story of the Loyalists really began with the prolonged fighting
known as the French and Indian War which was the American portion
of the Seven Years War (1756- 1763), in which the British and some
colonial troops protected the thirteen American colonies, and
finally with the fall of Québec in 1759 took possession of French
Canada. England, as mistress of America was heavily in debt
and unwisely levied the Stamp Act to help meet the costs of the
colonists now found themselves free of the French threat to the
north, and with some anti-monarchist elements ready to make the
most of grievances against what they felt were unfair taxes.
At first, only constitutional changes were sought by men of
standing such as Franklin, Jefferson and Washington.
However, open rebellion developed. The majority of the
colonists did not want to break away from England but were urged
on by hot headed insurgents. Those who remained actively
loyal to Britain were subjected to indignities, imprisonment,
confiscation of their property and even death. The rebellion
lasted from 1775 to 1783.
the end the rebels were victorious and the Loyalists were forced
to get out of the country. Many returned to England, some
went to the West Indies, and about 40,000 found their way to
Canada. The bitterest words ever attributed to George
Washington were that he could see nothing better for the Loyalists
than to recommend suicide.
Loyalists were made of sterner stuff than that. Some 30,000
were transported by sea from Boston and New York to settle in the
Maritimes. Little or nothing had been done for their
reception. A wild and lonely shore faced them where the
brush had to be cleared before they could even pitch their tents
or build their rough shacks.
of others from upper New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey,
Massachusetts, and Vermont had to find their way along dangerous
forest trails or by water on Lake Champlain to Sorel on the
St. Lawrence. Thence they made their way to the north shore
of Lake Ontario where they were given free land to settle in the
region around the Bay of Quinte and Kingston, which was the
official town and centre of the new surveys. Some 13
townships were divided into lots.
of the Loyalists were disbanded soldiers from the Loyalist
regiments. From the Mohawk Valley Sir John Johnson brought
the King's Royal Regiment of New York.
best known Provincial Corps in the Niagara area was Butler's
Rangers (1777 - 1784), commanded by Colonel John
Butler. They were based at Fort Niagara and were an effective
fighting force allied with their Indian brothers in a civil war
against the rebels.
all these men were of British descent. There were large
numbers of Dutch, Swiss, and German Palatines who had founded
Pennsylvania. Quakers, and of course the entire Mohawk tribe
of the Six Nations Indians. It was the sons of these
settlers who preserved Canada to the British crown in the war of
first white settlers in the Niagara Peninsula were disbanded
members of Butler's Rangers and their families who came in the
1780's. This influx of over 1,000 Loyalists, out of the
estimated 10,000 who eventually came to Upper Canada, rapidly
spread over this area. They moved westward along Lake
Ontario to the head of the lake, southward along the Niagara
River, and westward along Lake Erie to Long Point.
Frederick Haldimand, Governor of Canada, granted a tract of land,
six miles on both sides of the Grand River, from its mouth to its
source, to the Loyal Indians in compensation for the loss of their
ancestral home in the Mohawk Valley of New York.