord Dunmore’s ships.

            Life at sea in Lord Dunmore’s fleet proved tragic for the Ethiopian Regiment. While Lord Dunmore, the better off loyalists and a small number of the Ethiopian Regiment who managed to find work on board were sailing on royal warships and tested sea vessels. Most of the Ethiopian Regiment were forced to sail on smaller vessels not fit to go to sea. The bad Living conditions on the overcrowded, unsanitary ships mixed with not having the proper clothing was a recipe for disaster. An outbreak of Jail Fever (epidemic typhus) hit Lord Dunmore’s fleet as soon as they set sail and hit the Ethiopian Regiment the hardest. Over packed ships made it easy for infected lice to pass the disease from person to person. Quickly crippling the black loyalists with severe headaches, absolute exhaustion, high fevers, twitching mussels, blood shot swollen red eyes, stupor, delirium, and even death. The ones who fought the fever and survived had to endure the symptoms for up to two weeks. Sadly the members of the Ethiopian Regiment who perished onboard, would be stripped of their clothing and dumped into the ocean. The person who wore the deceased’s clothing would most likely catch the disease their self. By March of 1776 all most 150 members of the Ethiopian Regiment died from Jail Fever


More to come in Part II  

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Certificate of Freedom

     The only known surviving Certificate of Freedom issued by General Samuel Birch has the name Cato Rammsay on it. He is one of 16 Catos listed in the Book of Negroes. On page 150 Cato Ramsey, 50 years of age, on the ship "Ranger" and headed to Port Mattoon. Formerly the property of Ben Ramsey of Maryland left him 5 years ago and Cato has a Certificate of Freedom in his possession.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Harry Washington

          On page 90 and 91 in Carleton's Book Of Negroes, a familiar sir name Washington! the 13th name from the bottom. At first glance it's just another name quickly overlooked and brushed aside. Harry Washington upon further review more information comes to light. Mr. Washington was 43 years of age at the time he was entered into the book and listed on the ship L'Abondence headed to Port Roseway (Shelburne) with commanding officer Lt. Phillips. It also tells us that he was formerly the property of General Washington but escaped him 7 years before he was entered into the book. Yes General George Washington! The man who later would become the first president of the United States.

        Harry Washington shows up again documented in the 1784 Birchtown Muster Roll.  The information listed is Washington, Harry 44 years of age; he is a labourer and has a woman listed with him, Jenny Washington. Little more is known about his time in Birchtown but history tells us that he would survive a race riot, harsh winters, unequal treatment and even famine where residents had to sell the clothes off their backs and eat their dogs to survive.

       In 1792, Harry Washington was among the Black Loyalists who decided to take the offer of a better life in Sierra Leone and his name is on the map of allotments. His lot is #74. Washington becomes a successful farmer just outside of Freetown where he lives until the 1799-1800 rebellion. Much like the situation in the thirteen colonies just 24 years before, the new settlers were unhappy with the taxation set on them by the Sierra Leone Company. This caused an uprising and one of the leaders of the rebellion was Mr. Washington. In efforts to stop the rebellion The Sierra Leone Company and British rule brought more then 500 Jamaican Maroons to the colony of Freetown to stop the revolt. Harry Washington and other rebels were tried by a military tribunal and exiled to the Bullom Shore, north of the Sierra Leone River where he would become a leader, a Pioneer and a founding father in his homeland; titles not so much different from his former master.

names of settlers and their lot numbers 1792
map of allotments in Sierra Leone 1792
(lot #74) H. Washington