Cumberland County

Loyalists found many present day Cumberland communities

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is one in a series of articles being run in The Citizen on the history of Cumberland County.

The United Empire Loyalists founded many of our present day Cumberland communities. Arriving in greatest number in 1783 and 1784, they gave us a rich heritage and wrote an important chapter in our history.

Landing on our shore in a large exodus following the American Revolution, they played an important role in settling wilderness areas of Nova Scotia; the Parrsboro Shore (which was part of Kings County at one period), and other Bay of Fundy areas including Partridge Island and present day Parrsboro were quickly settled.

Many explored further and settled in Springhill, Maccan, Chignecto, Amherst, Oxford, only vast timbered area at that time. Some chose to settle on the vacated Acadian farms which were mainly on the marshlands. They received land grants over the entire length and breadth of present Cumberland. River Hebert was mainly Loyalists by this period. By 1784 they were settling in great number in Remsheg (Wallace) and Cobequid (Westchester) and surrounding areas.

“Every district where they settled soon bore the impress of their resolute character. The forests echoed with the sturdy strokes of their axes; settlements, villages and towns were carved out of the wilderness. They suffered as well as toiled for not only were luxuries almost entirely lacking in those days, but even the necessities of life were difficult to obtain, starvation often stared the settlers in the face. But if they lacked in worldly goods, they did not lack in character and independence. Wherever they went their sturdy self-reliance stamped itself upon social and political institutions. Early they began the struggle for representative government which they did not give up until they attained a certain measure of political freedom. They did not gain their end by revolution – by sacrificing those principles which had, in fact, led them in former years to give up everything but life and character; they gained it by loyal and steady persistence.”
                                              (Quote from A History of Canada.)

Strangely enough, this “loyal and steady persistence” was the beginning of their problems in their former homeland for these American Colonials. The end of the eighteenth century was still Monarchial Age, the sovereign was still an object of personal allegiance to a great number of his subjects; the cause of the Loyalists was however, based on more than loyalty to their king and home country. It was at first the product of political opinions to which they would seem to have every right in a free land.

For these Loyalists, colonials who in the American Revolution adhered to the British cause, loyalty to the King became disloyalty to the new state which had risen out of the cramped colonial conditions of the preceding period. Failure to hold the country for the English resulted in failure to hold anything for themselves.

Every form of penalty-death, imprisonment, confiscation, even tarring and feathering was imposed upon those who refused to support the republican cause. Thousands were driven from their country, happy to escape with their lives. An act had been passed that any Loyalist who had taken part in the Revolution in any possible manner, when found within the state, would be found guilty of high treason.

Before the British Commander Sir Guy Carleton, who was stationed in New York, evacuated the place on their defeat, he did everything possible to transport the suffering Loyalists to British territory. Sir Frederick Holdemand, governor of Quebec, and Governor John Par of Nova Scotia did their best to receive and settle them on vacant lands of the future Dominion.

Some twenty-eight thousand yeomen or farmers, handicraftsmen, some of the most influential judges, lawyers, clergy, members of council from various colonies, Crown officers – people of culture and social position shoulder to shoulder with the poor and uneducated – arrived in the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia of present day; by ships, small boats, covered wagons, even foot trek – they arrived in the land where still floated the flag they loved so well.

It was written that the Loyalists brought to the making of Canada and the choicest peoples the thirteen colonies could boast. One Loyalist descendant, though far removed from Cumberland, played a prominent part in its growth and development – Thomas Elva Edison.

At the turn of the century this rapidly growing area was in great need of electrical energy. Through the persistence of Hance Logan K.C. of Amherst, Mr. Edison was approached at his home in Orange, New Jersey for permission to test a theory in Nova Scotia regarding electrical output. The Father of Electricity had suggested it would be cheaper to set up electrical generators at the source of fuel supply rather than hauling coal to numerous plants; wires would transport the power back to the factories.

The Cumberland delegation was warmly received. Mr. Edison was enthusiastic about the matter, though unknown to the men, the key word was ‘Nova Scotia’ in their introduction.

John Edison, great-grandfather of Thomas Alva, barely escaped the hangman’s noose at the time of the revolution. He had been imprisoned as a Tory sympathizer. By some unrecorded means his wife Sarah managed to rescue him. Ordered from America they fled to Nova Scotia, believed to be present day Digby. Their eldest son, Samuel, married in Nova Scotia; his sixth son Samuel Ogden Edison Jr. was born in August 1804. They emigrated to Ontario. Samuel Jr. grew up near Otter Lake, Ontario and took Nancy Elliot as his bride. To them was born a son which Samuel recorded in his family Bible: Thomas Alva Edison born Feb. 11, 1847. They had by now settled in Milan, Ohio. Grandfather Samuel is recorded as having told Thomas Alva of his Nova Scotia roots.

The theory tested in Chignecto proved successful beyond all expectations. The Father of Electricty was invited to the grand opening event of the historical first electrical power plant at the source of fuel supply, a coal mine – the beginning of present day generating plants. This was in April 1907. The fact that Mr. Edison was vacationing in Florida was all that prevented him from arriving in this little mining community. When he arrived home the following telegram was sent:

Permit me to congratulate your board of trade and Senator Mitchell on the inauguration of the first power plant on the American Continent for the generation of electricity at the mouth of a coal mine and the distribution of same to distant commercial centres. It is a bold attempt and I never thought it would be first accomplished in Nova Scotia where my father was born over one hundred years ago.
                                                                            -Thomas A. Edison

Eventually it was decided to compensate the Loyalists at least in part for their losses. They received monetary and land grants. In 1789 the affix “U.E.L.” was granted by the Crown as a special honor to be borne by every United Empire Loyalist and his or her descendants.

Cumberland tidbits

Many of our Cumberland areas had fascinating names. The name “Goose River” is recorded in the Amherst Court House in property transfers of long ago. Goose River is the present day Linden and area, population at one period is given as 17.

