A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #2: Settlement, Revolution & War. TOC
Part 4, "Nova Scotia at the Turn of the 19th Century." TOC
Ch. 3 - Nova Scotian Society: Lighthouses & Rum.

"Who trusts himself to women, or to waves,
Should never hazard what he fears to lose."
-- An Old Maxim.

In the spring of 1771, the sloop Granby coming in from Boston to the Halifax Navy Yard with £2,700 on board and several articles of American stores struck the rocks off Sambro. She was caught in a storm and was "dashed to pieces"; all of her crew died. Five days later, the navy went on a salvage mission. They found that the local fisherman had helped themselves to much of the wreck, however, £2,000 was recovered. Captain John Gambler of the navy was obliged to explain the loss and blamed it on ill maintenance of the light at Sambro.1 Gambler reported to the Admiralty "that the fatal accident happened for want of a light being kept in the Lighthouse for it is most notorious and shamefully so, that the King's ships bound into Halifax are frequently nay almost constantly obliged to fire at the lighthouse to make them shew a light ..."2 The local government got busy at once on their own authority. New regulations were drawn up. Henry Newton was employed to construct "fountain Lamps, that give a strong and clear light, without snuffing, or any supply of Oyl, during the longest winter night, with flues that carry off the smoke, which heretofore darkened the Glasses, and almost totally obscured the Light at Times."3

Lighthouses along the coasts of the civilized world have long been with us. Since the days of ancient Egypt when beacon fires were maintained by priests, characteristic lights were used as a warning of danger at sea and an aid to navigation. There was the lighthouse at Alexandra, built in 285 B.C. -- the Seventh Wonder of the World. With the growth of seaborne trade and the consequent expansion of shipping, the need for lighthouses grew. The first permanent structure in Nova Scotia was the Lighthouse that was built at Louisbourg. It was lit in 1734 and was visible "six leagues to sea." It burned in 1736 and shortly thereafter replaced with "fire-proof materials." "In the new lighthouse the light was supplied from forty-five 'pots' (about twenty-two and a half gallons of oil), fed through thirty-one pipes in a copper circle to the wicks which gave the flame. As this oil was held in an open bronze basin, three feet in diameter, and ten inches deep, there was constant danger of fire. This was provided against by sustaining this ring on pieces of cork, which, if fire took place, would burn through and let the ring fall into the oil where it would be extinguished. No wood was used in the construction of the tower.4

In the times under review, circa 1800, there was a number of advances in the construction of lighthouses which were to greatly assist the navigator in bringing his fellow sailors and the vessel under his care to the safety of a sheltered harbour. Aimé Argand (1755-1803) invented a lamp about 1782, with a cylindrical wick, which allowed a current of air to pass to both inner and outer surfaces of the flame, thus securing more perfect combustion and a brighter light; also to a ring-shaped gas burner constructed on the same principle. This was around 1780, the same time that Thomas Rogers5 invented a dioptric system of refracting light rays through optical glass. Another Frenchman, Guillaume Carcel, patented in 1800, a lamp in which the oil was pumped up to the wick by clockwork; it was called the French or mechanical lamp. Augustin Jean Fresnel (1788-1827), yet another Frenchman, invented the compound lighthouse lens, the lentille à échelons or "lens in steps." The first Fresnel lens was employed in France in 1823. Though I now run beyond the time under review, I note, so to complete the subject, that the greatest change came with the inventions of a Scottish engineer, Thomas Drummond (1797-1840). Drummond was a British military man who picked up on the invention of Goldsworthy Gurney (1793-1875), "one of a small group of scientists associated with Sir Humphry Davy and Michael Faraday at the Royal Institution."6 In present times, we associate electricity to a light source; but, as we will see, as the 18th century turned into the 19th, electricity was just beginning to make its entrance into theoretical science and not yet harnessed to do anything useful. Drummond found that a steady, powerful beam of light could be produced by applying a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen to small balls of lime. The "Drummond Light" was just what was needed for lighthouses.7

As for the duties of the lighthouse keepers:

