Sunday, June 28, 2009

Summer Bride

The official opening of our new Summer Bride exhibit was held yesterday afternoon at the O’Dell House Museum. Summer Bride showcases dresses worn by Annapolis County brides over the past 130 years. Where possible, we have tried to present some of the story of the couple as well as the fashion and social context for the dress. This exhibit has has given us the opportunity to display some of our archival resources related to weddings. Some of these documents have never been on public display before.

Part of the 1870s section of the museum has been decorated to represent a house preparing for a wedding. Thanks to the decorating talents of Garry Freeman and the floral arrangements of Ian Lawrence, the O’Dell House has a decidedly festive feeling. White ribbons and flowers can really enliven a space. In the past when we have tried to bring the theme of one of our temporary exhibits into the ongoing operations of the historic section of the museum it has been very successful. By changing the face of the museum without compromising the integrity of the historic interpretation, we are giving visitors a reason to come back to the museum.

The opening was a very nice event with crust-less sandwiches, lemonade and cake served at the end. While part of me thinks that crust-less sandwiches are silly, I appreciate that they are traditional reception fare. Those in attendance were particularly impressed with Carrie Murray, one of our summer guides, who graciously agreed to wear a wedding dress to the event. Carrie added a great deal of personality to the opening.

Summer Bride will run at the O’Dell House Museum until the end of August. As I have written before, this is not a exhibit to miss if you are planning a wedding in the next year.

All for now,

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Different Kind of Visitor

One of the nice things about living in the Annapolis Royal region is that we get to share our community with nature. From where I work at the O’Dell House Museum, I have been able to see bald eagles, white tailed deer, foxes, a wide variety of sea ducks and even porpoise. Today, I had a new type of visitor.

When I arrived at the museum today, I quickly made a trip to the Farmers Market to get some supplies for the opening of our Summer Bride Exhibit. When I came back to the museum, I met one of our volunteers who asked me if I had seen the owl yet. I was led to the back of the property where a juvenile great horned owl was perched in a poplar tree. Apparently one of our neighbours had woken up to the sound of crows fussing about some sort of intruder. When he got up to see what was upsetting them he saw the owl. After a bit of debate and a bit of online searching (my bird field guides are usually kept at home) we decided that it was a juvenile great horned.

The owl actually spent most of the day sitting in the poplar trees at the back of the museum. Since owls are nocturnal he was probably trying to get a bit of sleep. Sadly to other birds were not giving him much help. When he got tired of being harassed by the crows and grackles he would fly to another branch where he could rest for about five minutes before he was pestered again. I hope that he was able to get enough sleep that he will come back to the museum again.

All for now,

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dress Rehersal

Years ago I read a novel written by the Canadian author Robertson Davies. Now, I have read many of Davies’ novels, quite often written in trilogy form, so the particular title and the particular trilogy elude me at the moment. The story itself was set behind the scenes in a drama company. The book was filled with Davies’ usual assortment of interesting, if somewhat damaged, characters, and went into great depth in describing the process of mounting the production. I can remember thinking that the book must be overblown. The personalities could not be that large, the off stage drama not that great.

I am just arrived home after the dress rehearsal for the Annapolis Heritage Society’s play Washing Soldiers 1797. While our off stage drama is not nearly as large as the novel, I am sure that Davies would recognize our process and personalities. I have decided that Davies may have been exaggerating for dramatic purposes but, he had a great understanding of how things work off stage. I am at least doing my best to live up to the somewhat damaged character label. I am sure that Writer - Director Kent Thompson, and various other members of the cast would also gleefully step up to the label.

In all honesty, it was a good rehearsal tonight. People were hitting their cues, remembering the words to the songs and seemingly enjoying themselves. We even tried out a few new tricks tonight to keep people who have seen the play last year on their toes. One of the tricks was so new that some members of the cast did not even know about it.

If you would like to see a bit of Annapolis Royal’s history turned gently on its ear, Washing Soldiers 1797 will take place on June 25, 26 and July 24, 25 and 31. All performances start at 7:00pm at the Annapolis Royal Farmer’s Market Square.