(Source: The Citizen, Saturday, December 4, 1993, Page 3 – A Touch of Cumberland History – Loyalists found many present day Cumberland communities)

The Yorkshire Migration

By Dr. G.P. Hennessey

On March 14th, 1774, the ship, “Albion” sailed from Hull, England to Fort Cumberland. This ship carried the first Yorkshire settlers to come to this area. Listed are the passengers and occupations.

One year later, on April 6th, 1775, the ship, “Jenny” sailed from the same port for Fort Cumberland. Her passengers too are listed and their occupation stated.

The following Yorkshire people sailed from Hull on the 14th of March, 1774, for Fort Cumberland per ship Albion:

William Harland, farmer; John Coulson, farmer and his wife, Mary; Jonathan Patison, husbandman; Nathaniel Smith, farmer, his wife, Elizabeth and children, Nathaniel, John, Robert, Elizabeth, and Rachael; Mary Veckel, maid servant and Hannah Veckel, maid servant; Charles Simpson, husbandman; Thomas Scurr, farmer, his wife, Elizabeth and children, Thomas, William, Charles, Elizabeth, and Alice.

Bryan Kay, farmer, his wife, Dorothy, his brother, Robert, and his children, Elizabeth, Hannah, Sarah, Ann, and Jane; Anthony Thompson, husbandman; Ann Atkinson, servant; Ann Skelton, servant; William Kay, sailor; Joseph Palister, labourer; John Atkinson, labourer, his wife Frances and children Charles, Martha, Michael, and John; John Reed, husbandman; George Reed farmer, his wife Hannah and children Ann, John, Isabella and George; Mary Simpson, servant; Edward Peckett, husbandman.

Lancelot Chapman, farmer, his wife Frances and children Thomas, Rachael, Frances, Martin, Ann, Lancelot and Hannah; Mary Harrison, maid servant; Paul Cornforth, farmer, his wife Phillis; William Cornforth, farmer, his wife Mary and children Elizabeth and Mary; Michael Taylor, husbandman, his wife, Ann; Robert Charlton, husbandman; John Nice, husbandman; Thomas Harrison, tailor.

George Taylor, farmer; Michael Taylor, farmer; Giles Pickett, blacksmith, his wife Mary and children James, John, Margaret and William; John Savage, labourer, his wife Elizabeth and son Anthony; John Dunning, farmer; John Hill, farmer, his wife Jane and children Thomas, Elizabeth, and Mary; James Handwick, Malster, his wife Elizabeth; Edward Fenwick, labourer; Robert Appleton, husbandman; Joseph Stockdale, husbandman; Tom Lumley, farmer, his wife Ruth and children Diana and John.

Thomas Shipley, butcher, his wife Elizabeth and children Elizabeth and Thomas; Brian Kay, husbandman; William Truman, miller, his wife Ann, a son William, grocer; John Beys, husbandman; Sarah Barr, servant; Richard Dobson, gentleman; William Pipes, farmer; William Pipes, husbandman; Jonathan, husbandman; John Smith, husbandman; Mary Smith, servant; George Hunter, farmer; John Watson, farmer; Richard Lowerson, husbandman.

John Johnson, tanner, his wife Martha and son William; Henry Scott, husbandman, his wife Mary and children Henry and Catharine; Charles Blinkey, farmer, his wife Sarah and children, Jane and Mary; William Atkinson, tanner; William Chapman, farmer, his wife Mary, and children William, Thomas, Jane, John, Mary, Henry, Jonathan, Sarah, and Ann; Israel Marshall, husbandman.

Henry Hammond, farmer, his wife Margaret and children Henry, Jane and Margaret; Tristam Walker, husbandman; William Robertson, husbandman; Alice Diamond, servant; Thomas Wilson, joiner; James Wilson, joiner; David Bennett, farmer, his wife Mary; Henry Charmick, chandler; John Thompson, farmer; Joseph Thompson, farmer; Joshua Gildart, husbandman; Robert Leming, husbandman; Robert Leming Jr., husbandman; John Gildart, husbandman; Eleanor Harrison, widow; Miles Ainson, blacksmith, his wife Mary and children Miles, Thomas and Mary; Charles Clarkson, husbandman.

Richard Thompson, farmer; William Sinton, miller; Joseph Jacques, farmer, his wife Elenor; Richard Carter, farmer; Robert Atkinson, farmer, his wife Ann; Diana Tatum, servant, Ralph Sidell, cartwright; Ann Weldon and children Andrew, Elizabeth, Thomas and Ann; Jacob Blackburn, servant; George Gibson, miller; Thomas Little, tanner, his wife Ann; William Winn, farmer; David Winn, farmer; Matthew Fenwick, servant; Mary Lowthier, servant.

The following Yorkshire people sailed from the same port on 6th of April, 1775, on the ship Jenny for Fort Cumberland:

William Black, linen draper, his wife Elizabeth and children William, Richard, John, Thomas, and Sarah; Mathew Lodge, house carpenter; Elizabeth Aldfield, servant; Jane Hudry, servant; Elizabeth Beover, housekeeper to the Governor; Bridget Sedel, her children Mary, Francis, and Sarah; Christopher Horsman, farmer; Robert Colpits, farmer; Christopher Harper, farmer, his wife, Elizabeth and children Hannah, Elizabeth, John, Thomas, Catharine, Charlotte and William.

Thomas King, blacksmith; William Johnson, gentleman; Mary Lowry and Mary Lowerson, going over to their husband; Thomas Wheatley, farmer; William Clark, farmer, his children, Mary, William, Richard and Rachael; John Skelton, servant and Jane Skelton; Francis Watson, tailor; John Bath, servant; William Johnson, farmer and Margaret Johnson; George Johnson, servant and carpenter to Wm. Johnson; William, Emanuel and Joseph, sons of William Johnson; and James Hulton, apprentice to Wm. Johnson; Elizabeth Anderson and his children, Mary, Jane, Moses, William and John, going over to her husband who is cooper to William Johnson; Thomas Walton, husbandman; William Robinson, his wife Elizabeth and children Jonathan, Francis and William; Thomas Kalin, Patient Fallydown, servants to Wm. Robinson; John Robinson, husbandman, his daughters Ann and Jenny; Mary Parker going over with her children Elizabeth and James to her husband, he having a farm there.