"The duties of the lighthouse keepers must be performed with the greatest regularity. The glasses of the light-room and the optical apparatus are carefully cleaned every morning; the lamps are supplied with oil, the wicks trimmed or renewed, the machinery oiled and adjusted, and everything prepared in readiness for the evening."8
The building of lighthouses in Nova Scotia was an ongoing project for the province which began in the late 18th century and continued with vigor throughout the 19th. Though we see that improvements were made to the Sambro lighthouse in 1771, it was built earlier, in 1752. It was in that year that a Lottery was organized for the Sambro lighthouse by the Governor and Council. Also, a duty was imposed on each arriving vessel, a "light duty" so that the operating expenses of these early lighthouses would be met.9

In 1801 a vote in the House provided £250 for a lighthouse at Digby Gut. In 1807, a resolution was passed to grant £500 for the purpose of building a lighthouse on Briar Island. In 1808, a committee composed of members of both the House and the Council considered "the expediency of erecting a lighthouse near Canso."10 In 1816 a lighthouse on Coffin's Island near Liverpool was first lit.11 By 1826, with the inventions of the "Drummond Light" and "Portland Cement"12 proving their practicality, there came about a number of plans to build more lighthouses in Nova Scotia. The government recognized it was in the business of keeping seaman safe by the strategic placement of lighthouses on the coast. "... new light houses were recommended, -- one at Mauger's Beach [first lit in 1828], one on St. Paul's Island, one at the Seal Islands [first lit in 1831], and one on Cross island."13

In respect to Lighthouses in Nova Scotia, as of 1817, Murdoch wrapped the matter up:

"Among the marks of improvement and advancement in Nova Scotia, the erection of light-houses was most worthy of notice. In January, James Fraser, John Douglas and Samual Cunard, the commissioners of light-houses, published a notice, for the information of mariners, of the several light-houses then on this coast, giving particulars of their situation, character and bearings, namely: the Sambro light, near Halifax harbour, - the Liverpool light, on Coffin's island, - Shelburne light, and Brier island light, - four in all. About half a century has passed away since that notice was issued, and now [1867] we find fifty light-houses established and in operation...."14
We see in a despatch to the Board of Trade dated September 30th, 1766, the following: "For the present although several paths have been cut to some of the settlements, yet none but that to Windsor have been so far completed as to admit of Carriages, which is yet in an imperfect state, nor is any other passable for Horses without great difficulty (that to Annapolis excepted) on account of the Swamps and Rivers over which there are no Bridges, so that they may be deemed a direction to the Foot Traveler only. And although, many settlements are forming for the Fishery on the coast between this and Canso, they have no communication but by water only, and all the settlements to the Westward of Lunenburg are in the same state."15

Serious second thoughts, about the direction which their life had taken, must have been had, if not expressed, by most of the European settlers who had come to Nova Scotia. These settlers had loads of time to think as they looked out into a frozen landscape. The worst of the winter did not last much more than ten weeks, but, nonetheless, many would be house-bound for up to four months. In the dead of winter few ventured much beyond the barn, or the privy; it was easy enough to get around, but deadly if you should get stuck out in a storm. Nor were things much better in early spring, when the frost and snow disappeared, then, when one was obliged make their way through the muck and mire. Even in the summer, night travel on unlit country roads was difficult; and if its a dinner party you planned, you planned it for an evening with a full moon.

It was costly enough to build roads through virgin forests, but more costly to maintain them especially considering the climatic conditions of Nova Scotia. The freeze up in winter was not so bad indeed one could make good time over the frozen lands and lakes, it was the spring thaw that wrecked havoc and caused so much expensive roadwork. Moorsom gave us a contemporary account of the spring roads in Nova Scotia. The "state of the ground is such, that stirring out beyond a well-paved street is matter of impracticability for any purpose of pleasure. The frost having converted the soil into a mass more or less congealed, for the depth of some inches, or even of some feet, is now 'coming out,' as it is termed, and, together with the aid of melting snow or rain, converts all but the best-formed roads into perfect quagmires."16