All for now,

Monday, June 22, 2009

A new season for Washing Soldiers 1797

In the British Army of the eighteenth century, a very limited number of wives were allowed to accompany their husbands when they were sent to foreign posts. Before the regiment shipped out, the wives gathered around to take part in a draw to see who would go. The unlucky would pull a card which read “not to go”. For a lucky few the card read “to go”. When they arrived at their posting, conditions were usually very poor for the chosen wives. Little privacy, little female companionship and poor rations were usually their lot. To make matters worse, if your husband died, a woman had 48 hours to find a new husband. If she did not, she and her children were taken off rations and thrown out of the compound.

This scenario gives us the background for the Annapolis Heritage Society’s popular play Washing Soldiers 1797 which is now beginning its second season. When her husband died, Molly was thrown out of the Fort. To make her way in the world, Molly chooses to open a bath house so that she can provide a service to the soldiers at Fort Anne. As Molly says, “I wash soldiers for a living and I love my job indeed. I wash soldiers for a living and fulfill their every need”. Throw in a visit from the Duke of Kent, a rampaging herd of bears, the controversial parentage of one of our most prominent citizens, and some very catchy songs and you have an audience pleasing historical comedy.

Writer and Director Kent Thompson, has loosely based the play on actual historical events which took place in Annapolis Royal. But, please do not confuse this with a serious historical drama. The moments of historical truth are broken up with a great deal of levity and a heavy dose of irreverence. Think of Washing Soldiers 1797 as Rowan Atkinson’s Blackaddar come to Annapolis Royal.

This summer Washing Soldiers 1797 will be held at the Farmers Market Square in Annapolis Royal on June 25, 26 and July 24, 25 and 31. The show starts at 7:00pm and there is no charge (hint, you may be asked for a donation). At intermission we will be serving apple cider courtesy of Ye Olde Towne Pub and there will be pastries made by the German Bakery for sale. If you are interested, there will also be soldier soap as well as Washing Soldiers 1797 t-shirts and CDs for sale.

All for now,

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Launching the Beechland

When the Beechland was launched in 1917, Nova Scotia’s Golden Age of Sail was quickly coming to its end. The provincial economy which had thrived on shipbuilding, and the export and import of goods was about to enter a period of extended economic stagnation. Propeller driven vessels made of steel were quickly relegating wooden sailing ships to the pages of history. This was especially hard on the large, square rigged, sailing vessels. As a result, many of the small shipyards around the province were closing.

In 1916 the Annapolis Shipping Company was formed by Frank W. Pickels. Building on a family legacy in the shipping and shipbuilding industry, Pickels decided to make an attempt at building wooden vessels. Making use of the former Delap Shipyard on Hog Island, Pickels and his master builder L.D. Shafner, built some of the last sailing vessels to be launched in Annapolis Royal. The shipyard itself was located on the Annapolis Royal waterfront beyond the Land’s End corner of St. George Street.

Included in the vessels built by the Annapolis Shipping Company were the sister ships Peaceland, Beechland and Mapleland. All three of these vessels were three masted or tern schooners. This style of ship had its peak of popularity around the turn of the twentieth century since it was ideally suited to the inshore fishery. Loaded with a crew of dory fishermen, tern schooners could make their way to the fishing banks, quickly fill their hold and make for the nearest port with their catch. These vessels were also very useful in packet service, a sideline which proved useful between fishing trips. A schooner could be loaded with a cargo and quickly make its way between ports along the Atlantic coast. From coal oil and lumber to fish and salt, these boats were quite useful.

Today’s image shows the launch of the Beechland, 419 tons, in 1917. This vessel was sold to Thomas Hartling of Montreal with the plan to send the ship to business associates in Spain. Renamed the Klosofi and later Club Nautico, she was kept in service until 1947.

All for now,

Friday, June 19, 2009

Encampment at North Hills Museum

After the beginning of the Acadian deportation in 1755, there was a twenty year period when the British Crown made efforts to re-populate Nova Scotia with new settlers. Among these settlers were the New England Planters who came to receive grants of land. Another group of settlers were desireable because of their Protestant faith (the Roman Catholic faith of the Acadians had been an ongoing cause of friction with the British). These settlers included some Ulster Scots, Germans and Swiss. Many of the decsendants of the Germans and Swiss settled in Lunenburg County, on the south shore of the province, comprise Nova Scotia's Dutch (a corruption of the German Deutsch) community today.

This Saturday (June 20th) at North Hills Museum, 5065 Granville Road, Granville Ferry, the Atlantic Living Heritage Association will be bringing some of the history of the foreign Protestants to life. This group will be holding a historic encampment on the museum property. In this encampment, they will replicate many of the fashions, cooking methods and pass times of the foreign Protestants. There will also be black powder firing demonstrations. With a day's worth of activities, this encampment should be fun for the entire family.