Richard Peck, husbandman, his wife Jane, and children Mary, Jane, Helen, Isaac, Robert, Rose, Richard and Joseph; Sarah and Mary Fenton, going over to their father.

(Source: The Citizen, Saturday, November 26, 1988, Page Three – A Touch of Cumberland History – The Yorkshire Migration)

Interesting web sites for these families: Families of the Yorkshire Emigration (Site opens in a new window)

History of responsible government in area

By Dr. G.P. Hennessey

Since the inauguration in Nova Scotia of Responsible Government in 1758, there have been fifty Legislative Assemblies. Twenty-two of these were pre-Confederation; twenty-eight have been since Confederation.

Some of the characteristics and the names of the members of the pre-Confederation Assemblies follow:

Assembly 1
(May 1758-August 1759)

Cumberland was not represented in this Assembly, “Probably an early case of a neglected county.”

Assembly 2
(August 1759-October 1760)

Another short Assembly, dissolved early, because of the death of King George II.
Cumberland County members were Winckworth Tonge and Simon Slocomb.
Cumberland Township members were Joseph Frye and John Huston. This township extended north from the LaPlanche River into much of what is now Westmoreland County, New Brunswick.
Frye and Slocomb were both Army officers at Fort Cumberland – not too much is known about them.
Tonge received large grants of land in Cumberland and Hants County. He was later a member from Hants County for over twenty-five years. Tonge’s Island, near Fort Lawrence was named for him.
Huston lived at Fort Lawrence and was a very important figure in the early history of this area. He lived to the age of eighty-five. His foster son, Sir Brook Watson, became Lord Mayor of London.

Assembly 3
(February 1761-January 1765)

Again there were no representatives from Cumberland County. The inhabitants were considered to be “unpatriotic.”

Assembly 4
(February 1765-April 1770)

The members for Cumberland County were Benoni Danks and Gamaliel Smethurst, and for Cumberland Township, Josiah Troop.
Smethurst later returned to England and wrote a book on his extraordinary adventures in America.
Troop and Danks both were followers of Jonathon Eddy in the 1776 rebellion – Troop returned to the United States but Danks died as a prisoner in 1776. He was the first Justice of the Peace in Cumberland and actually performed the first wedding ceremony – that of William Freeman and Jerusha Yeomans. Freeman was later the first representative from Amherst Township, and it was he who deeded the present Victoria Square to the County of Cumberland in 1788.

Assembly 5
(April 1770-October 1785)

This Assembly was called the “Long Parliament”. It lasted longer than any Assembly before or since, and held seventeen sessions.
It was during the life of this Assembly that the province of New Brunswick was formed. As a result of this, Cumberland County decreased somewhat in size. Cumberland Township disappeared and was replaced by Amherst Township in 1783.
As mentioned above, the first member for Amherst Township was William Freeman who took his seat on October 22, 1783.
There were nine members during this time for Cumberland County and Cumberland Township. Their chief claim to fame seemed to be non-attendance and one of them, Jonathon Eddy, was dismissed from the House for becoming “a rebble”. This was true – although the spelling used to describe the event was rather poor.
It was claimed that one of the causes of poor attendance was the almost impossible task of getting to Halifax. The Halifax authorities claimed the main reason was the “rebellious nature” of the Cumberland inhabitants. There was, however, a small rebellion commonly called the “Eddy rebellion” in 1776, and the inhabitants were rather split in their loyalty. The arrival of the Yorkshire settlers from England in 1774 and 1775 did much to keep the area loyal to the British crown.
The names of the various members from Cumberland Township were: – Jonathan Eddy, John Allan, Hezekiah King, a member for six years but never attended, and Martin Gay. These were the last members for Cumberland Township.
Members for Cumberland County were John Huston, William Scurr, Thomas Dickson, Joshua Winslow and Jotham Gay.
Martin Gay and Jotham Gay were brothers. Jotham returned to Massachusetts but Martin was a prominent citizen of the area, living until 1809. His daughter, Mary Gay, was the wife of Rev. William Black, founder of the Methodist Church in this area.

Assembly 6
(October 1785-January 1793)

Another long Assembly, although not comparable with the previous one.
William Freeman continued as the member for Amherst Township, but, when it was discovered that he was not a resident of the province, he was replaced by Charles Hill from Halifax.
Members for Cumberland County were John Butler Dight and Christopher Harper. Harper also lost his seat because of non-residence and was replaced by Philip Marchington, also from Halifax.

Assembly 7
(January 1793-October 1799)

Starting with this Assembly, there was much more stability in the representation from Cumberland. The three representatives bore the names of Lusby, Freeman and Embree – still well known names in this area.
The Amherst Township representative was Thomas Lusby – the first Lusby in Cumberland. Lusby was a very diligent member of the Assembly and on one occasion walked on snowshoes to Halifax – quite a contrast to some earlier members largely distinguished for non-attendance.
Cumberland County was represented by William Freeman, previously a member for Amherst Township and Col. Samuel Embree, a Loyalist from New York. Most of the Embree family in the Amherst area are descendants of this man.

Assembly 8
(October 1799-May 1806)

Thomas Lusby continued as the representative from Amherst Township until his death on February 10, 1801. He was succeeded by Thomas Low Dixon – a member of another well known family in the Chignecto area.
Thomas Roach and George Oxley were the Cumberland County representatives. Roach was commencing a term in office which lasted twenty-seven years – an all-time record. Thomas Roach was the progenitor of the Roach family in Cumberland. He came from Ireland to Fort Lawrence in 1790 and was a very prominent merchant, shipbuilder and land owner. He died on July 17, 1833.
George Oxley was a Yorkshire settler who resided in River Philip. He was a brother of Joseph Oxley who was later a member from 1826-1836. River Philip was ,originally the county town of Cumberland, but in 1830 the site was moved to Amherst.

