February 10, 2023
Since 2015, MV Fundy Rose has been ferrying travellers between Saint John, New Brunswick and Digby, Nova Scotia. Sailing across the Bay of Fundy, it should come as no surprise where our ship got at least part of its name, but where does “Rose” come from? It’s actually a fantastic story that involves the American Revolution, a trailblazing woman, and a little good fortune.
Join us for the story of Rose Fortune and learn how she became the namesake of MV Fundy Rose.
Rose Fortune was born around 1774 in Philadelphia. A child of the American Revolution, it is said that her parents were slaves belonging to a Devone family and were fleeing the United States for the North as loyalist refugees. They eventually arrived in Annapolis Royal, and it was here that Rose gained her freedom.
Interestingly, while there is extensive documentation for many Black Loyalists of her generation, much of Fortune’s early life remains a bit of a mystery. There are several possible explanations for this. It may simply be a clerical error — the marriages of her children, for example, appear in the St. Luke’s Church of England records. Or, Fortune may have spent a great deal of her younger life away from Annapolis Royal. Some suggest that — for a time — she lived in Saint John, though these stories have never been confirmed.
What we do know about Rose Fortune is that she was a savvy businesswoman who saw an opportunity to start her own business in Annapolis Royal and seized it. She became a baggage carrier at the Annapolis wharf — transporting luggage off of boats arriving from Boston and Saint John to nearby homes and hotels. This luggage would include everything from personal effects such as bags and boxes to larger items like steamer trunks. No matter the cargo, she was ready and willing to push it to its destination in her wheelbarrow. The truth is, she was rarely ever seen without her wheelbarrow, and constantly pushing it around led many to describe her as very physically strong.
This strength certainly helped when she took on her next role — a law enforcement officer at the Port of Annapolis Royal. Fortune was known for her dedication to the position and seemingly revelled in making sure the town’s youth obeyed the law. There was one small problem, however, nobody actually hired her for this job. She simply appointed herself to the position — not that anybody was complaining! Rose Fortune was well known, well liked, and good at what she did. Whether official or not, most people now regard Rose Fortune as the first female law enforcement officer in Canada — and who are we to let small details get in the way of an incredible story?
Rose Fortune died on February 20, 1864. She was believed to be about 90 when she passed away in the home that she owned near Fort Anne. Her modest grave in Annapolis Royal’s Garrison Cemetery was bestowed with a special marker on Canada Day, 2017. The monument, created by sculptor Brad Hall, depicts a stylized wheelbarrow that doubles as a memorial bench. Visitors to the grave are encouraged to sit and reflect on the crucial role Rose Fortune plays in history.
But this is not the only mark of her legacy in the region. In 1984, Rose Fortune’s direct descendant, Daurene Lewis, was elected Mayor of Annapolis Royal. Another trailblazer, Lewis was the first African-Canadian woman to hold this position.
And, of course, in May of 2015, Rose Fortune’s name was bestowed upon the MV Fundy Rose. We think her dedication to the area and trailblazing spirit made her a perfect choice.
Today, aboard the ship that bears her name, you can learn more about Rose Fortune from an informative display dedicated to her life. We look forward to sailing with you!
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