John Loudon McAdam (1756-1836), a "loyalist" who moved from the United States in 1798, observed to an English committee (on Highways and Turnpike Roads), "Every piece of stone put into a road which exceeds an inch in any of its dimensions is mischievous."17 By 1820, hard, smooth surfaced McAdamized roads were all over England, so that during the years 1820-37, "England got the best road system since the fall of the Roman Empire." These road systems took time to build and likely began when the English parliament, by its acts passed in 1773, required that "milestones should be set up on the highways, signposts erected at road junctions, and that bridges should be walled or fenced."18

If it was only in 1820 that England had a road system, then much less it should be expected that Nova Scotia had "a road system" before the middle of 19th century. Understanding the general lack of roads and the poor state of those that did exist, will lead one to a better understanding of how easy it was to turn the business of building or maintaining roads into a political issue. For example, in 1811 there was a Bill allowing £15,000 to be spent on roads and bridges; it was passed by the House, but returned by the Council. The movement of this bill is reflective of old problem in Nova Scotia: the rural areas, well represented in the house, wanted roads, and the Council, the members of which represented the interests of those in Halifax, did not.

"From the legislative sitting of 1803: The sum voted for roads and bridges was £3850, in sums, the largest of which was £280, and the smallest £20. Commissioners were appointed by the governor and council to expend it .... Independent of any disposition which might have existed to oppose or embarrass the governor and council, there was a serious difficulty constantly recurring about the grants for roads and bridges. All the members of the house, and especially those who represented the agricultural population, were interested and urged by their constituents to obtain as much money as possible for this important purpose. On the other hand, the public officers and councillors, who were all residents in Halifax, felt the necessity of such an appropriation less - had no constituents to face or re-elections to look for, and besides had an interest in securing revenue for salaries, public buildings, &c. Disagreement on this subject was continual, and it had much to do with the contests of the two chambers, - the upper house ever seeking to cut down the sum for roads, while the lower was always ready to increase it."19
Not having good roads, was, for the new arrivals, during the mid to late 1700s hardly a big disappointment, as good roads were not to be had anywhere, including England. People in the early days of Nova Scotia got around by boat. There was, in season -- it was generally much better to get around in the winter than other times of the year -- a passable road to Windsor which branched off to Truro, but for Nova Scotia, that was it. Of course one can only imagine what the roads did lead into the populated area of Halifax were like: rutted muck tracks. These were for animals, not for people unless mounted. Droves of animals going to market must have kept these roads "in a perpetual churn of filth."20

It was easy to recognize the value of roads to the new colony. The question was -- who should build them and at whose cost? Apparently individual enterprise provided for some of the early roads, but the paying of tolls has never been popular. "A turnpike gate had been set up at Sackville, a few miles (9 or 10) from Halifax, with a view of collecting tolls, under a provincial law not now in print. A party of armed men on horseback assembled at 11, P.M., on Saturday, 19 October [1782], surrounded the keeper's house, and cut the gate to pieces. On the 28th, a reward of £20 was advertised for discovering the offenders."21 The owner of this business of road maintenance was persistent in his efforts to kept his gate in good repair, but just as persistent were the turnpike gate wreckers. In 1785, the gate was demolished again. Awards were offered to those who gave information leading to the arrest of the guilty parties.

From Perkins we learn of the early efforts to link Liverpool22 to other communities beyond. In February, 1784, "Several gentlemen go to reconnoiter the woods to find the most advantageous place for a road to Port Mouton." A few days later Perkins reported, "The gentlemen of the place in general turn out to cut the road to Port Mouton, about 50 men. ... 3 miles ... built two bridges over brooks." Within the month the road was completed. A couple of years later, on August 21st, 1786, Perkins with a number of other gentlemen of Liverpool were appointed "commissioners for opening a road from Liverpool towards Lunenburg, in consequence of a resolution of the General Assembly last December, which commission is dated the 20th of January last and by some means or other never came to hand till this day." These were the days where money was scarce, so people were obliged by law to give so many days of their work for the good of the community.

