Following up on a previous post about the Black community in the Lake George, New Brunswick area in the 1800s, this post along with one or two more will be about one of the people mentioned in the recollections, Adam Wise.
Adam Wise was a man of African descent, who was born around 1768 in Virginia. Most likely, he had been a slave of Jacob Ellegood, a Loyalist from Virginia who settled in Prince William after the Revolutionary War. Wise joined Ellegood with other Ellegood family members in 1890. At some point before 1818 he was freed from slavery, petitioning to the New Brunswick government for a land grant in 1818 which he subsequently earned in 1824 in what is now known as the Donnelly Settlement. He passed away in 1839 in Prince William. More details will be provided in a subsequent post entitled “Adam Wise, Part 2”. The rest of this post will provide some of the historical background that sets the context for the lives of people like Adam Wise.
At the time of the Revolutionary War, slavery was well established in what was to become the United States of America, particularly in the South where the economy was highly dependent on slave labour. Perhaps less well known is that there were slaves in Canada including the Maritimes though to a much lesser extent. During the Revolutionary War, the British loyalists augmented their ranks by promising slaves freedom if they fought on the British side. Tens of thousands joined up to escape their often brutal servitude.
After the War, soldiers who fought on the British side were persecuted in the newly formed United States of America. Many migrated with their families to other countries to rebuild their lives after having land and livelihoods taken away. Thousands ended up in Nova Scotia in 1783-84 with many eventually settling along the St. John River. New Brunswick was partitioned off from Nova Scotia in 1784 in order to better accommodate the influx of Loyalists.
Some of the Loyalists arrived with slaves hoping to rebuild their lives as they knew them in the United States, the Ellegoods among them. At the time, there were no specific laws banning slavery in New Brunswick, though Canadian and British abolitionists were getting more and more vocal. In 1833, slavery was banned throughout the British Empire.
In the next installment, more specifics will be given about Adam Wise and his family.
Some sources with on-line links