Rose Fortune was almost certainly the daughter of "Fortune — a free Negro", who came to Nova Scotia after the American War of Independence. He appears with his wife and a "child above ten" (probably Rose) in the muster roll of Loyalists at Annapolis in June 1784.
Rose earned her living as a trucker at Annapolis Royal. She carried baggage by a heavy wheelbarrow for the many passengers who travelled on the Saint John-Digby-Annapolis ferry. She also on occasion provided other assistance to travellers, such as helping them find better accommodation. Rose had two daughters and two grandsons. Family tradition states that one of her customers was Judge Haliburton, who came to Annapolis Royal to conduct court for the day. He relied on Rose to waken him the next morning and get him on board ship so that he would be in Digby in time to hold court there. (Noted author T.C. Haliburton was a judge of the Supreme Court, 1841-1856.) Although suffering from severe rheumatism in her later years, Rose continued to work until well into her seventies.
Rose's death is recorded among the burials at St. Luke's, Church of England, Annapolis Royal on 20 February 1867: "age unknown, supposed about ninety." Several written accounts of her survive. Long after her death, Rose was remembered as an authoritative person and one of the more notable and interesting characters of early Annapolis Royal.
The artist, date and source of this watercolour are unknown. It may have been painted from life, from memory, or from another artwork. It is remarkably similar to the description of Rose recorded by Frederick Wheelock Harris in 1914: "She wore generally, I am told, a white cap with the strings tied under her chin, mounted by a man's hat..., a man's coat, a short skirt and high legged boots." (Charlotte Perkins, The Romance of Old Annapolis Royal, 1952)
Reference: Nova Scotia Archives Documentary Art Collection: acc. no. 1979-147/56 | NSARM neg. N-6955 CN-9813
Nova Scotia Archives — https://archives.novascotia.ca/africanns/archives/
Crown copyright © 2021, Province of Nova Scotia.