Loyalists on the Way to Canada
C.W. Jefferys' notes about this picture from Canada's Past in Pictures
When discontent in the American colonies broke out into rebellion, probably as many as one-third of the people remained loyal. Though few of them approved of the policy of the British government, they were opposed to revolution; they desired to remain British subjects, and trusted to constitutional and peaceful means for the removal of their grievances.
As the conflict grew more bitter, neighbours became hostile, friends turned to enemies, families were divided. The Loyalists were persecuted, their lands were confiscated, their property destroyed or stolen, sometimes their houses were burned, they were tarred and feathered, they were imprisoned, some were put to death.
In turn large numbers of men joined the American Loyalist regiments which were raised to fight the revolutionists. During the years of the war, small parties of Loyalists, women and children, fathers of families, men, too old to fight, sought the protection of the garrisons along the frontier of Canada, or found their way by sea to Nova Scotia. Many of these exiles from western New York and New Jersey gathered around Fort Niagara, another stream of refugees trickled into the neighbourhood of Montreal from the Hudson River, while still others fled to Halifax and the Bay of Fundy from New England.
Long and toilsome and full of anxiety and peril were their journeys. Some carried with them a few treasured possessions-family heirlooms, or bits of furniture-or drove along a cow or two; but most of them brought only the clothes they wore, and a scanty supply of provisions. Some rode on horseback, or in heavy springless farm wagons drawn by a yoke of oxen; others tramped all the weary miles on foot. Nearly all arrived destitute, and for a long while they had to be served daily rations of food from the supplies in the neighbouring forts.
The picture shows a party of these early Loyalist refugees arriving at the bank of a river on their way to Canada. A rough road has been cut through the woods to the crossing place. The river is too deep to ford, as yet few of the streams along the frontier had any bridges, and the travellers will be ferried over on the rude scow.
- Jefferys, Charles W. 1934 Canada's Past in Pictures, p.89
- Jefferys, C.W. (1945). The Picture Gallery of Canadian History Vol. 2, p.23