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Loyalists mark 100 years

Famous families trace ties to group

United Empire Loyalists Jennifer Swanston (from left), Mary Steinhoff, Margaret Carter, Ken Swanston, Lorraine Cook and Vera Mary Ash.

SARAH TAYLOR / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

United Empire Loyalists Jennifer Swanston (from left), Mary Steinhoff, Margaret Carter, Ken Swanston, Lorraine Cook and Vera Mary Ash.

They've been in Manitoba for 100 years, but many people know little about the Loyalists, the historical supporters of the British Crown.

"The country would be very different without the Loyalists' contributions, because they brought with them the respect of law and order, the parliamentary system, the land tenure system and many of the British parliamentary rules and regulations," said Margaret Carter, a member and former president of the Manitoba branch of the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada.

Today, members of the association and other Manitoba historical societies will celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Loyalists' group with a ceremony at the legislature.

Carter encouraged members of the public who love history and want to learn more about Canada's origins to attend. The ceremony will happen in Room 200 at 10 a.m.

"I think very few people know about us because we are not normally all that great in our public communications," said Carter. "But like any other organization, we'd like to grow and get our message out, to have the public know of our contributions to the country."

The Loyalists were supporters of the British empire who were forced out of the United States during the American Revolutionary war, which ended in 1783.

"Their crops were burned, their animals were stolen. It was just real war," said Carter.

Decades after settling in southern Ontario, southern Quebec and the Maritimes, some Loyalists migrated to Western Canada. Currently, there are only 31 registered Loyalists in Manitoba, but there are more prospective Loyalists working to prove their identity as they trace their roots back to the 1700s, the association said.

Mary Steinhoff, another active member in the Loyalist community, noted despite their relative anonymity, there are some very prominent Manitoba families with Loyalist roots.

The Chipmans, the Roblins and the Richardsons all have ties to the historic community, though they aren't directly involved with the association anymore.

John Dafoe, the former editor of the Free Press from 1901 to 1944, was also a Loyalist.

"Many Loyalists have been very significant in the development of Manitoba," said Steinhoff. "And because of the Loyalists, two provinces were created -- the colony of Nova Scotia was split and New Brunswick was founded as a Loyalist province."

The association will host a garden party at the lieutenant-governor's house in August, the date of which is still to be determined.

Almost every month, the Manitoba branch holds a meeting at the Gates on Roblin. Carter said the meetings are open to anyone with an interest in the Loyalist community.

"We have a nice lunch at a reasonable price, video presentations and a piano if anyone wants to sing," she joked.

"Anyone can come to our meetings and they should because we always eat."

jessica.botelho-urbanski@freepress.mb.ca

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