Sunday, December 28, 2008

Heading home

So, as long as the airlines are willing, we are traveling home later today. This will be the last post from Ontario and probably the last for a couple of days. We have had quite a bit of fun and we have been able to catch up with friends and family. I have found it interesting to visit the area where I grew up using a different set of eyes. I stopped living in this part of the province (far eastern) full time when I left high school. I spent some summers around here but my perspective was still that of a university student. It has been fun to see the landscapes of my childhood through my current perspective of someone working full time in the heritage world. Sites, buildings and landscapes I had walked by for many years take on new meaning when filtered through my current lens.

As I have also mentioned, traveling gives me a greater appreciation for the Annapolis Royal region's respect for heritage and heritage preservation. There is no doubt in my mind that Annapolis County is one of this country's heritage gems. On top of a spectacular inventory of heritage sites and buildings, we have a population who realize, albeit sometimes grudgingly, that one of our biggest assets is heritage. We also have individuals and groups who want to ensure that our heritage is not only preserved but shared with visitors from around the world.

Today's image is another one which I took on the day we left Annapolis. This one shows the Annapolis scallop fleet at anchor in the Basin. I will make a full post about these boats in the near future.

All for now

Friday, December 26, 2008

Stone Houses

A few days ago, I made a post about the rarity buildings faced with brick in Annapolis County. I still find this an oddity seeing as we once had so many brickyards in our area. In case some of you missed the comment loft by Anne Crossman, brick was indeed a commonly used material for chimneys and hearths. This lack of brick facing became apparent to me as I traveled through the Eastern Ontario countryside where brick construction is quite abundant in older homes. One of the other historic building materials I have seen during my current travels is stone.

Like brick, I have always admired stone houses. In fact, both my wife and I have always wanted to own a stone house. These buildings, usually gray in colour with a white or off white wooden trim, stand out prominently in the landscape. They have a very solid but comfortable and inviting feeling.

These buildings were built in an interesting manner. Unlike brick and wooden houses where you could order or make enough bricks and lumber, stones were usually taken from fields and pastures during the spring. As anyone who has ever tried to maintain a garden in the Canadian Shield knows, the first crop of the year are stones heaved up by the winter frost. When the family had collected enough stones, and this could be a matter of several years, they would hire a mason to square the stones and build the house.

Interestingly, most of the architectural styles that we see employed in Annapolis County's early wooden buildings are found in stone in Eastern Ontario. In this post I am including a couple of images of a stone Gothic Revival style house located just outside Smiths Falls, Ontario. I am also including an image of a similar wooden house (the yellow house) on St James Street in Annapolis Royal. You will note that there is some difference in the pitch of the central dormers and a bit of difference in the decoration but these are essentially the same style of house. The house that I currently live in, although it has undergone some very unsympathetic additions by previous owners, is also this style of house. Each of these houses would have been built between 1800 and 1850. The final image in this post is of a stone house owned by my aunt and her family which is also located near Smiths Falls, Ontario. This house is an interesting example of a late Georgian symmetry with a very pretty hipped roof.

For those interested in heritage buildings, Annapolis County is a veritable treasure trove. From our early Acadian, Colonial and Georgian houses to examples of Palladian, Regency and Arts and Crafts architecture we have it all. While I live in this abundance of heritage buildings, it is nice to get out to see what other communities have to offer. This allows me to put our architectural heritage into perspective.

All for now,

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

I am in the midst of a fairly busy day of trying to keep some of our family Christmas traditions alive. The presents were opened, my mother got her traditional box of Ganong chicken bones (which are almost impossible to find in Ontario), we had eggs for breakfast and eveyone has now gone outside to build a snowman. Best of all the turkey is stuffed and about to go into the oven. Christmas is one of those interesting days where family traditions, our personal heritage, get revived and passed from one generation to the next. It is always nice for me to see heritage work on this personal level.

Despite the busyness of the day, I wanted to take the time to say Merry Christmas to all of the volunteers, visitors, members, partners, friends, board members, researchers and enthusiasts who make the work of the Annapolis Heritage Society possible. I hope that you and your family have a wonderful day.

