diary of simeon perkins

Col. Simeon Perkins
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. "Col. Simeon Perkins." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/7ab41c93-3230-ad4b-e040-e00a18067940

The Diary of Simeon Perkins

From The Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

Excerpt from Sunday 29 March 1987

Simeon Perkins was born in Norwich, Connecticut in 1734, and died in 1812.  He was a 27 year old widower when he came to Liverpool [Nova Scotia] in 1762.  He remarried and had eight children.  In 1766 he built the house . . . now preserved.  He kept a diary for 46 years . . . preserved at the Museum . . .  one of the most remarkable colonial documents in Canada.

From The Gazette (Montreal Quebec) 5 September 1959

Excerpt from Saturday 5 September 1959 P.20

Nova Scotia Homes

. . . homes of famous persons . . . converted to museums.

PERKINS HOUSE – Completed fall 1766 . . . built by Simeon Perkins, a native of Connecticut who came to Nova Scotia in 1762.  It is constructed in simple New England style of first settlers of Liverpool who arrived from Cape Cod in 1759.  For almost half a century Simeon Perkins was a Liverpool merchant and ship owner, engaging in varied operations such as Labrador fisheries and West Indies trade.  During the American Revolution Perkins and his friends remained neutral, however, raids by American privateers along the Nova Scotia coast angered the people of Liverpool. This resulted in the famous Liverpool Privateers being built.

From The Windsor Star, Tuesday, June 4, 1963


Liverpool, Nova Scotia
“Word came in the night that the privateersman had been driven on shore and his men were believed in the woods, so fearing an attack a guard was mounted.”

It was 1778 . . .  American Revolution . . . in full swing.  Simeon Perkins, merchant, ship owner, Colonel of the Queens County Militia, judge probate and justice of the court of common pleas , sat in his study and made another entry in his diary.

The “Little Colonel” had come to Liverpool from his home in Connecticut in 1762.  Most of the founders of this SouthShore Nova Scotia town had arrived two or three years before.  Some from Plymouth, Massachusetts – descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers.
. . . Liverpool settlers were in a painful position . . . torn between loyalty to King George III and former neighbours in New England.  Perkins tried to keep people in Liverpool out of it.  Then came privateers (American) – privately owned ships equipped for war and looking for booty.  Perkins hand was forced.  In 1778 he armed the townspeople.  Later the same year they fired first shot in anger, driving off American sea raiders who had attacked Liverpool.

From then on war was personal and bitter.  Perkins with other ship owners fitted out privateers to raid the New England coast in retaliation.

. . . The American Revolution ended 1781 and for next 10 to 12 years the Liverpool merchants and ship owners rebuilt their sea-going trade.  There were some hard times.  “Sent the Schooner to Halifax for food,” Perkins wrote, adding a few days later: “The Schooner returned from Halifax.  There was no food.”  In 1793 Napoleonic Wars began and Simeon Perkins never knew peace again until he died.

When French and Spanish privateers interfered with the West Indies trade , Perkins and others fitted out their own privateers again . . . armed them with cannon borrowed from the Royal Navy, and their intrepid skippers brought the war to the enemy in the Caribbean.

Despite lifetime spent as ship owner and merchant, Perkins died poor, time and energies eaten away by unpaid public duties.  Made last diary entry spring 1812 when he recorded a training muster of the militia in preparation for approaching war.  Died a month later on May 9 – age 78.  House bought by Queen’s County Historical Society 1936 and turned over to Nova Scotia government in 1947 – historic site.  Visitors can see typewritten copies of his diary.  From wall of drawing room his portrait looks out toward the prosperous town he helped build.

Note by Mary Lynn Smith: Stan Rogers, beloved Canadian folk singer, lost his life at age 33 on 2 June 1983, after Air Canada Flight 797 filled with acrid smoke and burned on the runway of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport.  Stan Rogers wrote Barrett’s Privateers, a famous song that gives a very unique perspective on  privateering.

From The Rover by Thomas H. Raddall

Excerpt from Page 5 to 7

“… other relics of that old wild time are still to be found in Liverpool … flintlock pistol, boarding-pike made from whalerman’s flensing-knife, battered pilot-book … and one of the famous old ‘pieces of eight’.  In this Nova Scotia town you may still see the old Sloop Tavern, where captains and shipowners used to gather long ago to discuss their West Indian ventures. … the white cottage of Simeon Perkins (the Pepys of Nova Scotia) still looks down his long lawn to street, preserved by the government of Nova Scotia. His famous diary is kept safely in a bank vault not far away.  The memories of the fighting privateersmen themselves, handed down from generation to generation, are still told by their descendents … many … survived the wars, the fevers and the perils of the sea which were part of the West Indies trade and passed stories of their adventures to children and grandchildren.”