Our images today were taken by Bruce Gurnham who is one of the interpreters at North Hills Museum. They show some members of the Atlantic Living Heritage Association setting up camp.

All for now,

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Unveiling our Wedding Dress Exhibit

I am getting a bit lazy with my post today. Among the things I was working on today was a press release for one of our new exhibits. I figured that rather than try to rethink the same story into a post, I should just use the press release. By the way, I usually try not to be quite as self referencing in the blog as I have been in this release. Enjoy.

-The O’Dell House Museum,136 St George Street, Annapolis Royal, is preparing to open a new summer exhibit featuring historic dresses from around Annapolis County. The exhibit, which features dresses which have been used by local brides from the 1880s up to 2002, is an attention grabbing retrospective of the evolution of bridal styles and trends. The official opening of the exhibit, which is entitled Summer Bride, will take place at the museum on June 27 starting at 2:00pm.

“This should be a very interesting exhibit” said Ryan Scranton, Executive Director of the Annapolis Heritage Society. “We are displaying some fabulous dresses from the museum’s collection which have not been by the public seen for years. The oldest of these dates back to the 1880s and was worn by a member of the Shaffner family. We also have some lovely dresses which members of our community have loaned to us for the exhibit. If you are considering getting married in the next few years you will definitely want to see what we have on display”.

As an additional element of the exhibit, the period rooms of the O’Dell House Museum itself will be dressed for a 1870s wedding. “This will give our visitors a bit of a feeling for how a house would have been decorated at the end of the Victorian period” said Scranton. “In the past when we have tried to incorporate the theme of one of our exhibits into the period rooms it has proved popular. I have a feeling that people will enjoy the simple elegance of the decorations”.

In the tradition of weddings, cake and refreshments will be served after the exhibit opening. For more information please visit the O’Dell House Museum’s website at or call 902-532-7754.

All for now,

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Melanson Settlement

The Annapolis Royal region has more than its fair share of National Historic Sites. The most obvious are Fort Anne, the Port Royal Habitation, Kejimkujik National Park, the Annapolis Royal Courthouse, and the Sinclair Inn Museum. In addition to these we have Charlesfort, the Iroquois Fort, Bloody Creek, the Nova Scotia Pony Express and a handful of monuments to commemorate nationally significant individuals. To top it all off, the business district of Annapolis Royal has been commemorated as a National Historic District. For a community of our size, this is an almost unbelievable wealth of nationally significant sites.

Located on the waterfront between Granville Ferry and Port Royal, the Melanson Settlement National Historic Site is one of our region’s more recent commemorative sites. More than just a memorial to one family, the Melanson Settlement represents all of the Acadian families who once lived in this area. Imagine a number of small, family based settlements laying themselves out along the shores of the Annapolis Basin. Here the Acadians worked tirelessly to reclaim fertile land from the salt marshes by building dykes to hold back the tides of the Bay of Fundy. As one of the best preserved examples of this unique style of farming and community living developed by the Acadians, the Melanson settlement is an excellent choice as a representative of the early Acadian presence in our province.

It is very, very difficult to find something positive which came out of the Acadian deportation of 1755 - 1764. During these traumatic years, the French speaking Acadians of Nova Scotia (Acadie to the Acadians) were removed from the farms and communities which they had been developing for 120 years. Families were broken apart, people were killed or lost at sea, and homes were burned to prevent the Acadians from coming back. Without a doubt, this is the most devastating event in the history of the Acadian people. When this is the framework, it is very hard to find a cloud with a silver lining.

Surprisingly, the Melanson Settlement and sites like it do provide a very small silver lining. When the Melanson Settlement was destroyed, the British burned the site to the ground. While this does nothing on a humanitarian basis, it provides a wonderful archaeological site. Fortunately, the lands of the Melanson Settlement were not redeveloped after the Acadians were removed. With the exception of some light farming, this site has remained untouched since the descendants of Charles Melanson were loaded onto ships. Because of this, the archaeological work at the Melanson Settlement in the 1980s has given us a great deal of our current knowledge about the material culture of the Acadian community. We have been able to learn about the types and sizes of houses as well as the type of tools used by the Acadians. We have also been able to learn about the Acadian diet and their trading patterns with Europe and New England. Since the whole community was destroyed at the same time, there is little chance of post 1755 material contaminating the site. Thanks to the destruction of the community we have been able to learn a great deal about it. As I said, in the broader sense, it is a very small silver lining.

