NEW MINAS IN 1864 – “MANY WERE FARMERS” (June 2/15)

Edmond J. Cogswell (circa 1825-1900) was a Judge of Probate in Kentville.  He was also a historical writer, one respected by Arthur W. H. Eaton who quoted him on the Acadians in the History of Kings County.  Eaton may also have sourced Cogswell when he paraphrased a “local writer’s research” elsewhere in the history.

Cogswell wrote about the history of Kentville, in 1895 publishing a lengthy article in The Advertiser’s predecessor.  He delved into New Minas history as well, in particular the Acadian period and the folklore on lost Acadian treasure. The archives in Halifax have a number of articles Cogswell wrote on the early days in Kentville and New Minas, most of it unpublished.

Writing about the period in New Minas after the Planters arrived, Cogswell said in effect that “many residents were farmers and just as many (were) of the illustrious family Bishop.”  Meaning, of course, that a majority of New Minas residents in the time period he was writing about carried the Bishop surname.

The Bishops arrived with the first wave of Planters, John Bishop and his four sons immediately establishing themselves as the most prominent family in Horton and Cornwallis townships.  In this regard, little has changed over the years and the Bishops are still one of the most prominent families in Kings County.  However, is it correct, as Cogswell maintained that at one time the Bishop surname was dominant in New Minas?   I find this an interesting statement and it so happens there are ways to check on what Cogswell said.

Cogswell died in 1900 so he probably was writing about the New Minas-Bishop connection through the early to mid-19th century.  A number of province-wide directories were published in this period.  One was Hutchinson’s, another the McAlpine directory and another Lovells. The first two directories list the residents of various communities in the province.  Hutchinson’s also lists occupations and a quick check of this directory confirms what Cogswell wrote about New Minas and the Bishops.

In the time period mentioned the directory listed 68 residents in New Minas.  Exactly 21 of these residents were Bishops (all undoubtedly descended from John Bishop and his sons) and all but four were farmers.

So far, so good.  Now, Cogswell also said many residents of New Minas were farmers in this time period.  Again, he was correct.  Of the 68 residents listed, 53 were farmers.  The remainder practised an assortment of trades typical of a time when the majority of people survived by farming.  Some of these trades were tanners, blacksmiths and carriagemakers.  Only one teacher and one merchant were listed as residing in New Minas at the time the directory was compiled.

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