Arrival in a New Land
Where did they live when they arrived?
During the war some Loyalists came first to Montreal, where men enlisted in the Loyalist Regiments and returned south to fight the rebels. They left their families in Montreal, dependant on the help of the British government. They lived in crowded barracks, eating rations of meat and bread given by the army. In such close quarters sickness and diseases such as small pox spread easily. When the war was over these refugees were relocated to uninhabited areas where they were given land to clear and farm. Those who depended on the government rations had no choice but to move when the war was over, but those who had their own income could settle where they liked.
Those who arrived in the Maritimes lived in tents provided by the army for weeks or months, some even through the cold first winter. Such cramped, uncomfortable conditions were a further hardship.
How was land surveyed?
Land was surveyed and partitioned in to lots. Teams of men were responsible for this job. Surveyors drew maps; deputy surveyors organized the axe men, chainmen and picket men, giving them their pay, equipment and rations.
The process was long. All of the surveying was done with a few simple tools: a sextant, a magnetic compass called a circumfrentor, and a steel chain measuring sixty-six feet. The surveyor used a sextant to find the location of one end of the baseline, and then used the circumfrentor to start the baseline. Then axe men felled trees in the way of that line. A picket man drove in a stake at the start of the baseline, and one chainman held the first link of the chain while his partner walked down the baseline until the chain was stretched tight. A picket man then drove in another stake.
The basic unit of Loyalist land was 200 acres, measuring 30 chains wide and 68 chains deep. Every four or six lots this size the team measured one chain length to make a road.
- Each row of 24 lots was called a concession.
A township was usually 24 lots wide and six concessions deep.
Another road was usually planned for every two concessions.
Once the township was surveyed, a settler received a piece of paper showing the location of his land grant. It might read: “Township No. 1, concession 3, lot 12.”
Reference: Life of the Loyalists (1995) by Rosemary Neering and Stan Garrod
Land was given by lottery. A settler’s name was called and he drew his lot from those available. The land might be good for planting, but often it would have to be cleared, backbreaking work that would take years to finish. The family would have to live in a rough log house for years while they cleared land, planted crops, built a barn and acquired livestock.
For families who had had fine houses made of sawn lumber with wood floors and proper glass windows this was a very difficult transition. Their furniture left behind, they built only what they needed. Many had never worked a farm before. For some it would be many years before their quality of life returned to what it was before they left their homes in the thirteen colonies.