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GREENWOOD, WILLIAM, mariner and farmer; b. c. 1750 in Virginia; m. first Grace Smith of Chatham, Mass., and they had two sons and two daughters; m. secondly Deborah Berry, née Bootman, and they had six sons and three daughters; d. 1824 in Port Saxon, N.S.

As a youth William Greenwood ran away from an unhappy home to Massachusetts, and sailed in vessels out of Cape Cod. In the early 1770s he came to Barrington, where his father-in-law, Solomon Smith, was a proprietor of the township. Barrington had been founded in the early 1760s, chiefly by fishermen from Cape Cod and Nantucket Island, Mass., and its inhabitants depended on trade with their former homes. As a master mariner, Greenwood sailed on coastal voyages to Halifax, fished along the shores, and traded his dried fish for provisions in the seaports of New England. With the outbreak of hostilities between Britain and her American colonies in 1775, these ports were closed to the Barrington settlers. The latter were, however, sympathetic to the struggle of their kinsmen for independence. They gave assistance to distressed American seamen and escaped prisoners and, in doing so, revisited New England ports and were able to continue to trade with the rebellious colonies. Although fraught with danger because of possible reprisals from the provincial authorities, the opportunity was one the settlers valued, for wartime conditions meant that essential supplies were often lacking.

Greenwood himself first conveyed several stranded privateersmen to Massachusetts in the fall of 1777. He had shipped some fish at the same time in the hopes of purchasing corn for himself and his fellow settlers, and in consideration of his services he was granted permission to do so by the Massachusetts Council. In 1778 he repeated his voyage, returning to Barrington with his schooner laden with provisions, and he continued to sail to Massachusetts until 1782. Despite his aid to fellow Americans, Greenwood had his schooner Sally taken and his storehouse plundered by a privateer in 1779. The following year some escaped prisoners boarded his schooner Flying Fish (or Peggy) in Halifax Harbour and forced him to put to sea. Notwithstanding his protests of friendship, his captors set him and his crewman on an island after “stripping him of all his Cloaths and Robbing him of his Money.” Because Greenwood was recognized as “a uniform friend to . . . the United States,” the Massachusetts House of Representatives ordered the Flying Fish restored to him and permitted his return to Nova Scotia.

With the re-establishment of peace in North America, Greenwood turned his attention to the land. In 1785 he was granted 235 acres east of Barrington at Port Saxon, on the east side of Negro Harbour. There he cleared land for a farm, on which he raised horses, cattle, sheep, and pigs, and grew crops of vegetables and hay. On his property he built a sturdy house, some barns, a milk-house, a workshop, and a fish-house. Greenwood also kept the first inn on Negro Harbour, and his son William was the first ferryman on the east side of the harbour. But he did not neglect his earlier calling. He continued to sail in his schooner Deborah, and with William and others he owned the schooner Ruby and engaged in the carrying trade along the coast of Nova Scotia and to the New England states. Little is known about his private life other than that he was a Methodist. In his will, proved on 22 Nov. 1824, he bequeathed to his widow and children an estate valued at £203 1s. 9d.

Marion Robertson

Annals of Yarmouth and Barrington (Nova Scotia) in the revolutionary war, compiled from original manuscripts, etc., contained in the office of the secretary of the Commonwealth, State House, Boston, Mass., comp. E. D. Poole (Yarmouth, 1899), 32–33, 39, 47, 51, 62–63, 75–80, 96, 129–31. Edwin Crowell, A history of Barrington Township and vicinity . . . 1604–1870 (Yarmouth, [1923]; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1973), 441, 485–86, 570, 573. Marion Robertson, “William Greenwood of the Flying Fish and the Sally,” Dalhousie Rev., 42 (1962–63): 209–7.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Marion Robertson, “GREENWOOD, WILLIAM,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 23, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/greenwood_william_6E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/greenwood_william_6E.html
Author of Article: Marion Robertson
Title of Article: GREENWOOD, WILLIAM
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1987
Year of revision: 1987
Access Date: October 23, 2014