The diaries of Simeon Perkins

Simeon Perkins. Courtesy of the New York Public Library

If you have New England Planter ancestors or Loyalist ancestors who settled in Nova Scotia in your family tree, the diaries of Simeon Perkins should not be overlooked.

Born in Norwich, Connecticut on 24 February 1735,  Simeon Perkins was the son of Jacob Perkins and Jemima Leonard. He arrived in Nova Scotia as a part of the New England Planter migration to maritime Canada in the 1760s and, initially, was involved in the fishing and lumbering trade.

His diaries, which span from 1766 until 1812, hold priceless information relating to the economy of Nova Scotia, politics during the American Revolution, privateering, the weather, and everyday life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Of great value to genealogists, Perkins also recorded births, marriages, and deaths.

Transcribed and published by the Champlain Society in five volumes, each volume highlights a specific timeframe. Though my own ancestors appear in Simeon Perkins’ diaries, in my opinion, some of the most interesting entries relate to current events. In 1776, a smallpox outbreak plagued Nova Scotia, and several of Perkins’ entries note those afflicted and the community’s attempts at inoculation.

“Capt. White, Plymouth, arrives from Boston with an officer and sergeant on board. He brings news of an engagement between the King’s troops and the Provincialists at Bunker Hill, Charlestown…”

Perkins also commented on the events of the American Revolution, including the Battle of Bunker Hill:

Tuesday, June 27th, – Capt. White, Plymouth, arrives from Boston with an officer and sergeant on board. He brings news of an engagement between the King’s troops and the Provincialists at Bunker Hill, Charlestown, and that Charlestown is burnt to ashes. The action commenced in the Provincials intrechements [sic] by fire of the “Somerset” man of war, and then landed 1800 troops, under the guns, and with a reinforcement of 900 men, attacked the trenches, driving out the Provincials, who retreated one mile, and then retrenched. Brigadier Putnam was wounded in the heel by the rebound of a cannon ball. The Provincials lost in killed, 300, the King’s troops, 140.[1]

I have wondered about the political leanings of my New England Planter ancestors, who settled in Nova Scotia just ten years prior to the Revolution. I imagine it was difficult to receive news from the Colonies which directly affected the lives of their family and neighbors in their former home.

NEHGS holds the complete five volume set, as well as the very helpful Diary of Simeon Perkins “Extracts” by Muriel Farquhar Davidson, which highlights genealogical data recorded by Perkins. Volumes can also be found on Archive.org.

Note

[1] The Diary of Simeon Perkins, 5 vols. (Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1947-78), 1: 95.

About Sheilagh Doerfler

Sheilagh, a native of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, received her B.A. in History and Communication from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Her research interests include New England, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Westward Migration, and adoptions.

9 thoughts on “The diaries of Simeon Perkins

  1. This is so exciting! I have a Starr family who went to Nova Scotia in the 1760s and came back to Connecticut when the Revolutionary War broke out. I’ll be on the lookout for his name as I read these volumes!

  2. Thanks for sharing this. My Freeman, Morton, and Gotham’s were among the Planters who went to Nova Scotia from Cape Cod. Will look forward to reading his diaries.

  3. I too have thought about how the Planters responded to the outbreak of the Revolution. Obviously they did not join the Revolution even though Nova Scotia was the “Fourteenth Colony ” and the population had deep ties to the New Englanders. I have even written a draft of an article about why they did not participate.

  4. I bought all five volumes many years ago as I have numerous planter ancestors, most of whom settled in and around Liverpool which is Simeon Perkins territory. It’s quite fascinating about an ancestor’s daily life. Some of my other planter ancestors went to Kings County and others to Annapolis County.
    The transcriptions were done by historians and so there are a lot of footnotes clarifying the identities of various individuals.
    Thomas H. Raddall, a Nova Scotia writer from Liverpool, wrote a novel way back in 1942 called “His Majesty’s Yankees” about the mixed feelings in Nova Scotia over the war.

  5. The Thomas Brenton Smith (TBS) Collection should also be noted when investigating the Nova Scotia Planters, especially in relation to the Perkins Diary. The TBS Collection is kept at the Queens County Museum in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, and an online version can be found at Family Search: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-G5NZ-X4D?i=1 – The Collection is in alphabetical order and is invaluable to any researcher of Planters in Nova Scotia, especially in the Liverpool area.

  6. We have many Planter ancestors, mainly from Lebanon CT and Cape Cod MA areas who settled mostly in the Annapolis Valley, Liverpool and Halifax. Simenon Perkins was a close friend and sometime business partner of our Enos Collins.

    If researching these folks, look at the Planter Studies Centre at Acadia University. They publish a series called “Planter Notes_.

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