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Black History Month: Stag Hotel, Preston, NS

January 24, 2008



Stag Hotel Signboard

Originally uploaded by ocean.flynn.

In his publication entitled Black Nova Scotians John N. Grant (1980:31) described how the Stag Hotel 1, an Inn located in Preston, was sometimes the terminus of Lt. Governor Joseph Howe’s carriage drives.” (p. 31.) Stag Hotel is a clever play on words as the proprietor was William Deer, an African Canadian.

This inn is referred to at length in Manette’s thesis (1990) where she describes and quotes Mrs. Deer. It is also in Brown’s Illustrated History of Canada (Brown 1987: 287) but no mention is made of the fact that the owners were black.

The book by John N. Grant entitled Black Nova Scotians was produced by Nova Scotia Communications and Information Centre and published by the Nova Scotia Museum as part of the Education Resource Service Program presenting the history of the Black Nova Scotians both as a people and as an important chapter in the history of Nova Scotia. It asserts the unique heritage of Black Nova Scotians. It traces the history from the arrival of the first Black Loyalists in 1793, the Refugees of the War of 1812 through the period of slavery examinging the role of education and religion. Grant underlines the fact that mainstream white educators overlooked the existence of black history.

The Stag Hotel, was popular with Halifax sportsmen for its hunting and fishing. On May 28, 1873, Joseph Howe — ex-premier and new Lieutenant-Governor of the province — visited it for sentimental reasons. But the long drive was too much for his failing health, and he died three days later (Brown 1987: 287).”We inserted this image of a mid-19th century oil painting by an anonymous artist into a Google generated map of Preston, Nova Scotia. This image was uploaded from my Flickr account and is geotagged to a spot near the Black Cultural Centre in Cherrybrook, Nova Scotia. I am not sure of the exact location of the Stag Hotel in Preston although I know it is ten miles east of Dartmouth.

The words on the sign were written by Colonel William Charnley. He described the Stag Hotel kept by William Dear:

“Outside the House looks somewhat queer, Only Look-in, and there’s no fear, But you’ll find Inside, the best of Cheer, Brandy, Whiskey, Hop, Spruce, Ginger Beer, Clean Beds and food for Horses here: Round about, both far and near, Are Streams for Trout, and Woods for Deer. To suit the Public taste, ’tis clear, Bill Dear will Labour, so will his dearest dear (Brown 1987: 287) .”

Footnotes

Grant also included an illustration of the sign and the inn in his Black Nova Scotians.
Grant’s (1980) helpful publication is a useful complement to Winks’ drier read. I have incorporated many of my notes from this book into my chronology. In 1783, after the American Revolution, 50,000 Loyalists came to Maritimes. 3,000 were Black. Many, both black and white were disillusioned. Life was so difficult that many whites Loyalists chose to go back to the United States. The Black Loyalists couldn’t. In Nova Scotia Black Loyalists who had been promised land were having great difficulty. Thomas Peters, a former sergeant with the Black Pioneers, went to England with a petition for land grants that had been denied Black Loyalists. Some of the most industrious Black Loyalists emigrated at that time to Sierre Leone from Nova Scotia. In 1796 543 Maroons arrived in Nova Scotia. Maroons had waged war with Britain for 140 years (1655 – 1796) in Jamaica. In Halifax the Maroons built Citadel Hill fortifications. Wentworth ordered special uniforms for them and named the officers but the Maroons had control of their own hierarchy. Money ran out and the Maroons became increasingly impatient with continual discomfort and hardships. The Maroons, as well, eventually agreed to go to Sierre Leone. They left in 1801. Only a few remained. Slavery did exist in Nova Scotia but by 1810 it was largely a dead issue. Although not completely abolished until the 1830’s the law would not assist slave-owners to catch runaway slaves. During the War of 1812-1814 Cochrane promised freedom to to Chesapeake Bay area slaves who crossed over to British lines. He had planned to recruit the newly freed slaves to the army. The Black troops `the Colonial Marines’ produced the desired effect on the side of the British. Many of them, 1500-2000 would later come to Nova Scotia. Their first winter was extremely difficult. The land given to them was not rich enough for agriculture but they had no other alternatives. The war economy of Nova Scotia was booming. But after the war was the slowdown. The 1815 smallpox epidemic added to the difficulties. In 1820s ome of the Colonial Marines were sent to Ireland Island in Bermuda and others emigrated to Trinidad. There were a few success stories among the Black community. Mr. Campbell, a successful businessman in the 1830’s owned the chief livery stable in Halifax. His farm and stock were comparable to Lieutenant Governor Sir James Kempt. However, most remained as unskilled labourers. Cross-reference to [ Halifax Robert Field].
There is a wonderful story of the role black ministers played re: education and social change as well as an 1850 illustration of Richard Preston. There is also a beautiful story of how he found his mother in Preston. In 1901 there were 5,984 black Nova Scotians (1% of the population). In the same year there were 17,432 black Canadians. In 1873 a Depression hit Canada. Canada continued to experience the financial bust until the Klondike gold strike in the 1890’s. The boom in the West did not help the Maritimes in general and was particularly devastating for the already vulnerable black Nova Scotians.Grant concludes by celebrating the lives of seven Black Nova Scotians including champion boxer: George Dixon, Dr. W. H. Golor college president, William Hall, VC (1826-1904) and B.A. Husbands, president of Halifax Coloured Citizens Improvement League.Webliography and Bibliography

Grant, John N. 1980. Black Nova Scotians. Halifax. Nova Scotia Museum.

Manette, J. A. 1990. Revelation, Revolution, or Both: Black Art as Cultural Politics. Toronto.

Brown, Robert Craig, Ed. 1987. The Illustrated History of Canada. Toronto. Lester & Orpen Dennys Limited.


CC Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen and Melanie G. H. 2008. “Popular 19th Century African Canadian-owned Stag Hotel and NS Premier Joseph Howe.” >> Google Docs.Uploaded by ocean.flynn on 23 Jan 08, 12.32PM MST.

One Response to “Black History Month: Stag Hotel, Preston, NS”

  1. Christian Masten Says:

    I think when you said the first migration of Black loyalists, you meant, “1793”, but you wrote “1893”…just thought you should know.


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