A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #2: Settlement, Revolution & War. TOC
Part 1, "Pre-Revolutionary Settlement" TOC
Ch. 7 - The Early Settlement of Liverpool
And the Perkins' Diaries.

They came from Massachusetts, from the communities of Nantucket and Cape Cod. Unlike the New Englanders that first settled around the basins of Annapolis and Minas (see map), the original settlers at Liverpool had different ideas as to how they were to going to make a living in Nova Scotia. Those that came to the southeastern shores of Nova Scotia as are washed by the Atlantic Ocean, such as is Liverpool, could not turn to farming for a full living. They were obliged to turn to the fishery, to the lumber trade, and of course to shipbuilding. The first group of settlers at Liverpool arrived in June of 1760, as Charles Lawrence reported, "with live stock, thirteen fishing schooners, and machinery for three sawmills."1 At the request of John Doggett, Elisha Freeman, Samuel Doggett and Thomas Forster, on behalf of themselves and others, Governor Lawrence granted a township of 10,000 acres, extending some fourteen miles inland, to be called Liverpool.2

It is to be remembered, as we have touched upon in an earlier chapter, in 1760 better than 2,000 New Englanders came to make Nova Scotia their home3. It was to prove to be, for Nova Scotia, the most important pre-American Revolutionary influx of English speaking settlers.4 Charles Morris, the province's Surveyor General, came down from Halifax in June of that year, in order to assist in the laying out of the new community and reported that about 50 families in six fishing schooners had arrived at Liverpool in June of 1760. He found "the newcomers busy and satisfied."5 In the following year Morris was once more at Liverpool and reported that more families had arrived, such that there was then "90 families, containing 504 persons ... they subsist chiefly by the fishery and by the Lumber Trade. They have built 70 houses, have employed Seventeen Schooners in the Fishery and made about 8,000 Quintels of Fish besides which they have made a considerable quantity of Shingles, Clapboards, Staves, and erected a Saw mill for Sawing Boards.6 More generally, an impressive number of saw mills were to be seen by Morris in his travels throughout the new communities which the New Englanders had established in Nova Scotia during the years, 1760/1761. He reported that there were 15 saw mills "built or building in the new townships."7 "One of America's earliest innovations," Paul Johnson observed, "was the rapid spread of water-driven sawmills. England had no real tradition of mechanical sawing. America by contrast had masses of timber located near fast-flowing streams."8

By 1763, Liverpool was showing signs of being a very prosperous community. Professor Innis:

"In 1763 Liverpool had about 100 families. Over one-half were fishermen and the remainder farmers. Since only 100 acres were cleared they depended on the sale of boards, staves, shingles, and clapboard. They suffered great distress in February, March, and April until the fish struck in. They were most successful in the fishery in 1763. ... A general return for January 1, 1767 for Liverpool Township gives 156 men, 188 boys, 1 Indian boy, 2 Negroes, 126 women, 159 girls, 2 Negro women. There were 628 Protestants and 4 Roman Catholics. By nationality they were reported as 9 English, 7 Scotch, 16 Irish, 594 Americans, and 6 Germans and other foreigners."
In dealing with the year 1766, Professor Innis wrote:
"In 1766, 15 males and 9 females were born, 8 males and 1 female died, 10 males and 4 females came to Liverpool, and 1 male and 1 female left. Livestock totaled 36 oxen, 62 cows, 60 young meat cattle, 103 sheep, 3 goats, 125 swine. The township had a grist mill, 5 saw mills, 23 fishing boats, and 15 schooners and sloops. production in 1766 included 8 bushels wheat, 32 bushels rye, 5 bushels barley, 18 bushels oats, 2 bushels flaxseed, 9 hundredweight of flax, 4,762 quintels dried cod, 383 barrels salmon and mackerel, 34 barrels of oil, 325 thousand feet of boards."9
We cannot pass on and go to other matters with out dealing briefly with Simeon Perkins, who, while not among the first to come to Liverpool, did arrive in 1762. Perkins was a prominent citizen of Liverpool, indeed of Nova Scotia. He draws our attention because he kept a "comprehensive and voluminous diary."10 He consistently made his entries into his diary, most every day through the years, 1766 to 1812. For the period covered, these diaries are a wonderful store of economic and political information. Perkins wrote of the Liverpool families as they went about making their living upon lands which were then in a natural or unwrought state. By reading Perkins we see how he and his fellows harvested both the sea and the forests; we see them building sailing vessels for the fishery and for international trade, and, in times of war, manning and arming them as privateers to play havoc with enemy shipping; we see them as sagacious traders in goods of all kinds venturing far from home often to the Caribbean seas, and, more generally, we see these early English settlers go through their life cycles -- of birth, of life and of death. As we go through the history of Nova Scotia during the last part of the 18th century and the first part of the 19th, it should be no surprise, that we shall make regular reference to the entries made in the diaries of Simeon Perkins, as we look into the lives of people of an earlier century who went about proportioning their limited means to meet the needs of living.


[NEXT: Bk. 2, Pt. 1, Ch. 8 - The 1767 Census."]

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