History Revisited
Part Two

by Thomas Giammo
tom@giammo.com

Author's note to Part Two

The dollar figures I use throughout the section are U. S. 1996 dollars, valued at $400 (1996 U.S.) to £1 (1752 U.K.).

As with the previous excerpt, the words may be my own but almost everything I know on the topic was learned from Wintrop Bell's book. That still remains the best source document on the Foreign Protestants and contains far richer detail than I could squeeze into my little family history.


When the passengers of the Betty and Speedwell were put ashore at Halifax in early August, 1752, they joined the other Foreign Protestant families that had arrived in 1750 and 1751. They found that the British had accomplished little in arranging for permanent settlement for them. Even the decision as to where they were to be settled was yet to be made. Several alternatives had been considered, but each had enough serious drawbacks so that none had been adopted.

As the hostility of the French and Indian settlers continued unabated, dispersing them as individual settlers among the small existing French communities seemed to be a sure invitation to disaster. Even concentrating them in several small communities of their own on the western side of the Nova Scotia peninsula, near these French communities, appeared increasingly dangerous in view of the guerrilla activities and the proximity of the French military. Under the present circumstances, in fact, it was not apparent that any area of Nova Scotia was particularly well suited to the establishment of a large community that both was defensible and could rapidly be made to be self-sustaining.

As they had done with the earlier arrivals, the British built crude temporary barracks for the Montbeliardians who had come on the Betty and Speedwell. These new barracks were on George's Island, separated from the older barracks. If the separation was motivated by a desire to limit the spread of dissatisfaction to the newcomers, it failed. These French speaking newcomers were soon as disillusioned as their German speaking predecessors had become with the conditions in Halifax.

In October, 1752, the French speaking Montbeliardians and Swiss sent their own petition to the Board of Trade and Plantations in London to accompany the one that had been prepared by the German speaking community of immigrants. In their petition, the Montbeliardians and Swiss protested that their quarters were intolerable, that the barracks provided little protection from the elements, that the scarcity of beds forced many to sleep on the bare floor, and that the food was both skimpy and monotonous. The new arrivals had an additional complaint of their own. They had discovered that the contracts signed by the earlier arrivals credited them with $30 toward their debts for each day's labor, whereas the contracts of the 1752 arrivals called for only $20 per day. In addition, they complained that no French speaking pastor had made available to minister to their religious needs.

The new Governor of Nova Scotia, Colonel Peregrine Thomas Hopson, who had relieved Colonel Edward Cornwallis the day after the Betty's passengers had landed, attempted to correct at least some of the problems. New "boarded barracks" were built on the mainland for the Montbeliardians and they were transferred there from George's Island. Partly because of the onset of winter and partly because of a desire to avoid a confrontation on the wage issue, work demands on the Montbeliardians practically ceased. Dr. Moreau, a former French Catholic priest who had turned Anglican and then married, was appointed as pastor to the French speaking immigrants. Dr. Moreau had been sent to Halifax a year earlier from London as a missionary to the French populace of the area by the "Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Lands", the missionary arm of the Church of England. He had little success in these missionary efforts and was pleased to find useful employment with the French speaking immigrants.

The winter of 1752/1753 was a difficult one for the immigrants especially so for the Montbeliardians. An epidemic swept through the immigrant communities, hitting the Montbeliardians particularly hard. Approximately one out of every six Montbeliardians died over that first winter.

By the early spring of 1753, the British authorities had come to a decision as to where to settle their Foreign Protestant immigrants. The site of an abandoned French hamlet, Merligash, about fifty miles down the about coast west-south-west of Halifax was chosen. It had more than 300 acres of land that had been previously cleared by the French inhabitants which could be quickly put to use for small vegetable gardens. It was close enough to Halifax to be readily supported by a fleet stationed there in time of war. The proximity to Halifax also made likely that the new settlement would find there a ready market for its surplus farm and forest products in the future. To honor the King, the British authorities changed the name of the settlement to "Lunenburg", which was one of the German ducal titles of King George.

In the last half of April 1753, surveyors were sent to Lunenburg, accompanied by a protecting force of Rangers, to provide a rough survey of the land there so that the major elements of the settlement could be sited. The plan was to give to each family a small plot, 40' by 60', in what was intended to become the town center along with sufficient building materials for a small, one-room, shelter ("hutt"). Each family was also to be assigned the use of a small "garden plot" nearby, suitable for the growing of vegetables to supplement their government rations. By the following spring, 30 acre plots of uncleared land were to be given to each settler family, where they could build more substantial farm houses.

At 7 A.M. on Monday, May 21, a mass meeting of the Foreign Protestants were assembled on the Halifax parade grounds, adjoining Saint Paul's Anglican Church. The plans for the settlement were announced and lots drawn for the town plots. In addition, the able bodied men (about 500 in number) were formed into a militia and officers appointed from their ranks to serve under the British senior officers.

On the morning of Tuesday, May 29, about half of the settlers began loading on the ships that were to take them to Lunenburg. The Nova Scotia government had chartered most of the available ships down as far as New England to ferry the settlers and their supplies. To minimize the number of ships required, the settlers were to be moved in two separate expeditions, about a week apart. The expeditions were to accompanied by a small flotilla of British warships and a detachment of Rangers to provide assistance should the settlers encounter Indian or guerilla resistance.

While waiting for the first settlers and their supplies to complete loading and for the warships to be assembled, the wind shifted and the small fleet was pinned in Halifax Harbour for more than an entire week. On June 7, the ships finally escaped the confines of the harbor and, after a short sail, reassembled at Lunenberg. Colonel Lawrence, the commander of the expedition, ordered that the settlers be held on board until the troops and contract working parties had landed, reconnoitered the area for the presence of guerillas, assembled the building materials at the town sites, and erected a temporary blockhouse and palisades for defense.

After being aboard their ships for over a week, the settlers were in no mood to be further delayed. Many disembarked on their own, found their town plots, and began collecting whatever building materials they could as these were being landed, without regard for the precise counts of nails, bricks, and lumber that had been allotted to each family (Note: The original plan called for 700 board feet of lumber, 500 bricks, and a "proportionate" number of nails for each. Only 500 board feet of lumber and 250 nails were actually distributed. It is not clear whether any bricks were distributed.). Colonel Lawrence was only partially successful in having his troops force these settlers back to their ships. In spite of these difficulties, by June 17 both expeditions had landed their settlers, the building materials had been distributed, and the initial work on defenses completed by the troops and their contractors brought from Halifax.


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