Excerpt from Page 13

“… when George III was King, most of the settlers in Nova Scotia found their land too rocky and poor for farming, while the sea around them was alive with fat codfish, so they turned their hands from hoe to fishhook.  By salting and drying the fish they could keep enough for a winters’ food and ship the rest away to a market and in those days people on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean ate a lot of salt cod because it was cheap and it could not spoil in warmest weather. … but there were few people in Canada in colonial times and the Nova Scotia fishermen had too look elsewhere for customers.  Also they needed a cheap supply of salt.  They found both in the West Indies. … After a time the Nova Scotians found that they could sell pine timber and oak staves in those parts as well. Money was scarce in the north. Although Canadian merchants kept their ledger accounts in pounds, shillings and pence there was very little English money to be had.  In colonial days Britain’s whole trade with Canada was less than her trade with a single island (Jamaica) in the West Indies.  In Canada itself trade was done mostly by barter, a business of swapping boards for cloth, fish for flour and so on.  For that reason ‘hard money’ – actual cash – had great value.”

Excerpt from Page 46

“… In those days the captain of a merchant ship, especially a Nova Scotia ship, had to be Jack-of-all-trades and an expert at each.  Had to know how to build a ship and how to rig it with masts, yards and sails.  He had to know how to sail a ship to any part of the world and how to handle every sort of crew. When his ship reached foreign port he had to make a good bargain in selling cargo, and he had to hunt about for a return cargo and make a good bargain for that also.  In these affairs, he had to deal with foreign merchants, ship-chandlers, and officials of many kinds, and this required him to have at least a good working knowledge of French and Spanish languages.”

Excerpt from Pages 64 and 65

“… Those who liked strong drink found plenty of it in taverns.  The waterfront became a bedlam.  Mr. Perkins wrote in his diary, ‘The Privateersmen were very Noisey at night about the wharves.  Some fiting or Rangling’.  The next day, however, he was able to note that they were ‘very Peaceable to-day and evening’.  For it was Sunday.  In Nova Scotia towns of that time the Sabbath was strictly kept, and strangers were wise to keep it so.”

Excerpt from Page 135

“… most of Liverpool settlers had come from Cape Cod, and there were some from Nantucket and a few (like Simeon Perkins) from Connecticut.”

From Early Liverpool and its Diarist by Charles Bruce Fergusson Public Archives of Nova Scotia

Excerpt from Pages 17 to 49

“… before 1761 Liverpool’s inhabitants consisted of 90 families – 504 persons total – subsisting chiefly by fishery and by trade in lumber. … this was the community to which Simeon Perkins, the author of this diary came on May 4, 1762. … Simeon Perkins was active in the performance of his duties as Commissioner of roads in 1773. … as the time of troubles in America brought depredations from privateers as well as other menaces … new fortifications were built. … During 1777 privateers frequented coast and were reported at Barrington, Port Roseway, Ragged Islands, Port Mouton and Liverpool where a schooner was taken from Perkins’ wharf. … A young man of 27 was one of the passengers … bound from New England in spring 1762 … this was Simeon Perkins .. he was coming as a member of a partnership, formed by his father-in-law, Ebenezer Backus, a relative named Jabez Perkins, and himself, to establish the business of the company in the new town of Liverpool, Nova Scotia. … As the schooner ran past the Western Head and Moose Harbour on the way up Liverpool Bay, on May 4, 1762, Perkins scanned shores … Black Point was passed and soon Fort Point was reached. The vessel sailed over the bar and into the river, and the town came into full view. Anchor was dropped, a boat lowered, and Perkins was soon quickly rowed ashore. … Perkins was an enterprising merchant, not only concerned with catering to needs of fellow-townsmen, but actively interested in fishing, lumbering and trading in West Indian, American, Newfoundland, Gulf of St. Lawrence and European markets, in shipbuilding and privateering and in multitudinous related operations. … prominent in public affairs … held a number of important offices for a good many years.”