If you visit the site today, you will find a short trail with some interpretive panels which tell the story of the settlement. From the viewing platform you can look off to the right and see a dyke holding back the water in much the same way that those built by the Melanson family would have. To the left is a hill where much of the settlement is actually located. The trail purposefully avoids the hill to discourage people from conducting their own digs. The main archaeological feature which can be seen from the viewing platform is a foundation which may have once housed a windmill.

As a final note, I feel that I need to mention that the commemorative plaque at the site mentions that the site was "abandoned". When the man with the bayonet poking in your back tells you that it is time to go, I feel that this is stretching my concept of abandonment.

All for now,

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cycling on the Granville Road

As I was driving home the other day, I passed a group of cyclists who were making their way up the Granville Road. At this time of year this is not an uncommon sight. In fact, I almost expect to see a bicycle or ten as I make my way home. From individual bicycle tourists to the various organized tours who come to our region to our homegrown band of cyclists (the Cyclepaths) there is often someone making their way up the road. Interestingly, this is not a new phenomenon. Like many things in this region, bicycle riding has long roots.

Cycling came to Nova Scotia from France in the 1860s. While it took a couple of decades for it to catch on, by the 1880s it was becoming popular throughout the province. Clubs were organized and outings to places like Goat Island were planned. The increase in popularity of cycling was in no small part due to the advent of rubber tires which provided a much smoother ride than wooden ones.

The top image shows a group of cyclists from the late 1890s that have made the trip down the Granville Road and are posing opposite Goat Island. For those of you not familiar with this location, this is the small Island which can be seen from the Port Royal Habitation. Bumbling over the gravel roads would have been no small feat, especially for the ladies wearing the long dresses and fancy hats. I will assume that these hats did not offer the same protection as a modern bicycle helmet.

Perhaps this community’s most interesting remnant of the early history of cycling is a velocipede (or bone shaker) held in a private collection. This was originally the property of the Amberman family who, for almost 200 years, lived in the building which is now operated as North Hills Museum. As the story goes, a member of the family was so interested in the velocipede that he had a local blacksmith create a version for him. Note that the pedals are attached to the axle of the front wheel. This machine would operate like a unicycle in the way in which you would need to be constantly pedaling. Even if you wanted to, there would be no cruising down the hills of Granville Ferry with this bike. The photograph of the Amberman Bone Shaker has been borrowed from Kent Thompson.

All for now,

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Belly up to the Trough

As I was walking up Lower St. George Street earlier today, my eye caught an interesting artifact which is located in the playground. While it is located in the center of the playground, it is a somewhat overlooked and forgotten artifact. In fact, I have seen a great number of children who have hopped into the trough to pretend it is a canoe. Perhaps this is because its original purpose has long since passed into the pages of history.

This granite watering trough was once a very important part of the streetscape of Annapolis Royal. Water was such an essential service that a public pump and trough were once located in the middle of the intersection of St. George Street and Drury Lane (one of the main intersections in town). Teamsters and drovers would use this trough to refresh their horses and oxen after pulling a wagon or a load of wood into Annapolis Royal. This was a much needed source of refreshment for these hard working animals. With the advent of the internal combustion engine, horses and oxen were replaced as the primary pullers and haulers in a community. When the animals were no longer needed, things like this watering trough could be relegated to out of the way places.

One of the most interesting parts of this trough is a small sandstone block located beside it. As a constant reminder to those who would mistreat their oxen and horses, the block reads "Man of kindness to his beast is kind but he that's cruel shows a brutish mind 1890".

All for now,

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Another Loss

I suppose I should add another part to the ongoing saga of the Troop property in Granville Centre, Nova Scotia. As those of you who have been reading this blog for some time will know, the Troop octagonal barn has recently been torn down. It has been a sad and somewhat heart wrenching tale to those who are interested in preserving local built heritage. Apparently the frame will be salvaged for some new structure on the south shore of the province. I hope that they appreciate it.

I heard earlier today that the final bit of built heritage on the Troop property has now fallen. When I was last at the site, I snapped a handful of images of the house as it was evident that it would soon be following the downward path of the barn. I heard earlier today that the excavators had indeed been brought in and that the house has been flattened. Another sad, but not unexpected part of this story. By all accounts, the house was in worse condition than the barn. At least by the standards of someone wanting to live in the space.

