Jordantown - Scotia's Showcase - April 6, 2021
Updated: Apr 9, 2021
Jordantown is a black community in the Digby area. When Black Loyalists first settled in Nova Scotia after fighting in the American War of Independence (1775 - 1783), their community was called Brindley Town. On this land plot map you will find Brindley Town in plot 13 named as Negro Town.
The history of the Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia is a complicated one and very misunderstood. Rather than try to explain it in my own words I encourage anyone interested in our province's history to read Liberty to Slaves: The Black Loyalist Controversy by Michael Anthony White. I have pulled the following information directly from his work, and have indicated on what pages in the document you can find the information.
Pg 37/38 "By 1783, the British had agreed to evacuate the colonies and formally end the conflict with the victorious Patriots. Loyalists of all races gathered in port cities controlled by the British, notably New York City, for protection. On November 10, two officers, Alexander Schaw and Major Molleson, of the Royal Artillery Regiment detailed the assistance that black Loyalists received after the fighting ended. The officers’ encouraged black Loyalists to take advantage of the opportunity to have “the benefit of the Bounty” since they only earned six pence in pay for their service. They also provided clothing to these families (31 children, 43 Men, and 29 Women) who all had proper certificates of freedom and were prepared to sail to Nova Scotia. 79 The letter shows a commitment and responsibility towards black Loyalists that did not extend to slaves. Black Loyalists had undertaken a unique transformation over the war that allowed enslaved people to become free. The only people of African descent who were permitted to evacuate were black loyalists or slaves owned by white Loyalists or British officers."
Pg 41 "British officials ensured that their vulnerable allies were not abandoned in New York and committed considerable resources to support the evacuation of black Loyalists with British forces as they withdrew from the new United States to Nova Scotia."
pg 47 "With no evidence suggesting that any black Loyalists paid the poll tax, it is likely that blacks were disenfranchised in Nova Scotia. This, combined with direct violence, such as in the Shelburne riots (July 26, 1784), poverty, and famine, as well as widespread discrimination must have influenced many to sail to Sierra Leone. It may also represent how a skewed legal system only further disabled black freedom and expression."
pg 49 "Records of the final months of the black Loyalists in Nova Scotia, before the Sierra Leone trip fragmented the group, appear within white abolitionist John Clarkson’s journal, which provides valuable insights into understanding the fates of many black Loyalists. Their labour being relatively cheap was highly valued by employers in the region, which led to accelerated hostilities directed towards Clarkson (the lead white recruiter for the exodus from Nova Scotia) and his assistants, whose actions would help to remove significant source of cheap labor in the colony. Though many people of authority in Nova Scotia used coercion, black Loyalists were desperate for a new opportunity. The years of struggle they had endured led many to seek out more information about the possibility of resettlement in Africa. Clarkson learned of the difficulties black Loyalists experienced through a memorial presented by black loyalist Thomas Peters on behalf of many Nova Scotia and New Brunswick families in London. Peters described how many had never received their land and those that did had a variety of other problems as a result. A significant area of concern was the distance between residential lots in town and their farming plots over ten miles away. The result was parents who worked in the fields for days while their children raised one another at home alone. Their diet consisted of salted fish, potatoes, and buttermilk. Another complaint was that black loyalists had their land seized unjustifiably by the government and without compensation. The black Loyalists felt abandoned in British North America and had to survive in a hostile environment that threatened their wellbeing."
pg 52 "Some twelve hundred black Loyalists left Nova Scotia in January 1792 to found Sierra Leone. The black Loyalists are a fundamental part of the story in late-eighteenth century Nova Scotia who help to illuminate how a group of former black slaves fought many obstacles to earn and maintain their freedom with the British."
pg 53 "The slave market was a constant threat to black people, and the story of the black Loyalist is a small triumph in sharp contrast to an otherwise grim outcome for so many others"
While in Jordantown you are only 6 km away from Digby where you can visit the Admiral Digby Museum: "Housed in a mid 1800s Georgian home, the museum features period rooms containing artifacts, and archives that relate to the interesting Maritime & Pioneer history of Digby and Digby County, its people, and industries.
Explore the Town and County history or research your own Digby County roots in our Genealogy Department."
You are also only 8km away from the Maud Lewis Replica House. Her original house is on display in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax. Maud Lewis was born on March 7, 1903 in South Ohio, Nova Scotia and died in Digby, Nova Scotia at the age of 67. She lived most of her life in poverty in a small house in Marshalltown, Nova Scotia and is one of the best known artists in Canadian history.
Digby also boasts the well known Digby Pines Golf Resort and Spa, Admiral Digby Inn and Cottages, Digby Campground and Fun Park, and you can explore the Annapolis Basin with Annapolis Basin Charter Tours.
If you have any more information or pictures of Jordantown please email me or message me through Bluenoser on Facebook.
Other resources for Jordantown:
An exploration of Black communities in Nova Scotia - CBC
Destination Liberty - Your Guide to Black Historic Travel Destinations in Nova Scotia