From A History of Early Nova Scotia by Peter L. McCreath and John G. Leefe

Excerpt from Page 274

“… On July 2, 1776 Nova Scotians were informed of repeal of Stamp Act.  Appropriate thanks were forwarded by the legislature although the Yankees who had so recently carved out homes in Liverpool expressed themselves in a more forthright manner.  Simeon Perkins recorded their reaction in his famous diary.

“Days of rejoicing over rejoicing over repeal of Stamp Act.  Cannon at Fort Lawrence fired, colours flown on shipping.  In evening the Company (of militia) marched to home of Major Doggett, and were entertained.  People made a bonfire out of old house of Captain Mayhew, a settler here, and continued all night and part of next, carousing’.

Perkins and Doggett were both Justices of the Peace in Liverpool Township, suggesting that dissatisfaction with the Stamp Act ran from top to bottom in the outport society.”

Excerpt from Page 301

“… In these attacks on Liverpool, Annapolis, and Lunenburg, Nova Scotians witnessed some of the worst depredations carried out by American privateers in the name of liberty.  Many other communities too, felt heavy hand of these patriots, for Chester … etc. were similarly harassed. Even Charlottetown fell momentarily to rebels in 1775.  Although it may not have been the intention of the privateering captains, their actions only served to drive Nova Scotia further away from America.”

From The Diary of Simeon Perkins Edited by H.A. Innis Publications of the Champlain Society

There are three volumes: 1766 – 1780, 1797 – 1803, and 1804 – 1812

Excerpt from Introduction

“… the diary of Simeon Perkins is based herein in part on a typescript, copies of which are in possession of Public Archives of Ottawa and the Public Archives in Halifax, and in part, following February 18, 1777 on original manuscript in possession of municipality of Liverpool, Nova Scotia. Original diary prior to that point has disappeared.”

Excerpt from Introduction Pages XII to XXXIV

“… In spite of difficulties in trading of goods, he was engaged in a great number of activities incidental to an interest in fishing and lumbering. In January 1767 the poorer grades of fish were sent to West Indies in schooners which had been fishing on the Banks during preceding season. In March the schooners returned with salt, sugar, and molasses. The round of activities continued in 1767 and 1768. Vessels are sent on trading expeditions for beaver, fish and feathers, to Chaleur Bay, and cast along coast for fish. … The company, as it is called, secured capital through a wide range of connections in Halifax and the New England ports. Perkins sent Jamaica fish for the West Indies market. … the Brig Olive arrived

March 31, 1772 from Liverpool, England with 92 T. salt. Unloaded and immediately took on cargo of at least 50,000 boards and 10,000 shingles and left for the West Indies April 27. … sloop Delight was sent with lumber to West Indies to be exchanged for salt. … the Royal George sent with fish to West Indies and returned after long voyage . After January, 1773 the diary is kept with greater regularity.

Trade to West Indies was encouraged by an act, of which news arrived November 2, 1774, ‘to lay a duty on molasses, and sugar, from the Colonies, and to allow West India rum to be imported duty free’. … As the effects of the Revolution became more evident, people began returning to New England. … Late in 1775 New England privateers began to embarrass seriously the ships of Nova Scotia and to retaliate for intervention of British authorities in New England. … As a result of the Revolution, business interests shifted from Boston and New England ports to Halifax. From the diary of Perkins, the vast complex of Atlantic trade can be traced and to some extent understood. The trade of Liverpool, as a marginal frontier port between Halifax and Boston, a stopping place for New England vessels proceeding to the whale fisheries, the Banks, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and a source of trade to Newfoundland, Bermuda, and West Indies and Great Britain in fish, lumber, timber, and staves, is of particular importance to an understanding of American Revolution. … behind the social, economic and political problems described in the diary lay the overwhelming influence of the Atlantic. … The loss of life is evident in references to widows and remarriages. The diary of Simeon Perkins in a report from a listening post in the Atlantic struggle.”


Friday, September 26Capt. Josiah Godfrey fr. Chatham arr.
Sunday, December 28The coldest day I have ever known in this country.


