Shelburne Harbour has the third best natural harbour in the world. The native Mik'maq traversed the Roseway River and used the surrounding lands for summer encampments long before our shores were visited by Spanish, Portuguese and French fishermen.
In the spring of 1783, 5000 settlers arrived on the shores of Shelburne Harbour from New York and the middle colonies of America. Assurance of living under the British flag, and promises of free land, tools, and provisions lured many to the British Colonies at that time. 400 hundred families associated to form a town at Port Roseway, which Governor Parr renamed Shelburne later that year. This group became known as the Port Roseway Associates.
In the fall of 1783, a second wave of settlers arrived in Shelburne. By 1784, the population of this new community is estimated to have been at least 10,000; the fourth largest in North America, much larger than either Halifax or Montreal.
Although much smaller today, Shelburne remains the capital of the county which bears its name. It was incorporated as a town on April 4, 1907. The population in 1997 was 2245. Many descendants of the original Loyalists still live in the area today.
The new town of Shelburne quickly became a fishing and shipbuilding centre. Fishing is still a primary industry today. Some other industries are lumbering, fish processing, and the manufacture of barrels, institutional furniture, granite monuments, and marine supplies.
The Black Loyalists, who settled at the same time, were allotted land on the northwest arm of Shelburne Harbour. They founded the largest free Black settlement in North America, called Birchtown, in honour of General Birch.
The area was also settled by Scottish and Irish Immigrants. In June of 1818, Welsh settlers arrived from Carmarthen and Cardigan in Wales, and founded the first Welsh settlement in Canada. They settled on the west side of the Roseway River, in a community they called New Cambria. The name was later changed to Welshtown.