"Personal labour, for a certain number of days annually, is obligatory on the inhabitants of every road-district, for each of which a surveyor is appointed, who superintends the execution, and receives the composition of the more wealthy. Aid from the public funds is appropriated annually by the House of Assembly, whose proceedings on this head enter very much into detail. Commissioners for carrying into effect the proper expenditure of the sums appropriated, are appointed by the Governor in Council, and receive a certain percentage."23
The Road from Halifax to Annapolis Royal certainly seems to be the first substantial road that went for any distance. In 1701, at a time when all Nova Scotia was a colony of France, Governor Brouillan "proposed to these demi-republicans [Acadians at Minas] to make a road for ten leagues across the woods to get to Port Royal. They have engaged to execute this project as soon as harvest is over. They can subsequently make a like one to LeHave." (Map.) My impression is that before the end of the French régime at Port Royal, 1710, there was a passable road along the Annapolis Valley which linked up to another passable road to Chebucto (Halifax)24 so that Acadian produce could be sent to Louisbourg. Still these early roads -- though improved upon considerably by the military after the founding of Halifax by the English in 1749 -- were hardly passible except by horse or the stoutest of vehicles hauled by oxen. Here is a contemporary accounting of a family's move over such roads, in this case the one from Cornwallis to Annapolis Royal, hardly a long distance. Rev. Jacob Bailey:
"We propose to advance towards Annapolis on Tuesday, the 24th of July, but an excessive rain on Monday hindered our preparations, so that our departure was delayed until Wednesday morning, when we observed the following order: A cart with two yoke of oxen, containing all our worldly possessions, began the procession, guarded by a couple of sprightly young fellows, who offered their services; a vehicle for the reception of Mrs. Bailey and her children, drawn by two horses, next appeared [another family rigged out in much the same manner] ..."25
We have the benefit of Bishop Inglis' observations. Inglis made out a report to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (S.P.G.) on his arrival at Halifax in 1787. He described what he found in Nova Scotia: "Such is the condition of this province at present; destitute of land conveyance and of roads, except from this place (Halifax) to Annapolis and Horton, which is not safely passable for four-wheeled carriages, and scarcely so for those with two wheels. All the settlements except those along this road, are on the edge of the water."26

As late as 1827, there were no roads in the south of the province to speak of. Captain Moorsom wrote: "From Shelburne, we may set aside all thoughts of traveling onwards upon wheels; indeed, such mode is not very advisable even thus far. An associate judge of the Supreme Court [while on circuit] very nearly broke his neck not many months ago, in consequence of the bad state of the Barrington roads; and if the province continues to extort such journeying from elderly gentlemen, it is not improbable the Bench may, ere long, present a few vacancies."27

In 1792, the "Great Pictou Road" was opened.28 It was driven through to Musquodoboit and then on to Dartmouth. It was to become known as the Governor's Road. That December, in celebration of this accomplishment the first grand ball was thrown by the Governor and Lady Wentworth.29 The business of building roads from the capital to Annapolis and Pictou occupied the legislature on a number of occasions over the years. On June 7th, 1799, it heard Governor Wentworth give his speech where he recommended quarantine laws to guard against "yellow fever" and the completion of the roads to Annapolis and Pictou.30 By 1800, there was sufficient revenue in the province that it was able to devote £7,000 of it to highways, a very large sum for those days. The expenditure on the highway system was to continued pretty much at that level for the next thirty years31, such that, Cuthbertson was of the view that by 1830, Nova Scotia "had the best roads in British North America."32

That Nova Scotia had "the best roads in British North America," circa 1830, may say a lot for the determination of the people of Nova Scotia -- Or, it may say a lot about the lack of good roads in America, generally. In any event, the few roads that existed in Nova Scotia at the end of the 18th century, as Bishop Inglis observed in 1788, were in a very bad state. Inglis had set out from Halifax intending to go as far as the St. John River, via Annapolis Royal. He made note of the conditions and some of the people he meet on his way.

