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Fort George National Historic Site of Canada


Arrival of the Loyalists

The people that came to Upper Canada during and after the American Revolution were a culturally diverse population who chose Canada for a variety of reasons: loyalty to the Crown, freedom of religion, freedom from slavery and in some cases because there were no alternatives.

The earliest refugees left their homes to join in the fight for a loyal cause (1775-6). The families and relatives they left behind were subjected to social ostracism- friends and neighbours shunned them, stores would not trade with them, and churches closed their doors on them. Once it was proven that a refugee (husband/son) had enlisted in the Loyalist forces, Rebel committees would confiscate their livestock and land. The families were left to fend for themselves, some were driven away their properties sold at public auction to raise funds for the rebellion against the King, and their livestock used to feed the rebel army.

In 1777, as the war in the north began in earnest, refugees fled from raids, burnings and battles that ravaged their homes. Those who were not directly threatened but quietly harboured Loyalist beliefs were gradually forced to leave as pressure mounted to join the Rebels cause (1777-80). Many Loyalists left to avoid military service for a cause they did not believe in.

As Loyalists and refugees left their homes they migrated to British strongholds in the north - Quebec (Sorel, Montreal, Chambly, Ft. St. John's, and Quebec City) and the Western outposts (Mackinac, Detroit and Fort Niagara, Oswego, Oswegatchie, Carlton Island). These strongholds were bases for Loyalist activities during and after the American Revolution.

The settlement in Upper Canada began soon after the close of the American Revolution when refugees and Loyalist regiments moved, from Quebec and the Western outposts, to Upper Canada.[ original document number 1- petition for land grants by Sir John Johnson ] Approximately 5,000 Loyalists and refugees came to modern Ontario. (Given that the largest city in America, Philadelphia, had approximately 40,000 people this is a large migration.) The Loyalist regiments settled mostly on the northern shorelines of the St. Lawrence and lakes Ontario and Erie. The Grand River and Deseronto areas were purchased for Aboriginal Loyalists.

Loyalist Settlements and western outposts
Loyalist Settlements and western outposts
© Parks Canada / Gavin Watt