Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Down on the Corner

Today's before and after scene is one I am very familiar with. I either walk or drive past Annapolis Royal's corner of St George Street and Drury Lane many times per day. This is one of the main intersections in town. This is also the location of two of the town's main attractions, King's Theatre and the Farmer's Market. In fact, when the Farmer's Market is open on Saturday mornings from the late Spring to early Autumn, this is decidedly the busiest spot in town.

The archival picture was taken in 1929. This is an interesting image as it shows this section of town soon after its reconstruction. In 1920, a large fire burned the row of buildings which stood along the right hand side of the street. The mercahnts and residents who inhabited this part of town soon rebuilt.

King's Theatre is the large building along the right hand side of the picture. Note that there is a different roof on the theatre today. This is interesting as there are records showing that there was a dance floor on the second floor of the theatre. These records have always been somewhat confusing as the current construction of the Theatre does not have space for a second floor dance floor. This image shows that the roof of the Theatre was once quite different. The presence of a dance floor may explain the elaborate tin ceilings in the area currently used as the second floor offices at the Theatre.

The other main change to this part of town is the addition of the Farmer's Market which can almost be seen on the left hand side of the modern picture. This open air market is a gathering place for both locals and tourists.

All for now,

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Isreal and Lucretia (Croscup) Delap

I had a couple of paintings catch my eye as I was walking through the O'Dell House Museum earlier today. These paintings, in their carved mahogany frames, grace the wall in the museum's Age of Sail in Annapolis County exhibit. Like many artifacts in this exhibit, they tell a local story on first glance. By looking a bit deeper, a much wider story opens up.

Isreal Lettney Delap was born to a seafaring family in Granville in 1841. As with many boys of his time, he grew up watching ships sail into the Annapolis Basin from ports all around the globe. These ships came loaded with sugar, coal, fine china, spices and countless other items. This was the community's connection to the world. At the age of 14, a young Isreal signed on as a cabin boy and began a life-long career at sea. A talented boy, he rose quickly in the ranks of the merchant fleets until he recieved his Master Mariner's certificate in 1867. This certificate is also on display at the O'Dell House Museum. Like any important document of its time, the certificate is printed on parchment; a paper like sheet made from calf skin. The certificate is still stored in its original leather case.

For much of his career, Captain Delap sailed for the fleet of Troop and Son of Saint John, New Brunswick. As Captain, he was permitted certain priviliges which other members of the crew were not. One of these privliges was to bring his wife, Lucretia Croscup, aboard the ship when they were sailing. In this capacity, it is claimed that Lucretia made 36 trans-Atlantic crossings during her life. The log book of the barque Crown Jewel contains recipes for "White Mountain Gelley Cake and "Superior Tea Rolls" in Lucretia's own handwriting.

Lucretia Croscup is perhaps most commonly known for her depiction in the famed Croscup Painted Parlour from Karsdale, Nova Scotia. In the painting she appears as a child held in her mothers arms on the wall of the parlour nearest the fireplace. There is a much longer story to tell about the Painted Parlour but that will wait for a future post. For those who would like to see the painted parlour, it has become an installation at the National Gallery of Canada.

In 1884, the logbook of the Missletoe details a reunion between the Delaps and his brother Captain Stephen Parker Delap in Uruguay. The two vessels came alongside each other in the crowded port of Montevideo. After a joyful reunion, the families landed and had a picnic in the lush countryside.

After a year long voyage to Java and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1891, Captain Delap returned to Granville and entered the shipbuilding business. He took the first ship that he and his partners built, the Bartholdi, on her maiden voyage. It was on this trip that he caught yellow fever and died off the coast of Africa on December 24, 1891. Lucretia outlived her husband and died in 1906.

All for now,

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hats Off

For those of you who do not live around Annapolis Royal, I am posting a few more images to show the progress on the Troop Barn. Today is the first day that I have been out to the barn and the cupola has been off of the building. I am always amazed at how large a cupola is when it is on the ground. At the top of a building they do not look very big. On the ground, the cupola was well over 6 feet (1.8meters) across.

I can not offer much more in the realm of detail as to what will become of the barn. The story which is being repeated around town is that the frame is indeed moving to the south shore of the province. At this point, I really can not confirm or deny this story. I hope that there is some truth to the story as moving to a new home in Nova Scotia is better than being hauled off to the landfill or being hauled out of the province.

