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Broken Promises or Poor Planning? Foreign Protestants in Nova Scotia 1750-1753

Terrence M. Punch, D.Litt.

There was nothing ambiguous about the words Lorenz Rahn heard read at the bridge over the river Main to Sachsenhausen:

Daß an jeden Fremden fünfzig Morgen Landes. . . Daß über gedachte fünfzig Acker, ferner an jeden Fremden, welcher ein Haußgesinde hat, und zwar für jede Person desselbigen, die Frau und Kinder mitgerechnet, noch zehen [sic] Acker mehr auf demselben Fuß .....

Lorenz looked at his younger brother Philipp. Between them they could have 130 acres in Nova Scotia: 50 for each of them and 30 more for Lorenz’s wife and two little boys! Moreover, . . . the British promised tools, guns, utensils and rations for one year after they reached this Nova Scotia, provided that the settlers became British subjects and paid their own passages to America.

. . . the eight-year War of Austrian Succession had ended just three years earlier; and the peacetime period from 1748 through 1754 . . . witnessed the heaviest wave of emigration to America of the eighteenth century.

In September 1751, after three months at sea, the ‘Murdoch’ anchored at Halifax, . . . the. immigrants quickly learned that milk and honey were in decidedly scarce supply in this new land.

. . . What went wrong? . . .

Only in June of 1753 were the foreign Protestants resettled from Halifax to Lunenburg. By then their numbers had been diminished by death, desertion. . . . None of the settlers would have been able to do more than build a hut, lay in fuel for the coming winter, and prepare the garden plot for planting the next spring. It was not so much the tardiness in granting the promised 50-acre farms as the lengthy wait in primitive conditions at Halifax that begot the restiveness among these Lunenburg settlers that culminated in the so-called “insurrection” of December 1753.

At this point for the new settlement, most of the allocation of larger farm lots lay ahead, as did the backbreaking work of clearing heavily-wooded forest and breaking soil. Self-sufficiency and security for the new community were still in the future. . . .


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