Saint John, New Brunswick

The article below was taken from The New Brunswick Reader, May 16/98

Charlotte's Slipper

   Charlotte Haines was born in New York, the daughter of John Haines, an American patriot (we would call him a rebel) during the American Revolution. He forbade his l0-year-old daughter to visit his brother David and his children who were Loyalists. Charlotte knew who the Loyalists were. She had seen their belongings piled on the sidewalks, had seen empty school desks where Loyalist children had sat. In the final days of the Revolutionary War, the Loyalists were preparing for evacuation, and Charlotte feared that her cousins would soon be leaving New York as well, and she was desperate to see them one last time.

   One day in the early spring, Charlotte's servant girl followed her to school as usual, carrying her lunch and schoolbooks. Upon her arrival, Charlotte took her belongings and when the servant had departed, she ran as fast as she could to her uncle's home. She was joyfully received and the time went quickly as she and her cousins played together. Realizing that the school day was nearly over, Charlotte reluctantly made her sad farewell and ran through the rain for home, arriving late at her father's door.

   He demanded to know where she had been and like George Washington, she could not tell a lie. She confessed that she had been to Uncle David's. Her words enraged her father, who declared that since she had been in the home of a Loyalist, she would never be welcomed back into his. Charlotte had no choice but to return to her uncle's. David tried to reason with his brother, reminding him that Charlotte was only l0 years old. He begged John to forgive her and take her back, but his words fell on deaf ears.

   When David Haines's family prepared to set sail from New York, Charlotte was with them. As she stood along the ship's railing, she searched the faces of those waving good-bye, but could not find her mother's face among them. Charlotte's heart was very heavy and she hated the sea voyage. She could not wait to disembark when the ship reached what was the province of Nova Scotia on May 18, 1783.

   She is purported to have been among the first to climb, out of the rowboat which brought her to the water's edge at what is now Market Slip in Saint John, and as she hurried toward the beach at low tide her foot sank in the mud. When she pulled it out, her shoe was gone. Her aunt hurried her along. It was important to quickly find a place in one of the tents which had been set up for the loyalists along the shore. The buried slipper remained there and no doubt quickly disintegrated, but Charlotte kept her other slipper, a reminder of her arrival in the future province of New Brunswick and her new life.

   Charlotte's adopted family settled in Queens County. At the age of 17, she married William Peters, the son of a Loyalist, and together they had 15 children. Their oldest son drowned in the St. John River trying to save the life of a black servant boy. One of their grandchildren became Sir Leonard Tilley, a father of Confederation. He was one of more than a hundred grandchildren, the descendants of whom now live throughout North America.

   The slipper was donated to the New Brunswick Museum in l945 by a descendent of Charlotte Haines. It is slender and delicate, fine perhaps on the sidewalks of New York City. (Even in 1783, there were sidewalks in New York City.)

   After a decade on exhibit at the museum's old building on Douglas Avenue in Saint John, the little kid leather shoe, decorated with a bit of grosgrain ribbon, is no longer displayed. Research on the artifact now indicates the slipper is likely to date back only to the early 19th century. This style of slipper with a heel and rounded toe was no available until 25 years after the Loyalist landing, although it could be argued that New Yorkers are always a little ahead of their time with fashion.

   Regardless, this story of Charlotte Haines and her Lost Slipper is a wonderful mix of historical fact and fanciful embellishment. In all my years working as a gallery teacher at the museum, it never failed to capture the imaginations of the students visiting the museum. Someone their own age had suffered and prevailed. When I finished the tale and invited the students to go into the gallery and find Charlotte's "other" slipper, they leapt from their seats and could hardly heed my caution not to run.

   As May 18 approaches, the 215th anniversary of the arrival of Charlotte Haines and thousands of other Loyalists, I find myself thinking of her little Slipper resting in its storage box at the New Brunswick Museum.

Written by Anne Baker