Dropped at the mouth of the St. John River during the warm months of 1783, the Loyalists were provided with basic provisions – blankets, tents, clothing, and tools. The first winter, however, dealt a huge blow to the struggling refugees. Many lives were lost due to the frigid cold and lack of nourishing food. For those that survived, the prospect of land grants, stands of lumber and firewood, and abundant hunting and fishing held the promise of a better life. Though they knew it would not be built overnight, Loyalists recognized the opportunity to construct a new society and economy, and many were already accustomed to migration, resettlement and hard work. From 1784 until well into the 1790s, Loyalists moved up the St. John River to Hampstead, Wickham, Gagetown and the Grand and Washademoak Lakes. Conflict naturally arose between the pre-Loyalist settlers and the Loyalists over land titles, eventually bringing about the controversial re-granting of most lands in favour of the Loyalists.
In the first years, the Loyalists made do with whatever could be made by hand. Wooden tools and utensils were common. Settlers grew linen and wool on the farm and wove it into clothing and blankets. Blacksmiths soon set up their trades providing cooking pots, griddles and grills. Settlement along the waterways soon enabled a thriving river trade to develop, bringing access to finer tools and equipment such as tin moulds for candles and pewter serving bowls from Saint John or from far away London.
The cradle comes to us from the estate of Leora Simpson. Visitors to the Court House and those who attended the Gagetown School from the 1960s-1990s will remember Miss Simpson’s collection of stuffed birds. The cradle has Ebbett family connections through Miss Simpson’s mother, Elizabeth Ebbett (1832-1814) and dates to the 1790s. The base wood is actually pine, grained and painted to look like fine mahogany. Inside the cradle is an early 19th century hand-woven blanket, typical of the fabric made and used by the Loyalists. The child’s ladder back chair was made by a member of the Loyalist Merritt family, Queenstown.
The iron griddle belonged to the Charles MacAlpine family. Charles MacAlpine (1770-1852) was born in Glasgow, Scotland, the son of Peter MacAlpine (born c.1726) and Elizabeth Watters (born c.1732). The MacAlpines came to New Brunswick with the Loyalists in 1783 and initially settled on Lower Musquash Island, south of Gagetown. In 1794 Charles married Christean Balmain (1771-1863) and had twelve children that intermarried with other Loyalist families. More than likely after the first major freshet in the St. John River valley, the family removed itself to higher ground on Otnabog Lake, Hampstead Parish, where the family remained until the late 20th century. A brother, John, settled at the Narrows, Washademoak Lake. When Christean died in 1863 at the age of 92, her obituary in the Religious Intelligencer read:
d. Cambridge (Queens Co.) Tuesday 2nd inst., at h[er] son’s residence, Christian w/o late Charles MacALPINE, age 92. She was born at Glasgow, Scotland and emigrated to this Province with the Loyalists at which place she resided until her death; being the mother of 12 children, 81 grandchildren 46 great grand children, one great great grandchild. On Friday 5th her body was confined in the narrow house confined for all living, in hopes that her spirit was basking in the sunbeams of immortal light, in the presence of her saviour. Sermon by Rev. John Reed, Wesleyan minister of Gagetown.
The six-mould candlemaker was used by the Gideon Corey family, New Canaan. Gideon Corey was born 21 March 1757 at East Greenwich, Rhode Island, the son of Thomas Corey and Elizabeth Drake, and died 14 July 1823. It is believed that prior to coming to New Brunswick with the Loyalists, Gideon married Abigail Clark, daughter of Loyalist Elisha Clark, also of Rhode Island. After arriving in New Brunswick, the Coreys settled in the upper reaches of Washademoak Lake and the Canaan River; frankly the upper reaches of Queens County far away from the more populous settlements at Gagetown, Hampstead, Jemseg and Wickham. Their choice of location, however, was perhaps not that unusual. The waters of the lake and river were navigable in the summer and good for ice travel in the winter and at that time, who knew how settlement would develop. The Coreys were evidently successful, having eleven children who married into several other families in the neighbourhood, and obviously easy trade allowed for acquiring a time-saving tool like the tin candle maker. Fancy homes made their candles from beeswax, however more usual were candles made from a cheap and available substance called tallow, a fat from sheep and cows. String would be threaded through the holes and tied in knots at one end, the fat melted and then poured into the mould. When it hardened, the knots of the wicks were cut and the candles removed. Although a very dirty and smelly source of light, it was cheap, coming right off the farm.
And finally the pewter bowl which qualifies as a bit of a luxury and indicative of how quickly the Loyalists established themselves socially and economically. The bowl was made in London by Townsend & Compton between 1801 and 1811. It is clearly marked on the back with the maker’s marks and stamps. Certainly the river and the port of Saint John allowed for a lively import business, with items coming to Queens County from all over the world. The bowl was also well used, given the pits and cracks on its surface!
To learn more about the daily life of the Loyalists or to see some of the items above in person, visit the Loyalist Legacy exhibition at the Tilley House.