EATON’S HISTORY, SCALPING BOUNTIES, CANNING’S FATE (August 6/19)

In the History of Kings County, Arthur Wentworth Hamilton Eaton mentions a little-known historian, Dr. William Pitt Brechin, and his genealogical research. Included in the county history is Brechin’s brief account on the origin of Kings County roads.

However, as Doug Vogler pointed out in a post I received recently, “many do not know that the bulk of the research for the history… was done by Brechin,” which was something Eaton downplayed.

In his ongoing search of earlier newspapers and other publications, Vogler often comes up with little-known historical nuggets like this about Kings County. In a January 1904 issue of the Berwick Register, for example, Vogler found evidence that someone other than Eaton contemplated writing a history of Kings County. The evidence is in a letter J. Calder Gordon wrote to the Register, indicating he was planning a county history based on the “considerable work” done by Brechin. Gordon wrote that he was “gathering additional material to complete (Brechin’s) valuable work.”

As we know, Eaton eventually compiled the history and Gordon didn’t. Readers will note that in his letter, Gordon credits Brechin with having most of the county history already compiled.

Shades of Edward Cornwallis…

“The practice of scalping originated in customs of native warfare,” writes John Mack Faragher in his book, A Great and Noble Scheme. “But it was Europeans who converted scalping into a ghastly commerce,” Faragher adds, noting that in 1688, the Governor-General of New France established the first scalping bounty. In 1696, the Massachusetts General Court offered the largest ever bounty of 50 pounds “on the scalps of native enemies.” Obviously, Edward Cornwallis was a latecomer in the bounty game and was following a precedent already set.

In 1892 a by-election was held in Kings County. The Conservatives held the reins of power but a Liberal, Frederick Borden (later Sir Frederick Borden) had represented Kings County before resigning due to some election shenanigans by his agents. In an effort to take the seat in what was a Liberal stronghold, the Conservatives attempt to buy votes with a series of public works around the county.

During the by-election campaign, work was started on the long-neglected Picket Wharf in the tidal channel immediately below Canning. Then came election day and Borden was re-elected. As Carman Miller points out in his biography of Sir Frederick Borden, when elections results were in, the Conservatives immediately stopped work on Picket Wharf!

The 1930s were the peak years of apple production in Nova Scotia. It is estimated that in those years Nova Scotia produced 40 percent of all the apples harvested in Canada. Even more surprising, some 75 percent of Nova Scotia apples were produced in a 40-kilometre radius around Kentville! (From a Canadian Food Studies paper, published in 2016).

Carman Miller’s biography of Sir Frederick Borden is well worth reading if history buffs are interested in the fate of Canning after the railway’s arrived in 1868. Miller writes in effect that the railway practically doomed regions such as Canning where the economy was based on “wind, wood and water.”

Miller writes that all along the railway line during the decade of the 1870s, at rail stops such as Wolfville, Kentville and Berwick, the population increased by over 15 percent in a matter of a few years (province-wide the growth rate was 14 percent). Canning’s population at the same time remained static.

The census taken in 1881 indicates a slightly different picture than what Miller presents. According to the 1881 census, Canning’s population was 3,280, Kentville 2,125, Wolfville 1,880 and Berwick 1,698. However, all this would change; Canning, despite being a major shipbuilding area and the most prosperous village in Kings County, would eventually be eclipsed by the economic growth in all the major towns along and near the railway line.

 

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