All for now,

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thanking our Volunteers

Last night I attended the annual Volunteer Appreciation Week reception at King's Theatre. Working in a largely volunteer run organization, I get to see the importance of volunteers on a daily basis. Without these generous people, organizations like the Annapolis Heritage Society simply cannot function. These are the people who bake cookies, sit on committees, help researchers, accession artifacts, paint walls, act as board members, organize events, present school programs, and on and on and on.

What I enjoy about the reception at the theatre is that it puts the importance of volunteers in this community into perspective. It is humbling to listen to the stories about the years of commitment that these people have offered. More than any place I have ever lived, the Annapolis Royal region has a volunteer culture. We are able to maintain a high quality of life in this community because people are willing to give their time and talents. Whether it is organizations like the AHS, service groups like the Lions, the Health Foundation, sports teams, church groups or countless other activities, volunteers make our community a worthwhile place to live.

The following blurb was submitted by the AHS for our 2009 Volunteer of the Year Perry Slauenwhite. The image is of Perry recieving his award from Annapolis Royal's Mayor Phil Roberts. Thank you Perry and thank you to all of the volunteers who make our community work.

"It is almost impossible to think of a better natured volunteer than Perry Slauenwhite. What is even more amazing is that he cheerfuly takes on tasks which would send other people running. Perry has now been volunteering at North Hills Museum for four years. During this time he has always been willing to help with physical work around the property. Whether he has been asked to prepare and mulch the gardens, cut bushes, edge a path or help to remove fallen branches, Perry is always up to the task.When the museum is hosting events, Perry is inevitably one of the first people on site and one of the last to leave. This means that he is usually setting up tents or hauling chairs and tables. It is this sort of behind the scenes help that allows events and programs to run smoothly. All of this volunteer effort is given with unfailing good humour. For his many contributions, the Annapolis Heritage Society is proud to nominate Perry Slauenwhite as its 2009 Volunteer of the Year."

All for now,

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Taking our Show on the Road

Over the next two weekends I am going to be hitting the road with stories about everything that heritage tourism has to offer in Annapolis Royal. This weekend (April 24 - 25, 2009), I will be part of the Annapolis Attractions booth at the Saltscapes Expo in Halifax. The show is open on Sunday the 26th as well but someone else will be at the booth that day. This will be my first time at the Saltscapes Expo so I am looking forward to what everyone tells me is a very busy show. The next weekend (May 1-3), I will be at the Blooms By the Sea show in Yarmouth. Once again, I will be working with the other attractions in Annapolis Royal to let people know about our community and all of its cultural assets. If you are attending either of these shows, please feel free to drop by the Annapolis Royal booth to say hello. I may even write a blog post from the floor of the trade show if I have the opportunity.

Today's image is from the Annapolis Heritage Society's archival collection. This is an image of the members of the Annapolis Royal Tennis Club taken about 1925. The tennis courts were located near the area where Champlain Drive and School Street meet.

All for now,

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dykes and Aboiteau

I took a walk with my family the other day. We decided that this would be our first visit of the season to the Historic Gardens in Annapolis Royal. I am a big fan of the Gardens and the role that they play within our community. There are many heritage stories to be told in our region and they have a very innovative way of communicating heritage messages. We were enjoying our visit and we decided that we would extend our visit by taking a trip around the dyke walk.

The Annapolis Royal region, as with other areas around the Bay of Fundy settled by Acadians, is home to a unique style of agriculture. When the French returned to settle Port Royal in 1636, they immediately recognized that they had a very rich agricultural resource in the local salt marshes. The problem was how to make use of these marshes. Locally, we have about 8.8 meters (29 feet) of tide. Logistically, what this means is that a marsh which is dry for half of the day will be deep under water for the rest of the day. To use these fields the Acadians needed to find a way to keep the water off the marshes. Their solution was to employ a system of dykes which would hold back the waters of the bay. The creation of the dykes was a massive community project on the part of the Acadians. Working in teams, they would build a wooden framework and stack sod until the dyke was higher than the level of the tide. In this way they could start to reclaim land.

The next problem that they encountered was that they needed to be able to drain both fresh and salt water from the upland side of the dyke. For this, an ingenius device called an aboiteau was created. Unless you are familiar with the term, you are probably now wondering what an aboiteau is. An aboiteau was essentially a hollow log which was embedded at the bottom of the dyke. The log was fitted with a clapper valve which would allow water to run freely off of the marsh during low tide. At high tide the pressure of the water would cause the clapper to close and salt water would be prevented from pouring onto the field. With this equipment, the Acadians could drain their fields and cleanse them of their salt residue. It took about three years to clear all of the salt from the reclaimed fields. If you are interested in seeing the remains of an actual Acadian aboiteau, North Hills Museum in Granville Ferry has one found at the Melanson Settlement on display.

