“GRAM” BAXTER AND CANNING’S WAVERLEY HOTEL (January 22/08)

In 1896 the Yarmouth Steamship Company of Boston published a tourist guide aimed at enticing American visitors to Nova Scotia. Steamship and rail travel was in its heyday at the time and the Yarmouth Steamship Company had close ties with the Dominion Atlantic Railway. Tourists could take a steamer out of Boston to Yarmouth, and then tour the province via convenient railway connections, stopping it was hoped at various inns and hotels promoted in the tourist publication.

Written by the poet Charles G. D. Roberts (before he was dubbed Sir Charles and was teaching in Windsor, Hants County) the tourist publication mentions various hotels and inns found along the rail route. Roberts apparently toured the province by rail, visiting major town and villages, staying overnight at some of the hostelries the railway wanted to promote. Thus we find Roberts mentioning “good Uncle Baxter,” who might be waiting for visitors when the train with tourists aboard arrived in Canning.

“Good Uncle Baxter” was Amos B. Baxter, who along with “Gram” Baxter, were proprietors of Waverley House, which in the late 19th century, and for over 30 years, was apparently the place to stay in Canning. In fact, Waverly House is singled out as the only place to stay around Canning in the tourist publication. There is a prominent advertisement in the publication, advertising rooms available in the Waverly for $1.50 per day. The advertisement, signed by A. B. Baxter as proprietor, dwells on all the natural attractions tourists might find interesting around Canning, at Blomidon and the Look-Off.

There is mention of Mrs. Baxter in a write-up I have describing older Canning homes (source unknown) and I’m interested in it because it tells me Gram is a relative. She must have been quite the gal, this lady who possibly was my great aunt, since for three decades she ran the Waverly with Amos Baxter, and after his death continued to operate it for several more years.

Mrs. Baxter was born in 1837, and she lived to be 97, reads the write-up. “She was born at Baxter’s Harbour, a daughter of David Coleman. She married Amos Baxter in 1857. She and her husband opened the Waverley Hotel (sic) of which she was the proprietress for 30 years. After Mr. Baxter’s death, she carried on alone for three years.”

Since the write-up mentions that my great grandfather’s son, John Coleman, the county jailer, was her brother, I assume but question whether Gram was a relative. In two different census reports, no record exists of David Coleman having a daughter that was born in 1837. However, this may mean nothing. My grandfather, Joseph, isn’t listed in these census records either, and David is shown as his father in a couple of official documents. Gram Baxter had three children and relatives of her son, George, still live in Kings County.

I’ve been unable to determine what happened to Canning’s Waverley House after Gram passed away. I turned up a Waverley House operating in Kentville in 1890 but the Baxter name isn’t associated with it in late 19th century newspaper advertisements.

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