A biography of Robert Denison, one of the people prominent in Nova Scotia history in the mid-1700s, on the occasion of the 2010 Celebration of the New England Planter migration to Nova Scotia in the 1760s.

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Robert Denison


Denison, Robert, soldier, settler, member of the Nova Scotia assembly (Legislature); born 1697 in Mohegan (now Montville, onnecticut), son of Robert Denison and Joanna Stanton; died at Horton (now Hortonville, Nova Scotia), probably in late June 1765.

          For most of his life Robert Denison served as a militia officer in New England‘s campaigns against the French and Indians. In October 1728 he was commissioned ensign in the North Company in New London, Connecticut, and was promoted captain in October 1731. He was elected to the Connecticut General Assembly in 1737 and 1742. In March 1745 he became captain of a company for the expedition against Île Royale (Cape Breton Island) [see Sir William Pepperrell] and served at the capture of Louisbourg that June.

          Denison was elected to the General Assembly again in 1751, and in March 1755 commissioned a major in the 1st Regiment of Connecticut. In August he attended a war council held by William Johnson near the south end of Lac Saint-Sacrement (Lake George), and early in September took part in the battle of Lake George against French forces under Dieskau. He was discharged on 3 October 1755; he served again in the general assembly (Legislature) the following year.

          Governor Charles Lawrence‘s proclamations of 1758 and 1759 offering free lands to immigrants attracted land-hungry planters from southeastern Connecticut to the fertile shores of the Bay of Fundy, vacant since the expulsion of the Acadians in 1755. Major Denison was one of the agents for the Connecticut grantees who appeared before the Nova Scotia Council in April 1759 to make arrangements for 200 families. The agents were sent with Surveyor General Charles Morris to view the lands and they selected a township of 100,000 acres at Minas (near Wolfville), which was granted under the name of Horton on 21 May. The council was to provide transportation for the settlers and their stock, farming equipment, and household goods, and to supply grain for needy families. Robert Denison heads the list of proprietors of Horton Township and he received 750 acres. On 4 June 1760 the main flotilla of 22 ships arrived and the settlers disembarked at Horton Landing. Denison was commissioned lieutenant-colonel of the militia of Horton Township that same day. Committees distributed the land so that each proprietor received a town lot and a portion of marshland, upland, and woodland. Horton became an agricultural community, trading farm products and some lumber with Connecticut for manufactured goods.

        Do you like to try your luck? Go to our website and play lucky pharao code. Increased odds for winning!  In 1760 Denison was commissioned a justice of the peace for Kings County. He became a justice of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas for Horton Township in August 1761. He faithfully attended from 1760 to May 1765 the Court of Quarter Sessions held at Horton which administered the local government of the township and tried minor criminal offences. In 1762 he was the first to sign a protest by 63 “New Eng’d Settlers of King’s County … the Magistrates, Representatives, and other principal Inhabitants” blaming Lieutenant Governor Jonathan Belcher for breaking promises made by the late Governor Lawrence, especially that the settlers would have their own township government and “all our civil and Religious Rights and Liberties, as we enjoyed them in the Governments from whence we Came.”  The Court of Quarter Sessions, however, remained the principal municipal governing body until 1879.

          Denison was one of the first New England planters elected to the Nova Scotia assembly, taking his seat on 1 July 1761. He supported Benjamin and Joseph Gerrish against Belcher, who was trying to repeal laws protecting debtors from their creditors in England. In August 1762 Denison was dismissed from his “employments both civil and military” (his commission in the militia and probably his appointment to the Court of Common Pleas) for his opposition to Belcher; he was reappointed a justice of the Court of Common Pleas for all of Kings County in February 1764. He resigned from the assembly in April 1764 “on account of his age and infirmities.”

          Denison signed his will on 25 June 1765 and seems to have died soon afterwards. He had been married on 19 October 1721 to Deborah Griswold and on 4 April 1733 to Prudence Sherman, and had 15 children; several of them died young. He left to his eldest son his “Cape Britton Gun and Silver Hilted Sword.”  Three other sons inherited his property in Nova Scotia.

—  Phyllis R. Blakeley
Assistant provincial archivist
Public Archives of Nova Scotia
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Source: Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
Robert Denison (the original article)

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