As with the dyke at the Historic Gardens, there are still many dykes around the Bay of Fundy. While these make an appealing place to take a walk, the farmers who maintain the dykes discourage their use as trails. If you have the desire to walk along a dyke, the Historic Gardens will be happy to provide a venue.

All for now,

Monday, April 20, 2009

Writer's Workshop with Charlotte Gray

For all of you aspiring writers, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This Spring, North Hills Museum in Granville Ferry will be hosting a three day writer's workshop featuring Charlotte Gray. Those of us associated with the museum are very excited about this announcement. Charlotte Gray is one of Canada's most respected non-fiction writers. Her writing presents complex historical personalities and events in a clear and readable form. We are thrilled to have a writer of this caliber coming to our site.

This is the second year for writer's workshops at North Hills Museum. Last year we had a very successful launch to this program when we hosted award winning novelist Donna Morrissey. We hope that this year's participants learn and have as much fun as last year's did.

To whet your non fiction writing appetite, the following is Charlotte Gray's official biographical blurb.

"Charlotte Gray is one of Canada’s best-known and highly respected non-fiction writers. Her most recent book is Nellie McClung, a short biography of Canada’s leading women’s rights activist in the Penguin Series, Extraordinary Canadians. Her 2006 bestseller, Reluctant Genius: The Passionate Life and Inventive Mind of Alexander Graham Bell, won the Donald Creighton Award for Ontario History and the City of Ottawa Book Award. It was also nominated for the Nereus Writers’ Trust Non-Fiction Prize, the National Business Book Award and the Trillium Award. Her previous five books, which include Sisters in the Wilderness, The Lives of Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill, Flint & Feather, The Life and Times of E. Pauline Johnson and A Museum Called Canada, were all award-winning bestsellers. In 2004 Charlotte was the advocate for Sir John A. Macdonald in the CBC series: The Greatest Canadian.

Charlotte was born in England, and came to Canada in 1979. She holds a BA in Modern History from Oxford University, did post-graduate work at the London School of Economics and has honorary doctorates from Mount St. Vincent University, Nova Scotia, the University of Ottawa, Queen’s University and York University. An Adjunct Research Professor in the Department of History at Carleton University, she is the 2003 Recipient of the Pierre Berton Award for distinguished achievement in popularizing Canadian history, and vice-chair of the board of the Canadian National History Society. Charlotte lives in Ottawa, has three sons and is a member of the Order of Canada."

The workshop will be held at North Hills Museum and will run from June 12-14. The cost of $200 per person includes lunches and nutrition breaks. For anyone interested in registering for the workshop, please email for the site at or call 902-532-2168. Please remember that space is very limited for this event.

All for now,

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I received a phone call about the Troop barn this afternoon. I have been expecting a phone call about this octagonal barn for some time. The call I was expecting was going to tell me that the building had fallen down. In a perfect world, the phone call was going to tell me that someone had purchased the property and they were going to restore the building. I was not expecting a call to tell me that the building was being torn down.

This is why heritage designation is important. This building has recently been deregistered by the County as well as the Province. As such, there was absolutely no protection for it. While designation does provide some protection, the other side of the equation is that buildings need to be maintained. This building was not being maintained.

I have heard (second hand information) that the framework is to be disassembled and taken to somewhere on the South Shore of the province. I do not know if this is true. Unfortunately, the importance of the barn is its context. It was built in Granville Center. Since 1888 this building has graced the landscape in this community. Generations of the Troop family have used this barn while toiling to make a living off the land in the Annapolis Valley. While its history tells an international story, Its individual story and its human connections are here. Reassembled elsewhere, the barn is a hollow shell devoid of its history.

Perhaps a new start is the best thing for the Troop Barn. Despite a great deal of effort and endless discussions, there did not seem to be anyone locally who was willing to step in to save the building. This is a better option than having the barn collapse. Emotionally, this does not feel like a better option. To say that I am crestfallen to see this barn being taken down is an understatement. This is another lost piece of our heritage.