"Wednesday, July 16 -- Set out from Halifax ... and reached Mr. Faulkner's, distance of 16 miles [3 1/2 hours] ... the road to Sackville to Faulkner's very indifferent, owing to neglect ...
Thursday, 17 -- Set out from Faulkner's at half past five o'clock -- the road excessively bad ... at half past 7 o'clock reached the widow Montgomery's -- distance 6 miles. After breakfast I baptized a child belonging to Mr. Robinson. Set out and called on Commissary Johnson -- reached Windsor about half past 3 o'clock.
Friday, July 18 -- Crossed over to Falmouth and dined at Mr. John Walker's, where I saw my aunt Morrison, aged 72 years -- Falmouth a prodigious fine country.
Saturday, 19 -- Messrs. Hammill, Deschamps, Head, Emerson and Tonge, rode with me over the farms adjoining to Windsor -- the country is one of the finest I ever saw -- an amazing quantity of hay ...
Monday, July 21 -- Crossed the river at Windsor on my way to Horton. The road over Horton Mountain very bad, in many places steep; the mountain about 8 miles, is an uncultivated forest covered with Maple, Birch, etc., the soil appears to be good -- we heard a bear growl out of the thickets. Horton a fine extensive settlement -- the Grand Preire is a vast meadow, belonging to it, which contains 2700 acres mostly dyked. Arrived at Captn. Moore's in Horton about 1 o'clock, the distance from Windsor, 17 miles.
Tuesday,22 -- Set out for Cornwallis, distant 7 miles, and crossed over Cornwallis River at a dangerous ford -- lodged at Col. Burbidge's. The Church here is small and unfinished, the settlement very extensive and populous; yet few Church people. The inhabitants divided into many sects, and carried away by a variety of Enthusiasts that under take to preach to them."
The following Friday33, Inglis set out for Annapolis Royal. Calling on General Ruggles, Major Barclay and Captain Joshua Temple de St. Croix. At Annapolis in that year, 1788, he called upon Messrs. Benj. James, Alex. Howe and Morrison. Traveling beyond to Clementsport he paid a visit to Mrs. Delancey, her husband being lately appointed Chief Justice of the Bahamas. From Mrs Delancey's he crossed in a sloop to Digby. From Digby Inglis sailed across the Bay of Funday. After spending 24 days in New Brunswick, Inglis returned to Digby, from there to Sissiboo (Weymouth) "over the worst roads I ever traveled." At Weymouth he met up with Capt. James Moody. On the north side of the Sissiboo River he found 38 loyalist families. On the south side 17 families, also, this being the beginning of the French shore, he found several French families and a priest. While with Moody, Bishop Inglis was given a tour of the Loyalist, a ship of 250 tons which Moody had built and which had been recently launched; another was on the stocks. After visiting with Moody, Inglis retraced his steps back to Halifax.

Eaton, in his, History of the County of Kings, set out a contemporary announcement re the 1797 ferry from Windsor to Parrsborough:

"The Parrsborough packet sails regularly between Windsor and Parrsborough twice in every week, and occasionally three times, but is always at Windsor every Tuesday in the summer season (wind and weather permitting), so as to sail from thence to Parrsborough the first high water that happens at or after twelve o'clock of that day. The passage money for each person is five shillings and sixpence per head. The vessel is forty-two ton burthen and has good accommodations for passengers; and likewise for taking over horses, neat cattle, and sheep, etc."34
Carriages were not something that an ordinary person could afford. If you were one of the more fortunate in the city to own a carriage and you were having a party then it was expected that you would send your carriage around to pick up your guests. It was 1866 before we saw in the city any form of mass transit (being horse drawn vehicles) when the Halifax City Railroad came into being. The stage coach from Halifax to Windsor came into being sometime before 1816. It was operated by Isaiah Smith and went both ways twice a week. The fare between these two points was six dollars; the coach carried six people.35 In 1829, the run was extended through to Kentville.

