Caleb Jones was joined the Loyalist cause in 1776 when he fled from Maryland to New York City and joined the Maryland Loyalists. We know from military documents that Jones served in the Southern campaign in Florida.
Upon British capitulation, Jones organized a trip to New Brunswick to scout the region around Point Saint Anne. In all, he kept nine enslaved Blacks in his household. Jones was not a wealth man by any stretch, and had lost most of his possessions when he sided with the British.
In the south, British officers and military units had obtained, sometimes by mutual agreement, sometimes by trickery or abuse, the title to self-emancipated Blacks or Blacks enslaved with questionable or non-existent documentation. Jones access to such a relatively large number of enslave people has always been questionable.
Even before Jones had permanently settled on the banks of the Nashwaaksis Stream on his large land holding, his bonds people were fleeing from him. It is this aspect of Jones’ life that brought him lasting notoriety along with many other Loyalist elites including Stair Agnew (see: Stair Agnew LINK). The “Nancy trial” of 1800 (see: The Journey of Nancy, and her son Lidge) challenged the basis of slavery in New Brunswick.
Despite the upholding of slavery, Jones fell on harder times as his former allies turned on him and the government esheated part of his estate. The life of Caleb Jones complicates the often simplified image of the Loyalists and illustrates how central slavery was to visions of Loyalist society in New Brunswick, a topic that has been sanitized in the many retellings of the region’s history.
Often times the only voices of the enslaved are in the records left behind. We can see the resistance and agency of those kept enslaved like Nancy, Lidge, Isaak, Ben and Flora.
Thanks to: Emily Draicchio, Bob McNeil and Roger Nason
Images: Public Archives New Brunswick