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Loyalist loop: 1996 pre-convention bus tour of the Maritimes.

On a sunny Sunday morning in early June two bus loads of enthusiastic tourists departed King's College, Halifax to follow the trails of their Loyalist ancestors. Six miles from the city, on the shores of Bedford Basin we saw the circular, domed Prince's Lodge, which was designed as a music room by the Duke of Kent (son of King George III and father of Queen Victoria) and built on his estate in the 1790s for his mistress Julie St. Laurent. At the head of the Basin we turned inland towards Windsor, travelling on portions of the first road in the province.

Approximately half way to Windsor we stopped at Mount Uniacke to visit the estate of Richard John Uniacke, now a provincial historic site. Built in 1813 in classic Georgian style, Uniacke House retains much of its original furnishings (including Uniacke's specially designed large chair), paintings, china and the books of Uniacke's library. Uniacke was a rebel in the American Revolution, joining Jonathan Eddy in the attack on Fort Cumberland in 1776. He was captured and indicted for treason but after giving king's evidence against other rebels and taking the oath of allegiance, he redeemed himself and in a remarkably short time was appointed attorney general of the province.

After crossing the Avon River at Windsor we entered the beautiful Annapolis Valley where we stopped first at St. Mary's Church (Auburn, King's County) which was completed in 1790, the second church to be consecrated in British North America. Loyalist Bishop Charles Inglis described it as the "neatest, best finished church in the province." The simple lines of this "classical Georgian auditory church, of the hall type, [was] designed so the congregation could both hear and see the minister." The current rector described its construction, pointing out distinguishing features such as the eight superb Palladian windows which retain most of their original handmade glass. The fine example of a Wreninspired steeple is topped with a copper finial and pennant-shaped weather vane.

After a gracious welcome by His Worship the mayor of Middleton on the steps of the Annapolis Valley MacDonald Museum, we were served lunch (prepared by members of the Historical Society) and enjoyed musical entertainment by soprano Jean Marshall. The tour continued to nearby Wilmot Old Trinity Church, consecrated in 1791. Three Loyalists, Foster Newbury, Nathaniel Parker and John Eager, were delegated in 1797 to find the materials to complete the interior, erect the steeple and install the bell which had been donated in 1792. The gravestones surrounding Old Trinity mark the resting place of many Loyalists.

Further along the Valley we retreated to the seventeenth-century with a tour of the 1608 "Habitation", the fortified accommodation and trading centre of Samuel de Champlain, accurately reconstructed from Champlain's plans and drawings on the original site overlooking Annapolis Basin.

Accommodation that Sunday night was in the various historic inns of Annapolis Royal. So inspiring are these faithfully restored architectural gems that at least one of our travellers donned her Loyalist costume immediately on arrival to be photographed in authentic surroundings. Indeed, the whole town is historic, having witnessed many conflicts between natives, French and English over several centuries, and having served as Nova Scotia's first capital from 1710. The already busy first day of our Loyalist Loop tour was far from over. After a fine dinner in St. Luke's Church Hall served by parishioners, we were treated to an excellent presentation entitled "Introduction to Annapolis" by Jim Howe, an historian who lives in the town, in a house which is partially of Acadian construction dating from the 1600s. In his engaging style, Jim emphasized the strategic importance of the site of Annapolis which accounts for its turbulent history, and he described graphically the plight of the Loyalists at Annapolis in October, 1783 using the words of Jacob Bailey the Anglican missionary, himself a Loyalist.

"Since the commencement of this week there have arrived at Annapolis five ships, eight brigs, and four sloops, besides schooners, with near a thousand people from New York. They must be turned on shore without any shelter in this rugged season."

In November, Bailey reported that a further "fifteen hundred fugitive loyalists are just landed here ... in affecting circumstances, fatigued with a long stormy passage, sickly, and destitute of shelter from the advances of winter ... in consequence my habitation is crowded. The Church has been fitted for the reception of several hundreds, and multitudes are still without shelter in this rigorous and stormy season."

Stirred by Jim's eloquent presentation, we crossed the street to Fort Anne and climbed the ramparts just as the sun was setting over the Basin. Inside the barracks we viewed the huge needlework quilt that depicts the colourful history of the region. This unique work of art was hand stitched over several years by many volunteers (including Queen Elizabeth II). Then, as darkness fell, our host Alan Melanson, vice president of the local historical society, led us on a candlelight tour through the garrison graveyard. Suitably garbed in nineteenth-century black top hat and funereal robe with mourning scarf rippling in the breeze, Alan regaled us with tales about the graveyard's tenants. By the light of our candle lanterns we read hand cut inscriptions on elaborately decorated slate stones, including the oldest English gravestone in Canada. Our flickering lights revealed the winged death's head skull that surmounts this stone, and underneath:

"Bathiah Douglas who departed this life October the 1st in the 37 year of her age."