Assembly 9
(May 1806-August 1811)

The member for Amherst Township was Edward Baker. Baker was a resident of Barronsfield. His wife was a daughter of Thomas Lusby – a previous representative.
Thomas Roach continued as one of the Cumberland County representatives. The other member was Henry Purdy, one of three brothers, all Loyalists, who came to Nova Scotia in 1783. Practically all present day members of the Purdy family are descended from these three brothers – most of the Amherst Purdys being descended from Henry Purdy.

Assembly 10
(August 1811-May 1818)

Edward Baker continued as Amherst Township representative, while Thomas Roach and Henry Purdy carried on as members for Cumberland County.

(Source: The Citizen, Saturday, December 3, 1988, Page Three – A Touch of Cumberland History – History of responsible government in area)

An historical look back in time at the now world-famous Joggins fossil cliffs

The Joggins fossil cliffs have been giving geologists and those interested in geology and things historical a look at a bygone era for over 140 years. This friendly little community is located on the shores of the Bay of Fundy, route 242 from 302. Once a booming coal mining town incorporated in 1919, it reverted to a village status of 1958.

Joggins fossils first put the area then known as Joggins, originally Gran choggin, on the map in 1829. Jackson and Alger, geologists of the last century, in reporting on the general history of Nova Scotia in reference to the Joggins area recorded: “a stratum of bluish limestone in the upper surfaces of which Dr. Lincoln observed fragments of shells resembling the common muscle.” This geological survey of Canada also notes that this reference to the bluish limestone undoubtedly refers to the “Forty Brine seam” which has a black calcareous shale roof containing numerous freshwater pelecypods (Naiadites) and ostracods (Carbonita).

Sir Charles Lyell was investigating the coal sequence at Joggins in 1842, his reports give first mention of fossil fauna (animal life) and flora (plant life) in these strata. He was accompanying Abraham Gesner, noted surgeon and geologist of the last century.

These interesting discoveries date back to 250 to 300 million years ago and the Pennsylvanian era (the coal forming period). This was at one time a swamp area; the land sank and was flooded by silt from the Caledonia Mountains of New Brunswick, just across the Bay, and the Cobequid Mountains of Nova Scotia, backing Cumberland. These sediments came at intervals covering forests then growing in the area. Petrifcation took place over the following millennia. In certain areas of the high cliffs upright trees are still visible. These cliffs are washed and assaulted by the world’s highest tides daily, revealing new fossils as the hundred foot cliffs are worn away.

Interesting fossils have also been unearthed in area coal mines; specimens of these area coal mine fossils are displayed at the Joggins Tourist Bureau, Main St., Joggins; there is a wealth of information. The Cumberland Museum at Amherst also has a fine display of Joggins fossils.

Distinguished geologist Sir William Dawson paid several visits to Joggins between the years 1870 and 1890. He wrote of his findings in a book entitled Acadian Geology. In1904 Professor Barton of the Boston School of Natural Science brought his students to study the unique formations. A world assembly of geologists, a group of one hundred of every nationality, arrived at Joggins in 1913 and their fossil findings were placed in museums and universities throughout the world. Area students and university students are regular visitors. In recent years a visitor arrived from Germany, making the trip especially to study Joggins fossils, records of them are filed there.

Wallace was a favourite camping ground of the Micmac, or in their native language for Micmac, Meega-maag. Wallace was Remshaak – place between – for it was between two other fine camping grounds, Pagweak (Pugwash), deep water, to the west and Tatamagouche, meeting of the waters, to the east.

It is evident that they named their camping grounds for some natural landmark. At Pugwash there is deep water, at Tatamagouche two rivers and the waters of Northumberland Strait meet. These were summer camping grounds for in the winter they moved inland away from the chilling waters.

Shubenacadie, just before the Halifax International Airport of modern times, was the site of a large Indian village and is believed to be the winter gathering area for Nova Scotia Indians as it was surrounded by dense forest.

About 1710, the Acadians were brought to this area, including Fox Harbour, Oak Island, Remshaak and Tatamagouche. These areas were not missed in the August 1755 expulsion. For the next approximately twenty-nine years the farms, so carefully developed by the Acadians, overgrew until only a few apple trees marked their industry. Following the American Revolution, a King’s surveyor arrived at Remshaak Harbour in his search for land for the United Empire Loyalists. Impressed by the beauty and possibilities of the area, his men were set to work preparing a town site for the future settlers. On the north side of the harbour 239 lots were divisioned with three acres in each one.

Each Loyalist was to receive a lot on which to build a home, plant a garden and pasture land for his livestock. They were promised supplies of flour, beef, pork, salt and butter for their first three years – to become established. Each two families would share a cow and a plow, each four families a crosscut saw (a heavy saw with a handle for felling trees and cutting them) and a whipsaw for cutting the logs lengthwise into boards and planks.

Every five families received a musket, gun powder and a supply of bullet lead for game hunting. Hammers, handsaws, nails and four small panes of glass were also included. An eight acre square was reserved in the centre of the plots for public buildings. In addition to the farming plot, each Loyalist family would receive a larger grant elsewhere – these lots would be drawn for. Shoreline land would contain one hundred acres, inland or beside a river would contain two hundred acres as it was regarded with less value. In 1784 the Loyalists arrived, a bicentennial joyously celebrated by their descendants still living in the area in 1984.

The chosen town site did not appeal to the Loyalists, so they sold their town lots and settled on the larger grants. Beginning anew was very difficult, they had suffered at the hands of the rebels. Many were not used to ‘roughing it~ having been established in better conditions in their homeland. They were determined to re-establish themselves and in spite of suffering and difficult times, did a very noble job of such. Finding Remshaak hard to pronounce, it became Remsheg. In 1825 the name was changed to Wallace in honor of Michael Wallace, treasurer of Nova Scotia.

