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Lunenburg Celebrates 260 Years

Lunenburg - June 8, 1753, may have been the date that the first of the Foreign Protestants stepped ashore on what is now Rous' Brook Park at the intersection of 248 Pelham Street and Ship Yard Road on the way to Blue Rocks. The foundation of the Town of Lunenburg, however, actually dates back to the fall of 1752, two months after Peregrine Thomas Hopson became governor of Nova Scotia.

So says the book Journal and Letters of Colonel Charles Lawrence - A Day by Day Account of the Founding of Lunenburg, that was taken from the actual writings of Colonel Lawrence during his tenure as the first British commander of the new settlement. The introduction of the book, which was written by archivist D.C. Harvey in 1953, outlined the series of events that led to the arrival of the foreign Protestants on the South Shore.

The immigrants had originally landed in Halifax from Germany, Switzerland, the Montbeliard region of France and Holland between 1750 and 1752 to help colonize Nova Scotia on behalf of the British, who were in competition with the French to take control of the territory.

Gov. Hopson had informed the Lords of Trade in October of 1752 that he had narrowed down the foreign Protestants' ultimate destination to either Musquodoboit or Merleguish - which was what Lunenburg was then known as - and sent a report of Surveyor General Morris on the former, but had no plan on the latter to send. In fact, had it not been for the slow manner in which correspondence moved during that period, the founding of Lunenburg likely would never have happened when it did.

By the time the Lords of Trade responded with their approval of Musquodoboit as the settlement, which they sent in March of 1753, Gov. Hopson had already decided on Merleguish due to its superior harbour and the fact that it had previously been a French settlement and there were already 300 to 400 cleared acres of land.

On April 14 he (Gov. Hopson) wrote the Lords of Trade saying...

I was under the greatest necessity of taking this step as the Foreigners grew extremely uneasy and went over to the French so fast that I had great reason to fear in a short time there would be few or none remaining and that the great expense of transporting them and maintaining them here ever since would be lost.

On May 10, 1753, council renamed Merleguish the Township of Lunenburg and on May 28 Gov. Hopson appointed Col. Lawrence to take command of the settlement and direct it under instructions that left everything possible to his direction.

Lots for the settlers in the new township were drawn for before they left Halifax and although the first of the two groups who arrived hit shore on June 8, the town itself was not laid out until June 14 and lots were not actually numbered until June 18, - the day after the second group had landed.

Mr. Harvey wrote ...

All of this had to be done before the settlers could be put in possession of their lots and, thereby, enabled to commence erecting their huts and planting their gardens. The delay, in unfavourable weather, by increasing the discontent of the settlers complicated the problem of Lawrence and the other officers, who fearing an attack from the Indians, regarded the erection of blockhouses and other defences as their first duty, and expected these settlers to see that the interests of the community were greater than those of the individual and to assist cheerfully in the so-called King's works.

Unfortunately, some of the settlers didn't see things the same way.

In fact, although Col. Lawrence was instructed to employ as many of the newcomers as possible who had not yet worked off their passage from Europe, Mr. Harvey reports that he found those to be the least willing to work without remuneration, and that finally, he had to employ whom he could get whether they owed passage or not.

In a letter to the governor dated June 18, 1753, Col. Lawrence wrote that...

We have amongst us some Germans of ye lower kind, who are not only extremely insolent and refractory, themselves, & positively refuse working or obeying any orders, except on such conditions as they themselves [absurdly] propose, but also go about stirring up mutiny amongst those that would otherwise be reasonable, & have had ye impudence to declare that if they were thus controuled they would shew us that they were a good deal stronger than ye English.

As such behaviour can have no good consequences, & may have some very bad ones, I propose to acquaint ye ringleader of these mutineers, that He shall partake of no part of ye King's bounty, and further, that for example's sake, I shall send him back by ye first opportunity, unless He makes sufficient & satisfactory concessions.

In general, there was much discontent among the settlers regarding the amount of support being provided to them by the British government. There was also growing concern that the Indians, under urging from French priest John Louis Le Loutre, would march against the settlement on some desperate enterprise.

Indeed, on July 7, not yet a month after their arrival, Col. Lawrence wrote to the governor......

I find myself still more compelled than ever to urge ye necessity of a farther allowance of provision for ye people. For besides that it is really and truly impossible they should subsist ... on their present scanty allowance, You may be assured Sir, if Le Loutre be employed with his Indians no pains or promises will be wanting that may delude & seduce away these unthinking people," he said, adding that there had already been reports that the French, to encourage the settlement of St. John's Island, now known as  Prince Edward Island, had offered a certain number of acres of cleared land, a cow, a calf, a breeding sow, three years provisions and several other articles that to these people seem great temptations.

Here, they say, they are working one half ye week & starving the other, without any prospect of amendment - better days.

He said the settlers were being forced to use what little money they had to buy provisions and were wearing out the few clothes they had that remained.

This ye most thinking & best disposed of them are daily representing to be ye sad prospect that lies before them.

Robert Hirtle, March 13, 2013

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