Sackville plans to commemorate 250th anniversary of Yorkshire immigration next year

Methodist cemetery in Middle Sackville where Charles & Susanna Dixon are buried

The town of Sackville has applied for a $55,650 federal grant to fund a series of events next year commemorating the arrival of the first shipload of Yorkshire immigrants in May 1772.

Among the 250th anniversary events, the Tantramar Heritage Trust is planning a reunion of descendants from three of the more prominent Yorkshire families as well as a barbecue and a public banquet with live entertainment at the Music Barn, while Live Bait Theatre plans to present a play about the settlers and their significance.

Artist Janet Crawford, owner of Fog Forest Gallery, is proposing to create a permanent outdoor mosaic while the Trueman family is putting together a publication featuring various Yorkshire sites in the Tantramar region, while also hoping to install interpretive panels at a former Yorkshire mill site on their farm.

“About 1,000 people from Yorkshire immigrated here between the period 1772 and 1775,” says Tantramar Heritage Trust board member Al Smith who traces his own ancestry back to Yorkshire settler Nathaniel Smith.

“The arrival of the Yorkshire immigrants greatly increased the population,” he adds. “They were good farmers, they were a long way from home, they didn’t return back to England and they were loyal to the British Crown.”

Smith notes that the tenant-farmer settlers brought their Methodist religion with them — a much less formal faith than the High Anglicanism practised by the Yorkshire landlords who kept raising their rents.

“That was one of the things that induced them to come,” Smith says, noting that their Christian faith eventually led Charles Frederick Allison, a Methodist convert, to found the academy that later became Mount Allison University.

First families

Smith says that Charles Dixon, his wife Susanna (Coates) and their four children were one of the families on that first ship along with others bearing surnames that included Anderson, Bulmer, Lowerson, Siddell, Trenholm and Wood.

The Dixons bought 2,500 acres of land in the area where Beal Heights and the Dixon Island Marsh are today and both Charles and Susanna are buried in the Middle Sackville cemetery that was once the site of an early Methodist chapel.

Sackville Centennial Monument commemorates the town’s five founding peoples. Photo by Charles Scobie

Five founding peoples

The Yorkshire immigrants were among four groups who colonized lands inhabited by the Mi’kmaq.

Sackville’s manager of recreation programs and events says in recognition of that, the town has been discussing next year’s commemoration with the Fort Folly First Nation and the Indigenous Co-ordinator at Mount Allison.

“We are going to offer a live music event featuring artists from both Mi’kmaq and local Yorkshire heritage,” Matt Pryde writes in an e-mail, “[and] possibly Acadian as well.”

He adds that the town plans to work in partnership with Fort Folly and Mt. A. to offer presentations and workshops throughout the year exploring the significance of the Yorkshire settlers for the area and how indigenous peoples were affected.

If the town is successful in getting a federal grant, the Yorkshire commemoration will build on one held in August 2000 when about 3,000 descendants of the original settlers participated in a week-long celebration that included 25-30 family reunions.

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