Sunday, February 26, 2012

Our Award Winning Town

Thanks to the complexities of the internet this is not exactly breaking news but, it is still important news for supporters of heritage in Annapolis Royal. Our little town has recently been selected as one of the top old house communities in North America by This Old House Magazine. To be a little more exact, we are one of only 10 communities in Canada to receive this distinction. This is a significant acknowledgement to all of the people who have worked to preserve properties and businesses in the Annapolis Royal region. Recognition of this sort is indeed about ongoing community effort and the shared belief that heritage is an important asset.

Strangely, on a day to day basis we rarely take the time to reflect on the good work that we have done to preserve the heritage of Annapolis Royal. This is even the case for those of us who work in heritage. As we go about our daily business, we blithely drive by buildings and landscapes that are historically important on an international scale. Perhaps because we are constantly surrounded by heritage we can almost forget how unique Annapolis Royal is. As a community, we make our individual and collective efforts to protect our heritage assets because we realize that it is the right thing to do. Because of this, it is nice when someone from the outside shines a light on us and commends us for the work that we have done.

I actually knew about this award a couple of weeks before it was announced. The magazine had sent me some information to do a fact check. When we were discussing the distinction, they requested that I not mention anything until the article was published. I was not totally successful in keeping this a secret and may have mentioned it to a few people who would appreciate such an award. I had a great smile when I saw the article posted on Facebook this Wednesday.

I am not sure how long the above link will stay active so, I offer my apologies if you are reading this post a couple of years from now and the link is dead. If the link is in fact dead, let me assure you that Annapolis Royal and the surrounding area is still an astounding heritage community to either visit or inhabit.

All for now,

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Loyalist Provisioning

Over the past few months I have been spending the occasional Thursday evening working with one of our volunteers on an archival scanning project. We have been working our way through the documents in the Cronin Fonds in an attempt to make this material available to the public. While this has been a fairly enjoyable way to spend a Thursday evening, We have tended to fall into a common trap of those who work with archival collections. Those who have spent time with archival documents will tell you that there is a great hazard of spending more time reading the documents than actually doing the work. Thankfully, our scanning project is being done on an after hours, volunteer basis so I do not mind getting drawn into the world of Lower Granville in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The document in this post is an excellent example of one that captured our attention. This is a
1786 letter from Joshua Quereau to Dennis Cronean (Cronin). In most respects this is a fairly simple letter instructing Cronin to pass the word about where Loyalists were to go to collect provisions from the government. It is when you stop to consider the context of the letter that you get temporarily lost in history. There in my hands was a letter loosely connected to one of the turning points in history.

Quereau, a Loyalist of Huguenot origins, was informing Cronin, a Loyalist from New York, of where to send their fellow refugees to get provisions. The first years after the American Revolution were difficult for the Loyalists in Nova Scotia. In addition to the upheaval of war and needing to leave their homes, in an area like Lower Granville they were carving a new life out of the wilderness. They were not coming to lands that had previously been used by Acadian or Planter settlers. Hardships quickly led to Loyalists referring to Nova Scotia as Nova Scarcity. For many Loyalists there would have been more meal times than meals. For this reason, government provisions were essential for the survival of the population over the first few years after the Loyalists established themselves. This was an important letter to those in need of food.

What had those who were receiving provisions endured? Did this aid help them? All things considered, a trip through more than 225 years of history is not bad entertainment for a Thursday evening. As with all of our transcriptions, the original spelling has been maintained.

All for now,

Black Point Augt 14 1786

Dear friend

After my respects to you and yours, these are to inform you that you here have Inclosed an advertisement, for the Loyalists, in regard of their drawing provision, wich I beg the faver of you to make nown, Down in your Quarter, & all that Does apply to send to Mr Cornwells, on Saturday Next, for None will be heard after that Period, the provisions will be given out on Monday the 28 Int.

From your Sincear Friend and

well wisher Joshua Quereau.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Are They Coming Back?