Shipbuilding, fishing, lumbering and trading were the principal activities of the coastal communities such as Liverpool. These activities continued throughout the 18th and the 19th centuries. In the earlier days of this period these skilled men added one more activity to their industrial list: private warriors. They were superb builders of sea going vessels and could sail them great distances in pursuit of trade. Such skills and abilities served them well in their war time pursuit of privateering.36 We soon will deal with these principal activities of Nova Scotians in the latter half of the 18th century; and, indeed, most of the 19th. But let us first set out here, before proceeding with a short treatment on the other occupations we may have seen people working at as the 18th century turned into the 19th.

We can see from the Town officers appointed in 1806 that the occupations to be supervised were many and varied. The Town officers, included: Surveyors of Lumber and Fence Viewers, Sealers of Leather, Surveyors of Pickled Fish, Cullers of Dry Fish, Gaugers of Oil, Measurers of Wood and Coals, Measurers of Salt, Cullers of Hoops and Staves, Surveyors of Bricks and Lime, Measurers of Cord Wood. Then there were constables, Pound Keepers, Assessors of the County Rates, Surveyors of Highways, and on, and on -- it seems there was a job for every concerned citizen, and, I suspect, for little or no pay37

The impression that one might get is that war is good for trade, one might well point to the history of Halifax as an exhibit. You need go through its history and do a little economic accounting, but it will soon be figured out that Halifax was indeed prosperous in times of war. It is necessary to feed and house gathered troops. Fleets of vessels are required to be outfitted, maned, victualed and repaired. High ranking administrative officials in all branches of government need to be informed and entertained. All of this industry is supported by gobs of government money. However, it can hardly be asserted that war brings prosperity, generally it brings ruin. The effect of war is to "impair the object by your very endeavors to preserve it. The thing you fought for is not the thing which you recover; but depreciated, sunk, wasted, and consumed in the contest."38 There can be no argument that the overall effect of each and every participant in a war is to reduce the country fought, to a backward state, to almost a state of barbarism where there is no wealth but only hand to hand existence. But for a community not near the battles and whose function is to act as a staging area, then, in times of war, while whole countries are wasted, the particular community may temporarily become prosperous. Such a community will feel the deprivation of war only after the war has ended. Halifax, for that matter the whole of Nova Scotia, is a historical example.

An interesting picture of the occupations at the turn of the 18th century can be had by looking at the tables that have been constructed from the data gleaned from the 1793 Capitation Assessment [Poll Tax] Lists for Nova Scotia.39 There was only sufficient data to allow tables for the communities of Halifax, Lunenburg, Windsor and Chester. There was 5 attorneys in Halifax, two in Lunenburg and three in Windsor. This to be compared to doctors: 7, two and one. And School masters: 7, two and two. (Chester had no body representing these professions.) As for the civil service, the province needed, apparently, only 21, which included the Chief Justice, the solicitor General and the Governor's Secretary. Under seafaring occupations, we see where at Halifax there was two mast makers, two ropemakers and 6 sailmakers. Of the four communities (Halifax, Lunenburg, Windsor and Chester) most of the demand for bakers and blacksmiths was at Halifax, where could also be found: block-makers, a bookbinder, brewers (two), butchers (18), coopers (23), gunsmith (4), hairdressers (8), shoemakers (29), tailors (20), tanners (5), tinplate workers (4), watchmakers (4), Wheelwrights (3), auctioneers (2), merchants40 (56), shopkeepers (67), a tallow chandler, and vintners (5).

It was common for most families to have gardens in their backyard, and a cow tied to a tree at the front. This would not be so much the case in the urban centre of Halifax.41 The furniture found in the typical home come from local furniture manufacturers.42 "For common use, rough tables were made by the mechanics of the town; and chairs, with rush-bottomed seats, were manufactured in an old establishment in Hollis Street, conducted by one of the early settlers. It was necessary, however, to speak some months before the chairs were actually needed; and if the good man happened to be out of rushes, the intending purchaser was obliged to wait until the rushes grew, were cut down, and dried."43 The kitchen as was to be found in Halifax during the late eighteenth century was not that as we experience these days, a place to go to when it is time to whip up a meal; it was a beehive of activity from sun up to sun down. The kitchen of those days centered around the open hearth fireplace, in which a fire burned almost constantly. In addition to the ordinary cooking of meals, almost all day long baking and brewing was going on, activities which needed the constant attention of the family females. Wood, not only for cooking but for heat during the cold winters, was a constant concern to all; it became, in time, a scarce commodity, as the woods for miles around were cut down and hauled off to be burnt in the homes at Halifax. Coal, brought in from the Sydney mines, eventually, came into the market.

