In the summer of 1783, forty-nine Quakers gathered in New York City to make plans for a fresh start. Forced to become refugees at the end of the American Revolution, those gathered were determined to found a settlement in which every man and woman would truly be free. They planned to create the first and only anti-slavery settlement in all of North America. In September, two hundred and fifty-four refugees boarded the Camel and set sail for the mouth of the St. John/Wolastoq River – among them were seven indentured servants and twelve Black Loyalists. Once they arrived in Beaver Harbour, its founders posted a sign at the settlement’s entrance that stated: NO SLAVE MASTERS ADMITTED. They also agreed that “No slaves shall either be bought or sold, nor kept by any person belonging to the Society or any pretense whatsoever.”
The people of the community were ill-prepared for the harsh winter. Severe cold and hunger caused much suffering, and some lives were lost. Help came from the Peskotomuhkati, who welcomed the colonists to their territory. By 1785, the community had approximately 800 residents and was made-up of 15 streets and 149 lots. Within five years’ time, a forest fire engulfed the town, burning all but one settler’s home. The original hope of creating a community of racial equality and harmony had not materialized during the seven-year history. After the fire, Beaver Harbour’s founders, including its Black Loyalists, decided to seek better opportunities in other settlements along the Bay of Fundy coast. It is said that the fire destroyed more than just buildings – it removed a model of racial equality and harmony that could have served as an example for the rest of New Brunswick, if not for all of British North America (Davidson, 11).