Modern Wallace is the centre of a farming, fishing and lumbering area. It is very scenic with striking sunsets and sunrises. There is fishing and boating on the Wallace River. Water sports are a specialty of the summertime at the harbour.

The first ship was built at Wallace about 1800 – a small beginning for what became an industry that flourished for more than a century, the decline came only when wooden ships were replaced with modem steel. By 1854 shipbuilding was with double industry – fourteen were launched from Wallace with area timber for the British Isles. Two shipbuilding yards are still active in Wallace supplying pleasure craft and fishing boats.

In 1866, excellent building stone was discovered on a hill south of the village, soon Wallace stone was shipped by water to American ports of Boston and New York. It also went to Ottawa where it was used in some of their fine buildings – legislature and parliament structures. Many sturdy stone buildings i.e. churches, post offices, museums – near and far are of this fine Wallace stone.

Wallace can also boast of having the first lobster cannery on the entire north shore – in 1875.

A world renowned astronomer was born at Wallace Bridge on March 12, 1835 – Simon Newcomb. His grandfather was one of the men keenly interested in the Wallace stone quarries and shipped stone to Halifax for the erection of Province House. He was a school teacher as was his son John – father of Simon. This native son of Wallace achieved the honor of being the greatest astronomer of his era. Professor G.H. Henderson of Dalhousie University made the following comment on the centennial of Mr. Newcomb’s birth:

“Simon Newcomb was probably the greatest man of intellect Canada has ever produced. This is not just a personal expression of opinion. It is based on the honors and recognition accorded him in his lifetime and upon tributes paid him after his death; judgments made by responsible men all over the world who were leaders in the science which he so much adored.”

On this anniversary, a cairn was unveiled at Wallace Bridge to pay tribute to this great man.

At Wallace there are fine sand beaches for swimming and clamming, lobster in season, country hospitality, country suppers, fishing, bird watching areas, auction sales and history – all in a beautiful tranquility.

A near neighbor is Malagash where the first salt mine in Canada was established. “Just up” the Sunrise Trail is Pugwash where the present rock salt mine is located.

Pugwash became known worldwide for the Thinkers Conferences, inspired by native son Cyrus Eaton. Each summer the skirl of the pipes invite the Gathering of the Clans to Pugwash.

(Source: The Citizen, Saturday, January 15, 1994, Page 3 – An historical look back in time at the now world-famous Joggins fossil cliffs)

Now it can be told . . .

EDITOR’S NOTE: Will R. Bird was born In Cumberland County and was author of at least 10 books. He served overseas in World War I with the 42nd Royal Highlanders, winning the Military Medal at Mons. The following story first appeared In the Amherst Daily News back In 1939.

By Will R. Bird

A letter from an old member of our battalion has brought forth the fact that now, more than twenty years after the war, veterans are begining to tell secrets of the trenches they have had locked in their memories since demobilization. Some old sweats pulled some trick on their officers or non-coms, and never told a pal. Others made some slip while at the front, and have dreaded letting any comrade know. But the time seems to have arrived when the ex-service man is talking more freely.

The letter I received is from Western Canada, so no one need suspect anyone in the Maritimes, and I’ll set down its contents intact: “Dear Mr. Bird. I don’t know what makes me write this letter, but I have felt awful bad about a night that you know about, and I feel some kind of a confession will help me, after half lying my way out of an embarrassing position. It was the 3rd of April, 1918. You know everyone was jumpy because our outfit had been in the front line over a month. The brass hats decided to stop holding the old front line in force and to use patrols. They sent out a strong patrol with a Lewis gun for the night and at daylight we came back to the main line, leaving the old front main line, leaving the old front empty until dark again. I was picked with Bert and Herb from our Lewis gun section to go out this night and the other men were from our platoon I figure there would be about twelve men with an officer in charge and a sergeant to tell him what to do. We file into the trench. Babe, the officer arrives. He is tall and skinny. We go along quietly in the old line. The Babe posts us with our Lewis gun at the corner of an old road leading into Avion. The rest of the patrol split into two parties. One to patrol the trench on one side of the gun, under the officer, and the other, under the sergeant, to patrol the far section. Each party was to report to us every hour to know that all was well.

I have never seen a darker night. We couldn’t see our hands, and had to feel for the gun. Then it started to rain. It was an awful night. The trench was muddy and it got so slippery we could hardly stand in it. Both parties reported the first hour, but the going was so bad that the Babe said there was no need to report more than once again before morning. Then the patrols left us and we tried to get comfortable. One man looked over the top, but couldn’t see a thing. The other two of us listened, one on each side. About two hours after we heard a noise like a bomb, then another. I jumped up and grabbed two Mills grenades, but Bert, who was in charge of the gun, told me to stay there. We talked it over and decided that our chaps had shot off a couple of rifle grenades to amuse themselves. I still felt uneasy but for the next hour everything was as quiet as a grave.

Then we heard men plodding toward us and heard their voices. We challenged them and discovered it was a company patrol with the major in charge. He asked us if we knew the Heinies had raided our trench and took the Babe and a man prisoner. Of course we claimed ignorance but I could feel the major trying to size us up there in the dark and I felt pretty small. I would have gone over then and raided Heinie to redeem myself if he had given the word. However, Babe made a bolt for it and in the dark got away from his guards and back to our trench. The Babe wasn’t a fire eater. He was one of these good-natured guys with a deep bass voice just trying to get through the war with as little inconvenience as possible. The major and his party went to where the raiders had come in and found a German pillbox cap. When we went out of the line one of the men who had been with the Babe told me that they had been just slouching along in the trench, huddled to the rain, with their rifles slung over their shoulders, when the Germans jumped down on them Nobody had a chance. So this guy falls down in the mud, flat on his face, and pretends he is dead, and Heinie walked all over him. The Germans fired a couple of shots just as they jumped and wounded one guy, the fellow they took prisoner. The rest, outside of the Babe, ducked away in the dark.”

