New Brunswick

Black history society marks 200th anniversary of HMS Regulus

Monday marked the 200th anniversary of the arrival of a ship full of black refugees to the New Brunswick.

Ship arriving in Saint John brought 371 former slaves who fled United States after War of 1812

Story of HMS Regulus refugees

9 years ago
Duration 2:16
Featured VideoBlack history society marks 200 years since arrival of former slaves in Saint John.

Monday marked the 200th anniversary of the arrival of a ship full of black refugees to New Brunswick.

The ship HMS Regulus arrived in Saint John in 1815 with 371 black men, women and children.

The refugees were escaped and liberated slaves who were fleeing the United States at the end of the War of 1812 after seeking protection from the British army during the war.

Many of the former slaves who came aboard the HMS Regulus settled around Saint John in places, such as Willow Grove, where they struggled to find food, employment, housing and acquire the land they'd been promised. (CBC)
The New Brunswick Black History Society has spent years piecing the story together and is now sharing it.

Mary Louise McCarthy, the society's president, says many of the refugees settled in communities, such as Willow Grove outside of Saint John.

But they struggled with disease, political rights, employment and acquiring the land they had been promised.

"And what they were met with was they had no housing, they had no financial money to barter or wares to barter," said McCarthy.

"So they were looking for land and a place to support their family."

The society has been working on the story since forming five years ago and has now launched its own website where the group will post and update their findings.

"So we're hoping with the website that we're going to reach more people," said McCarthy.

HMS Regulus brought 371 former slaves to Saint John on May 25, 1815, as they fled the United States at the end of the War of 1812. (CBC)
"My vision for that website is to make us be more globally connected with the world."

The society's work helped Marsha McGarvie find the name of her grandfather and an uncle on a list of those buried in the Black Settlement Burial Ground in Willow Grove.

With the society's findings now online, McGarvie said she hopes the province's black history will get more attention.

"It's time," she said.

"It's been a long time in coming. But I think now more people have been exposed to it, it's up to us to keep it in the forefront and make sure that it's part of our history that's taught to children in school."

The society will commemorate the refugees again in August at the Black Settlement Burial Ground.