Imprint of the New England Planters: the Legacy

Failure of the Eddy Rebellion did not mean an end to New England influence on the Tantramar. An examination of the lists of original land holdings indicates that many families, whose ancestry may be traced to the Planter migration, are still found on the Isthmus of Chignecto. Consider the following examples: Ayer, Briggs, Cole, Copp, Estabrooks, Fillmore, Hewson, Hicks, Jones, Maxwell, Merrill, Read, Richardson, Throop or Troop, Tower, Tingley and Ward.

While many Tantramar New Englanders remained neutral during the Rebellion, the same could not be said for their political leaders. The first MLA for Sackville Township, Robert Foster a Massachusetts Planter, strongly supported the rebel side. His seat was declared vacant on July 8, 1772; however, he was subsequently re-elected in a by-election. After the Eddy Rebellion, Foster absconded to Machias, Maine, and his seat was once again declared vacant.

The member for Cumberland Township from 1765 to 1770, Josiah Throop a native of New York, was later appointed rebel agent to the Congress of Massachusetts. Then there were the two MLA’s who represented Cumberland Township during the 1770’s — Jonathan Eddy and John Allan; both of whom provided leadership for the revolutionary cause on the Tantramar and beyond.

Of interest is the fact that these two are remembered in local place names. A creek that flows into Cumberland Basin south of Sackville was the site af a hideout where Allan escaped detection before returning to New England. It is still known as Allen’s Creek. The Eddy Road once linked Amherst with Fort Cumberland Ridge. Although few know about its location today, the rebel leader’s name lives on in Eddy Street, Amherst.

Following his return to New England, Jonathan Eddy was rewarded with a grant of land on the outskirts of Bangor, Maine. The town of Eddington, also named for him, serves as a reminder of his unsuccessful effort to lead the fourteenth colony into the American union. A few of the rank and file Planter rebels also returned to New England. Others made peace with their neighbors and their descendants still live on the Tantramar.

One legacy of New England settlement was the introduction of a distinctive architectural style that may be traced to Massachusetts and Connecticut. Many Planters brought with them the sawn lumber, hardware, glass, mortar, and bricks necessary to build new homes. In this way the Cape Cod style of architecture was introduced, and may still be found, in its many later forms, on the Tantramar and elsewhere.

In travelling northward the New Englanders brought more than building materials; they also carried concepts and ideas which were to leave an indelible imprint on their new homeland. The majority were devout members of Baptist and Congregational churches. Deeply ingrained within these religious bodies was the principle of separation of church and state. Both were also committed to congregational self government. The Planter’s following of these principles helped hasten the end of religious privilege wherever it was found.

One group deserves particular mention. In the spring of 1763, a close circle of Baptist Planters left Swansea, Massachusetts, bound for Chignecto. Before leaving home, and because of their determination to stay together, they formally constituted themselves as a church. Landing at Slack’s Cove, Rockport, the Swansea Planters went on to establish not only the first Baptist church in the colony, but the first within present day Canada.

Although a number of these Baptist founders returned to Massachusetts in 1771, the denomination was to endure. As church historian, Beryl MacFadden, has written: From 1763… there has been a continuous Baptist witness, sometimes the light burned brightly, at other times it was dim, but it has never been extinguished. In 1963, Main Street Baptist Church and Middle Sackville Baptist Church celebrated the bicentennial of this important event. In the spring of each year Main Street Baptist Church holds a Heritage Sunday when tribute is paid to the New England Planter founders of the congregation.

Much to their disappointment, the Planters were never able to enjoy all aspects of of local government New England style. However, this did not mean that Planter interest in political matters was submerged. Over the years, Planters and their descendants have remained politically active at all levels of government. Numerically, the New England Planter migration was small when compared with others that were to follow. Nevertheless, three of Canada’s twenty Prime Ministers: Tupper, Borden and Bennett can lay claim to Planter ancestry. This trio of Planter Prime Ministers will be the subject of a later Tantramar Flashbacks.

While sometimes confused with the later and larger Loyalist migration, it should be noted that the New England Planters did not endure the bitter uprooting experienced by those who came following the American Revolution. The Planter’s parting with their homeland was by choice, and as a result they were to exert a leavening influence on the anti-Americanism of some Loyalists.

Because of the New England Planter and Loyalist migrations Boston was to remain the center of the universe for generations following the end of the eighteenth century. Much later, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a reverse movement of people from Atlantic Canada to New England took place. Even today, few families on the Tantramar are without relatives in New England.