By the way, to those outside the Maritimes, chicken bones are pink cinnamon candies with a filling of bittersweet chocolate. We don't give my mother pieces of a used chicken carcass as some of you may have been thinking. Chicken bones usually appear on the shelves sometime just before Christmas.

All for now,

Monday, December 22, 2008

Images of Port Royal - part 2

Today, I am going to post a few more of the images I took at the Port Royal Habitation before I left on my trip to Ontario. As I previously mentioned, the Habitation is one of my favorite heritage sites. The themes of early European exploration, interaction of the French with the region's native population, the Mi'Kmaq, and the eventual destruction of the site at the hands of the British are fascinating. In addition to this, the Habitation has an interpretive staff which any historic site should envy. The historic interpreters understand their story and themes that they are trying to relate to their visitors. This is sadly not always the case at historic sites. In addition, the interpreters have a wonderful ability to communicate their story with passion and pride.

While I am on the topic of Port Royal, perhaps I should offer a bit of clarification about the name. This is something which confuses many of our visitors and researchers. The written record has some debate about the origin of the name. Samuel de Champlain claims that he named the area port Royal as the basin was a natural harbour big enough to house the entire French Royal fleet. The French lawyer and writer Marc Lescarbot, who arrived the year after the founding of Port Royal, claims that it was Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Monts who named it. Despite the debate, it was indeed named Port Royal.

After the destruction of the Habitation in 1613, there was only a small French population in the area. When the French, the ancestors of the Acadians, returned in greater numbers in 1636, the region still bore this name. In fact, to the Acadians, any of the area surrounding what is currently called the Annapolis Basin was known as Port Royal. When the British captured the Fort at Port Royal (now Fort Anne) in 1710, the area was renamed Annapolis Royal in honour of Queen Anne, the reigning British monarch. Francis Nicholson, the same man who named Annapolis, Maryland, named Annapolis Royal. At this time, the name Port Royal gets put on the shelf for a while and it is not until 1939 that the name Port Royal returns. With the opening of the reconstruction of the Habitation, the community which had been named Lower Granville is renamed Port Royal. This community continues under the name Port Royal.

To simpilify, there are three Port Royals. The first is the French trading post which lasted from 1605 to 1613. The second is the Acadian community which lasted from 1636 to 1710. The third is the modern community which was named in 1939.

All for now,

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Images of Port Royal

Well, I am back in the land of high speed internet. This means I will be able to post some pictures in addition to my regular ramblings. On the day we left on our trip, I took a drive and got a handful of pictures so I could mix some Annapolis County content in with my travels in Eastern Ontario.

I realized recently that I have done something very strange for a blog on the heritage of the Annapolis Royal region. I have been writing for about two months and I have not really made any reference to our most renowned historic site, the Port Royal Habitation. This is also strange since the Habitation is one of my favorite historic sites and I live within walking distance of the front gate.

The original Habitation was established in 1605 by a French expedition led by Pierre Dugua Sieur de Monts. Despite de Monts' leadership of the expedition, his cartographer, Samuel de Champlain, has gone on to have a much more historically significant legacy due to his later explorations and his role in the founding of Quebec. The original Habitation lasted until 1613 when it was destroyed by a party of British raiders from Virginia under the leadership of Samuel Argall.

In the 1930s, a group came together with the idea of building a reconstruction of the Habitation. This was one of the first major historic reconstructions in North America. One of the key figures in the process was an American named Harriett Taber Richardson. She spent a great deal of her time raising funds in New England for the completion of the project. The project was completed in 1939 with the assistance of the Canadian federal government. The site is now operated by Parks Canada.

As I go along, I will post additional images and provide more of the history of this site. Today, with the exception of the top image, I chose to post a series of images of what de Monts and Champlain would have seen when they looked out from the banks of the Basin. With the exception of some substantial erosion, these views are very similar to what would have been seen in 1605.

All for now,

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Taking the Train

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, we took the train to Montreal for the day. I was somewhat wistful as I was riding into the city. The train tracks to Annapolis Royal were taken up in the 1980s. There are still many people who speak of their enjoyment of being able to hop on the train in the morning, spend the day in Halifax and travel home in the evening. As I sat on the train I was wishing that the tracks were still in place. It really is nice to sit on the train, chat with the other passengers and in a couple of hours step out into the middle of the city.