This letter from the west reminds me of letter I got some two years ago from an officer. This captain was in the crater line at Vimy one morning. There had been a big shoot and when things quieted he saw a German shove up a white cloth, then step out of the German trench. It was a German officer. So this captain got out of the Canadian trench and went and met the Heinie, who could speak good English. The German suggested that as the trenches on both sides had been bashed in and were filled with mud and water they – each side – have a truce for a couple of hours while decent repairs were made. So the captain agreed. Two more German non coms came out of their front line and the sergeant and a corporal joined the captain. They swapped smokes and had a jolly time and the German named the Canadian division and brigade holding the front and challenged the captain to name the German units opposite the line. The truce lasted until past noon. Then some runners spread a report of it and the captain was strafed from headquarters and nearly had to stand trial over it.

A German major, now on a farm in Manitoba, wrote me that in 1915 when holding the line near St. Julien an English officer mounted on a fine horse came charging up the road past the village. He was unarmed and so the major and his men held their fire. The English major rode up to the first German position he could reach, flung himself to ground and asked to be taken a prisoner. He was not a spy; he had simply got tired of the strain of the trenches.

A couple of years ago a customs officer in the Maritimes reminded me of the days when he had been at Ferfay, then the Third Divisional Training School. He had always been flush and had loaned us franc-less chaps plenty of money to buy eggs and chips. We asked no questions and suspected he was lucky at crown and anchor. Now, nearly twenty years after, he tells how he acquired the French needful. He and a member of the Princess Pats had a system. They worked around the stores and got to…

Continued next week

(Source: The Citizen, Saturday, May 15, 1993, Page 3 – Now it can be told . . .)

Now it can be told . . . (continued)    

EDITOR’S NOTE: Will R. Bird was born In Cumberland County and was author of at least 10 books. He served overseas in World War I with the 42nd Royal Highlanders, winning the Military Medal at Mons. The following story first appeared In the Amherst Daily News back In 1939.

Continued from last week

…know of a loose portion of flooring in the hut where the blankets were stored. So they made a neat tunnel from one end hidden by a hedge. When funds were low one kept guard while the other worked into the tunnel, raised the flooring and took two or three blankets from the pile nearest the wall. Then they sold these to the old French madame who sold bread and eggs and chips in the house back of the corner. Old sweats must remember that place, as madame always had bread, always had eggs. She used to store the blankets in a back room, and quite often this lad and his pal would raise the back window and get back a pair of blankets. I know this part of the story to be true for I have seen this stunt performed.
No harm now to tell this one. One of our party is a leading official in the air forces of Canada. A second is an engineer in mine in northern Ontario. A third works in a movie theatre. In 1917 we were at Lozinghem. We were hungry. A mile east, beyond the hospital lines, was a farm where lived a young pig. We were billeted in a barn. We had an old stove of sorts, a big iron kettle, knives, etc. One night the pig died – a violent death. He was dressed with more speed than nicety, and soon was in the big kettle. We had a plan made. A pulley at the barn peak inside gave us the idea. A rope stolen from the horse lines was attached to the big kettle, which could be hoisted rapidly. A portion of wall removed sent a breeze through the barn which made it difficult to keep lighted candles in that section. A second old pot found near the rabbit pen was filled with a horrible mixture of old roots and vegetables that smelled vilely.

About nine p.m. our outposts signalled a wild alarm. The big kettle was hoisted. The rope made fast to the rafters. The second kettle put on, also smoky wood piled on the fire. A group arrived. The battalion sergeant major. Our company sergeant major. Our company major. A wild old French farmer, who had owned a pig, and an interpreter. They halted before the barn. The smells eddied about them, the smoke was blinding. The major wanted to know what in h…we were doing. We saluted and said please, sir, we were boiling some turnips. Then one lad got a spade and produced portions of the turnip from the pot. The major swore and got back out of smell. The farmer insisted they search us. So the major and the farmer and the interpreter came in. All candles had guttered out and the only flashlight we had was very weak. But they searched every corner. Overhead was veiled in smoke. The stench was terrific. The boys had added a goatskin to the fire. At last even the farmer retreated. Then the major told us a pig being stolen by any of his men would be a lasting blot on the honor of the battalion, and he was proud of our clean record, but woe betide any man or men who ever transgressed. It was an impressive speech for he sounded like an infuriated judge, and the interpreter was almost moved to tears.

They all went away and after this air was clear we lowered the pig kettle and had a fine fire going. The cooking was superb. We had got a bottle of pickles from an officer’s batman, some French bread and coffee. We had just got nicely to work with the stowing when, before an alarm could be sounded, a figure stepped into the barn, via the rear entrance. It was the major!”

For a full moment no man could move. I distinctly recall Joe sitting there with a great hunk of pork halfway to his mouth, the gravy dripping, his mouth opening and shutting. Then we began rising to attention.

“Give me,” said the major, “a mess tin and fork. I knew this gang had that pig. You’d take the buttons off the brigadier. I proved you didn’t have it, and I’m hungry.”

The reaction was skin to the suspense. We wanted to sing and whistle. Was there ever such a major. He is up in Montreal now and a big business man. I doubt he has ever told of that pig, but up at Passchendale when things were at their worst the boys of that gang were the men he depended on in the hottest going, and two of them are still up there, with their names inscribed on the Menin Gate.