While it was not as architecturally significant as the barn it was an interesting expression of differing styles. The house, which predated the barn, was an excellent example of how buildings were sometimes built and altered as new styles developed. The core of the building is a fairly standard example of a Gothic Revival house with a bit of a Maritime Vernacular twist. That's some fancy talk isn't it. What it means is that the house was one of the standard types of wooden houses built in this area from about 1810 to 1850. The house moved outside of being a strict interpretation of the Gothic Revival style with the inclusion of some local details. The hallmark of the Gothic Revival style of house is the central dormer which is located above the front door. This example was a bit truncated by the standards of the time. One of the interesting features of this house was the vertical board and batton cladding. In this style of weatherproofing, vertical boards are nailed in place with smaller boards used to cover the seams between the planks. This is not a style that we frequently see in this area but it is one which I have always found appealing. As you can see in the picture, this house had a decorative moulding on the fascia. This was a delicate touch which was probably added sometime around when the wings of the house were added.
The distinguishing feature of the house was decidedly the wings. The wings were probably added sometime around 1890. You can tell this by the use of an elaborate Mansard, or Second Empire, roof which was common at this time. These rooflines became much more angular than this example as they style evolved. I must admit that the wings were an odd mix of styles when combined with the house. Despite this mix, the Troop family would have probably felt that they were architectural trend setters with their octagonal barn and their Mansard additions.
All for now,

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Election Day

It is election day in Nova Scotia. As I am writing this, the polls have closed and I am watching the results as they come in. It looks like Nova Scotia is heading toward its first NDP government but there is still a good deal of vote counting to come. I have a feeling that the winds of change are blowing a gale in Nova Scotia.

I figured that this would be a good time to take a look at one of our historic elections. Perhaps the most bitterly fought election in the history of Annapolis County was that of 1785. To set the stage for the election we must look at what was going on in this region. After the deportation of the Acadians in 1755, the British had begun to repopulate the lands of the Annapolis Valley. Many of those who came to Nova Scotia were third and fourth generation New Englanders who came to this province to claim grants of land. These people have come to be known as the New England Planters. In many ways these people shared the views of their fellow colonists. In fact, there was a strong sentiment in Nova Scotia that this colony should join the other British colonies as an active participant in the American Revolution. The reasons Nova Scotia did not join the Revolution will need to be the topic of another post.

When the Loyalists began to arrive in 1783, they found that the existing population was somewhat hostile to their loyalty to the British Crown. On the other hand, the Loyalists, who were arriving as refugees, felt that many of the Planters were no better than the people they had been fighting against. This made for numerous conflicts. The Loyalist Rev. Jacob Bailey, who was pastor at St. Lukes Anglican Church in Annapolis Royal, expressed a great deal of frustration toward "the Bluenoses" when he arrived for his first posting in Cornwallis (Kentville).

In 1785, the stage was set for an election which pitted an established population against a large new population. By sheer force of numbers the Loyalists had the advantage when it came to voting. In Annapolis Township the established John Ritchie lost to Loyalist Stephen Delancey 80 to 44 votes. Granville Township saw a closer contest. Loyalist Benjamin James defeated Moses Shaw by a mere four votes. The representatives returned for Annapolis County we also Loyalists with both Thomas Millidge and Thomas Barclay being elected. In addition to being Loyalists, all four of these men had been prominent officers within the British ranks.

For the final seat, a bitter and drawn out battle took place between Alexander Howe and David Seabury. The contest broke down with the Loyalists supporting Seabury and the Planters Howe. Amid claims of voting irregularities, the results of a victory by Seabury were thrown out. A second victory by Seabury was thrown out because of an incorrectly kept poll book. Despite two victories among the voters, the Assembly itself had a vote to select who would represent the people of Annapolis. By a two to one margin they chose Howe for the seat. Obviously, this created a great deal of bitterness in the community, especially among the Loyalists who had voted for Seabury. Bitterness over this election lasted for years.