The first rail link to Annapolis Royal was established by the Windsor and Annapolis Railway in 1861. We were the end of the line for this system. More precisely, the railway wharf in Annapolis Royal was the end of the line. The successor of this wharf is the only active wharf on the waterfront today. The station was located in the middle of the parking lot beside the Farmers and Traders Market. Including passengers, the railway carried fruit from the Annapolis Valley, lumber, salt fish, and a wide variety of other products. One of the main reasons for our town's economic boom at the end of the nineteenth century was the railway.

While our line ended in Annapolis Royal, the line down the south shore came all the way around to Digby. The short distance between the communities was known as the missing link. Local merchants began to lobby the government to finish the missing link under the assumption that merchandise from the south shore would also flow through Annapolis. In 1891 the link was finally completed to the excitement of the local business community. It is at this time that the line across Alains Creek is established. Unfortunately, Annapolis was no longer the end of the line. The merchants soon learned that we were just another stop. Yarmouth quickly took over as the major shipping port for our part of the province.

Like many communities across Canada, Annapolis Royal found a great deal of its prosperity due to the arrival of the railroad. From 1861 until the 1980s, this was our steel link to the rest of the province and eventually the rest of Canada. Sadly this link has been removed and the option of traveling to Halifax by rail is gone.

On a happier note, the most recent incarnation of the Annapolis Royal train station (the image at the top of this post) still stands. This building, built in the Arts and Crafts style in 1914, has recently won a major award for its restoration by Jane Nicholson. The station is now home to the Clean Annapolis River Project.

There is another local railroad which ran from Nictaux to Port Wade but this story will need to wait for another day and another post.

All for now,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Living in Annapolis County

We took the train into Montreal today. We spent the day visiting family and caught the evening train out of town. My post tomorrow will deal with the train itself. Let me preface this by saying that I really enjoy Montreal. It is a world class city with countless things to see and do. I was joking earlier that I could use a three week stay just to visit all of the places to eat.

As I was sitting on the train leaving Montreal, I had the chance to do a bit of comparison between Montreal and Annapolis Royal. It was the lights of the city's skyline which got me thinking. Both communities are among the oldest European settlements in North America. Both were founded by the French and were the subject of ongoing battles through the seventeenth century. Both communities are very proud of their heritage.

In a modern sense, the communities could not be more different. Montreal is one of the cultural meccas of Canada with a huge population and it is constantly busy. Annapolis Royal is a rural community with a population of 445 with a busy season and an off season.

But, the Annapolis Royal region is more than this. In many ways we live in a bubble in Annapolis County. Our lives are very real but we are somehow sheltered from much of the harshness of the world. Yes we have our share of problems but for a tiny community we have a great spirit.

It is almost unbelievable to think that the Annapolis region supports organizations like the Historic Gardens, the Arts Council, King's Theatre as well as all of our Annapolis Heritage Society Museums. We can add to this list three Parks Canada National Historic sites or parks within a short drive. These are on top of all the things like the Lions Club, Hospital Auxillary, community bands, etc. We are blessed with a variety of cultural events but we are also blessed with a natural environment which is the envy of many places. From the tides of the Bay of Fundy to the salt marshes and the beauty of the North and South Mountains, we live in a wonderful part of the world. Montreal has its charms but Annapolis Royal is one of the most charming places on earth. Sometimes it is useful to step away from home to see how lucky you are.

All for now,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Building with Brick

This will be a rare beast in the history of this blog; a post without a photograph. I usually go out of my way to ensure that I have an archival picture or one that I have taken. Usually, they are images that I have taken. Since this post is coming from my in-laws house where I am on dial-up service, this post will be without extra images. As Anne who is one of our regular readers knows, dial-up and images do not go together. Don't worry, I am travelling with my camera so there will be pictures coming.