Sunday, January 11Capt. Moses Godfrey arr. fr. Chatham. Captain John Godfrey and Mrs. Knowles come as passengers.
Wednesday, April 15Schooner arr. fr. Chatham, Capt. David Smith. With him come passengers, Capt. Godfrey’s mother and father, Moses Godfrey, Daniel Eldredge and Joseph Denbrick.
Monday, October 25Mrs. Collings, Mrs. Crowell, and Benjamin Godfrey’s daughter Lucy, come passengers from Chatham.
Thursday, October 28At noon Capt. Benajah Collins arr. fr. Boston. Letters by him fr. Capt. Christopher Allen, of Groaten, acquainting me that Capt. John Godfrey, of brig Olive, sailed fr. Gibraltar Jan. 21 or 22 deep loaded w. salt, and wine and fruit for home. Anxious about him. Some rumours say he sailed fr. Gibralter up straits. Allen conversed w. him, saw him clear land, w. a good breeze. I conclude he must be lost.


Tuesday, March 31Brig Olive, Capt. John Godfrey, arr. fr. Liverpool, G. B. this AM. 30 days passage fr. Cork, 34 fr. Liverpool. Has 92 T. salt.
Tuesday, April 7Capt. John Godfrey goes to enter brig Olive. I get down a raft of about 10,000 boards and 10,000 shingles for brig’s cargo then see above.
Thursday, April 9NE Gale. Schooner arr. fr. East Passage, Capt. Taylor. Begin to unload brig Olive for West Indies. Take in about 9,000 boards.
Friday, April 10Snowstorm.
Sunday, April 12Winds east w. rain. Capt. Black comes fr. Hfx. With Capt. John Godfrey as passenger, who entered and cleared the brig Olive, and brought orders to Wm. Johnstone (native of Aberdeen, Scot. And became deputy registrar for Queen’s Co. in 1772). Collector to enter schooners Royal George, and Vigourous and also brig Olive when she returns,
Friday, April 17Brig Olive hatches at noon. Has about 50,000 boards under deck.
Friday, April 24Brig Olive, Capt. John Godfrey, gets under and anchors below. Wind s.
Monday, April 27Brig Olive sails in PM.
Saturday, May 16Looking for schooners Vigourous and Royal George from West Indies.
Sunday, May 16Capt. Alex. Sweeney arr. fr. Hfx. To collect a debt fr. Capt. Ephraim Dean, contracted in West Indies for money lent. Capt. Dean refuses paym’t. They fight and Capt. Sweeney is much hurt.


Wednesday, April 14I have a letter fr. Geo. Smith Esq. That he heard from Barcelona of arr. of brig Olive, Capt. John Godfrey, who arr. here Dec. 13. Did not expect them to Hfx. until June.
Tuesday, September 7Capt. Allin says that Christopher Allin of Groaten (Groton) saw brig Olive, Capt. Godfrey last winter at Gibralter.


Wednesday, June 8John Russell, Plymouth, arr. w. letters fr. Henry Rauthmill, of Liverpool, Eng. Re insurance on Brig Olive. Underwriters believe her lost, yet will not pay ins. money without an affadavit form that we have no other ins. and no other intelligence except what was communicated.
Thursday, June 9I draw up an affadavit on brig Olive conc. ins. and the owners and Mrs. Godfrey.
Sunday, September 4Capt. Atwood arr. fr. Salem. Mrs. Godfrey will go to Canso with him. She gave me instructions for drawing the money for ins. on brig Olive.