All for now,

Monday, June 8, 2009

Delap's Cove

I am going to take a bit of a turn in my narrative of the history of the Black Loyalists. Yesterday afternoon I took a walk on one of the wilderness trails at Delap's Cove. This Bayshore community is located about 15 minutes from Annapolis Royal. This wonderful nature trail descends through a forest to the shore of the Bay of Fundy where you can see across to New Brunswick on a clear day. On the return loop, the trail passes a waterfall which can be quite striking during the Spring. One of the most interesting parts of this trail could easily be missed by many hikers. In fact, at the start of the trail is located one of this region's most important and most unknown cultural landscapes.

As you walk the trail, this spot could easily be bypassed as simply another random collection of moss covered rocks. If you look closely, you can see that there is indeed some order to the rocks. These are the remains of a house in the Black Loyalist community of Delap's Cove.

At the end of the American Revolution, both free and enslaved blacks came to Nova Scotia. This was a relatively secluded community which arose from the fact that Black Loyalists were often granted the worst tracts of land. The people who lived here could have easy access to the amenities of Digby or Annapolis Royal by water but this is not prime agricultural land. The north side of the North Mountain is rocky and harsh. The rocks which made this foundation would have first been removed from any land under cultivation. Additional rocks can be found in the stone fence rows which line the trails.

The foundation is quite small. If I were to guess I would say that the building was about 10 feet square (about 3 meters square). It would be big enough for a fireplace, a table, a few chairs and space to sleep. The larger the family grew the more space would be needed for sleeping. Among the families who once lived in this community were the Simms, Skanks, Pomp (Stephenson), Currie, Johnson and Brothers. One of the later families to arrive is the Marsman family who previously lived in the Halifax area. While one house still stands, there are currently no people living in this part of Delap's Cove.

Once you know who lived here, this is a very moving landscape. These people once lived in slavery. They are the descendants of Africans who were crammed into ships and brought to the New World. Some may have even made this voyage themselves. On receiving their freedom, these people were given very poor land in an inaccessible part of the province. These stones are a testament to their struggle against racism, politics and the elements. Their humble memorial is a moss covered foundation.

All for now,

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Going, Going...Gone

I took a drive out to the former site of the Troop octagonal barn a couple of days ago. It had been a while since I had been out to the site and I felt that I should go to see what was left. In reality, I had been delaying this trip. Partially it was because I have been busy at work, but the majority of the reason for the delay was that I just didn’t want to see the site without any trace of the barn.

As I approached the site, the first thing that I saw was a large hole in the landscape. Not a literal hole (there was still a pile of debris) but a hole which represented a missing landmark. When I drive through Granville Centre, my eye almost unintentionally turns to the skyline as I drive past the community centre. From here I was able to get my first view of the round barn. On this trip, the only things on the skyline were trees.

When I got to the site I had a feeling of sad resignation fall over me. The barn was indeed flattened and the frame was gone. To make me feel a bit more useful, I wandered around and snapped some pictures of what remained at the site. As I looked around the wreckage, I was even able to find something to smile about. The stone foundation was much more visible than it had previously been. This allowed me to get some good shots of the stonework. I always enjoy walking through local fields and finding the stone remains of an old barn or house. It gives me a chance to reflect on who the inhabitants may have been and what their lives were like. Perhaps the Troop barn’s foundation can give someone this moment of reflection a couple of centuries from now.

My wistful moment took another turn as I was leaving the site. While I was walking back to the car I noticed a number of barn swallows soaring gracefully through the air. I watched them for a while and I started to wonder where barn swallows live when their barn goes away.

All for now,

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Granville Bridge is Falling Down

“Granville Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down. Granville Bridge is falling down my fair lady”. For some reason it just doesn’t have the same ring as London Bridge does it?

My post today is simply a reminder about the Annapolis Heritage Society’s Spring meeting. The meeting will be held on Thursday, June 4 at St Luke’s Anglican Church Hall in Annapolis Royal. Unlike our Annual General Meeting in the Fall, this meeting is more of a social meeting for members, and potential members, of the AHS. This is a great opportunity to learn about some of the AHS’s upcoming activities and perhaps get involved in some of our upcoming events.

Our speaker for the meeting, Phil Milo, will give an illustrated lecture on the collapse of the Annapolis Royal to Granville Ferry bridge in 1960. This is an event which has taken on almost mythical status within our community. From stories of people stranded on either side to the school bus which was the last vehicle to get across, almost everyone has a story to tell about the bridge collapse. Phil Milo had a closer perspective than most. A native of Granville Ferry, Phil was hired as a young surveyor to watch the bridge to see how much it was moving. He has perhaps the most intimate knowledge of the bridge in its final days.