I mentioned that I would try to find bits of Annapolis Royal heritage to discuss while I am travelling in eastern Ontario. One of the most obvious architectural differences between this area and the Annapolis region is the use of bricks in building. As you drive through the countryside, there are countless houses built between 1850 and 1950 which are made from brick. In fact, the house I am currently sitting in was built in the 1890s and is made of brick. Ironically, this is not the case in Annapolis County. I say ironicaly because of the huge number of bricks produced in Annapolis County through the years.

The most obvious example of local brick production is the village of Brickton located between Bridgetown and Middleton. Another example is the Buckler Brickyard which was located behind the current location of the Annapolis West Education Centre's soccer fields. Using local clay, this facility produced bricks which were shipped around the world. None of these brick producers are in business today.

There are indeed some grand brick houses in Annapolis County. The Robinson House on upper St George Street and the Parker Farm in Granville Centre immediately come to mind. (This is normally where you would get a couple of pictures to illustrate my point). These houses are not the norm. Annapolis County has a long tradition of building with wood. This comes both from the local availability of quality wood but, also the shipping industry. When shipbuilders were not employed building vessels, they could easily translate their skills to house building. It is no suprise that bricks are not too useful in shipbuilding.

All you have to do to see how common brick production was is to take a walk on the waterfront just in front of the O'Dell House Museum. along with the broken bottles and ceramics, fragments of locally made brick litter the beach. In fact, I use the remains of a brick found on the waterfront to keep papers from blowing around when the front door of the O'Dell House Museum opens.

All for now,

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Slow Down

Things are going to slow down here at the Annapolis Heritage Society / Annapolis Royal Heritage blog for a little while. Yep, I am taking a bit of time away from my desk. I am also going to be visiting family in eastern Ontario for a couple of weeks.

At this point, my plan is to make a few posts while I am away but they will not be as frequent as they usually are. What I am going to try to do, is to find people, places, buildings or stories in Ontario which I can relate to Annapolis Royal heritage. I am not totally sure how this will work at this point, but that is the plan.

During my trip I already know that I will be going back to visit some of my personal heritage roots. This is partially for an article I am writing for Edifice Magazine, (yes, that is a horrible bit of name dropping) partially to look back at where my interest in heritage has come from but mostly to bring my four year old son to some of the places I remember and to see them through his eyes. At this point we are planning a trip to Upper Canada Village (where I made countless school trips and had my first museum job) as well as to some of the national museums in Ottawa. I am also looking forward to seeing some of eastern Ontario's field stone houses. I have always appreciated these buildings with their rustic charm. As stone is not a common building material in this part of Nova Scotia, it will be nice to compare and contrast building styles.

All for now,

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Queen's Wharf

If I have not made it abundantly clear already, I have a great interest in the shipping and sailing, and ship building history of our community. In addition to the natural romance of the period, there was a great deal of economic activity taking place throughout the Maritimes. It is refreshing to think of Atlantic Canada as a boom economy. Annapolis Royal at the end of the Victorian era was a very different community than it is today. As long as the water was ice free, ships, schooners, dorys and vessels of all descriptions would have been plying the waters of the Annapolis Basin. While memories are quickly fading, there are still stories about the men who sailed these vessels.

I also know that I am not alone in my admiration of this period. One of the best ways to guarantee a crowd in Annapolis Royal is to have a tall ship sail into the Basin. If that ship happens to be the Bluenose, people will line the streets to see her.

The image in this post shows two schooners at the Queen's Wharf in Annapolis Royal. The wharf itself is located on the waterfront behind Fort Anne National Historic Site. While it is no longer operational, for a long time it was the principal wharf for Annapolis Royal and the fort. The small building is part of a shipyard once located at this site. Legend has it that this wharf changes its name depending on if there is a King or a Queen on the British Throne. I guess we will have to wait to see if this generation keeps the tradition alive and the wharf someday becomes the King's Wharf.

The photograph was taken by Charlotte Perkins between 1905 and 1910. At the front of the picture, you can see the top of an electrical pole which gives us the beginning date (electrical service started in Annapolis Royal in 1905). Miss Perkins, the author of The Romance of Old Annapolis Royal, was one of the great keepers of stories and history in Annapolis Royal. Annapolis Heritage Society Archives are lucky to have several of her photo albums in our collections as they do a wonderful job of documenting our community at the turn of the twentieth century. This particular photograph is damaged and it has several dark coloured stains.

