Home: Communities: Tracadie
Many of the first wave of black refugees were unloaded at a barren harbour near Port Roseway. Named Port Mouton by Jacques Cartier, The blacks and whites settled there began to build a town of huts and log homes for the winter. They named their settlement Guysborough in honor of Guy Carleton.
That spring disaster struck. The entire village burned down in a great fire. The government decided that it would be better to resettle the Loyalists on the far northern end of Nova Scotia. Although some went to Shelburne and Halifax, the majority were brought to Chedabucto Bay in the summer of 1784. There they began the work of rebuilding Guysborough.
As the blacks set up their own little town of huts near the main mass of refugees, a leader emerged from the blacks; a man by the name of Thomas Brownspriggs. Well spoken, intelligent, and somewhat literate, Brownspriggs earned the respect of many whites in the settlement as well as nearly all the blacks.
As the whites spread out into smaller villages along the coast in all the likely harbours, Brownspriggs soon realized that the blacks would have to wait indefinitely for land near the main settlement. People who could afford surveyors or who had useful connections would always be higher on the priority list than poor blacks. He drew up a petition to have a separate settlement for the area's blacks surveyed deep in the interior. This settlement would be closer to the other side of the province and the French Acadians at Tracadie Harbour than Chedabucto.
Many of the whites in the community supported him, either from charitable motives or from a desire to get rid of the unsightly blacks. Soon 40 acre lots were laid out for 74 black families high on the Tracadie River, and while the grants were not that generous, at least they received land much quicker than other Black Loyalists.
There is no good farmland in the region, and the deep large rocks and acidic spruce soil on their grants made farming almost impossible. Cod fishing, which quickly became the main means of support, was hardly possible in the interior. It's hard to imagine how they could have survived by farming, and many of the lots were redistributed a few years later since the lands had never been improved. It seems more likely that hunting and trout fishing were their main means of support. Soon many of the lots were abandoned, and given away to Acadians and other blacks. Their original inhabitants may have become casual labourers in the area's white villages or perhaps 'went native' with the area's Mi'kmaq people.
Supplies were delivered to the people of the region until the autumn of 1784. That year's winter supply ship was captured by American privateers. Famine began to sink into the community, but hit the blacks especially hard due to their poverty. Many blacks died from starvation that winter, but the remaining settlers were made more determined by their trials.
A school was built with donations from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, (SPG), with Thomas Brownspriggs as it's teacher. As usual for black schoolmasters, Brownspriggs was also an Anglican lay preacher. Given its remoteness, visits from priests and other inspectors were rare, and the blacks of the area were left to their own devices.
Not one settler or casual worker from the northeast of the province went to Sierra Leone; it seems likely that nobody ever told them about the Company's offer. When Thomas Brownspriggs abandoned the settlement, it took months for the SPG to realize that the school was without staff, and even more time to hire a new schoolteacher.
Because of it's remoteness, the blacks of the area were left alone to survive as best they could, until recently. In the 1800's, a Baptist minister named Joseph Nutter led a religious revival in the area. Today there are some archaeological projects in the area, but in general the blacks of Little Tracadie still live deep in the province's interior, where almost nobody else has settled.