DEACON JOHN AND HIS DESCENDANTS (March 10/00)

With one exception, eight generations of Newcombes beginning with Deacon John in 1760 have tilled the soil in Kings County, says a direct descendant.

“I was a blip, the exception,” retired Upper Dyke school teacher John Newcombe said when addressing the Fieldwood Historical Society in Canning recently. “Until I came along all the Newcombes descending from Deacon John farmed in this area.”

During his address, John Newcombe talked about a Planter family that was among the first settlers here after the expulsion of the Acadians. The Newcombes arrived in 1761 and among them was Deacon John Newcombe, so named because he had been a church deacon for over 40 years.

At age 72, Deacon John was ancient by 18th century standards when he emigrated to Nova Scotia from Lebanon, Connecticut, with his offsprings and brothers. In his history of Kings County, A. W. H. Eaton calls Deacon John a “Cornwallis grantee” but apparently this isn’t the case. While the Newcombes were among the original grantees, Deacon John apparently had given up farming due to his age when the Planter movement took place and never applied for a land grant. His sons Captain Eddy and John Jr. and brothers Benjamin and Simon were Cornwallis grantees, however, and it is from this family that most Annapolis Valley Newcombes have descended.

After 28 years of teaching in Kings County schools, John Newcombe took early retirement and began to work on his family history. His Upper Dyke home was built in 1880 and he is the third generation Newcombe to live there. John’s property is surrounded by a landscape steeped in history. Looking out an east side window, he can see the old house on Newcombe Branch Road that was home to four generations of his immediate ancestors. Nearby is a stream, once tidal, on which the Acadians built one of the first aboiteaus in Kings County; the dykework mound is still partially visible and can be seen from John’s kitchen window.

Visible from John’s parlour window to the south is the historic Canard River. The Acadians made their first attempts to tame the Minas Basin tides on the Canard, building a series of running dykes, cross dykes and aboiteaus that stretched for miles downstream; these works later inspired the Planters massive Wellington Dyke which Newcombe’s ancestors helped to build.

In John Newcombe’s dwelling history is literally oozing from the walls. John has compiled a detailed Newcombe genealogy starting with the Deacon, and has collected many artifacts relating to the immediate family. There are more than a few Planter artifacts, some of them coming from Deacon John, and reams of Newcombe family documents from the early 1800s and 1900s – letters, legal agreements, receipts, banking documents and so on.

John Newcombe speculates that his grand sire, the Deacon, passed his remaining years in Kings County with his son, John Jr. The Deacon lived long enough to see his brothers and sons become prominent farmers and landholders in Nova Scotia. Some of the Deacon’s descendants left Nova Scotia but John Newcombe keeps track of most of them in his genealogy; a few descendants were world travellers and all records of them have vanished.

When the Deacon and his family emigrated to Nova Scotia during the Planter movement, many of his fellow Cornwallis grantees from Lebanon, Connecticut, bore surnames that can still be found in Kings County today. Among them are Barnaby, Bill, Brewster, Calkin, Cogswell, Fitch, Fuller, Tupper, Webster and Woodworth. These families have a common bond, the Planter emigration to the Annapolis Valley.

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