The Annapolis Royal area has welcomed visitors for hundreds of years. From the arrival of the French at the Port Royal Habitation to the tourists who venture here every summer, there has usually been someone here to bid them welcome. I say there was usually someone always because we do have a history that includes a couple of European powers who used this area as a piece in a global conflict. Despite those seeking world domination, this has generally been a welcoming place. In fact, when I arrived here ten years ago, the first words spoken to me in my new community were "welcome here".

Now, perhaps the strangest visitors that we have greeted in recent years arrived in the Spring of 2011. On a snowy morning, patrons at the Winter Farmers Market at the Historic Gardens noticed that there was a series of tiny houses randomly cropping up. This caused a great deal of chatter among those buying their coffee, fish and bread. Over the coming weeks these houses started popping up in locations all around Annapolis Royal. They were found at locations like the Home Hardware, the Post Office and the banks. We even found a house in front of the O'Dell House Museum. There was great excitement as the houses were photographed and even had their co-ordinates entered into a GIS database. While the word faerie may have been whispered at first it became a well accepted term after a couple of weeks.

Then, as suddenly as the houses arrived they stopped arriving. It seems like the faerie folk were somewhat nomadic and only stayed in Annapolis Royal for the spring and summer. Those of us who live here year round know that they are not the only ones to follow this pattern. Without their keepers some of the houses started to look a bit sad. When I left the O'Dell House Museum this afternoon I decided to gather some of the toadstools that had once formed a faerie ring in front of the museum. As I gathered the toadstools, I started to wonder if the faerie folk were planning to return to Annapolis Royal when the weather gets warmer. I hope that they are since they brought a great deal of fun with them. If they do come back, I have some slightly aged toadstools that they can use.

All for now,

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Project 7x52 - Week 3

I was looking to do something a little bit different with week three of our Project 7x52 challenge. At the start of the week I thought about doing a set of people on the streets of Annapolis Royal in black and white. The weather was fairly grim and everyone has been bundled up so I figured that there could be some interesting images. By the time Thursday night rolled around and I had yet to get any images of people I started to rethink my strategy. Looking at the images that I had taken I noticed that there were a couple of benches. Keeping the idea of taking a set in black and white, I decided to see what sort of outdoor seating I could find in Annapolis Royal in the middle of the winter. Surprisingly, there was no lack of seats to photograph even in the middle of January.

Week 3 theme - A Place to Sit Outdoors (black and white)

1. Bench on the Annapolis Royal waterfront boardwalk with Granville Ferry in the background
2. Chairs at the Bailey House B&B on Lower St George Street
3. Bench at Petit Park.
4. Three boardwalk benches
5. Bench in front of a residence on Lower St George Street.
6. Waterfront picnic table by the O'Dell House Museum
7. Bench at the Historic Gardens.

All for now,

Monday, January 23, 2012

Our New Besom

"...I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the LORD of hosts." Isaiah 14:23 KJV

It is not often that we purchase an artifact for the Annapolis Heritage Society collections. Over the years, most of our artifacts have been donated by generous friends and members. On rare occasion a piece comes on the market that is so valuable to our local history that we make a significant effort to acquire the piece. The 1759 Horten Powder Horn and the Harris Paintings are examples of artifacts that we have pursued in recent years. The piece featured in today's post is nothing like that. This artifact, a besom, has neither a great monetary value nor a long history in our community. What then makes this strange inexpensive (it cost $10) version of a broom an interesting artifact for our collection.

What this besom provides is the possibility for some interesting exchanges with visitors to the O'Dell House Museum. Visitors are invariably drawn to strange looking artifacts. This gives our interpreters the opportunity to discuss the artifact, how it was used and relate it to the story of the community. While this is a piece of indeterminate origins, it is typical of what would have been found in our community at one point. In that way, it can be used as a representational piece to link other stories. It is also an appropriate piece to have on display in a period house like the O'Dell House Museum.

