The Black Loyalist Heritage Society is celebrating the Centre’s 5th Anniversary and the annual Journey Back to Birchtown cultural festival. There will be a Jazz Café kick off event on Friday, July 19 from 7-9 featuring The Ross Anderson Band (Reg Coward, Terry Grant and Gary Steed) and Shanice Skinner (Soprano).
A cultural festival celebrating Nova Scotia’s Black Loyalist Heritage
Free Activities: Presentations, quilt show, storytelling, children’s area, music, African drumming,
African dance, remembrance ceremony, spoken word and poetry, tours, church service, gospel
concert and more...
Featuring: The Ross Anderson Band, Shanice Skinner, Dr. Afua Cooper – Poet Laureate,
Sanctified Brothers, Reeny Smith, Drummers from Home,
James Ogden, Maritime Centre of African Dance, Gloria Wesley and more! Vendors, gift shop,
and food available for purchase
Black Loyalist Heritage Centre, 119 Old Birchtown Rd, Shelburne, Nova Scotia
The BLHS is organizing transportation to Birchtown on Saturday, July 20th and Sunday, July
21st 2019 from HRM.
Pick-up locations & time: .
• Dartmouth @ Black Cultural Centre (10 Cherry Brook Rd) 8:00 am
• Halifax @ Community Y/St. Pat. Alexandra (2227 Maitland St., Halifax), 8:30 am
• Upper Hammonds Plains - Emmanuel Baptist Church (633 Pockwock Rd), 9:00 am
Estimated arrival time in Birchtown, 11:30 am. The bus will leave the BLHC at 6:00pm on Sat.
and 5:30pm on Sun.
Reserve your seat on or before July 17, 2019 by phone, text or email to:
For additional information please contact the 902-495-6190 or the BLHC at 902-875-1310 or toll
free at 1-888-354-0772. For additional information please visit http://blackloyalist.com
The events are free and all are welcome to attend the festivities. Bus service is offered for Sat. and Sun. in HRM only on a first come first serve basis for a fee of $20.00.
The Black Loyalist Heritage Centre & Historical Site
Open June 1st to October 12th daily from 10am to 5pm
October 16 to May 31 Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm. Please call 902-875-1310 or 902-875-1293 to schedule a tour.
One of Canada’s best kept secrets, the largest free Black settlement in the 1780’s where people voted with their feet for freedom. This unique historical site is nestled in beautiful Birchtown Bay on the western shores of Shelburne Harbour, the third largest natural harbour in the world.
It’s a history few in the region know much about.
CBC Reporter Jon Tattrie looks at whether a new building can help change that. Click on the link to listen to an audio clip: http://www.cbc.ca/atlanticvoice/2016/02/08/birchtown/
Come and enjoy a guided tour, search for your ancestral roots and learn about these courageous Nova Scotians.
Depending on the weather you may want to bring a picnic lunch and nourish yourself before you begin this extraordinary experience of the old and new.
Climb up the Shaw Turret where we commemorated all Black Loyalist communities as you overlook Birchtown Bay. Enter into the centre’s Lindsay Gallery and dive into the multimedia presentation of the Black Loyalist journey from Africa to the US then to Nova Scotia and back to Africa. Explore the virtual copy of the Carlton’s Book of Negroes and search for your ancestor who may have experienced part of this incredible journey.
Also explore our amazing archaeological pit which embodies this extraordinary narrative of the past and present. Have fun examining the archaeological artifacts excavated here in Birchtown.
Before you leave us please take the time to create a virtual quilt square that will tell us about your experience and how this story has impacted you and what you have learned.
Please continue to explore our site and visit our historical buildings including the Old School House and Saint Paul’s Church where you can view our Bunce Island exhibit and movie, the National Historic Monument that commemorated the 1783 Black Loyalist Landings of Nova Scotia, explore our Heritage Trail and visit the Pit House.
Be prepared to spend some time with us.
Admission is $9.20/adult; $5.75/senior (ages 65+); $5.75/youth age 6-17 and free for children 5 and under. We also offer a Family Passes for $23 which includes 2 adults and maximum 3 children. Prices include HST.
To schedule a group tour or for tours in the off season by calling 902-875-1310 or via email email@example.com To schedule a presentation at your school or organization by calling 902-875-1310 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
To download a PDF of the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre brochure, please click here: BLHC Brochure 2015
SAINT PAULS CHURCH
In 1996 the Black Loyalist Heritage Society acquired land in Birchtown, Shelburne County, Nova Scotia, to develop the heritage site. One of those buildings included St. Paul’s Church. Faith was and is an important part of the Black Loyalist life. The Birchtown Loyalists were primarily Anglican, Methodist or Baptist. Two of the community’s early spiritual leaders were; Moses Wilkson – a blind, lame, former slave know for his fiery preaching and David George – a Baptist who traveled the province preaching in Black communities. The earliest church building here in Birchtown was shared by several denominations.
The community built St. Paul’s beginning in 1888 and opened as the Anglican Church in 1906. Records show that a Black fisherman named Enoch Scott sold the land to the rectors, wardens and vestry of St. George & St. Patrick in 1888. When the present Church was completed, it opened with 33 charter members under Priest-In-Charge, Reverend Edward H. Ball and the Meeting Minutes of January 1905 note that there were 54 families wishing to be appropriated pews in the Church.