When I was collecting data for “Thirteen Years After” I met a man of the First Division who was a gardener in Belgium. He had never left that country. I had several chats with him. A year later he wrote me. He said he was doing a sort of penance in living there. One night he and another chap were on outpost. The shelling on the support lines was pretty hot. Of a sudden a German officer and his batman appeared. They were lost and walked fore realizing what they were doing back to the platoon officer. The lieutenant was having a tough night. There were signs of a German attack. He didn’t want to be bothered with prisoners, and said so. You chaps got them, he said, so you’ll have to take care of them. Go back to headquarters with them. It was pretty risky back of the main line as shells were falling everywhere. So the First Division man and his partner took their prisoners into a communication trench and calmly plugged them. They went through their pockets, then rolled the bodies over the trench side and went back to their post. Their mates in the trench got to know about it and joked over the grim ending. But through the rest of the war the First Division man suffered with remorse, and he still stays over there, trying, in his peculiar way, to atone for his actions.

There is a police officer in a Canadian city who in 1917 locked a British officer in a guardroom in France and left him there. The policeman was then a Lewis gunner with a front line unit. He was going up to the front, and he had sore feet. The cobble stones were rough and he began lagging. A chum stopped with him by the roadside. Then they tried to catch a lorry ride. An officious M.P. nabbed them and arrested them as deserters, refusing to listen to their story. They were taken to a town near the line from which a British unit was just leaving. The major in charge barely listened to the M.P.’s story, then ordered them locked in the guardroom. The question of a sentry outside the guardroom was a worry and the major came back. He got the corporal was at the moment called to the guard which was leaving. He left the key in the door. The big Canadian promptly snaffled the major, locked him in the guardroom and walked away. He and his chum caught a drive in an aerodrome tender and rejoined their unit before it reached the reserve lines. Next day there was an inquiry about any member of the unit who had been absent. But the policeman and his chum, having fallen out at the rear and in the dark, had not been missed, and so sharp answers in the negative were given to all questions. But for sixteen years after the policeman dare not mention the story for fear of consequences. You’ll understand better when I tell you that the major happened to be the cousin of the policeman’s company commander had a full investigation a week later but found no culprit.

Time softens all. It has removed old fears and dreads. Today many an old sweat will open his heart and reveal to you some secret adventure he has kept to himself all the years since the Great War, and when he does be sure and listen. He’ll be telling you the truth, and the truth, of wartime happenings is often stranger, much stranger, than fiction.

(Source: The Citizen, Saturday, May 22, 1993, Page 3 – Now it can be told . . .)

The Chignecto Covenanters    

Eldon Hay, The Chignecto Covenanters, A Regional History of Reformed Presbyterianism in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, 1827-1905, McGill-Queens, Montreal and Kingston, 1996.
It is difficult not to drive about Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and not be amazed by the number and variety of small churches and tiny cemeteries that dot the country side. Seemingly, each community has at least three or four churches and most stand side by side. On Sundays, some are abandoned, some hold two families and others are bustling with activity.

Where did these churches come from, why did they spring up here and there and what stories do their hard varnished pews hold? Ironically, while the history of churches and denominations in Maritime Canada is both intriguing and colourful, there is little accessible and comprehensive information available which offers direction to the curious. Eldon Hay’s study of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Chignecto will be much appreciated by those seeking to make greater sense of their religious landscape.

Stern and devout may be the best words to describe the Covenanters. They were no-nonsense Christians. Originating from Ireland, Hay traces the missions first to Saint John, New Brunswick and then, in 1828, to the Chignecto Isthmus, the border area of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. There was a large American wing of the church centred in Philadelphia.

Covenanters derived their nickname from the word covenant or covenanting – the 1638 National Covent of Scotland. They believed, among other things, that Christ was head of both church and state and until so recognized they would not vote or take part in secular activities. One could not have musical instruments in the church or be a member of a secret society. They stood for prayer, sat to sing and believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible.

Approximately 20 small Covenanter congregations were established in Chignecto between 1828 and 1905, mostly rural based. Churches could be found in places like Amherst, Chapman’s Settlement, Northport, River Hebert and Linden in Nova Scotia and Jolicure, Sackville and Port Elgin in New Brunswick. The crusty patriarch, Reverend Alexander Clarke, was unquestionably the ruler until his death in 1874.

The Covenanters were a small group, numbering perhaps 1500 parishioners. Their members included Irish and Scot immigrants, Yorkshire men, New England Planters and United Empire Loyalists. Evidently, Reformed Presbyterianism appealed to people from all walks of life. Furthermore, some of the more prominent names of the area were associated with them. These included Brownell, Copp, Chapman, Coates, Logan, Embree, Dickey, Thompson, Baird and Robinson.

Nevertheless, despite their attraction, the Chignecto Covenanter chapter was fairly brief, historically speaking. Poor and cut off from the larger movement, they were unable to attract clergy or receive assistance from either Ireland or Pennsylvania. They had their share of internal problems and lacked the strength to fight off absorption by the stronger and more secular Presbyterian unionists. In about seventy-five years Covenanters went from Reformed Presbyterians to mainstream Presbyterianism by 1905. Indeed, many of those became United Churchmen in 1925.

Readers will value Hay’s perspective and tone. Too often, church histories are written in a hyper-pious fashion. Hay, however, ably illustrates that the Covenanters were mostly everyday people fighting various odds to live their faith. Even for the time, their ministers were grossly over worked and under paid. They were obliged to combat, by foot or by horse, the cold winter marshes, in order to preach their next sermon many miles away. Reverend Clarke preached until he was nearly eighty and Reverend Joseph Howe Brownell’s clubfoot made such travel painful.

Congregations were frequently split by intense arguments surrounding politics, the sharing of church space and Presbyterian church union. They had to manage their encounters with suicide and sexual assault while trying to retain clergymen who much preferred more money and warmer climates. Not surprisingly, Covenanters had to be a resourceful and stubborn lot. In drawing their portrait, Hay obviously respected the dictum of Oliver Cromwell who said “Paint me warts and all”.

Informative books, whether the author is aware or not, often reveal other important aspects of society besides the topic under review. This study is no exception. Hay shows, for example, that the Covenanters, like many nineteenth century Maritimers had close ties to New England. Formally and informally, Chignecto was economically, culturally and religiously a part of the New England sphere of influence.

