Colonel Simeon Perkins (February 24, 1735 – May 9, 1812) was a Nova Scotia militia leader, merchant, diarist and politician. Perkins led the defence of Liverpool from attacks during the American Revolution, French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. In the 1770s, Liverpool was the second-largest settlement in Nova Scotia, next to Halifax. He also funded privateer ships in defence of the colony. He wrote a diary for 46 years (1766-1812), which is an essential historic document of this time period in Nova Scotian history.
He was Lieutenant-colonel of the county militia from 1772 to 1793, he served as colonel commandant from 1793 to 1807. During the American Revolution, he defended the town numerous times from attack by American Privateers. There were five raids on the town: October 1776, March 1777, September 1777, May 1778, and September 1780. He also went on the offensive by funding various privateer ships of his own to attack American Privateers.
A month after the HMS Blonde defeated the Duc de Choiseul, on May 1, 1778, American privateers raided Liverpool, ravaging and pillaging a number of the houses and stores, including the store of Simeon Perkins. Three weeks later, on May 21, the same privateers returned and tried to tow the wreck of the Duc de Choiseul out to sea. Perkins mustered ten men at the shore. Cannon fire was exchanged by the British militia and the American privateers. The privateers continued to fire at the town for almost an hour. Perkins marched his men along the shore, closer to the privateers. One of the militia was wounded in the ensuing exchanges. The privateers stayed off shore for a number of days. Perkins kept a sergeant and six men on guard duty twenty four hours a day until the privateers left the area.
After suffering three years of similar sporadic raids, Perkins, on June 2, 1779, built a battery for the artillery and on October 31 launched their own privateer vessel named Lucy to bring battle to their adversaries. As well, Perkins wrote a successful appeal to the authorities in Halifax, and on Dec. 13, 1778 Capt. John Howard's company of the King's Orange Rangers arrived aboard the transport Hannah. The company consisted of Howard, 2 lieutenants, 1 ensign, 3 sergeants, 2 or 3 corporals, 48 privates, and several camp followers, both women and children.
The most dramatic defense of Liverpool occurred on Sept. 13, 1780. Two American privateers, the Surprize under Cpt. Benjamin Cole, and the Delight, under Cpt. Lane, unloaded nearly 70 men at Ballast Cove shortly after midnight. By 4am they had captured the fort and taken Howard, two other officers, and all but six of the KOR garrison as prisoners. Perkins called out the militia, engineered the capture of Cole, and ransomed him and the others for the recovery of the fort and the release of the prisoners. Liverpool was not bothered by privateers for the remainder of the war.
A born leader, he held public office for a long period representing Queens County in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly from 1765 to 1768 and from 1770 to 1799. He held twenty-seven government positions in his lifetime, none of which paid, including justice of the peace, colonel of the militia, and judge in the Inferior Court of Common Pleas and the Court of Quarter Sessions.
Perkins was born in Norwich, Connecticut, one of sixteen children of Jacob Perkins and Jemima Leonard. He came to Liverpool, Nova Scotia, in May 1762 as part of the New England Planter migration to Nova Scotia. In Liverpool, Perkins immediately began trading in fish and lumber and forged trading ties with New England, Newfoundland, Europe and the West Indies.
He had nine children from two marriages. His first wife, Abigail Backus, died four weeks after the birth of his first son Roger. He married again in 1775 to Mrs. Elizabeth Headley (Young) who had been widowed two months before the birth of her daughter Ruth.
His diary, which he began in 1766, remains a vital source for historians studying the society and economy of colonial Canada and notably the battle for identity and loyalty during the American Revolution. Perkins was at first neutral, but became increasingly loyal to the British cause. After relentless American privateer attacks on shipping and an attempted American looting of Liverpool itself, Perkins helped lead the defences of the town and outfitted several privateer ships against the Americans.
One of his diary entries, for October 12, 1796 allegedly contains the first report of a UFO sighting in modern North America. Perkins reports the tale circulating at the time of a young lady and two men living at New Minas, Nova Scotia on upper reaches of the Bay of Fundy, who, during a recent sunrise, saw as many as fifteen “ships in the air ... and a man forward with his hand stretched out.” Perkins continues, "the story did not obtain universal credit but some people believed it."
The original copies of Perkins diaries were donated to the Town of Liverpool in 1899 and are now held by the Queens County Museum in Liverpool. The diary was published in five volumes by the Champlain Society between 1948 and 1967. The diaries are now available online.
Perkins House Museum
Perkins' home was preserved through the efforts of the Queens County Historical Society in 1949 led by the author and historian Thomas Raddall. It opened as a museum in 1957 and became part of the Nova Scotia Museum system, the oldest building owned by the province. It became a popular tourism draw in Liverpool open every year during the summer. However the house was closed to the public in 2015 after the province, citing shifting floor beams deemed the building a safety hazard. The Nova Scotia Museum says it will eventually repair and reopen the house but no plans have been announced as the province says the provincial budget cannot afford the cost of repairs.
- Early Liverpool and its Diarist by C. Bruce Fergusson (1963).
- The Diary of Simeon Perkins (5 volumes), edited by Harold A. Innis et al., published by The Champlain Society (1947–78).
- The Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution: Excerpts from Simeon Perkins' Diary (1774-1782) Queens County Museum (1992).
- Simeon Perkins' Diary entries. Also see http://www.mersey.ca/choiseul.html
- Brebner. Neutral Yankees. 334-335
- "King's Orange Rangers", John G. Leefe, Liverpool 1996, p 14
- Perkin's account of raid
- Benjamin Cole (1751-1804) - born Eastham, Barnstable, Massachusetts, d. Liverpool, Nova Scotia
- "King's Orange Rangers", John G. Leefe, Liverpool 1996, pp 24-26
- Conlin, Daniel. "A Private War in the Caribbean: Nova Scotian Privateering 1793-1805, The Northern Mariner, Vol. VI, No. 4, p. 29-48.
- Fergusson, C Bruce (1983). "Simeon Perkins". Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. Retrieved 2008-09-30.
- Converse, Charles Allen (1905). Some of the Ancestors and Descendants of Samuel Converse, Jr., Vol. II, pp. 833-34. Boston: Eben Putnam.
- Horwood, Harold and Butts, Ed (1988). Bandits and Privateers: Canada in the Age of Gunpowder, p. 49. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Formac Publishing Company. ISBN 0-88780-157-9.
- Mark Kearney and Randy Ray, The Great Canadian Trivia Book, 1996, page 183
- Simeon Perkins, Diary of Simeon Perkins 1790-1796 Champlain Society, C.B. Ferguson ed, Vol. III, p. 431
- "Diary of Simeon Perkins" Champlain Collection, Champlain Society
- Elizabeth Pacey and Alvin Comiter, Landmarks: Historic Buildings of Nova Scotia, Nimbus publishing (1994), p. 24
- Brittany W. Verge, "Liverpool's Perkins House, Nova Scotia Museum's oldest site, closed for foreseeable future", Digby Courier/Liverpool Advance, May 26, 2015