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Loyalist Day banner. Image/Submitted: Event organizers.

Enjoy Saint John’s history with Loyalist Day

By Regis Phillips May 15, 2024 | 12:21 PM

It was on May 18, 1783, when American colonists landed and stepped ashore near Saint John’s modern-day Market Slip.

These ‘Loyalists’ sided with the British Empire during the American Revolutionary War. Between May and October 1783, more than 10,000 settlers would make their way to the mouth of the Saint John River looking for a new life.

Two years later in 1785, the communities of Parrtown (east of the harbour) and Carleton (west) were united and granted a Royal Charter by King George III, establishing the City of Saint John and making it the first incorporated city in British North America – which would become Canada with the Confederation of 1867.

Now, 239 years later, a collection of community partners have come together to present Loyalist Day on Saturday, May 18.

Organizer Steve Fowler said history buffs can enjoy walking tours and talks, genealogy, period music, and access to some of Saint John’s heritage sites — almost all of it free of charge. Schedule details can be found by clicking here.

Between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., you can view the Royal Coat of Arms at Trinity Anglican Church. Historians say the plaque was rescued from the State House in Boston when the British evacuated the city and salvaged from the original 1791 Trinity Church after the Great Fire.

As well, the 3rd Field Artillery Regiment (The Loyal Company) will fire a Royal Salute from Fort Howe at noon. Representatives of the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada will lay a wreath at the first known grave in the Old Loyalist Burial Ground at 12:15 p.m.

Music fans can listen to Tim Blackmore perform 1783 – A Loyalist Pops Concert at 12:15 p.m. at the Saint John Arts Centre

You can finally wrap up your Loyalist Day experience with historian and author David Goss for a walk-and-talk in the footsteps of the Loyalist founders beginning at City Hall plaza at 6 p.m.

“We got a long rich history and we should be celebrating it,” said Fowler.

He also said to keep your eyes open as you might encounter a few of the characters who walked the streets of early Saint John along the way.