New Brunswick Blacks (National Institute)
The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Research: New Brunswick Ancestors by Althea Douglas, MA, CG(C). The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Blacks In New Brunswick[edit | edit source]
The black population in New Brunswick is not large, but it is long established. There were black settlements on lands granted to those who came as, or with, Loyalists, and other small communities where work was available.
Slavery[edit | edit source]
Slavery existed in North America well before Europeans arrived. Most of the Indian tribes had slaves, generally captives from other tribes with whom they were at war. Captured Europeans might well become panis as they were called (some belonged to the Pawnee tribe) and the French in Canada bought and sold both panis and later, Negro and Carib slaves from the West Indies. When the colonies became British, well-to-do Nova Scotians acquired Negro slaves, and the Loyalists brought slaves with them.
The Legislature of Upper Canada passed an act in 1793 forbidding the introduction of slaves into that colony, and while none of the other colonies did the same, courts usually decided a master had no rights over his slave, and slavery gradually disappeared. When Great Britain abolished slavery in 1833 it was almost non-existant in New Brunswick.
E.W. Larracey’s The First Hundred records that the list of assets of the estate of Stephen Milledge, included “one black girl named Rose, about 19 years, appraised at £40” (page 221). Millidge/Milledge was deputy land surveyor, and Early Probate Records indicate he was of the “Parish of Sackville, Westmorland Co., Esquire. Intestate. Administration granted 20 September 1803 to the widow” (page 312). The same source tells us that in Loyalist Lt-Col. Richard Hewlett’s estate inventory of 1789 the most valuable item was “One Negro Boy,” £25. Such probate inventories and a newspaper notice here or there about a runaway slave, are about all the documentation you will find in early communities.
19th Century[edit | edit source]
Esther Clark Wright’s Loyalists of New Brunswick has no special listing for black Loyalists; perhaps because most went to Nova Scotia. However, look for The Black Loyalist Directory: African Americans in Exile After the American Revolution, ed. Graham Russell Hodges (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995) which is a compilation of American records of Black Loyalists.
The black community in Nova Scotia increased by some 1,700 refugee blacks after the War of 1812; they joined a black nucleus already settled in Halifax. Halifax’s black community was reinforced after the railways were built, when the men found jobs as sleeping-car porters and on the dining cars.
Once the lines ran through to Montréal, such employees could live at either end of the run, so in both cities there grew up communities of black families where the men had steady, if not great jobs. Larracey’s The First Hundred recounts (page 200) how during the building of the railroad, Moncton became a place many blacks in Halifax said should be avoided by Negroes. But while Moncton was a division point where the running trades changed, porters and stewards stayed with their cars for the full run, so Moncton was not a logical place to live, friendly or not.
Saint John where the CPR ended was a logical place to live. It was an ocean shipping terminal and the river boat terminal, and there was work to be had on both. In a port like Saint John where ships sailed to and from all parts of the world, there were sailors of every race who doubtless left a few children around as well. The memories of one “black” New Brunswicker will explain more than I ever could about how things were.
In George Hector’s Words[edit | edit source]
Black slaves had come with the Loyalists, and remained as labourers and domestic servants. Up along the Saint John River there were small black communities as George Hector Whistling Banjomantells:
- Jane [Owen] Wright was Granny Haines’ mother. There used to be a small coloured settlement at the head of Grand Lake at Cumberland Bay … years ago. Jane Owen from Cork, Ireland, married a coloured man by the name of Charles Wright and raised two children, Sylvester Wright and Annie Wright [Haines], my grandmother. (page 3)
- Annie Wright married Jim Haines. The Haines people all settled in the Otnabog land that was granted as a coloured settlement for slaves that come with the Loyalists. Some of them had quite big lots of land. The Haines house was built out of logs down next to the shore of the Lake. The side walls of that old log house was almost two feet thick. (page 5)
- There was contact with coloured people from the south after they came up here. I’ve heard my father speak of it. There was an old man that had been granted a big lot of land in Elm Hill by the name of Bill McIntyre, the grandfather of all the McIntyres (after slavery days there were people that were trying to catch slaves to take them back). William Paul Goodall come clear up here and somehow he got Bill McIntyre and took him clear back down there. Bill managed to get away and he came back on the underground to the Otnabog and married Debbie Cameron. (page 19).
Elm Hill: 5 miles south of Gagetown. PO 1909-1953. Settled c.1812 by black immigrants who came with Loyalists from Virginia. (Rayburn, page 101).
George Hector was born at Gagetown on 14 April 1911, son of LeBaron “Barry” Hector and his wife (m. 1898) Jessie Haines. She had been born “Otonabog coloured settlement right across the Otonabog Lake, Elm Hill they called it in later years. The older people just called it The Bog.” (page 3)
[edit | edit source]
That is what you are up against when you start delving into “black” genealogy in New Brunswick—it will not be black or white; most of it will be in between. As an outsider you cannot tell from names, but rest assured that within the black community, and usually within the white, everyone knows who everyone’s grandfather was.
References[edit | edit source]
- See "Slavery" in Encyclopaedia of Canada, Volume VI.
- Harris, R. Cole, and John Warkentin, Canada Before Confederation: A Study in Historical Geography (New York, London, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1974), page 186.
- To learn about "The Railroad Way of Life", see Douglas, Althea and J. Creighton, Canadian Railway Records: A Guide for Genealogists (Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society, 1994), pages 16-23.
- Fawcett, Anne, Whistling Banjoman: George Hector (Gagetown, New Brunswick: Otonabog Editions, 1999).
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