Food was not available in a great variety; corned beef44, pickled pork and salted codfish was the regular fare; outside of porcupine, fresh meat was a rarity. All families preserved the summer fruits in anticipation of the coming seasons.

As for meals, at least for the typical English family throughout the first quarter of the nineteenth century, "breakfast was the lightest; and those who required luncheon were mostly content with bread and butter again. ... But the period of abstinence ended when the day's work finished ..."45 Dinner was often at three o'clock, sometimes as late as four; supper between eight and nine. Many businesses quit for the day just before dinner. In favourable weather after-dinner strolls, often towards Point Pleasant, was a common practice. If the weather was not too good then a local walk around the market square was in order (in these days we would know the area as the Grand Parade, between City Hall and St Paul's). In the evening men read aloud to their families while the ladies worked at embroidery.

Many of the needs of a typical family -- whether it was shelter, food, fuel46, clothing, or furniture -- were met by working their own lands. The people who lived in the urban centre of Halifax were not in a position to supply themselves directly from the land. Those who worked and lived at Halifax, supplying the needs of the Royal Navy, did not have farms which they could work. What the people of Halifax needed was brought in and traded for the goods carried by the merchants who clustered at Halifax. Lumber was brought in from the outlying ports; food supplied by the farmers who worked the fertile lands of the Annapolis Valley. Windsor was the closest agriculture centre. Indeed, it was at Windsor that the first regular agricultural exhibition in Canada was establish at the gates of Fort Edward. This occurred in 1765.

"At the initial 1765 gathering there was a fine showing of cattle, horses, sheep, hogs, grain of all sorts, butter, cheese, homespun, cloth and similar products. A silver medal was issued for an entry of 40 horses from Winckworth farms. Similar awards were made in various classes. The premium list included a plow-share, saddle and bridle, shears, whip and spurs. In a running race the first prize was a pair of buckskin breeches and a medal. Wrestlers received a pair of shoes and buckles. In a shooting competition at 80 yards, rifled barrels were excluded."47
What was grown was brought in by cart over the long established road from Windsor to Halifax. The animals were brought in on the hoof to be butchered at Halifax.48 In January of 1799, we see that beef, pork, mutton, and veal were sold by the quarter at the market in Halifax49. Fowls (live, so to keep better) could also be had. Oats and butter, and many other products, were hauled or driven over the road from Windsor to Halifax. Fuel, clothing, baskets, furniture, and alike -- all was met by the industry of the family applied to the raw products of nature.50 Every member of a typical family worked hard and long, season after season, often just to survive. The women worked, the children worked, the men worked -- all of them from sunup to sundown.51
"The mistress of the house is the greatest slave in it; and a respite from drudgery within doors is but an opportunity for engaging in the same without. Her young family are drilled upon her own practice; and no sooner can the boy lift an axe, and his sister a kettle, than both of them are made useful in sundry avocations."52
Keeping the fire burning in the fireplaces throughout the home was important not only for heating and cooking purposes but if the fires went out, one was put to the business of getting a fire started again, which, at the turn of the 18th to the 19th century, was a laborious process. Usually a well equipped home would have a tinder-box and matches. This was, as John Ashton, described, a "primitive arrangement" consisting of a "flat round box of iron or brass, resembling closely a pocket tobacco-box, which contained tinder." Tinder being any dry inflammable substance that readily takes fire from a spark and burns or smoulders. A favourite was that prepared from partially charred linen or cotton. Ashton describes the process:
"The lid of the tinder-box being taken off, a piece of flint or agate, and another of hard steel, were forcibly struck together, so as to produce sparks. When one of these fell upon the tinder, it had to be carefully tended, and blown, until it became a patch of incandescence, sufficient to light a thin splint of wood some six inches long, having either end pointed, and tipped with sulphur. You might be successful at first trial, or, if the tinder was not well burnt, your temper might be considerably tried."53
We might add that effective and safe friction matches were to evolve as the 19th century passed. It was known as early as the 17th century that phosphorous could be used in match heads. Their use, however, made people sick with a ailment dubbed "phossy jaw," as white phosphorous is poisonous. The simple fact is that tinder boxes were used to start fires, probably until about 1830. Just before then, in 1827, a English chemist and apothecary at Stockton-on-Tees, in the north of England, made the first friction matches that were to catch the name of lucifers, or sometime Congreve matches alluding to Col. Sir William Congreve (1772-1828) who had invented a rocket used by the military.54