Additionally, we will be opening a new temporary photographic exhibit at the O'Dell House Museum (136 St George Street, Annapolis Royal) this week. This small exhibit is entitled "Getting Across the River" and will feature archival images of the Annapolis Royal to Granville Ferry bridge. Imagery in the exhibit will include the construction and collapse of the bridge as well as the construction of the Annapolis River Causeway. This exhibit will run for the next few months at the museum.

All for now,

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Black Loyalists Part 5

It has been some time since I wrote an installment in the saga of the Black Loyalists. When last we left them, Thomas Peters had gone to London to petition for an equitable settlement for the Black Loyalists. Their grievances were plentiful and well based. In response to his presentation to Secretary of State for the Home Department, Henry Dundas, a decision was made that the British government would pay to transport the Black Loyalists to Sierra Leone in Africa. To understand how the Black Loyalists came to this point, a bit of understanding of the background of the British abolitionist movement is needed. Since this is a long story within the framework of another long story, I will break it into a couple of posts.

The British Empire was built on a number of pillars. Among these pillars are the Royal Navy, ambitious merchants, international trade and, until 1807, slavery (slavery ended in England itself in 1772). During the expansion of the British Empire in the late 18th century, many fortunes were made by European colonial forces. One of the principal products which created and sustained these fortunes was sugar (along with its more potent by-product rum). At this time, sugar was a very labour intensive product. To keep profit margins high, an inexpensive source of labour was needed. The most inexpensive form of labour to be found was slavery. This is how economic imperatives drove slavery to become common in the sugar industry. Slaves would be collected in Africa, crammed into ships and transported to sugar plantations in the New World.

As sugar fortunes grew in Britain, the holders of these fortunes grew in political power and influence. Knowing that keeping costs low was essential to maintaining their fortunes, there was a great deal of political support to keep slavery in place. This was not a universally held belief. In response to slavery, an abolitionist movement developed in England. The abolitionists felt that slavery was a moral crime and a pox on humanity. Unfortunately, the abolitionists were largely considered a radical fringe that would cause harm to the economic survival of the Empire. The French or Spanish, it was argued, would simply move in to fill the void in British sugar production if slavery were abolished.

The abolitionist forces, led by men like Granville Sharpe and Thomas Clarkson (the brother of John Clarkson who would figure so prominently in the story of the Black Loyalists), slowly began to draw attention to their cause. Their tactics included publishing slave narratives to show the horrors of slavery. The most famous of these narratives is perhaps the story of Olaudah Equiano whose 1798 autobiography became the first bestseller published by a black writer.

Another tactic employed by the abolitionists was the formation of the Sierra Leone Company. In many ways, this was an international investment company like the Hudson’s Bay Company or the East India Company. This was a pro-active solution where the abolitionists would work to establish a colony of free blacks in Africa. After an initial investment on the part of the Sierra Leone Company, it was hoped that the colony would become self sufficient and even pay a profit to the investors. On the “not quite as humanitarian” side of the ledger, this effort was also supported as a way to clear excess population off of the streets of London.

While this format does not really permit a full discussion of the British abolitionist movement, I would highly recommend the book Rough Crossings by Simon Schama if you are interested in a very detailed account. In my next post on this topic I will discuss the failure of the first Sierra Leone settlement which will set the ground for the arrival of the Black Loyalists. The image in this post is of a group of slaves working on a sugar plantation in Antigua.

All for now,

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Tame Moose Part 2

I did not actually think that I would be writing a second part to my The Tame Moose post. I was somewhat amazed when I found the original image in a scrapbook compiled by Charlotte Perkins. Imagine my surprise when, about a week later, I stumbled across another image of a woman riding on the back of a very rigid looking moose.

This image comes from the collection of Samuel Wear, another local turn of the 20th century photographer. Like Miss Perkins, Samuel Wear has left a wonderful photographic legacy. It is through this sort of archival photography that we are able to maintain the story of the Annapolis Royal region. Apparently, ours is a story involving women riding on the back of a large stuffed mammal. What a quirky little town we are.

I was very happy that this image confirmed my suspicions about the first picture. If you look at the moose's feet you can see that it is indeed mounted on two wooden boards. This is a dead and stuffed moose. One change is that this time our rifle bearing rider seems to have a bit of an Annie Oakley streak.

All for now,