The besom is built pretty well as it appears. It is a broom made of sticks tied around a central handle. A besom is always round due to the way that the sticks are tied. The handle appears to be made of ash but I am not yet certain of the type of wood used for the brush. While birch was a common wood for the brush, this does not appear to be the case here. While they are uncommon today, besoms were a common household item before the introduction of broomcorn (Sorghum vulgare var. technicum). Even after the introduction of broomcorn, besoms were still a useful outdoor tool.

There is an added bonus with this piece in that this is the sort of broom commonly associated with witches. When the haunted house at the Sinclair Inn Museum comes back next October this piece will doubtlessly have a central role. By the way, I am hoping that ours is not the besom of destruction.

All for now,

Sunday, January 22, 2012

An Archival Mystery

On certain occasions I come across an archival document that poses a few more questions than it provides answers. In all honesty, this is really some of the fun in dealing with archival documents. You occasionally come across strange facts or stories and there is a certain allure to sorting out these historical mysteries. It is a privilege to take some time with a historical document to ask "what exactly is happening here?" When you ask these questions it is interesting what light they can shed on the document as well as

The document featured in this post is an excellent example of needing to pause to ask a few questions. This document comes from the Cronin Fonds held by the Annapolis Heritage Society Archives. On the surface this is a fairly standard document detailing payment from a group of people to an individual. At this point, it would make sense to provide a transcription of the document. As always, I have tried to keep the original spelling and grammar intact.

"I do here by Certify that I have received of Thomas Cronin David Holden Thomas Holden James Mussels Quinn Worster George G. Cronin the Full Remompence and Satisfaction in Cash for Injuring or Damaging or accidently hurting my house and part of My Furniture on the 26th Day of Januarry last, And I do here by Acknowledge my self fully paid and Satisfied as Witness by my hand in Granville this 19th Day of Febr 1834.
Daniel Ellis
Witness William Mussels

Why were this group of men paying for "Injuring or Damaging or accidently hurting my house and part of My Furniture"? This wording certainly intrigues me. Were they doing work around the house when something went horribly wrong? Was this some sort of feud that eventually became violent with house and property becoming injured? Personally, favorite theory is that this was a group of young men who were having a couple of drinks when things got out of hand. A few drinks, some songs, a bit of general revelry and, before they knew it, house and furniture were injured. This would not be the first or the last time that property was damaged in this manner. Sadly, the fact that January 26, 1834 was a Sunday does not help this theory. There may be an entirely different reason for the damage and resulting payment.

I do have a few paths to go down in trying to figure out this mystery. As an example,
a bit of genealogical research should turn up the general ages of the men in question. If they turn out to be 70 - 80 at the time of the incident, I would say that drunken revelry is less likely (not impossible, just less likely). There is also the possibility that as we continue to process material in the Cronin Fonds that a document will shed some additional light on this affair. Archival mysteries are a great deal of fun.

All for now,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Project 7x52 - Week 2

At the start of the second week of my Project 7x52 challenge we had a couple of days of snow in Annapolis Royal. I knew that at some point I wanted to have a weekly theme of snow so this seemed like an appropriate opportunity. I was also figuring that I should take full advantage of the snowfall because this has been a very odd winter so far. I have heard more than one person remark that it feels like we are trapped in a permanent November. Within 12 hours of the end of the snowfall, the snow that you can see in these images had melted and we were back to greenish brown grass. It is certainly odd weather for the middle of January.

Week 2 theme - Snow

1. Annapolis Royal taken through a snowstorm from the back of the Granville Ferry Hall
2. One of the ornamental grasses at the Historic Gardens
3. A cannon at Fort Anne NHS
4. Another ornamental grass at the Historic Gardens
5. The snow covered face on a brass cannonade at Fort Anne. This piece is a remnant of the French regime in Acadie.
6. The Sally Port at Fort Anne
7. I believe that this is the snow covered remains of a hydrangea at the Historic Gardens.

All for now,