Born in County Tyrone, Ireland, in 1810, George Harvey emigrated to Nova Scotia with his family when he was six. Harvey’s father purchased land at Horton, a farm “overlooking the Minas Basin and the fertile acres of Grand Pre,” which George eventually inherited and expanded.
George Harvey lived until 1902; a prominent farmer and distinguished citizen of Kings County, Harvey held many important offices during his lifetime, among them commissioner of sewers for the Wickwire Dyke, magistrate, collector of rates and overseer of the poor.
In 1901, about a year before his death, Mr. Harvey was interviewed by a publication called The Echo. Recently I obtained a copy of the interview (compliments of S. M. Bancroft of Black River Lake) which was a series of questions about life before the turn of the century. Some idea of what it was like to live and work here 100 years ago may be gleaned from Mr. Harvey’s answers.
Mr. Harvey was asked numerous questions about farming, for example. One question – “What were the principal products of the farm?” – curiously neglects to mention apples which apparently hadn’t become a major crop when Harvey was a young man. The answer: “Hay, wheat, flax, potatoes and all kinds of meat, such as beef, lamb, pork and poultry. Wheat was a large and profitable crop, as we made all our own flour and had some to export.”
On the marketing of excess farm produce a revealing answer on transportation in the old days: “Halifax was our principal market and there was a fair demand for produce on account of the number of soldiers and sailors there. It was a heavy task to get stuff to (Halifax) as there was no bridge at Windsor and we had to risk (using) the ferry or go many miles further up (the Avon River). This made a long trip across the Horton and Falmouth mountains before reaching the Avon River.” (Mr. Harvey later stated in the interview that the trip to Halifax and back took a week).
Another revealing answer when Harvey was asked how farm produce was shipped: “On horseback or two-wheeled carts. In my early days all vehicles had two wheels, the chaise and gig to ride in, the big cart for hay, the smaller cart for moving vegetables and taking loads to market. I remember the first four-wheeled wagon that came to Horton. It was a great curiosity and a great improvement on its predecessor.”
On postal service: “There was no coach in my early days. Letters were brought by private conveyances or on horseback. The only post office in Horton was at Judge DeWolf’s, at what is now known as Kent Lodge…. The postage on letters from the old country was 3s. 9d., and they were often two months coming.”
Later in the interview, Mr. Harvey said that when he was a boy most of Grand Pre was dyked “except for what is called the Dead Dyke on the east side, containing about 200 acres.” Mr. Harvey helped reclaim this area; at the time of the interview, he was the only man still living who had worked on reclaiming this section of Grand Pre dyke.
On the large crops of hay raised on the Grand Pre dykes: “Well, we fed out a great deal as we made considerable beef in those days and butchers would come from Halifax and buy large droves of fat cattle, sometimes a hundred a day. Then we hauled hay to Halifax.”
Mr. Harvey said he had lived under five British sovereigns: “George 111, George IV, William IV, Victoria and Edward VII. I helped to celebrate the accession of Victoria. We had a brass six-pounder in charge of Colonel Crane and we made things pretty lively.”