Monday morning, also sunny, found the Loyalist Loop tourists exploring the streets of the town and visiting the Historic Gardens of Annapolis, an eighteenth century botanical park. Then we were off in the buses in the direction of Digby. On the way we stopped at the Loyalist Church of Old St. Edward's at Clementsport. In 1790, local inhabitants, "amounting to fifty families and mostly Loyalists," petitioned for funds to build a church. Hand hewn beams, lime for plaster made by burning clam shells on the shore, hand wrought nails, hinges and wooden spikes were examined. We learned that the completed church became the community timepiece since it was set true east and west so that the shadow of the cornice touched the round window at sharp twelve o'clock noon. Gravestones in the surrounding cemetery commemorate early Hessian and English settlers. By this second day of the tour we were all acquainted with each other, so when a musician in our group began to play the sanctuary organ, an impromptu sing-along erupted. Many were deeply touched by our visit to this sacred Loyalist spot.

After a tasty lunch prepared and served by St. Edward's friendly parishioners, we proceeded to Digby, and in ideal weather crossed the Bay of Fundy to Saint John where we were met on the docks by a delegation of the New Brunswick Branch UEL. At our hotel, which is adjacent to the rock that marks the site of the Loyalist landings in 1783, many changed into Loyalist costume for the planned evening function -- a sumptuous banquet at the Union Club where we were joined by local UEL members. Speaker of the evening was Gregg Finley, historian and author of On Earth as it is in Heaven, Gothic Revival Churches of Victorian New Brunswick, who reminded us that loyalist church architecture in the province was based on Georgian tradition and English patterns, was modelled on the memory of chapels and meeting houses in New England and Nova Scotia; and was extremely limited by the modest means of the settlers. More elaborate efforts such as First Trinity, Saint John, built in 1788, permitted "classical columns, cornices and gables, with rows of clean square-paned windows fashioned under rounded arches and low pitched roofs."

The busy pace established during the first two days of our tour was maintained Tuesday morning as we walked the city's Loyalist Trail, visiting the beautifully restored Loyalist Burying Ground, the historic Loyalist House and Trinity Church for a glimpse of the royal coat-of-arms rescued from the Statehouse in Boston by Edward Winslow in 1776.

After a delicious lunch served by the local UEL Branch in the foyer of the newly opened New Brunswick Museum, we departed the Loyalist City and journeyed to the Isthmus of Chignecto for a visit to Fort Beausejour-Cumberland, a national historic site.

The weather cleared just as we arrived, as if in honour of our visit, so we were able to enjoy the spectacular view of the Tantramar marshes and Cumberland Basin, and to launch Branch President Ernest Clarke's award winning book, The Siege of Fort Cumberland, 1776: An Episode in the American Revolution. In this dramatic setting, tour members eagerly purchased the book that one reviewer states "breathes life into what could easily have been just another dry recitation of historical facts ... a truly engaging read."

Soon we were on our way again, to Northumberland Strait and the ferry crossing to Prince Edward Island, observing the fixed link under construction as we sailed into Borden and glimpsing the fabrication yard after docking. Later, on the campus of UPEI, we were welcomed to "The Island" at a reception in the university dining hall hosted by Abegweit Branch UEL. Wednesday began with a visit to Province House, "The Birthplace of Canada", followed by a tour of Confederation Centre. A pleasant hour's drive through rural island greenery brought us to Summerside for a wonderful hour of the skirl of the pipes and demonstrations of Scottish snare drumming, dancing and singing at the International School of Bagpiping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada. A bouquet of flowers was laid ceremoniously at the Loyalist Cairn on the Summerside waterfront. Afternoon tea was served in the adjacent Loyalist Country Inn. Since there are two highlights without which no tour of PEI is complete, we drove on to Cavendish and Anne Shirley's Green Gables, then on to New Glasgow for a world famous Lobster Supper before returning to Charlottetown.

Thursday, after checking out of UPEI and enjoying a shopping break at Peakes Wharf, a restored district of Charlottetown, we bused onwards to the ferry, re-crossed the Strait to Nova Scotia and drove back to Halifax in time for the 1996 National Convention. In five days we got to know each other really well and renewed our common heritage as we completed the Loyalist Loop. A front page headline in the Saint John Telegraph Journal on Thursday 6 June, the final day of our tour, summarized the feelings of the seventy travellers:

"Familial memories ride the Loyalist Loop"!
COPYRIGHT 1996 United Empire Loyalists' Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Eleanor Smith; Ernest Clarke
Publication:The Loyalist Gazette
Date:Sep 22, 1996
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