Most people don’t realize that much of the commercial area of New Minas, and some of its residential areas lay in huge land grants between the Cornwallis and the Gaspereau River; these grants were issued to a Planter and to a Loyalist and there’s quite a story behind them.
To give you a rough idea of the dimensions of the grants, which lay side by side, start at the bridge where the Middle Dyke Road extension crosses the Cornwallis River; run a line south over Commercial Street to the Gaspereau River and you have the western boundary. With the Cornwallis River on your left (the northern boundary) and the Gaspereau on your right (the southern boundary) go east through New Minas for about two kilometres and you have the approximate area the grants encompass. As you can see from this, a major part of the commercial section and the residential area is in those old grants.
One of the grants, 950 acres was issued to Israel Harding. A man identified only as Col. Foster received a grant of 1000 acres (the grant that is referred to as the “Foster farm” by historical writers such as Eaton and Cogswell).
In his history of Kings County, Arthur W. H. Eaton writes that Israel Harding was one of four men with that surname who received grants in Horton Township in 1761. The grant was for 500 acres, which apparently was relinquished by Harding. In 1784, according to Eaton, Israel Harding was given another grant of 950 acres. Eaton doesn’t tell us who the Foster was that received the 1000 acre grant – he mentions only the Foster farm as I said – but it is these grants, Hardings and Fosters, which make up most of New Minas.
It is this Israel Harding and his 950-acre grant that is of interest to Carol Harding of Digby. Harding wrote recently to tell me Israel’s story. A descendant of Israel, she has been researching him, hoping for one thing to find his burial site, which likely is somewhere in New Minas.
“I do genealogy and have researched my family extensively,” Harding wrote, noting that a decade after he received the 500-acre grant in Horton in 1760, Israel returned to Connecticut with his family. “But when the American Revolution came he remained firmly British. For that, he was driven out. In 1783 they were evacuated from New York to River St. John but quickly made their way back to Horton, where his wife’s parent’s had remained.
“Israel petitioned for land and received 950 acres beside Col. Foster’s farm of 1000 acres. It has always interested us that it was the largest grant second to Fosters. They likely were friends as they both came in 1760. Col. Foster likely was (an officer) from the French and Indian War. Israel was a Lieutenant in Connecticut from the 1750s as well, although he was a civilian spy during the American Revolution.”
Ms. Harding says she hopes to find Israel’s burial site – he died circa 1797 – but has found this to be impossible until now. “We have never found where he is buried and your comment (in a column) about burial mounds (in New Minas) is interesting.”
Harding’s search goes on. Israel Harding is buried somewhere in New Minas but where is the question. While there are clearly identified Planter graveyards the same can’t be said about the Loyalists. As for the mysterious Col. Foster and the intriguing references to his New Minas farm, I’ve been unable to find anything about him. One source I checked is the list of Loyalists settling in Nova Scotia; this is published by the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada and the Col. Foster of New Minas isn’t on it.
It dawned on me while looking through Eaton’s Kings County history that Loyalists settling here are mostly ignored in his book. Realistically, Eaton’s work is more of a history of the Kings County Planters than anything else. Only token mention is made of other groups that helped to settle the county after the expulsion of the Acadians.