A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #3: TOC
The Road To Being Canada
Chapter 2, William Ross & His Settlement

As we will see, when we come to the section under transportation, there was a plan that unfolded in the early part of the 19th century to connect Halifax and Annapolis by building a road on a more or less straight line through the middle of the province. It was thought that this road would serve a military purpose in the event that a war should break out. Another purpose was that such a road would open up the interior of the province. It was calculated that grants of land might be given to new arrivals such as disbanded soldiers, lands on which they and their families might settle.

With the long Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815) at an end, the British government wanted to reduce its military forces. British troops were stationed in America to deal with the Americans during the War of 1812. At war's end, from the British viewpoint, the more soldiers discharged in America, the better. Transportation costs would be saved and the thinly populated areas in British North America could use settlers.

Any disbanded soldier, such of them as would want, could receive land grants in the province. One of the disbanded regiments was the "Nova Scotia regiment [16th] of Fenciple1 Infantry," 1803-1816. An officer of this regiment, Lieutenant William Ross, a native of County Cork, Ireland, with his wife Mary and five children and 172 disbanded soldiers took up the offer of free land. They embarked at the King's Wharf at Halifax on the sloop, Earl Bathurst, and on July 25th, 1816, were conveyed to Chester. During the month of August this founding group proceeded inland to Sherbrooke, named after the lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia, 1811-6, now called New Ross. They traveled over a road that then existed, the new Dalhousie Road in Lunenburg County; and there they settled.2

"Governor Sherbrooke ordered the commissariat department at Halifax to issue tools and implements on the scale worked out for every man; one hand saw, chisel, drawing knife, and auger for every five men; one cross cut saw for every ten men; and a fair proportion of nails, hammers, gimlets3, and spades for all. Later settlers received similar supplies, and other needs were anticipated as time went on. In the spring of 1817, for instance, Captain Ross at Sherbrooke received, among other things, seed potatoes (five bushels for 'each actual Settler"), turnip seed, white and red clover seed, Shovels, garden rakes, grindstones4, Dutch bake ovens, fishing nets, rope, lead, cork, and even trout hooks, twine, wax and thread. Had these been the only wants of the settlers, the authorities might have rested easily; but there was one demand that dwarfed them all -- the continuous call for food and drink. After years in the army, it was not easy to become accustomed to the idea of supplying one's own provision."5
J. S. Martell:
"When Lord Dalhousie, who for two years had supported and interceded for the fencibles [soldiers] at Sherbrooke [New Ross], finally felt constrained to call a halt [to the delivery of government supplies] -- after the third harvest, more than £10,000 had been spent on rations alone, to say nothing of the cost of transportation and distribution, and yet the results were anything but good. Only eighty-six of the founding families [the count, when things were initially setup, was 172 soldiers] were still in the settlement in the autumn of 1818, and a third of those, having no means of existence, were expected to leave during the coming winter."6
Captain Ross built a log home overlooking Lake Lawson (a broad part of Gold River). The following year, with axe and whip saw, he built a frame house which he called "Rosebank." Ross, unfortunately died in 1821. He left behind his wife, Mary, and seven children. While many of the soldiers and their families deserted the struggling community in the middle of the province, the Ross family carried on under the care of certain of the Ross boys.7 We should mention that the Ross farm was an operating one through the generations until the lands were conveyed to the province in 1970 and operates, yet today, as a working museum.8

NEXT: [Chapter 3, More Blacks Come To Nova Scotia]


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Peter Landry