Years before visits by the Spanish, French and Portuguese fishermen, the native Mi’kmaq traversed the Roseway River and used the surrounding land for summer encampments. In 1783, more than 10,000 settlers loyal to the British crown arrived in Shelburne (then Port Roseway) after fleeing the disastrous consequences of the American Revolutionary War.
These Loyalists helped to lay out and build the town and made the settlement one of the largest communities in North America.
The Black Loyalists were allotted land in what became Birchtown, on the northwest arm of Shelburne Harbour, forming the first largest freed Black settlement in North America.
Some Loyalists moved on to Halifax, Annapolis Royal, New Brunswick and Upper Canada, but many remained here and their descendents live here to this day.
The area was also settled by Scottish and Irish immigrants. In June, 1818, Welsh settlers arrived and formed the first Welsh settlement in Canada, in a community on the Roseway River called New Cambria, later named Welshtown.
During different eras, the Town has alternately prospered and struggled, once being a centre of shipbuilding and other commerce in the region and serving as the home for military and other government institutions. Founders’ Days is a yearly reminder that we are richer by celebrating the courage, fortitude, ambition, dignity and accomplishments of our forefathers.