All for now,

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Acadian Cemetery

The Annapolis Heritage Society's genealogy centre is an interesting venue. Encounters with tourists can often be of the pleasant but short variety. We exchange a few stories, tell visitors something about our community, hopefully have a couple of chuckles and go our separate ways. In the best of these tourist encounters, the visitor will become a regular and you will have the chance to further develop a relationship. Genealogical tourists are different.

I can usually pick out who the genealogists are as they get out of their car. No, genealogists do not have a particular aura. They are usually the visitors who come bearing mounds of paper and a laptop computer. By the nature of their visit, we need to very quickly get into their personal information. We need to discover who they are looking for, when they lived in this area and what the researcher wants to know about them. When we begin our searches, we are often into very personal information within the first five minutes of their visit. This can make working with genealogists very fulfilling as well as very frustrating. I have seen grown men well up with tears when they discovered releatives they have been searching years to find. I have equally felt their frustration when their highly anticipated serach proves to be yet another dead end.

There is one request in particular which brings out this frustration. During our visitor season, I am asked two to three times per week where people can go to see the early Acadian tombstones. This is seemingly a sensible request. The Acadians lived, died and were buried in this area. They must have tombstones. Sadly, they do not.

The oldest tombstone in Nova Scotia is located in the Garrison Cemetery in Annapolis Royal. This is the stone of an English woman named Bathiah Douglass who died in 1720. Before this time, the tradition was to mark graves with a wooden cross. Left to the elements, wood will rot and deteriorate over the course of 300 years. As such, all of the early Acadian graves in and around our community are unmarked. We know where most of the cemeteries are located. Many of these cemeteries continued on as active cemeteries after the Acadian deportationin 1755. An excellent example of this continued use is the previously mentioned Garrison Cemetery. This is the cemetery which is featured in the photographs in this post. This cemetery contains approximately 200 tombstones. It is believed that there are over 2000 people who are buried here. Somewhere in the range of 10% of the people have stones. The two photographs show an area with mature trees and few stones. It is in this area that the Acadians were buried.

This lack of tombstones does not mean that it is fruitless to do research on your Acadian ancestors. There are some wonderful resources available on these families. The Annapolis Royal region is also interesting as many of the landscapes still appear as they would have when the Acadians lived here.

All for now

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Archaeology in the Classroom

I made a presentation to one of the grade 9 classes at the local high school (AWEC) today. While it can be tough to get a lot of enthusiasm from grade 9s, they were a pretty good group. From my perspective, I enjoy giving this presentation as it gives me a chance to talk about archaeology in the Annapolis Royal region. We have such rich archaeological resources in this area that I feel that all local residents should at least have an understanding of what we are living with.

The presentation was essentially divided into two segments. In the first portion of the class we looked at some of the archaeological digs which have happened around Annapolis Royal. The first dig which was documented with photographs was done at the Port Royal Habitation in 1938. The image at the top of this post is from that dig. Note the use of full sized shovels rather than trowels, dental tools and brushes. The second part of the class involved giving the students a chance to work as archaeologists by using one of our "dig boxes". These boxes are built with painted layers of foam and embedded artifacts to represent items found in this region. The students dig through the layers and trace what they find.

In a North American context, the Annapolis Royal region has unsurpassed archaeological resources. Around the town we have thousands of years worth of pre-contact aboriginal sites as well as early French, Acadian, Scottish, and English material. This region has seen warfare and conflict as the European powers sought to control North America. Various economies have developed, flourished and vanished. All of these activities have left material traces in the ground.

The images in this post are a small sampling of the digs which have been done in the area. I have borrowed the second and third images (Melanson Settlement in 1984 and Bellisle in 2005) from Dr. Marc LaVoie from Universite St Anne. The fourth image comes from Dr. Niki Clark from one of her digs at the Sinclair Inn Museum. This image shows some of the material found at just one level of a pit. The fifth image shows a wall found at Fort Anne by Parks Canada archaeologist Charles Burke in 2006. This was an exciting find since there was no prior knowledge that a wall would be found in this location. The final image was taken at the deGannes-Cosby House in 2007. There is a huge contrast between the work shown in this picture and the work in the 1938 picture. I was at this dig in 2007 and I can promise that I did not see a single pick-axe being used.

All for now,

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jack the Monkey

I was going to hold off for a while in posting something on Jack the Monkey, but he seems to have found a following. I have had a few emailed questions relating to my previous post so, I figured that it was probably timely to write something about Jack.

