DRINK BEER, AVOID GROG – 1831 ALMANAC (April 23/99)

If above all you desire a good reputation, a long life and happiness, then drink beer says the Nova Scotia Temperance Society.

The Nova Scotia Temperance Society of 1831, that is. The Society’s message, published in the Nova Scotia Almanac for 1831, advises people that one small beer a day can bring all the good things mentioned above. Drinking water rather than strong alcohol, said the Society, would bring health and wealth. And by drinking milk along with water one would achieve “serenity and composure of mind.”

Living up to its temperance name, the Society’s message in the old Almanac was that some alcoholic beverages were acceptable if used in moderation, or as they said in the Almanac “in temperance.” Wine in moderation, said the Society, brought strength, vigor and provided nourishment. Cider and Perry (in moderation of course) were also recommended since they brought one “cheerfulness and contentment.”

Not all alcohol beverages had health benefits or generated mental well-being, however. Nova Scotians were warned to avoid punch, grog, brandy, gin, etc., since they brought sickness in various forms. Among the evils one was susceptible to when imbibing these drinks was dropsy, epilepsy, apoplexy, various terrible swellings of the limbs and …. madness.

Curious and quaint best describe the warnings issued by the Temperance Society in 1831. Oddly, researchers have recently confirmed that wine and beer do have health benefits. Yet over 150 years ago the Temperance Society was telling people wine and beer provided nourishment and improved one’s general well-being. How did they know? And how did they positively know away back then that milk was so good for people?

The Temperance Society’s promotion of alcoholic drinks as healthful isn’t the only interesting item in the old Almanac. For example, did you know that in 1831 females outnumbered males in the Annapolis Valley? According to the Almanac, the population of Kings County in 1831 was 10,208 of which 4,756 were males; Hants County’s population was 8,627 and 3,901 were males. Annapolis County had the largest population in 1831 – 14,661 – and 7,152 were males.

Other trivia from the old Almanac: Between the census year of 1817 and 1831, Annapolis County was the fastest growing area in the Annapolis Valley. In this period Annapolis County’s population increased by almost 50 percent; in the same period Kings and Hants averaged a 35 percent increase.

Some of the surnames of Kings and Hants County dignitaries mentioned in the Almanac are of Planter and Loyalist origin and come from some of the first families to settle the Valley after the expulsion of the Acadians. In 1831, for example, George Chipman was high sheriff in Kings County, while in Hants County this office was held by J. Wilkins. Lt. Col. Henry Gisner (Gesner?) commanded the 1st battalion of the Kings County Regiment; the 2nd. battalion commander was Lt. Col. S. Dennison. The battalions of the Hants County Regiment were commanded by Lt. Col. W. H. Shey and Lt. Col. R. Smith.

Pony Express Re-enactment

If you’ve been following the news you are likely aware of the pony express, which operated in Nova Scotia for about nine months in 1849. A re-enactment of the running of the pony express across Nova Scotia is being planned for this 150th anniversary year in late September or early October. This should be an interesting salute to a little-known piece of Nova Scotia history. I understand there may even be a Royal Proclamation which will be carried by riders during the re-enactment.

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