All for now,

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Black Loyalists part 3

I suppose that this is a good time for another installment in the story of the Black Loyalists. I have made two previous posts where I have chronicled the history of the Black Loyalists. These can be found by following the hyperlink above.

In my last post, the Black Loyalists had arrived in Nova Scotia at the end of the American Revolution. They were hoping to find freedom and to improve their lives. While freedom was available to most, greatly improved lives were still somewhat out of reach for most Black Loyalists. There was no equality for Blacks in their allocations of land, their ability to find work or their treatment by the judicial system. By the summer of 1784 significant racial tensions began to emerge.

In Shelburne, many Blacks had trouble finding work so they accepted low wages so they would be hired. This upset many of the disbanded British soldiers who were also looking for work. Essentially, they felt that the Blacks were taking jobs from them. Things reached a head when David George, a Black Baptist Minister, began baptizing white people. After a confrontation at his church one evening, white settlers began to tear down the houses of George and some of his followers. As the mob grew to hundreds of people, additional houses (twenty in total) were pulled down and any member of the Black community unlucky enough to be found was beaten. Most of the Black community's belongings were stolen or ruined. George, who was found hiding in a swamp, was savagly beaten. The violence, beatings and destruction of property continued until the next month when the military arrived to restore calm.

Learning that he was one of the targets of the rioters, Benjamin Marston, the man given the task of distributing land, had left for Halifax at the start of the commotion. In the aftermath of the riots, Marston, who was accused of taking bribes, became a easy scapegoat for Governor John Parr. Marston was quickly relieved of his duties and the responsibility for distributing land fell to a influential group known as the Port Roseway Associates. This change meant that Blacks would continue to receive poor treatment in the distribution of land.

When order finally returned, Governor Parr's goal was not to compensate the victims. His main goal was to pacify the rioters. To the Black community, this was yet another example of how they had unequal treatment under the law.

Meanwhile, in the Annapolis Royal and Digby region, a man named Thomas Peters was quickly becoming one of the main political representatives of the Black community. Our next chapter will deal with Mr. Peters and his political activities in Nova Scotia and London. We will even get a bit closer to the trip back to Africa I have been promising.

The map of Birchtown at the top of this post has been borrowed from the this website. For anyone looking for a very accessible but detailed version of the Black Loyalist story I would highly recommend this site.

All for now,

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fannie's Recipes - part 3

I guess that I must still have a little Christmas spirit left at the end of Victorian Christmas. It may have something to do with all of the decorations still being up at the O'Dell House Museum. It may also have something to do with a fresh coating of snow which arrived yesterday. Most likely it has something to do with me not having had lunch yet and sitting here thinking about Christmas baking.

When we had the children from our local daycare visiting last week, we were talking about the differences in their lives and the lives of people who historically lived in the O'Dell House. One of the things I pointed out in the O'Dell kitchen was a bowl of oranges. I tried to make the point that these would have been a very big treat to children growing up in Nova Scotia in the 1870s. Grocery stores with internation distribution systems were a long way in the future so everyone would need to wait until a ship returned from the south carrying oranges in its cargo. A simple orange in the toe of your Christmas stocking was a much anticipated event.

In the spirit of Christmas baking and oranges in the stocking, I will offer another of Fannie O'Dell's recipes. For those who have not read the earlier posts on this topic, these recipes come from Fannie O'Dell's handwritten recipe book. This book, which was written in the 1880s, was donated to the Annapolis Heritage Society this autumn. Today's recipe, just in time for the holidays, is Orange Cake. As usual Fannie gives the ingredients not the baking instructions. We can assume that the jelly goes between the layers and on top of the cake.

Orange Cake
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
5 egg yolks
3 egg whites
bake like Jelly Cake (ie. divided into two pans)

2 egg whites
2 oranges juice and rind
sugar to thicken

All for Now,

Sunday, December 7, 2008

On the Last Day of Christmas....

I figure that the image at the top of this post is fairy appropriate. The candle has burnt out on Victorian Christmas for another year. For a rainy and cold Sunday afternoon we had a pretty good crowd. At least we had what I would expect for a day already described as a rainy and cold Sunday afternoon. Call it a small but appreciative group.