Among the Black Loyalist families were the Alexander Herbert family, the Austin Shepherd family, the Joseph Warrington family, the Leonard Scott family, and of course, the Enoch Scott family. Other Birchtown families with the well-known surnames of Acker, Boyd, Collupy, Goulden, Gregory, Townsend & Schultz dot the pages of the only known existing Minute Book of the parish.
Excerpts of the newspaper clipping from The Gazette describing the opening of the church read: “In spite of the wild snow storm and the very cold weather of St. Paul’s Day the 25th of January, a congregation of about 100 gathered for the opening service of the at-last-completed-church.”
“The architecture is after the Early English, or First pointed Gothic style . . . all the windows with stained borders and tinted centers are lancets and the chancel arch, doors, seat ends and panels … and altar correspond.”
The church served this community for many generations and upon closing as an Anglican church, it was purchased by the BLHS as a community landmark. On May 6, 2007, the church was officially deconsecrated by the Right Reverend Fred Hiltz and the baptismal font was donated to Christ Church, Shelburne.
The church is now used as a venue to host community events, weddings, concerts, historical re-enactments and house exhibit displays. In 2007, the BLHS decided to restore the stain glass windows of St. Paul’s Church to their original beauty and embarked on a sponsorship campaign to raise the required funds from community members & organizations. Cliff Armsworthy, a local stain glass restoration specialist, removed the cracked and damaged glass, and refitted the windows with the new panes. Thanks to your generosity, we now have windows to admire for another 100 years.
A dedication service was held on June 27th, 2010 to acknowledge and thank the sponsors. Deborah Davis Hill, ethno-historian, Genealogical Record Searcher – GRS (C) and Black Loyalist Descendant, spoke to those in attendance and her words could not have been more appropriate – “I believe these panels are a reflection of the restoration that happens when the community co-operates to see a project through to its completion in the interests of all . . . A reflection of diverse peoples coming together to recognize, and to relate the story of the Black Loyalist’s contributions, not only to this community, but to this great country of ours . . . I see this prophetically as a restoration, not of mere tinted glass, but of a synergy / a fusing together of the peoples of the community – African & European – Indigenous & Immigrant – Gentile & Christian – Catholic & Protestant – coming together in an attitude of forgiveness & understanding. And in future, whenever we view the light shining through these stained-glass prisms, we’ll see refracted the beautiful hues of the Birchtown Mosaic – a people who have made the effort to pay homage to the ideals our collective ancestors shed their blood, sweat & tears for. May God be glorified and add His blessing to this effort.
OLD SCHOOL HOUSE MUSEUM
By the year 1997, the BLHS had acquired Birchtown’s one room school house. The school was built in the 1830’s on land that belonged to Roswell Brown, a White schoolmaster who came to Nova Scotia from Albany, NY, with the Church of England in the early 1800’s. After stints in Liverpool and Port Mouton, Brown came to Birchtown in 1825. It is believed this may have been the location of the original school which served the Black community, then served the White community as well, being probably one of the first integrated schools in the province.
The first school for Black children in Birchtown was established in 1785, with Stephen Blucke as the instructor. He was a prominent Anglican and the community’s best educated man, so it was logical that he be chosen as Schoolmaster. It appears as if Stephen Blucke closed his school in 1796. Two years later the second school at Birchtown was established for Black children under the direction of the warden of Christ Church.
This one room schoolhouse continued to serve the people of this area until the Birchtown Consolidated School was built around 1960. It became a community hall and storage shed before being purchased by the BLHS. The school house is now the Black Loyalist Old School House Museum housing various artifacts from the archaeological digs and other items community members have donated and loaned to the museum.The museum is open daily June to September and open by appointment in the off season – admission is charged. The historical site is open year round.
In the year 2000 the Society constructed and opened its office located on the Old Birchtown Road. On March 31st, 2006 the office building fell victim to an arsonist’s fire which resulted in the total destruction of the building, along with the library, computers, valuable genealogical data, planning documents, receipts, some artifacts, as well as furniture and furnishings. The current administrative offices are located in the annex of St. Paul’s Church, constructed in 2003. Originally the space was intended to be used for a gift shop, public washrooms and storage space. However, after the fire, the offices were relocated to the upper level of the annex and the lower level serves as a meeting room and public facilities.
With an influx of Loyalists fleeing American in 1783, the British government in Nova Scotia faced a backlog of settlers seeking land grants and supplies. As settlers were served in order of rank or status, Black Loyalists were left to the last and therefore received smaller parcels of land and few supplies. The first warrants were not issued until 1787.
With no land to call their own, most Black Loyalists had to face their new homeland’s harsh winter climates without shelter. In order to survive, they dug pit houses such as this replica. Shallow ditches were dug in the ground with a shelter fashioned out of tree branches. It is a testament to their resourcefulness and strength that they managed to survive the Nova Scotian winter in such a makeshift dwelling. Archaeologists discovered remnants of pit houses in the mid 1990’s.