GEORGE BEAR WINS HIS CASE… SORT OF (October 12/01)

In a December 1895 issue of a Valley newspaper, the Western Chronicle, one E. J. Cogswell recalled the early days in this area. I have a typeset copy of Cogswell’s article, edited with footnotes and an index. This was a gift from the same person who gave me the 25 page Dennison article on Kentville in the 1870s.

The donor of the Dennison and Cogswell articles, who wishes to remain anonymous, tell me they aren’t sure who typeset, edited and indexed these mini-histories. However, they are much appreciated and will be put to good use. I plan to include excerpts from the articles in future columns and I’m sure readers keen on local history will enjoy reading them.

This week, from the Cogswell article, we take a peek at a humorous incident involving a man with the unusual surname of Bear. Cogswell wrote about early Kentville in his article and Mr. George Bear may have been what today we call the “village character.” The village or town Bear called home isn’t mentioned.

Cogswell begins his story about Mr. Bear with a description of Winkworth Chipman (born 1804 according to Eaton’s Kings County history where his name is spelled Winckworth). “He was the last of the old, big builders, and afterwards a carriage builder,” Cogswell writes. Chipman was a Justice of the Peace and writes Cogswell, “whatever may have been his defects in regard to a knowledge of the law, his proceedings were marked with great discretion and honesty.”

One of the curiosities of Chipman’s career, says Cogswell, was the famous case of the Queen against George Bear for selling intoxicating liquor without a license. “Mr. Chipman and B. H. Calkin sat at the court. Mr. Bear… was called upon for his defence when he arose and delivered himself as follows:

‘Your worships I have been summoned here for selling intoxicating liquor. Now your worships the people in England gets this liquor from the West Indies and they make it one quarter water. The merchants in Halifax gets it from England and they make it one quarter water. Mr. … gets it from Halifax and then he makes it one quarter water. Then I gets it from Mr. … and I makes it one quarter water. Now your worships I would like to know where the toxication comes in.’

“Old George evidently thought he had shown that there was no intoxicating liquor sold by him at all, ” Cogswell continued. “The Justices seemed to think that there might be a little, but they were not prepared to say how much, so they adjourned the court to take time to consider.”

Cogswell says that Chipman and Calkin “considered so long and so carefully that George Bear died, as did also Mr. Chipman before judgement was given.”

Cogswell apparently had a fine sense of humour. “I intimated to Mr. Calkin once,” Cogswell said, “that he still considered himself a quorum (and) for the benefit of jurisprudence, he should go on and settle the knotty question (regarding George Bear).”

But, Cogswell concluded, “he also went on considering until he too died and the case is still subjudice (undetermined and still before the court) without any judice (judge).”

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