One of the appealing things about Annapolis Royal during the holiday season is that there is no lack of things to keep yourself entertained. Yesterday was the Christmas Farmers Market at the Legion Hall, a craft market at the Fire Hall horse and buggy rides through the day and a bonfire in the evening. In addition to Victorian Christmas at the O'Dell House Museum of course. Today the Community Band were having a concert at King's Theatre today as well as the annual Christmas Crackers event at ARTsPLACE. Not bad for a small town.

All for now,

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Photographs by Candlelight

Victorian Christmas at the O'Dell House Museum always offers a number of interesting photography opportunities. The decorations and atmosphere always inspire my creative side. When I am not serving apple cider, I usually have a camera either in my hands or behind me on the counter ready to go.

One of my favorite challenges is to try to work without a flash on my camera. Since this is not the way I usually take pictures, I enjoy experimenting with different light levels and subjects to see what sort of effect I can get. One of the other challenges I was dealing with is that I had forgot my tripod. When you are working in low light you need to have a very slow shutter speed on the camera to compensate. When taking pictures like this, any movement or twitch will blur the picture. I found myself bracing the camera or myself against walls and furniture to get some of the shots I wanted. I am sure some of the visitors were looking at me and wondering why i just didn't use a flash. This is a collection of images which I took last night.

All for now,

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Harris Portraits will Stay at Home

A couple of months ago I learned about an auction which was happening not far from here in Port Royal. The auction was for the estate of a very popular and kind couple who had been spending their summers in the Annapolis Royal region for decades. In fact, the gentleman who had passed away had family roots which went back in this community into the 1740s. As such, there were a great number of artifacts which had some relevance to the artifact collections of the Annapolis Heritage Society. The AHS President, Barry Moody, took the lead in trying to sort out which artifacts were important and we organized a fund to hopefully purchase the desired material.

Included in the items we desired was a signed wooden blanket box, a sampler done by a family member and two family portraits from the 1840s. We were able to successfully bid on the box and the sampler but there was a bidding frenzy on the paintings. The bids kept climbing and climbing and the atmosphere was decidedly electric (possibly because we were standing in a rain storm). By the end of the bidding another bidder had purchased the paintings as our reserves were not sufficient. To say that we were crestfallen was an understatement. A pair of paintings which had been in Annapolis County since the 1840s were on their way out of province. This was sadly another piece of Annapolis heritage which would be lost.

Perhaps this is where fate intervened. Not satisfied to let the paintings go, Barry Moody decided to contact the purchaser. He then asked him a fairly simple question. How much would it cost to buy the paintings. After some discussions, a price was determined and we began a campaign to try to raise the money.

In the meantime, Barry had met our local MLA Stephen McNeil at a charity event. Barry discussed the paintings with Stephen and asked if there was anything he or the Province of Nova Scotia could do to help. Well, it turns out there was. After discussing the situation with the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, we were able to secure a grant to cover the cost of the purchase. I am happy to say that the Harris family portraits will not be leaving Annapolis County. We are very grateful to the Province of Nova Scotia and Stephen McNeil for their help.

Last night at our volunteer reception we were able to unveil the portraits in their new home in the O'Dell House Museum parlour for the first time. Next week I will make an additional post on this topic and relate the history of the paintings and their importance to our community.

All for now,

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Night for Volunteers

This will be a fairly quick post at the end of a long day. Today was the Annapolis Heritage Society's volunteer appreciation reception at the O'Dell House Museum. Simply put, the Annapolis Heritage Society, its museums, genealogy centre and archives do not function without volunteers. Without volunteers we could not offer research services to genealogists, we could not properly care for our collections, we could not build exhibits, we could not put on dramatic presentations, essentially, we could not operate. Believe me, we need a lot of volunteers to keep up with all of the activities that the AHS is involved in. From our board of directors to our genealogists, to our event helpers to our Christmas decorators, we rely on the kindness of members of our community.