Jack was a monkey who was probably of South American or Caribbean origin. His presence in Annapolis Royal is a testament to this community's role as a shipping port. From the beginning of the Golden Age of Sail in the 1850s to the beginning of the First World War, Annapolis Royal had a very active waterfront. From shipbuilding and rigging to loading and unloading merchandise, there was always something going on on the waterfront. Vessels leaving this port literally spread across the globe. Returning vessels brought with them a wide variety of goods from exotic ports. Jack would have come to Annapolis on one of these returning vessels. An image of Jack that I did not know about until today can be seen on the Nova Scotia Archives website

Jack must have been quite the attraction for Bill Edwards. There were at least two separate articles (including an obituary) published about Jack in the Annapolis Spectator. Here are the articles.

"Annapolis Spectator, Thursday, July 16, 1914

Bill Edwards’ monkey is taking a hand in the political game, and seems to be an ardent Tory, for while he treats the Herald with every respect, he cannot stand the Morning Chronicle and tears it up whenever he gets the chance."

"Annapolis Spectator, Thursday, October 7, 1915


When WH Edwards with his monkey on the jib boom of his automobile started for Yarmouth on a sunny morning a day or two ago he was ignorant of the dark thick clouds of grief which were to obscure his particular path of firmament before night.

All day Bill and the monkey enjoyed themselves at the exhibition, the monkey especially being in high fettle on account of a toy balloon which his master has kindly bought for him. But after poor Jack again mounted the car to return home, and it had to in motion, by some mistake he slipped and fell, the car passed over him, and he was no more.

Bill was much upset by the shock of losing his little favorite, but he picked up the poor little body and it is rumored that Jack will be stuffed and will again be an ornament to the office."

Alas, after dabbling in politics poor Jack met with a sad and untimely demise. While the death was horribly sad (no monkey car seats I guess) I do admire the writing style of the article. As the second article mentions, Jack was indeed stuffed and hung in the window of the Farmers Hotel (Sinclair Inn Museum). If you look in the top left pane in the top image, you can make out the faint form of a monkey hanging in the window. While the original stuffed monkey has long since vanished, there was a modern incarnation of Jack which hung in the Sinclair Inn Museum window until last year. This monkey has now also departed.

All for now,


Monday, April 13, 2009

Hello Bill

In the 1920s, a gentleman named Bill Edwards was the owner of the Farmer's Hotel in Annapolis Royal. This building, now known as the Sinclair Inn Museum, has seen some interesting owners in its 300 year existence; perhaps none more so than Mr. Edwards.

Bill Edwards was a promoter who attempted various schemes to attract business to his inn. For a time, the front corner of the building had a chalk board where Bill would write daily bits of wisdom. These postings were known as "Morning Milk" and included doggerel, witticisms, and other random bits of information. Think of it as a 1920s version of Twitter. These postings became quite the attraction among locals and all those who were interested in sitting on a bench along St. George Street.

One of his other endeavors was to teach a horse to shake hands. It is this activity which is featured on a post card alternatively known as "Hello Bill" and "Bye-bye Bill". This is an interesting image as it was taken at a time when the horse and carriage were being replaced by the automobile. Perhaps this is why people often ask if the horse was attacking the car.

Among the other animals Edwards owned was a monkey named Jack. If you look closely, Jack the monkey can be seen sitting on the hood of the car. There is an interesting story about Jack but this will need to wait for a future post. This image was taken in the area beside the Sinclair Inn Museum which is now a boardwalk and raised planting bed. The tail end of the carriage would be located in the parking lot beside the museum.

All for now,

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Easter Tree

One of the primary functions of heritage is to maintain traditions. This is not always the direct aim of heritage activities but by preserving material culture, telling stories, singing songs and undertaking research, we can keep the framework for maintaining traditions alive. These traditions are important because they keep us in touch with who we are as humans but they can also keep us in touch with who we are as individuals. Traditions need not be grand civic events like Annapolis Royal’s annual Natal Day festivities (one of my favorite community events). Sometimes, events shared within the family are every bit as important.

In that spirit I present the Easter tree. Last year our son decided that he wanted to decorate an Easter tree. He must have still had visions of Christmas running through his head. After a bit of thought, we decided that coloured eggs and pussy willows would work perfectly as an Easter tree. I am sure that this is not the first time that the egg - pussy willow combination has been used, but it has started a family tradition.

Heritage is a fragile thing. Sometimes a great deal of effort is put into preserving the things that we can see and touch. While this is a very worthwhile effort, the intangible bits of heritage are often overlooked. It is important to take the time to preserve the things which add context to our material world.

