CATCHING UP ON READER RESPONSES (March 31/00)

The column late last February on Ralph S. Eaton brought a number of reader responses and some additional information on this pioneer fruit grower.

One of the readers who commented on this column was Lyna Connors. Ms. Connors, who is 90 and a resident of a senior citizens complex in Kentville, has photographs of Eaton and has his moustache cup. After Mr. Eaton’s death, Ms. Connors looked after his widow for a number of years and was a friend of the family.

Connors tells me that in addition to operating his fruit orchards, Ralph Eaton also established a pickle factory – which possibly may have been the first in the area. Ms. Connors believes the factory was located near the famous Hillcrest Orchards off Middle Dyke Road.

Another reader, Eunice Wannacott, left a message through the answering service that she had a handwritten notation in her Eaton book regarding Ralph and his wife. Before I could return this call the message was accidentally erased. If Ms. Wannacott ( I hope I’m spelling her name correctly) reads this, please write me c/o of this newspaper. You can also reach me via email at edwingcoleman@gmail.com.

Another reader who left a message on the answering service – but not her name – responded to the columns on Henry Magee (January 21 and February 11). The caller gave me the name of a Canadian book published in 1984 that contains “an excellent article on this pioneer merchant and early entrepreneur.”

I found this book in the Annapolis Valley library system. Loyalist Mosaic, published by the Ontario firm Dundurn Press Limited, traces the movement of Loyalist groups into various parts of Canada. The author, Joan Magee, devotes a chapter to Henry Magee and she tells his story well. There is a great deal of detail, including references to historical sources researchers will find helpful.

Joan Magee (is she a descendant of Henry?) calls the pioneer merchant a banker, pawnbroker and “general factotum for the district.” The author is blunt in her description of Henry and doesn’t paint all that nice a picture of Kentville’s first merchant.

Anyway, if you’re interested, read the story for yourself. The book is currently in the Kentville library but may be obtained by request at any Valley branch.

Plaque For Gaspereau Man

Readers of this newspaper may have seen the March 3 story about the 1852 sinking of a sailboat in the Minas Basin. “The “man from Gaspereau,” a phrase immortalized locally, referred to the loss Perez Coldwell who along with another Gaspereau resident, George Benjamin, manned the ill-fated sailboat.

Readers interested in this tragic tale are referred to Esther Clark Wright’s book, Blomidon Rose, chapter 12. Wright describes the incident in detail. The loss of Isaac Chipman and the students was a serious blow to a young Acadia University. “The loss of the students meant that there were none to graduate the following year and only one the year after,” Wright said.

I have none of the details but I understand that a move is afoot to preserve the memory of Perez Coldwell and the 1852 tragedy. Roscoe Potter, Wolfville, is spearheading a fund raising effort that hopefully will result in a cairn-mounted plaque. No decision has been made on where the cairn will be placed but Potter says the most likely site is the Gaspereau Valley.

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