I would also like to comment on the dedication of our volunteers. The AHS has been in opeartion (in one form or another and under various names) for 41 years. Some of the people at the reception tonight had been volunteers for 41 years. The ongoing commitment to our Society and our community is overwhelming. Others who have come along over the course of our existence have the same sort of dedication. These people contribute countless hours to the AHS without asking for anything in return. In fact, I am sure that we have a number of volunteers who I see more often than I see my wife.

So, to all of the volunteers who allow us to offer services to our community and to visitors from around the world, THANK YOU!

All for now,

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Troop Fleet

It has been a while since I profiled one of the artifacts owned by the Annapolis Heritage Society. I figured that I would venture into our Age of Sail in Annapolis County exhibit and see what caught my eye.

The Annapolis Royal region has historically had a very strong connection to the sea. Stories abound about the early Mi'kmaq who would canoe across the Bay of Fundy. The Acadians established and maintained trading relations with New England as well as Europe. None of this would have been possible without sailing vessels. In the nineteenth century, a period known as the golden age of sail, the economic lifeblood of this region was the water. Everyone from shipbuilders and fishermen to farmers and manufacturers relied on ships to get their products to market. As such, ships were very common along the Annapolis Royal waterfront.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the diamond T house flag of the Troop Fleet would have been known and respected in most of the world's major ports. In 1840 Granville Ferry native Jacob Valentine Troop (1809-1881) moved from his home in Nova Scotia to Saint John New Brunswick. When he arrived he quickly opened a general store on the North Market Wharf. Troop soon began to dabble in shipping. Like most merchants of the time he would send products like lumber and salt fish to the Caribbean and in return load his vessels with sugar and. Troop's next step took him from chartering ships to building and owning them. This was a highly profitable venture as there was a wave of economic prosperity in shipping at the end of the nineteenth century. By 1890, Troop and his sons had become the Maritimes most prominent family owned shipping company. At one point they had more than 100 vessels sailing under their flag.

The flag itself measures about 60cm X 90cm (2X3 feet). It is made from one piece of silk and the colours have been dyed directly onto it. This piece does require some minor conservation as it has some areas of loss and it could use rebacking as well as additional support.

The Crown Jewel, which is the other image featured in this post, was one of the Troop vessels. If you look carefully at the flag flying at the top of the main mast, it is the same style as the one at the top of this post. This painting is also located at the O'Dell House Museum.

All for now,

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Life and Times of Joe Casey

What can you say about Joe Casey? I quite honestly ask this question since most times, anything I would like to say, Joe has already said. In some cases, he has given after dinner speeches about what I might be thinking about.

For those unfamiliar with Joe, he could probably be best described as a force of nature. He was born in Victoria Beach, Nova Scotia which is located at the end of the Granville peninsula about 29 kilometers (18 miles) from Annapolis Royal. During his life Joe has been a fisherman, a ship's pilot, served in the army and navy, a hotel owner, a fishplant owner, a Liberal member of the Nova Scotia legislature for Digby, Speaker of the House in Nova Scotia, author and a raconteur of great renown. Now, at 90 years old, Joe has published his second book. I get tired just thinking about what he has done in his life.

His new book is a entitled The Life and Times of Joe Casey (Pottersfield Press ISBN-13: 978-1-897426-02-9). In many ways this is a companion to his 1994 volume, The Wit and Wisdom of Joe Casey. Like his earlier work, this book is essentially a collection of Joe's stories and anecdotes which are presented in a very light style. Joe takes from his very impressive resume as a speaker and weaves in many humourous stories (often of questionable veracity). While these stories are usually amusing, Joe is at his best when he is writing about the actual events of his life. The book makes for fascinating reading when he relates his often harrowing experiences as a harbour pilot as well as his experiences with the Canadian Navy during World War II. His stories about munitions ships in the Bay of Fundy are enough to make you sit up and take notice sixty-five years after the fact. Joe has an insight about events and the lives of people in Annapolis and Digby counties which is a valuable contribution to the historic record.

I should stress that The Life and Times of Joe Casey makes for quite light reading. Since much of what I read on the history of Nova Scotia can be fairly tough slogging, this book is definitely a pleasant diversion. For those who are interested, this book is available in the gift shop at the O'Dell House Museum in Annapolis Royal.

All for now,