All for now,

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Cake

I made a decision the other day. If I am going to keep posting recipes from Fannie O’Dell’s 1888 recipe book, I should actually try a few of the recipes. I had this resource at my finger tips; why not make use of it? So, with this being Easter weekend, I decided to try out the Easter cake that I posted earlier in the week. I quickly learned that this was a useful exercise as it gave me a bit of time to reflect on the recipes as Fannie had written them.

I have often mentioned that Fannie included no baking instructions. I had originally surmised that this was because she was an accomplished baker and didn’t feel that this was needed information. While this may be true, I amended this theory when I had the time to think about how Fannie was baking. In the late 1880s the O’Dells would have been using a wood fired stove for all of the family needs. While these stoves provide wonderful heat, they are tricky to use because they heat according the quality and quantity of wood used. It would have been pointless for her to include information like “bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes” because there was no way of telling the temperature of the stove. As a student I worked for a couple of summers as an interpreter in a historic village. For some of this time I worked as a baker. Using a wood fired oven, our only way to gauge the temperature was to hold your hand in the oven. If you could hold it in to the elbow for seven seconds it was about 375-400 degrees. Fannie would have had similar methods.

As for the cake itself, I did learn a few things about this recipe. I learned that my assumption that the raisins and currents should be soaked in the brandy was wrong. Since the recipe calls for 3 cups of flour, every bit of liquid is needed to mix the batter. I even ended up adding some extra brandy so I could stir in the last of the flour. I was worried that the cake would have a strong alcohol flavor but, in the end, the cake almost had a light butterscotch with overtones of brandy taste.

Another decision that I would revise is to bake the cake in a bundt pan. For a batter this thick I would have been better to bake it in a sheet pan. The cake was getting a bit toasty on the outside before it was cooked on the inside.

Finally, I decided to go with a light glaze rather than Fannie’s instruction that the cake be “iced profusely”. My logic was that the cake was already fairly heavy and that a “profuse” icing was going to be too much for my family.

On the whole I think that this was a fairly successful experiment. I was able to revive a recipe, learn a bit more about the context of the recipe book and I got to eat some cake.

All for now,

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Nova Scotia Pony Express

The Annapolis Royal region has a strange and somewhat unknown history in the development of international, trans-Atlantic communications. Yes, the i-phone can trace part of its development to this part of the world, but this is not what I am talking about. This story takes place a long time before the i-phone was ever imagined.

In 1849, a group of New York City newspapers banded together to form a new enterprise. The mandate of this new organization was to get the news of the day from London to New York faster. This group appropriately called themselves the Associated Press. Even to a newspaper in 1849, it was worth a significant amount of effort to get their stories faster. To do this, the company would make use of ships owned by the Cunard Steamship Lines. Cunard, the company founded by Nova Scotian Samuel Cunard, was the first shipping company to offer regularly scheduled trans-Atlantic crossings. The regularity of this service permitted the organization of an information relay which seems very strange today.

When the ship arrived in Halifax, the first package to be taken off was the news from London. A horse and rider were immediately dispatched. It didn’t matter what the time of day was nor the weather, the news had to move. The route of the first rider would take him from Halifax across the Nova Scotia peninsula to Kentville. Every 20km (about 12 miles) the rider would blow a horn to alert a stable of his impending arrival. When the rider arrived at the stable he leapt from the horse and waited as a fresh mount was saddled. Legend has it that the riders would dance madly trying to get circulation back into their legs as stable hands worked on the horses. As soon as the horse was saddled, the rider was off again.

When the rider arrived in Kentville, another rider took over. Those of you who are familiar with the history of the Annapolis Heritage Society’s O’Dell House Museum will know that this second rider was Corey O’Dell. His route took him from Kentville to the small community of Victoria Beach which is located at the Digby Gut. From here the news was loaded onto a steam ship bound for Saint John, New Brunswick. When the ship arrived the news was cabled to New York via Bangor, Maine and Boston. In terms of saving time, the news arrived an average of 36 hours earlier than it would have if the ship had sailed directly to New York.

Various stories of the feats of Pony Express riders still exist. One story tells how on a foggy night in Berwick a rider only learned that a bridge was out when his horse landed safely on the other side. Another story tells how a rider rode into the Entertainment House in Granville Ferry at full gallop, grabbed a drink with one hand and rode out the door on the other side of the building. While these are interesting stories, they are probably more legend than fact.

