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Nathaniel Lad’s Story

“These people were determined to quit a country, at the peril of their lives, whose inhabitants treated them with so much barbarity…”
– Lt John Clarkson, Halifax, 1791

Drawing of a harbour with trees and small houses on the land and ships in the port. Writing on the drawing that says Sierra Leone.

“Freetown, Sierra Leone” by unknown artist. Ink on paper, mid-19th century.


Handwritten declaration on yellowed paper on behalf of the free Blacks of the Province of New Brunswick..

Thomas Peter’s petition signed by Nathaniel Lad, Bob Stafford, and Samuel Wright, three of the Free Blacks of New Brunswick, March 18, 1790.

Several individuals from the York-Sunbury area were part of the Sierra Leone expedition that was organised by Lt. John Clarkson and Thomas Peters in England. The purpose of this expedition was to establish a colony for Free Blacks in Africa.

Many in New Brunswick joined this expedition. Three in particular were Bob Stafford (one of the “Blacks of Maugerville” denied land in 1783), as well as Samuel Wright and Nathaniel Lad (denied land in Kingsclear in 1791).

Nathaniel Lad was actually one of four individuals who were denied passage to Halifax, and was thus forced to walk the entire distance—in the December cold—in order to join the resettlement fleet. Nathaniel and his colleagues arrived in Halifax on December 9, as Lt John Clarkson reported in 1791:

“… we were surprised by the unexpected visit of four Blacks who just arrived from the Province of New Brunswick… These people were determined to quit a country, at the peril of their lives, whose inhabitants treated them with so much barbarity; they had the temerity to undertake a journey over land from St. John to Halifax, which according to the route they must have taken could not be less than 340 miles; they set out for this Purpose the 24th last month, went round the head of the Bay of Fundy, & notwithstanding they had to combat with difficulties, that might appear insuperable to a considerate mind principally arising from the extreme closeness of woods, and the river they would be under the necessity of fording, they arrived safe & in good health, fifteen days after their departure from St. Johns-[sic]”

Nathaniel Lad’s Story (closed captions available in English) – View this video with an English transcript.

Many Black settlers also chose to remain in the Fredericton region, and over more than half a century built communities on the margins of a thriving Loyalist society. Their family names are still widely recognised in the region as McCarthy, Leek, Dymond, Nash, Carty, Lawrence, Gosman, and O’Ree—to name only a few.