“Much valuable history has been lost through being left unwritten,” Abram E. Jess wrote some 60 years in the introduction to his “History of Scotts Bay.”
Indeed, as Jess wrote, much valuable history has been lost because no one took the time to record it; to those who like Mr. Jess have made an effort to preserve our records, we owe a debt that can never be paid.
To be precise, it was 1941 when Mr. Jess penned his Scots Bay history. Jess compiled the history from various sources which he duly notes in his introduction. Besides some detective work of his own, in compiling the history Mr. Jess consulted the Layout Books of Cornwallis, the Book of Records in the Registry of Deeds and other records. As deputy Registrar of Probate, he had access to many old ledgers, journals and deed of which he made good use.
Along with several other community histories, I discovered Mr. Jess’ work recently in a list of historical books available through the Annapolis Valley Regional Library. It was a happy discovery. Until I happened to peruse that list I was unaware that Mr. Jess’ history existed – and by the way, he did have two “t”s in the title of his history, which was the old way of spelling Scots Bay. Mr. Jess tells us there was another way of spelling the community’s name – Scotch Bay.
Another happy discovery was a history of Hants County written in 1865 by J. Churchill Cox. Also, there was a book I’ve been looking for, a history of Margaretville entitled “Over The Mountain And Down To The Bay.” Several readers have mentioned this history but I was unable to find a copy until now.
As mentioned, community histories are invaluable. Often the compilers/writers have close ties with the community they are profiling and the result is often a history that’s the opposite of stuffy, pedantic and dull. Mr. Jess appears to have personal knowledge of many of the older Scots Bay families, for example; he profiles many of these families in his history and for anyone tracing ancestors, these sketches must be priceless.
In fact, much of Mr. Jess’ work is devoted to Scots Bay people – who the early pioneer were, the names of people who held land in the Bay in the 18th and 19th century, and so on. Even when Jess writes about the early roads of the community, the names of residents connected with them are mentioned; which to repeat myself, is invaluable for anyone doing family research.
Cox’s Hants County history is more scholarly perhaps than Jess’ work but is no less interesting. His work is worth reading because it was written 135 years ago. He wrote in a time when Acadian cellars and pieces of Acadian dykes were still visible in the countryside and the willows planted by the Acadians still flourished.
Like Jess, Cox writes about people. To give one example, his sketch of Falmouth, which was part of Kings County until 1875, includes the names of settlers who arrived after the expulsion of the Acadians. Some of the old surnames and the variations in spelling in this list are amusing. Amateur genealogists tracing their ancestors in Hants and Kings County will be delighted with the Cox history.
I haven’t touched on the Margaretville history but that will be a topic in a future column. As mentioned, these community histories are available in your local library but you will probably have to put a request in to obtain them.