As well, Hay clearly depicts the nature of rural and small town life. Hard work, loneliness and isolation were the dominant themes of existence. They endeavoured to live largely outside of society, untouched by music, dance and wine. As austere as Reformed Presbyterianism was, childbirth and religious worship were probably the few highlights of the Covenanter’s rural endurance.

Chignecto Covenanters is testimony, to perseverance, for both the faithful and the author. Hay, a United Church minister and Professor of Religious Studies at Mount Allison University, has long been a student of religious history. His scholarship reveals his eye for details and his love for the topic. This work is a welcomed and important addition to the McGill-Queens Studies in the History of Religion series.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following book review was submitted by Dr. C. Mark Davis, a Policy Analyst for the Department of Indian Affairs and a Lecturer in Canadian Studies at Mount Allison University.

(Source: The Citizen, Saturday, November 23, 1996, Page 28 – The Chignecto Covenanters)

Distinguished son of Cumberland County

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story first appeared in the Amherst Daily News during the summer of 1932.

(Ex-deputy Minister of Works and Mines who celebrated his 85th Anniversary in Halifax a short time ago.)

Able to look back upon a long life well spent and full of distinguished service for his native province, Mr. Hiram Donkin, ex-deputy Commissioner of Works and Mines for Nova Scotia, recently celebrated the 85th anniversary of his birthday quietly at his home in Halifax. When one mentions historic or pioneer families in this county a name like that of the Donkins inevitably comes into mind.

Mr. Donkin’s grandfather, William Donkin, Jr., was one of the first settlers in the River Philip district, coming from England in 1772. He proved a worthy pioneer and on his death the property passed to the father of Hiram Donkin is related directly to another well known pioneer Cumberland family, the Ripleys, who were located in River Philip and Nappan, and whose descendants can be numbered in the hundreds today. The Donkins were always of the public service type and the father of Hiram Donkin was one of the representatives of Cumberland in the House of Assembly before Confederation as a colleague of Dr. Tupper and Mr. McFarlane. When Confederation was accomplished Robert Donkin was appointed governor of the penitentiary at Halifax and was superannuated about the time the Maritime penitentiary at Dorchester was being completed. His wife’s maiden name was Oxley, being one of the family that originally settled in Wallace, one of whose later members was Col. Oxley, also a member of the Legislature for a term. On his father’s side the deputy commissioner is also related to a well known Amherst family, that of the Lusbys. One of his father’s sisters was Mrs. Thomas Lusby, of which family Mr. C.A. Lusby is now the only surviving member. Another sister was Mrs. Hiram Ferguson of Amherst. On his mother’s side Mr. Donkin was connected with the Christies of River Hebert, whose later descendants established the Christie industrial enterprises in Amherst, and another sister was Mrs. Richard Black, whose husband was a prominent farm operator near Claremont, six miles from Springhill. One of the sons of this family, Richard, was for some time a representative in the House of Assembly. Thus on both sides of the deputy commissioner’s ancestry there was a strong strain of enterprise and public service, and so it may not be surprising that this noble heritage continued in the last member of the family unimpaired.

Hiram Donkin was born at River Philip in 1847 and was educated in the common schools of that place. His first employment was in 1864, when at the age of 17 years he was on the survey of the railway extension from Truro to Pictou Landing and remained on the construction work of that railway until after its formal opening in 1867. When the Intercolonial Railway was being surveyed, he was appointed assistant engineer on the survey and was later promoted to have charge of his section. After an intermission during which he was on the construction of the railway between Digby and Yarmouth, he became divisional engineer on the survey and construction of the railway between New Glasgow and the Strait of Canso. He left this work before completion, having accepted an appointment as divisional engineer on the Canadian Pacific Railway. On the completion of that work he was appointed resident chief engineer of survey and construction of the Cape Breton railway from the Strait of Canso to Sydney. Then he was appointed resident chief engineer under the Dominion Coal Company for the survey and construction of the railway from Sydney to Louisburg. On the completion of this work and the coal shipping piers, he was appointed in 1896 resident manager of the Dominion Coal Company, and remained in that capacity until 1901. Then he accepted a position with the Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company in designing and constructing coal and are shipping piers at North Sydney, Port Hastings and Pictou harbor, and on the completion of this work, returned to employment with the Dominion Coal Company. In 1907 he was appointed deputy Minister of Public Works and Mines for Nova Scotia and held this position until 1923 when he was superannuated.

During the sixteen years between 1907 and 1923 he served under Hon. C.P. Chisholm as Commissioner from 1907 to 1911 and Hon. E.H. Armstrong, Commissioner, until the time of his retirement, and from 1912 until the roads and bridges of the province came under the control of the Highways Board he also served in the capacity of Provincial Engineer.

Among the important works carried on and over which he exercised control were the erection of the Technical College, Laboratories and Principal’s residence on the Technical College Grounds, the erection of the Private Patients’ Pavilion, Service Building and Nurses’ Home at the Victoria General Hospital, the large barn and South building for acute cases at the Nova Scotia Hospital, the Medical Superintendent’s residence, Infirmary Laundry and Pavilion at the Nova Scotia Sanatorium at Kentville, all of which are a credit to his expert knowledge and sound judgement.

This is a record of a very busy man and a useful life in some of the most important engineering capacities in Nova Scotia, and when to this is added the fact that he always had the undoubted confidence of every employer, and that his judgment was rarely, if ever, questioned, one may understand why he held the position of deputy Commissioner of Works and Mines so long and why there was so much regret when he retired. It may also explain the many congratulations which he received a short time ago on the occasion of his anniversary celebration. Of the many able men who have gone into public service from the county of Cumberland, there were but few more capable and none more trustworthy than Hiram Donkin, this distinguished son of the River Philip.

(Source: The Citizen, Saturday, September 19, 1992, Page 3 – Distinguished son of Cumberland County)