Rose Fortune

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Rose Fortune
Born(1774-03-13)March 13, 1774
DiedFebruary 20, 1864(1864-02-20) (aged 89)

Rose Fortune (March 13, 1774 – February 20, 1864) was a child born in or around Philadelphia of runaway slaves. Rose came to Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, with the Black Loyalists, where she became a successful businesswoman and the first female police officer in Canada.

Life and career[edit]

Rose Fortune was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 13, (approximately) 1774, to her parents Fortune and Aminta,[1] The family of three was subsequently relocated to Nova Scotia after the American Revolution. Fortune, Aminta and Rose arrived in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia as part of the Black Loyalist migration when she was 10 years old. In 1825 (approximately), Rose started her own business, carting luggage between the ferry docks and nearby homes and hotels. She became a trusted figure for travellers, helping them find accommodation and ensuring they made their connections to schooners and steamships.[2] Her strength, trust, honesty and constant presence on the waterfront led her to become entrusted with safeguarding property and maintaining order on the wharves and warehouses of Annapolis Royal, acting as the town's waterfront police officer.[3]

Rose Fortune's grave marker in the Garrison Cemetery

Rose Fortune died on February 20, 1864, in the small house she owned at the engineer's lot near Fort Anne. She was buried in an unmarked grave in Annapolis Royal in the Garrison Cemetery.[4] A special marker was created for her grave and installed on Canada Day in 2017. Created by sculptor Brad Hall, it uses a stylized wheelbarrow made or iron and stone to evoke her work and the business she founded on the waterfront. The wheel barrow forms a memorial bench where visitors are invited to sit and reflect on Fortune's place in history.[5]

The business she founded was continued by family for several generations as a stevedore and cartage company, later led by her grandson-in-law Albert Lewis as the Lewis Transfer Company, remaining in business until 1980.[6] Her direct descendant was Daurene Lewis, who was elected Mayor of Annapolis Royal in 1984, being the first African-Canadian woman in Canada to attain that position.

As the result of DNA tests of three of Rose Fortune's descendants and as a result of the runaway slave advertisement of Fortune and Aminta placed in the Virginia Gazette Newspaper of April 21, 1773, we now know that Rose Fortune had ancestors that came from not only Africa but also South America and Madagascar.[7]

Rose died the year before Canada Confederation of 1865.


In 1999, a plaque in her honour was installed near the location of her house in the Petit Parc on the Annapolis Royal waterfront, part of the Mathieu da Coast heritage trail.[8] Fortune, a play inspired by the life of Rose Fortune, written by playwright George Cameron Grant, has been performed through the United States and the Maritimes. Grant was inspired by a Candlelight Graveyard tour in 2013, led by Annapolis Royal historian Alan Melanson which featured the unmarked resting place of Rose Fortune. Grant resolved to write the play and start the campaign for the grave monument.[9] In May 2015, Rose Fortune's first name was bestowed upon the new ferry, the MV Fundy Rose to operate between Digby, Nova Scotia and Saint John, New Brunswick.[10]

Brenda J. Thompson, author and area citizen of Annapolis Royal, was also inspired by the legacy of Rose Fortune. Seeking more information about Rose, she did indepth research on Rose Fortune finding her parents in a run-away slave advertisement in Virginia.[11] In addition, Thompson theorizes through baptismal records of Rev. Roger Veits that Rose was living in Freeport, Long Island, Nova Scotia in the year 1795. Thompson also did DNA tests on three of Rose Fortune's descendants.[12]

Fortune was named a National Historic Person on January 12, 2018.[13] The plaque was installed by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada on July 20, 2019 at the waterfront of Annapolis Royal where Rose once worked. It is mounted on a granite boulder donated by Fred Bailey, one of Fortune's descendants, which came from the family's land in Lequille, just outside of Annapolis Royal.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thompson, Brenda J. (2019). Finding Fortune- Documenting and Imagining the Life of Rose Fortune (1774-1864). Halifax, Nova Scotia: SSP Publications. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-989347-04-1.
  2. ^ Nova Scotia Archives: African Nova Scotians, "Rose Fortune (ca. 1774-1864)"
  3. ^ The "Rose Fortune Peter Butler III police scholarship", Canadian Association of Black Law Enforcers
  4. ^ "Rose Fortune". Retrieved 2009-11-10.
  5. ^ Lawrence Powell, "Good Fortune -- Annapolis Royal honours its most famous Black Loyalist", Annapolis County Spectator, July 12, 2017
  6. ^ Ian Lawrence, Historic Annapolis Royal, Halifax: Nimbus Publishing (2002), p. 26, 154
  7. ^ Thompson, Brenda J. (2019). Finding Fortune- Documenting and Imagining the Life of Rose Fortune (1774-1864). Halifax, Nova Scotia: SSP Publications. pp. 114–116. ISBN 978-1-989347-04-1.
  8. ^ "Rose Fortune", Mathieu Da Costa Trail, Valley African Nova Scotian Development Association
  9. ^ Lawrence Powell, "Good Fortune -- Annapolis Royal honours its most famous Black Loyalist", Annapolis County Spectator, July 12, 2017
  10. ^ Riley, Jonathan. "Fundy Rose is the name of the new Digby Saint John ferry". Digby County Courier. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  11. ^ "Petersburg, RUN AWAY last night". Virginia Gazette. April 29, 1773.
  12. ^ Thompson, Brenda J. (2019). Finding Fortune: Documenting and Imagining the LIfe of Rose Fortune (1774-1864). Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada: SSP Publications. ISBN 978-1-989347-04-01 Check |isbn= value: length (help).
  13. ^ Government of Canada Announces New National Historic Designations, Parks Canada news release, January 12, 2018
  14. ^ Alex Cooke, "Black Loyalist Rose Fortune recognized for historical significance: New plaque unveiled on Annapolis Royal waterfront a lasting legacy", CBC News, July 21, 2019

External links[edit]