The horse relay across Nova Scotia took an average of eight hours. To put this into context, today it would take at least 2 ½ hours to drive from Halifax to Victoria Beach in a car. As for the Pony Express itself, this service was halted about nine months after it started. At that time, the telegraph cable across Nova Scotia was completed and the riders went to find other work. Corey O’Dell eventually opened an inn and tavern on the waterfront in Annapolis Royal. To commemorate the Nova Scotia Pony Express, the Government of Canada has placed a National Historic Site monument in Victoria Beach. The plaque on this monument is the image at the top of this post.
All for now,

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fannie's Recipes part 6

I noticed Fannie O'Dell's 1888 handwritten recipe book as I was moving some archival papers today. For those of you who have not seen any of my previous posts on this gem of a book, please take a look at the Fannie's Recipes button on the side of the page. Since it has been a while since I posted anything from this book, I decided to open it up to see if something jumped out at me. Appropriately for this time of year, a recipe jumped out at me almost in Easter Bunny fashion. The very first page I opened had a recipe for Easter Cake.

As usual, there are no baking instructions. I am going to suggest that the brandy should probably be used to soak the raisins and currants before adding them to the mixture. This seems to be a logical assumption. In a positive turn of events, Fannie has given us some decorating tips this time. The recipe calls for the cake to be iced "profusely". I am not exactly sure what she means by "profusely" in this context but, I guess that the icing should be fairly thick. I also like the addition of "walnuts laid in rows".

Today's image was taken on a recent walk through the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens.

Easter Cake
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
4 eggs
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 glass brandy
1 cup raisins
1 cup currants
1 cup hickory nuts

baked and iced profusely
decorated with walnuts laid in rows

All for now,

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Opening Day

Today is a big day for me. It may seem inconsequential to many but, today is opening day for the 2009 baseball season. Despite all of the steroid scandals, I can still get excited about the start of a new baseball season. It is something about opening day that fills me with hope. Spring is here, the warmer weather is coming, baseball is back. Hey, I may even see Red Sox vs. Cubs in the World Series this year. It could happen....

Now, to tie this back around to Annapolis Royal history. We have historically had numerous baseball teams in town but, I am going to go a bit further back for today's image. The attached image shows one of the ancestors of baseball being played on the parade square at Fort Anne. This game of cricket took place circa 1905. The fact that cricket was being played shows that the community still had strong leanings toward Britain at this time. To show the evolution of culture through sport, fifty years later all of the children would have been playing baseball. Today, in our ever globalizing world, soccer is by far the most popular summer sport locally.

All for now,

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Seafaring Maiden of Granville

I took the opportunity yesterday to catch up on the Bay of Fundy Blog. For anyone who is interested in life on, around or under the Bay of Fundy, this is an excellent blog. Among the posts that Terri has made recently was a memorial to Captain Molly Kool of Alma, New Brunswick. 70 years ago Captain Kool became the first female registered sea Captain in North America. This post got me thinking about the story of another woman from the Bay of Fundy who ended up acting as the Captain of a ship in 1870.

As a young girl, Elizabeth (Bessie) Pritchard Hall had made many trips with her father, Captain Joseph Hall of Granville Ferry. Bessie and Captain Hall are in the image at the top of this post. During the Age of Sail, it was not uncommon for the families of sea Captains to accompany them on extended voyages. Obviously, this was more common in merchant vessels than in the navy. This practice permitted the Captain to maintain some of his family life and allowed family members to see the world. A child who paid attention would eventually learn how the ship was handled and some basic navigational skills.

On March 24, 1870 Captain Hall and his twenty year old daughter were aboard the 1444 ton full-rigged ship Rothesay preparing to leave New Orleans, Louisiana. In addition the being Captain, Hall was a part owner of the vessel. They were bound for Liverpool, England with a cargo of cotton. As often happened, the ship had spent a long lay-over in port and a large portion of the crew had deserted. Although the ship was working with an undermanned crew of only six men in addition the the Captain, First Mate and carpenter, they set sail anyway. As the ship rounded the tip of Florida and entered the Gulf Stream, the First Mate and Captain both came down with smallpox. Before taking to his bunk, Captain Hall appointed his daughter Captain and promoted the 72 year old carpenter to First Mate.

