Black Heritage in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia
Approximately 1,750 persons of African descent arrived with the French to Cumberland County. At that time, Cumberland County covered Westmorland County to the Saint John area. They were residing in the Fort Lawrence area (known today as the Township of Amherst NS, incorporated in 1889) and were recorded as enslaved people who were involved in building Beaubassin, the French Fort.
In October 1758, the next influx of persons of African descent came with the New England Planter, both as enslaved people and freemen.
In 1783 a listing compiled in New York USA (from the Book of Negroes) included the British ships which landed in Fort Cumberland, Parrsboro and other Cumberland County ports. Many enslaved people would remain in the area and some would take on the names of their owners at that time.
When the Government made border changes in 1784 to Cumberland County, which had included Westmorland County up to Saint John (now New Brunswick), this began the historic displacement of persons of African descent.
The largest black population in the county had been Amherst, then Springhill, Parrsboro, Oxford, Tidnish and Joggins. Some of the earliest surnames to appear in official records by 1827 were Boles/Bowles, Cook, Dixon, Gay, Halfkenny, Howe, Jones, Martin, Milligan, Newton and Rogers. Descendents of many of these earlier pioneers reside in Cumberland County today