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  • 1 Loyalist Settlers in Ontario

    Loyalists were American colonists who supported Britain during the American Revolution (1775-1783). During and after the Revolution, Loyalists faced persecution in the United States. They were subjected to harassment, intimidation, imprisonment and many had their property confiscated. The British government offered land grants to Loyalists willing to relocate to British North America. It is estimated that in the years following the Revolution, close to 10,000 Loyalists arrived in Ontario. They were a heterogeneous group that included Catholic Highlanders, Scottish Presbyterians, German Calvinists, German Lutherans, Quakers, Aboriginals, former slaves, Methodists, Congregationalists and Anglicans of English origin. Loyalist settlements were generally segregated according to ethnicity and religion. There were sizable Loyalist communities at Long Point on Lake Erie, in the Niagara Peninsula and in Essex County. Joseph Brant led nearly 2,000 Loyalist Iroquois to a settlement along the Grand River. On its banks, Anglican Mohawks constructed Ontario’s oldest surviving church, the Mohawk Chapel, in 1785. The majority of Loyalists settled in the newly surveyed townships along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. A group of Methodists settled in Adolphustown and, in 1792, erected the Old Hay Bay Church – Canada’s oldest surviving Methodist building. Scottish Catholic Loyalists who settled in Glengarry and Stormont counties formed a parish and constructed St. Andrew’s Church in 1801. Before parishes were established and churches built, Loyalist faithful worshiped in private homes – often with laypeople conducting the services. When most Loyalists arrived, in the 1780s, the territory that is now Ontario was a sparsely inhabited wilderness that was part of the province of Quebec. Its laws and institutions were largely those that had been established under French rule. Loyalists, however, were defined by their desire for a British system of government. To accommodate them, the province of Upper Canada (now Ontario) was created in 1791. Upper Canada was given a legislative assembly and the province operated under British Common Law. Loyalists played a large role in shaping Ontario’s cultural identity and contributed greatly to its religious diversity.

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