With the help of the remaining crew, "Captain Bessie" spent the next 12 days tossed in a storm between Florida and Newfoundland. In addition to acting as master, Bessie stood a regular watch from 8pm to 2am. When the weather cleared, they plotted a course for Cape Clear, Ireland with their storm sails set. On May 12, with the ship given up for lost, they arrived in Liverpool. A voyage which should have taken 30 days was stretched into 49.

Elizabeth Pritchard Hall of Granville Ferry is reputedly the first woman to captain a ship across the Atlantic Ocean. Locally, she has come to be known as "The Seafaring Maiden of Granville". At the age of 21, Bessie gave up her life at sea and returned to Granville Ferry where she married and raised a family. In an interesting twist, the Hall family home in Granville Ferry, the house featured in this post, was purchased by a descendant of the family a few years ago. The house is now being operated as a bed and breakfast called A Seafaring Maiden. I am sure that Bessie would be proud.

All for now,

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Humidification Chamber

Last week I wrote a post about an archival collection which was recently donated to the Annapolis Heritage Society. We have now had a little bit of time to start digging (not literally but almost) through this material and I am still very excited. There are a about three banker's boxes full of documents which date between 1763 and 1890. The vast majority of these documents were written between 1800 and 1830. The collection includes journals, ledgers, debit slips, letters and various other manuscript documents. This is very exciting since it is a wonderfully detailed chronicle of what was happening in one particular part of the community.

Sadly, some of the documents are in very poor condition. This is not surprising considering that they had been stored in an attic for years. The document at the top, a letter written to Darby Cronin in 1806, is an excellent example. The holes are actually areas where a mouse has chewed on the letter. At the bottom is a dark stain known as a tide mark. These are caused when a section of piece of paper gets wet. By the nature of the paper, the water will start to move through the document. As the water moves, it picks up the surface dirt and brings it along for the ride. When the water dries, it leaves a dark stain or tide mark. On top of these problems, the document has been folded and somewhat crumpled for the better part of the last 200 years.

What do we do with such a document? Is there a way to do this economically? Today's post will show the various steps we go through to clean and flatten such a document. The first step in any conservation work with sheets of paper is to dry clean the document. In the top image we can see a dry cleaning pad. This is essentially a mesh bag filled with powdered eraser (you can also buy loose powdered eraser by the tube). Using small circles, the pad is rubbed over the entire surface of the document. This will remove any loose dirt which could potentially cause stains. When dry cleaning, I am always careful not to rub dirt from one area into an area which has already been cleaned.

The next step is to test the ink to see if it is colourfast. The last thing you want to do is treat your paper and end up with a blank piece of paper at the end because the ink has bled away. Place a very small drop of water on the page and quickly place a piece of blotting paper on top of it to remove the water. If the ink is secure, you will not see anything on the blotting paper. If you see ink on the blotting paper, do not move to the next step. That step is to build a humidification chamber. I'll admit it, I adore the term humidification chamber. It gives me visions of some medieval torture device. In reality, it is a shallow plastic tub with a lid as seen in images 2 and 3. In our case, this is an inexpensive tub from the local hardware store. In image 2 I have placed a small, elevated plastic tray in the bottom of the tub. This tray allows me to keep the document out of the water when it is poured in the bottom of the tub. This is a crucial step since the last thing you want to do is get the document into the water. While I am setting up the chamber, I put a kettle on to boil (if all else fails, I can have a cup of tea). When the water is hot, it is poured into the tub, the document is set on top of the tray and the lid is placed lightly on the tub.

The document only spends a couple of minutes in the humidification chamber. You don't want the paper saturated just relaxed. Almost immediately the paper will curl upward and then start to relax into a flat position on the tray. When it has relaxed, the document is quickly removed and placed between two sheets of blotting paper. The blotting paper will help to remove any moisture on the surface while the paper dries. For the drying itself, the blotting paper sandwich is placed between two sheets of glass as shown in image 4. The glass prevents the documents from curling while they dry. I am using fairly heavy sheets of glass so I have not added any extra weight to the top of the glass. It is critical to make sure that all of the folds are flattened before the document goes under the glass. if they are not, they will be more difficult to remove in future. The documents will now stay under the glass for at least 24 hours.

When I take them out tomorrow, I will use the back of my hand to see if the paper feels cool. If it is cool, it is still damp and should go back under the glass. Image 5 shows some of the documents that I worked on yesterday. As a comparison, these were in similar condition to the document shown in the image at the top of this post. As I move along with this collection, I will try to make posts on some of the other conservation treatments which are needed.

All for now,