Wednesday, July 24One Capt. Blake is arr. a few days ago w. molasses and salt. Captain Ephraim Dean and myself have bought his cargo and agreed to load him w. fish, and some boards if to be had.
Friday, August 2Cloudy/rain. HM Brigantine Hope, Capt. Dawson arr. in harbour. They board Capt. Blake’s brig, and go up ye river with their boat. Mr. Johnstone goes on board w. them. Capt. Dawson sends a second time to examine Capt. Blake’s brig, whether the cargo is molasses.
Saturday, August 3Pleasant day. The Brig Hope, Capt. Dawson sails. His officers have reported that there has been an engagement between King’s troops and the Provincials, at New York. That the latter have suffered great loss, and some reports are the General Washington is taken prisoner.
Wednesday, August 14Pleasant wind NE. Capt. David Bray and Capt. Frizzle are arr. Hfx. Some news re the fleet and army at Carolina. That one of the ships is burnt, and another dismasted, and the whole armiment left that quarter, and gone to join Gen. How. (Clinton reached Staten Is. On Aug 1). With what authority I do not know.
Thursday, August 22Warm. Capt. Hopkins arr. fr. Salmoning at Nfld. w. about 170 barrels. Left Capt. Ford there 21 days ago w. as many.
Friday, August 23Pleasant. Get some fish fr. Capt. Snow and deliver to Capt. Blake.
Saturday, August 24Pleasant. Take some fish to Capt. Blake (He?) is pressing. A barque, Capt. Whalen, arr. fr. Hfx. The Capt. Reports he saw 2 vessels, which he took to be Snows, firing upon a ship. Last Mon. or Tues. the cannon were heard by sundry people.
Tuesday, August 27Severe storm. Wind at ESE and to eastward and northward.
Sunday, September 1Pleasant. My brother Jabezz arr. fr. Antigua and Anguilla. Has salt, rum and sugar. Brings news of Capt. Barss and Capt. Freeman. Former sailed in company w. him.
Monday, September 2No news of Capt. Barss. We much fear he is taken by Amer. Privateers.
Monday, September 9I am getting my accts. ready. Settle w. Capt. Blake, and my brother, and taking acct. of accounts ret. In the Betsey.
Tuesday, September 10Settle w. Capt. Blake, Capt. Dean takes his bill for 115. I have 38 in it.
Wednesday, September 11Settle w. my brother. Sold him some quantity of goods. In evening he sails. Cleared out for Campobello.
Thursday, September 12Capt. Blake sails w. a good wind. NN.
Friday, September 13Capt. Snow’s fishing schooner comes in, and report that there was a small schooner alongside them last night and told them my brother, Capt. Mason and Mr. Gideon White are all taken by Amer. Privateers. That there is a great no. upon the shore,, and that they have taken near 20 sail about the Head of Cape.
Wednesday, July 1Foggy. A report that a fleet of 30 sail of ships has been seen of Hfx.
Wednesday, August 23Capt. Benj. Bowden is m. to Ruthy Godfrey, widow of Capt. John Godfrey by Rev. Mr. Cheever about 2 o’clock by service of Church of England. I was desired to give her away.
Wednesday, August 30Foggy and rainy since Sunday. Two schooners came into harbour firing, which alarmed people. One was fr. Jamaica w. sugar and molasses.
Thursday, August 31A brig in ballast fr. Jamaica arr. belonging to Salem.
Friday, September 8Elisha Hopkins ret. fr. Hfx. Mr. Kirby comes w. him to buy molasses of Capt. Silsby fr. Jamaica.


Thursday, March 26Mrs. Horton delivered of a son last night. Capt. Horton has been gone near 1 yr. and 10 mos. Jane Nickerson, a single woman, was also delivered of a daughter. Several such instances have happened of late, to great disgrace of place, tho till lately it was remarked that never was a place clearer of such vices, – not being a bastard born for many years.
Saturday, July 11HM Frigate Ambuscade, Capt. John Mc Cartney is in the Harbour. The Capt. Calls on me w. a letter fr. the Secty. He appears to be Gentleman of a Pleasant Turn, and the Least of a Certain Turn peculiar to Gentlemen of the Order that I have observed in my acquaintance. His business here is of a Private Nature. He walks thro the town and seems pleased w. the sit. etc.
Sunday, July 12Capt. Mc Cartney and Mr. Blake, the Master, attend worship. Dine w. me, and Drink tea at Mr. Cheever’s. Mr. Mercer in schooner Industry, which I have loaded, w. spars and lumber, sails for Barmuda.
Monday, July 13Warm and dry. Capt. McCartney is at my House again, w. sundry Gentlemen of the Town, on some business relating to a Report etc. He sails in ye afternoon.
Tuesday, July 14An extraordinary drought. All the vegetables seem to be perishing.
Monday, December 14The Hunter, Sloop of war, came in last night. The Capt. Osborne and other officers come on shore they make a seizure of Capt. Andrews ship and molasses, sugar and coffee in my store and seta guard about it.
Thursday, December 17The Hunter’s people, belonging to the Guard, about the store, or on board Dutch ship at my wharf, broke into shop and stole some skins.


Monday, May 29The wind is got to NW and the clouds broken, tho very cold. The ship Mary Parker, Ephm. Dean, Master, Lately Built by Messrs. Parker and Calkin, sails for Merimachi to Load for Liverpool, in Eng. Mr. Elisha Calkin, one of the Hous, is gone w. Her, with design of selling her at Liverpool. The schooner Liverpool Packet, Lowdowick Harrington, Master, sails on a Salmon Voyage. I write by the Mary Parker to Mr. Henry Rothmill. Of Liverpool, on Subject of Insurance made by him on Brig Olive many yrs. ago.
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