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Stephen Skinner is a somewhat mysterious character, either a patron to the blacks of Birchtown, or their main exploiter. Skinner was friends with Stephen Blucke, and seems to have been the chief connection between the white community in Shelburne and the Blacks of Birchtown.

Skinner was a late arrival in Shelburne, having first traveled to England to plead for compensation for his lost property. Rebuffed, Skinner traveled to the new and booming community of Port Roseway, soon to be renamed Shelburne. Skinner set up trade as a merchant, opening a paint and hardware shop, buying a sailing ship to export salted codfish, and investing in land and other projects.

Most of the better off blacks were small scale fishermen, and it's perhaps in this context that Skinner first came to deal with the blacks of Birchtown.

The main documentary evidence about Skinner comes from the time of the Sierra Leone exodus. Skinner was appointed as the agent to screen blacks enlisting to emigrate to Sierra Leone. Skinner was clearly opposed to the plan, but did not deliberately obstruct those blacks who wished to leave as some of the less scrupulous agents did. Skinner seems to have encouraged his friend Stephen Blucke to draw up a petition opposing the emigration to Sierra Leone. He also purchased most of the emigrants land at fire sale prices. There are records for his purchase of about 100 acres of land in the area.

A few months after their departure, he wrote a long letter to Secretary of State Henry Dundas urging that the remaining blacks be granted land and given aid, while at the same time suggesting that they weren't much worse off then the poor white settlers of the region.

Painting of Skinner's House
Skinner's Home in Shelburne

Story: Exodus

Unlikely Opposition


Stephen Blucke

John Parr


Skinner's Letter to Dundas