There are various history books and research papers devoted to the period when the Planters arrived here. I have in mind the writing of Esther Clark Wright, James Stuart Martell, and the book They Planted Well, a collection of historical articles on the Planters.*
But besides the Chipman Papers in the Public Archives (which cover a century of Planter history mainly in Kings County) there are relatively few published personal records, diaries and such offering contemporary views of the early Planter period. A few Planter family diaries exist but for the most part they’re not available to the general public.
Sometimes you come across descriptions of early Planter life in Kings County where you’d never expect to find them. An example is the autobiography by a New England soldier (Capt. David Perry) who served in the Seven Year’s War and was briefly stationed in Kings County just after the Acadian deportation.
In a recent column I mentioned Perry’s reference to one of the first forts built in Kings County and his military activities. Interesting is Perry’s reference to the Acadians that remained after the deportation, noting as I’ve read elsewhere they were of great assistance to the Planter settlers.
“Two Acadian families came to reside with us, who were very useful to our people,” Perry writes, “and learned them many useful arts, and among others, how to catch fish. Which was of great service to them, as the provisions they brought with them were soon exhausted.” We learn from Perry that without the Acadian’s help and “provision from the King’s stores,” the settlers “must in all probability have starved.”
Interesting also is Perry’s description of an environment he found not to his liking: “Three large rivers (the Habitant, Cornwallis and Gaspereau) run through the town of Cornwallis. At high water vessels of the largest size could sail up and down them with safety. The rivers made a vast quantity of marshy land and the upland between them was not very good. I did not like (this) country.”
Perry described the Acadians that remained in Kings County and the Mi’kmaq as “quite peaceful and to all appearance friendly,” questioning whether a fort really was needed to protect the settlers.
Another view of Kings County and the Planters is found in a book by Rev. Jacob Bailey, a Maine Loyalist. As the American Revolution began, Bailey was forced to leave his country. For a few years he preached in Kings County – from 1779 to 1782 – before moving to Annapolis Royal.
In his memoir, The Frontier Missionary, Bailey wrote a gloomy description of the Planter arrival in Kings County: “Upon the departure of these unfortunate people (the Acadians) their houses and church were burned by the English, their domestic animals perished with hunger and the dykes, which protected their fertile land from the seas, fell into decay.
“Five years after this event a fleet of twenty-two transports, convoyed by an armed vessel of sixteen guns, landed emigrants from New England on the territory that had been occupied by the neutral French. Two hundred persons from Connecticut settled at Cornwallis. Although, as before stated, the natural features of the country were beautiful, yet the ruin which had befallen the former inhabitants was distinctly visible, and could hardly fail to inspire melancholy emotions.”
*Available at the Valley Regional Library