Canada, My Canada

"Canada's Loyal Yankees"

A Personal Perspective

"The Loyalists who came were white people, black people, Native people; young, old, babies, pregnant women; men and women in love or hoping to find love; educated folk and illiterate peasants; rich merchants and poor city dwellers.  Some had degrees from Harvard, some had held high offices in their communities, and some had been slaves.  A few could claim a pedigree as far back as the Mayflower and drank tea out of real china cups and covered their dining tables with damask cloths, but many more ate off the floor as best they could.  All of them taxed the services of the state and the energies of the officials who had to deal with them.

Getting here and settled was not easy.  Hannah Ingraham was ninety-seven when she died in New Brunswick in 1877, a year after Confederation.  She was eleven years old when she came to Canada with her family.  Up to that time she had lived comfortably on a farm in New Concord, twenty miles from Albany, N.Y., with "plenty of cows and sheep," as she related in her old age.  When the Revolutionary War broke out, her father enlisted in the British army and brought the wrath of "the Rebels" upon his wife and family.  This is her story in her own words, with a little editing from me.  I found it in an historical journal on the early history of New Brunswick:

'They [the Rebels] took it all away, sold the things, ploughs and all, and my mother was forced to pay rent for her own farm... They took away all our cows and sheep... Uncle had given me a sheep, and when he found we were like to lose all, he took it away and kept it for me... Little John, my brother, had a pet lamb and he went to the Committee men and spoke up and said, "Won't you let me have my lamb?"  He was a little fellow, four years old, so they let him have it.

   My father was in the army seven years... Mother was four years without hearing of or from father, whether he was alive or dead; any one would be hanged right up if they were caught writing letters... They took grandfather prisoner and sent him on board a prison ship [where he died].  Oh, they were terrible times!

   He, [her father] came home on September 13 [1783], it was Friday, and said we were to go to Nova Scotia - New Brunswick was then a part of Nova Scotia - that a ship was ready to take us there, so we made all haste to get ready.'

Hannah's father killed their only cow; the neighbours made candles, her uncle thrashed wheat which they stored in the bags her grandmother had sown, and her mother churned a tub of butter and packed up a "tub of pickles, and a good store of potatoes."  And then, suddenly, one Tuesday towards the end of September, American soldiers surrounded her family's house and her father was taken away.  That night Hannah cried "enough to kill myself," but the next morning her father was released and the family was free to go to Nova Scotia.

   Without wasting any time, they rushed to catch the last transport of the season that would take them to Saint John.  They brought with them five wagon-loads of goods.  The sea voyage was not too arduous.  There was a storm "in the bay, but some Frenchmen came off in a canoe and helped us."  Nobody died on board, and several babies were born.  After they landed in Saint John, they spent a few days there, which Hannah remembered as "a sad, sick time."  The family lived in a tent.  "It was just at the first snow then, and the melting snow and rain would soak up into our beds as we lay.  Mother got so chilled with rheumatism that she was never very well afterwards."  Finally they travelled to their grant of land near Fredericton, pitched their tent, and lived in it while her father "got a house raised" near where he had found a spring.  "He stooped down and pulled away the fallen leaves that were thick over it, and tasted it.  It was very good, so there he built his house."  The colonial authorities provided them with flour and butter and pork and tools.

   Then one morning, when the snow lay deep on the ground, Hannah's father came to bring them to their new house.  "It was snowing fast, and oh so cold.  Father carried a chest and we all took something and followed him up the hill through the trees, to see our gable end."  It had no floor, no windows, no proper chimney, no door, "but we had a roof at last."  Her father had laid a good fire in the hearth, her mother, who had brought a big loaf of bread with her, boiled a kettle of water "and put a good piece of butter in a pewter bowl, and we toasted the bread and all sat round the bowl to eat our breakfast that morning."  Her mother led in a prayer of thanksgiving and said: "Thank God, we are no longer in dread of having shots fired through our house.  This is the sweetest meal I have tasted for many a day."

  Hannah's life was never easy, but it was rewarding.  And that is another characteristic of this land: it exacts a high price for those who choose it and from those who are fortunate enough to stay on it.  But the return on the investment is high.  In fact, it is the envy of the world."


 

 

Canada, My Canada : What Happened?

Laurier LaPierre. pp 80-82

� 1992 McClelland & Stewart, Toronto

ISBN 0-7710-4692-8

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