In 1621, King James I of England, renamed the islands off the eastern coast of Canada from Acadia to Nova Scotia. Eight years later groups of Scots settled at Charlesfort, near Port Royal, and at Rosemar, on Cape Breton Island.
From the 1770’s to the 1830’s, a large emigration to these islands began. Nova Scotia became a British colony with new settlers. It was a promise of a better life for the Scottish Highlanders as land ownership in Scotland was rare. They were promised 200 acres of land when they arrived. Some were allocated much more.
This new land had been recovered from the French settlers, who had been forcibly removed by the British a little earlier. Most were returned to Europe, however, some settlers went westward to new uncharted territory now known as Quebec. Others escaped and went into hiding until the pressure of being deported was over.
The New Scottish and Irish settlers were located around the Bay of Fundy, Cape Breton Island and along the coast of the Northumberland shores. Yet another island also became very popular for emigrants. This was the northern and nearby Prince Edward Island. The Gaels made their communities very homogenous and, as a result, made up a large and culturally diverse Scottish influence throughout these islands.
The new immigrants spoke only in Gaelic language and together, they became the largest Gaelic cultural influence outside of Scotland. Then, between 1900 and 1920, the British decided to discourage this language and forced the people to speak only in English. If anyone was caught using Gaelic, whether written or spoken, they were punished. However, today, the Gaelic language around the Islands, has been proudly resurrected, especially on nearby Prince Edward Island, where in parts, it is now their main language. A Gaelic school has also been established on Cape Breton Island.
Yet, despite these promises of a new life, the homeland of Scotland, didn’t want the Highlanders to leave. These Scottish families were indeed healthy and hard working and were needed in Scotland. But, the English had different ideas and deliberately chose these people, as they believed they would be fit and able to set up the new colony. It was said that these early emigrants were somewhat tricked into making their exodus to the ‘New World’. There had also been a lack of work opportunity in their homeland.
The new settlers were given two years to establish and maintain their land, with the aim of eventually becoming self-supporting. However, despite all this, they continued to be held under British Rule at the time.
The climate was similar to what they had known, so most grew a variety of crops, with a high success rate. As well, fishing had emerged to become a major industry. Halifax was established as a fishing port and Naval station. Between 1850 and 1880, boat and ship-building also grew as an important and significant industry.
The emigrants also brought with them their religious beliefs. The two main religions of influence were the Roman Catholics and the Protestants.
Between 1770 and 1815, around 15,000 Scots had arrived in Nova Scotia. Their early homes were of the familiar Croft style. It was a basic lifestyle and similar to what they had endured in Scotland. If they owned an animal such as a cow, it was also kept inside during the winter months. After 1815, Scottish immigration came from the Lowland areas and by 1870, 170,000 had arrived. The 1871 Canadian census showed that for every 1000 Canadians, over 150 of these were of Scottish origin.
From 1850 onward, coal mining became a major industry, as large coal seams had been discovered. Around 1901, the steel industry also became established in Boston and this demanded coal for their furnaces. Soon, Canada was using 54% of this new found coal.
The Gaels settled in Nova Scotia on kinship and religion and many of the Scottish communities remain culturally distinct to the present. Today, Prince Edward Island is regarded as Canada’s most Scottish Province.
Inventors & Inventions of Nova Scotia