The end of the American Revolution in 1783 resulted in a mass migration of loyal British subjects living in the United States to British colonies in the north. Within the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve, significant loyalist towns developed in Digby and Shelburne.
Shelburne, with the third best natural harbour in the world, saw its population explode to nearly 10,000 in 1784 – larger than Halifax or Montreal at the time. With poor soil for agriculture and little employment, the population dwindled to about 300 by the 1820s. Other settlers came to the area from Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
The town of Digby was named for Rear Admiral Sir Robert Digby, captain of the Brigantine HMS Atalanta and leader of the first settlers from New York and New England. The town was one of many fortified with blockhouses and guns during the war of 1812.
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