“There is a connection between the Bishop family, the almost countless number of shrimp in the Minas Basin mudflats and the great flocks of semipalmated sandpipers that gather there to feed on them while migrating,” Dr. Sherman Boates said in effect. “It’s a tenuous connection but a connection nonetheless.”
Looking northward from a table near the window of the Old Orchard Inn’s Blomidon Room, I could see the mudflats Dr. Boates was talking about. Dr. Boates was addressing the Christmas meeting of the Bishop Family Association, the descendants of some of the original Planter settlers, John Bishop and his four sons, John Jr., Peter, Timothy and William.
The Inn was perhaps an appropriate locale to talk about a family that was among the first New England grantees arriving here after the expulsion of the Acadians. Below the Inn, running towards the Cornwallis River, are some of the original land grants the Bishops received on which some of them still dwell. I have no doubt that the Old Orchard Inn stands on land granted one of the Bishops; perhaps it is land once held by Timothy since the Bishop genealogy, Tangled Roots, mentions that John Sr. resided at his younger son’s home in Greenwich.
Dr. Boates’ reference to the mudflats of Minas Basin and the Bishop connection was based on the fertility of the soil in this area. The Minas Basin mudflats, its waters and the land mass teem with an almost unimaginable variety of life forms. The tiny shrimp that Sandpipers and other shore birds feed on, for example, may number as much as 40,000 per square meter. The Sandpipers that descend upon the flats every year in late summer number in the hundreds of thousands and the gyrations of these massive flocks have become a local attraction.
Why talk about the varied lifeforms and the fertility of Minas Basin at a family association gathering? Dr. Boates noted that is it this very fertility that undoubtedly attracted John Bishop, his sons and other Planters to this area. Would the Bishops and other Planters have accepted the offer of virtually free land around the Minas Basin if this natural richness of soil, water and mudflats didn’t exist?
The answer to this question appears to be obvious. Thus we must agree with Dr. Boates’ suggestion of a “tenuous connection” between life in the Minas Basin, the Planter Bishops, and of course other Planter families that followed in the wake of the Acadians.
It was undoubtedly the rich, fertile environment of the Minas Basin that attracted the Acadians here as well. When the Acadians were looking to expand beyond their settlement at Port Royal, the richness of life in the estuaries, tidal rivers and mudflats surely must have been a factor in choosing this area.
If you agree with this last statement, perhaps we could take Dr. Boates’ conjecture a step farther. There is a connection, a tenuous connection but a connection nonetheless between the countless shrimp, the awesome flocks of semipalmated sandpipers that feed on them, the fertile Minas Basin mudflats and the Acadians. This connection undoubtedly shaped the history of this region.