For every great inventor in our history there is someone who has attempted or succeeded in taking credit for work. For every influential band there is someone who managed to exploit that band to some degree. And for every hero or pioneer there is a villain. In late 18th century Nova Scotia, Stephen Skinner was the villain to Stephen Blucke’s well intentions.
PRE-SIERRA LEONE DEPARTURES
Stephen Skinner arrived in Shelburne in the 1780s following an unsuccessful trip to England in an attempt to compensation for lost goods. He would set up camp in Shelburne as a merchant. He also invested in land and traded in cod. It was in befriending Birchtown leader Stephen Blucke. This friendship would see him become the middleman for anything between the two settlements.
SOMETHING OF A SCOUNDREL
He would rise to prominence as a land agent. This is where he played two sides. As people left Sierra Leone, Skinner—who didn’t care for the exodus to Sierra Leone, he was still over signing up settlers. He would talk with Blucke to get him to push for keeping the Black Loyalists at home at the same time.
By the end of the exodus, Stephen Skinner had scooped up some 100 acres and very favorable prices. He would then go on to write the Crown and say that the Black Loyalists who stayed should be given land and aid. He made sure to add that the Black settlers weren’t in the worst of conditions in Nova Scotia.
The very land Birchtown and other settlements wasn’t fertile for farming by any means. As for Skinner, he would achieve a seat in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly in 1793 until 1799.