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Preston is a community located about 5 miles west of Dartmouth, near Halifax. Preston was repeatedly resettled with blacks; whenever they moved onto better opportunities, new blacks were settled there.

It was first settled by Black Loyalists. Approximately 150 black families settled there; only half were ever granted land. Potatoes and other vegetables were farmed in the rocky, acidic soil, and sold in the Halifax markets. Most of the landless families worked as tenant farmers for the area's white landowners.

Preston was unusual among the black communities, in that it was somewhat integrated. Whites, as well as blacks, were granted land in the same region; although typically blacks were segregated into separate communities a few miles out of the main towns. There they could be used as a pool of cheap labourers, but were safely out of sight.

It's illustrative that blacks were granted less land than whites even when they were included in the same surveys; evidence of a clear policy to give blacks less than whites. Clarkson commented on the extreme poverty of the Preston sharecroppers in Mission to America.

Preston was completely depopulated by the Sierra Leone emigration; maybe 1/4 of the original blacks settlers remained, and most of them probably had no choice in the matter, given how common it was for sharecroppers to fall into debt to their landlords. Preston was left with large numbers of cleared farms on unpromising land and nobody to farm on them.

A solution was provided almost as soon as the Black Loyalists left, as large numbers of Maroons from Jamaica were deported to Nova Scotia. The history of the Maroons is too complex to adequately describe here, but they were independent societies of escaped slaves. Maroon colonies existed in several places, but those in the mountains of Jamaica were particularly long lived and powerful. During the revolution they had signed a peace treaty with the British, but had soon violated it to liberate slaves. The British decided to move them as far away from Jamaica as possible, and the most likely place was Nova Scotia, recently depopulated and near enough that the move would be simple.

There, they were met with the same treatment as the Black Loyalists had, although they were feared and somewhat respected due to their independent warrior tradition. They were largely settled in Preston, where they began farming. Soon they too became resentful and rebellious, and by 1805 they were again transported to a new land; Sierra Leone.

Preston was again deserted, but the next wave of black immigration was more permanent. During the War of 1812, the British again used the tactic of promising freedom to slaves. Thousands fled to Canada, and many were settled in Nova Scotia. Preston was the easiest and most useful location for the people of Nova Scotia, and it is their descendants that mostly make up that community today.

Map showing Preston and Halifax
Preston is located just east of Dartmouth, near Halifax.

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