New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Voyage of the First Fleet of 1783, and the Settlement of Kingston by a Band of Loyalists

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From the blog at

Walter Bates was a farmer from Stamford, Connecticut who arrived in Saint John in May of 1783 aboard the Loyalist evacuation ship Union. He settled in Kingston, becoming Sherriff of Kings County, and died there in 1842.

We have heard from Walter Bates before. My blog posting from November, 2016 entitled An Unparalleled and Abominable Deception! was based on his work, and can be found at

Bates also wrote a memoir which included a description of the arrival of the Union and of the settlement of Kingston. This work was edited by W.O. Raymond and republished in Saint John in 1889, and part of this is presented below.

The appended passenger list indicates 65 heads of household arriving on the Union. However, the early Kingston settlers surveyed only 44 lots, so that not all of the Union passengers went to Kingston. Furthermore, some of the Kingston settlers likely arrived on other ships.

Bates probably wrote his memoir well after the fact. He describes the Kingston settlers as a band of happy workers, firm in their loyalty to Britain and sustained by faith, striving to provide for the women and children. Time had taken the rough edges off of what must have been years of unrelenting hard work.

Trinity Church, Kingston


Voyage of the First Fleet of 1783, and the Settlement of Kingston by a Band of Loyalists

It seemed as if Heaven smiled upon our undertaking, selecting the best ship in the fleet for our comfort, and by far the best captain. And so, with warm, loyal hearts, we all embarked with one mind on board the good ship Union, Captain Wilson, who received us all on board as father of a family.

Nothing was wanting to make us comfortable on board ship, which blessing seemed providentially to attend us throughout.

From Eaton’s Neck the ship sailed through East River to New York.

Having a couple on board wishing to he married we called upon Reverend Mr. Learning who received us with much kindness and affection, most of us having been formerly of his congregation; who after the marriage reverently admonished us with his blessing that in our new home we pay due regard to church and school as means to obtain the blessing of God upon our families and our industry. We re-embarked the next day, the ship joined the fleet, and on the 26th day of April, 1783, upwards of twenty sail of ships under convoy left Sandy Hook for Nova Scotia — from whence our good ship Union had the honor of leading the whole fleet fourteen days and arrived at Partridge Island before the fleet was come within sight.

Next day, our ship was safely moored by Capt. Daniel Leavett, the pilot, in the most convenient situation for landing in the harbor of St. John all in good health.

We remained comfortably on board ship till we could explore for a place in the wilderness suitable for our purpose of settlement. Those who came in other ships were in some cases sickly, or precipitated on shore. Here again we were favored.

A boat was procured for the purpose of exploration, and David Pickett, Israel Hait, Silas Raymond and others proceeded sixty miles up the River Saint John. On their return they reported that the inhabitants were settled on intervale land by the river — that the high lands had generally been burned by the Indians, and there was no church or church minister in the country.

They were informed of the existence of a tract of timber land that had not been burned on Belleisle Bay, about thirty miles from the harbor of Saint John, which they had visited. They viewed the situation favorable for our purpose of settlement. Whereupon we all agreed to disembark from on board the good ship Union and proceed thither. We departed with Captain Wilson’s blessing, and embarked onboard a small sloop all our baggage.

The next morning with all our effects, women and children, we set sail above the Falls, and arrived at Belleisle Bay before sunset.

Nothing but wilderness before our eyes; the women and children did not refrain from tears!

John Marvin, John Lyon and myself went on shore and pitched a tent in the bushes and slept in it all night. Next morning every man came on shore and cleared away and landed all our baggage, women and the children, and the sloop left us alone in the wilderness.

We had been informed the Indians were uneasy at our coming, and that a considerable body had collected at the head of Belleisle. Yet our hope and trust remained firm that God would not forsake us. We set to work with such resolution that before night we had as many tents set as made the women and children comfortable.

Next morning we discovered a fleet of ten Indian canoes slowly moving towards us, which caused considerable alarm with the women. Before they came within gunshot one who could speak English came to let us know, “We all one brother!” They were of the Micmac tribe and became quite friendly, and furnished us plentifully with moose meat.

We soon discovered a situation at the head of Belleisle Creek suitable for our purpose of settlement with Church and school.

No surveyor was appointed until July, when Frederick Hauser was commissioned with directions to survey and allot our land according to our wishes.

He commenced where we had designed for our Church and school house in Kingston with a road six rods [99 feet] wide and surveyed twenty-two lots numbering on each side. Before the lots were exposed for draft it was agreed that one acre off each adjoining corner of the four first numbers should be allotted the place for the Church and school house and that lot number one on the west side should be reserved for the parsonage. The water privilege to be reserved for those who would engage to build a grist mill and saw boards enough for our Church and school house.

Accordingly the lots were drawn and the numbers fell to the persons named in the grant.

Whereupon every man was jointly employed clearing places for building, cutting logs, carrying them together by strength of hands and laying up log houses, by which means seventeen log houses were laid up and covered with bark, so that by the month of November every man in the district found himself and family covered under his own roof and a happier people never lived upon this globe enjoying in unity the blessings which God had provided for us in the country into whose coves and wild woods we were driven through persecution. Here with the protection of a kind providence we were perfectly happy, contented and comfortable in our dwellings through the winter, and on Easter Monday met together, and as secondary means to promote religion, elected the following persons preparatory for the church, namely:

WARDENS: David Pickett and Joseph Lyon; and VESTRYMEN: John Lyon, Israel Hoit, Jonathan Ketchum, Andrew Patching, Elias Scribner, John Fowler, James  Ketchum, Silas Raymond, Ephraim Lane, James Moore, Seth Seeley, and Thomas Sumner.

The Rev. John Sayre who ministered to us at Eaton’s Neck soon after his arrival in the fall fleet removed to Maugerville.

The Rev. John Beardsley officiated for us occasionally, and made some preparation for building in Kingston.

On Thursday, the 7th day of October, 1784, I had the honor of the first marriage by the first minister. On the death of the Rev. John Sayre, in 1786, the Rev. John Beardsley was removed to Maugerville.

The vestry appointed to hold church at the house of Elias Scribner, and Mr. Frederick Dibblee to read the prayers. Public worship was thus attended regularly on Sundays till July, 1787 when Rev. James Scovil came from Connecticut, with the view of removing to this province as a missionary. As an encouragement we voted him the lot reserved for the parsonage, and on the following summer he removed with his family into Kingston, and attended public worship on Sunday in the house of Elias Scribner, where he found, and much to his comfort, a full congregation of church people in the wilderness ready to do everything in God’s name the exigencies of the church required.

With the coming of the Rev. James Scovil and the establishment of all the ordinances of religion, our little community was well content.

“Yea, the sparrow hath found her an house and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young, even Thy altar, O Lord of Hosts, my King and my God.”



Written by johnwood1946

June 21, 2017 at 8:48 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. One of passengers on the Union was Daniel Smith of New Milford, CT., my 4 x gr grandfather. He did not settle in Kingston, but went to Maugerville even though he received a land grant in Parr Town. He almost immediately petitioned for land on the South West Branch of the Oromocto River which was granted in 1786. His claim for losses was partially approved by the Loyalist Commissioners and he received a further grant of 700+ acres near his first grant on the Oromocto.

    John Noble

    June 21, 2017 at 2:50 PM

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