And what relief could be had from this drudgery? Well, a cup of tea; or for the right people at the right time, maybe a drink of rum. As for tea: it was "extensively consumed throughout Nova Scotia [more] than any other article of luxury, except spirits. It is used in the poorer cottages at every meal, particularly among those settlers who originally come from New England."55 Souchong tea, was one of the finer varieties of black tea that could then be bought. Whereas, Bohea tea was of the lowest quality, being the last crop of the season. When the Souchong tea was brought out, it was done so because of special company, together with the sugar loaf. The sugar loaf when bought "weighed five or eleven pounds and resembled a huge gumdrop, granules of sugar being scraped or shaved from it with a knife."56

During this period a great trade was going on with the West Indies. Out went lumber and fish; in came great quantities of rum and molasses. These were goods that easily traded, by the ladle or by the puncheon.

"Rum, sugar, and molasses, are always to be found in abundance: the first is retailed at a lamentably low rate; the second, at nearly the same price as at home [England]. Molasses are an article of much consumption among the American part of the population: many of the poorest class use it altogether, in place of sugar; and by others it is used as a drink, when diluted with water. The fruits, and finer produce of the West Indies, are a very fluctuating supply; sometimes pine apples are almost rolling about the streets of Halifax; at other times, a lemon cannot be procured at any price."57
There was little entertainment, other that what the family made for themselves. Occasionally a traveling troop came to town. We see from Perkins where, on February 12th, 1803 there was "a company of play actors that come to town. Their conductor applies to me for leave to exhibit. I wave an answer till I can see the other magistrates." This was "The Rope Dancer," to which Perkins referred on February 22nd and where the "exhibit was a sell out to two or three hundred people, some at the door who could not get in." Perkins also tells of the "Learned Pig" from Quebec. "July 15th, 1805: Capt. Gorman has brought the learned pig from Quebec. The owner of the pig called on me as magistrate for leave to exhibit the pig. I consulted the magistrates who agreed that he might exhibit from 4 to 8 o'clock for 7½ each. He invited me & any of my family to see it, gratis."

In winter, when more leisure was available for the average person, people turned to winter sports. Moorsom, in referring to his military brothers: "In winter, after general blowing of fingers and noses, in conclave assembled, after speedy dismissal of the morning-parade, you [as an officer] may turn to skating, sleighing, shooting, or racket playing ..."58

There was a merchant at Kentville whose books were found and preserved: Henry Magee & Sons, 1788-1806. An analysis of the entries gives us a good insight into the dress and habits of the day.

"From the items sold we know that the men wore fine beaver hats, took snuff, smoked clay pipes of the church warden variety, wore knee buckles and gallises, cherry coloured waistcoats and corduroy breeches, had silk stockings, buckles on their shoes, and often wore full Wellington boots. They even carried an umbrella of silk or cotton in wet weather.
The ladies wore Dunstable bonnets or chip hats, and usually had a camel's hair shawl over their shoulders. Their dresses were of mixed Cashmere, fustain, black Romsey shaloon, or of silk; and on their feet they wore slippers of stuff, of leather ..."

[NEXT: Pt. 4, Ch. 4 - Nova Scotian Society: Trade & Insurance."]

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