“JUICY” GLIMPSES OF PLANTER LIFE (April 15/08)

When a jury sat to consider a case in the summer of 1770 in Kings County, says a document in the Public Archives of Nova Scotia (PANS), they were served “considerable rum and ‘tody’.” The document, an account of what was served in the way of liquor, notes that it was for “entertainment of the jury.”

Another document in PANS is an order of the Grand Jury stating the four individuals in Kings County “be arrested and charged with racing horses in the public roads during the sitting of the court.”

And yet another document in PANS, dated 1764, is a petition with 25 signatures “witnessing to a charge of irregular living against Ezekial —— and Phoebe ——- (wife of Seth ——-) for taking each other as man and wife and co-habiting.”

Also in PANS are petitions, five dated 1778 and 15 dated 1783 requesting the right to sell “spirituous liquors” in Kings County.

An adulterous couple publicly denounced, charges of horse racing in public when court is in session, rum served to juries to smooth their deliberations, and the likelihood there were more taverns than stores in Kings County in the 18th century. These are a few of the documents in PANS relating to everyday Planter life in Kings County, and you can see there was intolerance on one hand, and a liberal attitude when it came to alcohol.

Brief descriptions of these and other documents from the early Planter period can be found in a book called New England Planters in the Maritime Provinces. As mentioned, the documents are in PANS, and the book apparently was compiled to assist historical researchers.

If anyone would like to read it, the book can be found in the reference section of the Vaughan Memorial Library at Acadia. The one and two sentence description of each document are interesting since they reveal aspects of Planter life you don’t find in history books. Who would think, for example, that horse racing was an offence, or that alcohol consumption by juries was acceptable in those days, and paid for out of the public purse.

Admittedly, I’ve mentioned a few of the slightly scandalous documents found in PANS. After all, they’re more revealing and more interesting. My favorite, by the way, is a document from 1763. This is described as an “order that Supreme Court Judges should have priority on the ferry from Windsor to Partridge Island (then part of Kings County) and no other passengers would be taken on the same passage without the Judges written consent.”

Now is that using political clout or what?

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