On Christmas morning some 60 years ago it was a great treat to find an orange in our stockings. By the time my brothers and I got around, a goose was already in the oven and its fatty odour was permeating the house. For years it was always roast goose for Christmas dinner; this was the traditional meal until turkeys became popular. If you’ve ever helped render the fat of a roasting goose you’ll understand why the cook of the household gladly switched over to turkey.

Roasting a goose for Christmas dinner is undoubtedly a tradition brought here from Great Britain. My mother grew up in London within the sound of the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow church (the “Bow Bells” which made her a Cockney) and she remembers that they always had roast goose for Christmas dinner at home. She wasn’t surprised to discover that roast goose was the favourite Christmas fare here and for decades this was what she always prepared.

When my mother arrived in Canada shortly after the conclusion of World War 1, the Christmas goose was roasted in the oven of a stove fired by wood and coal. Accounts of Christmas celebrated here in earlier times mention that the traditional goose was usually cooked in the hearth of the home’s sole source of heat, the fireplace.

While roast goose was the traditional Christmas dinner for generations, people often substituted turkeys, small pigs and other fowl. In 1815, when a plague of mice and extremely cold weather in Nova Scotia decimated crops and livestock, Christmas dinner in some areas was “the provender of potatoes and turnips still left in the cellar and wild game.” Family record from earlier times occasionally mention that wild game – waterfowl, grouse and rabbits – often was the main course on Christmas day when times were hard.

In his history of Kings County, Arthur W. H. Eaton mentions the preparation of Christmas dinner some 100 or more years ago. Eaton quotes an earlier writer, Dr. John Burgess Calkin, who left a detailed description on how the traditional Christmas goose was once cooked. For the benefit of those not having access to Eaton’s history, here is how the Christmas goose was prepared in the days before stoves made their appearance and fireplaces were, as Calkin wrote, “the most sacred spot in all the house.”

“Early on Christmas morning the children of the household were astir. Breakfast was soon over and preparations for cooking the dinner were begun. A long string was twisted from the coarser fibres of home-grown flax. One end of this string was fastened to a large nail in the beam directly over the hearth. To the other end, which came down directly to the fire, was attached a turkey, a goose, or perchance a young pig.

“The cooking process was thus carried on by the heat that was radiated from the open fire. But that the cooking might go forward evenly, the roast must be kept ever on the whirl to bring all sides in turn before the fire.

“The impetus for this circular movement was given by hand, so that constant attention was needed. But to keep the string from being untwisted and falling to pieces, with constant disaster to the roast, the whirling had to be now in one direction, then in another.”

Eaton also mentions the “Christmas back-log.” This extra large log – “of larger size than the back-log of other days” – was rolled into the back of the fireplace on Christmas eve and covered with smaller sticks, apparently banking the fire so it would be still be ablaze next morning and an early start could be made in roasting the Christmas dinner.



“There is a connection between the Bishop family, the almost countless number of  shrimp in the Minas Basin mudflats and the great flocks of semipalmated sandpipers that gather there to feed on them while migrating,” Dr. Sherman Boates said in effect.  “It’s a tenuous connection  but a connection nonetheless.”

Looking northward from a table near the window of the Old Orchard Inn’s Blomidon Room, I could see the  mudflats Dr. Boates was talking about.  Dr. Boates was addressing the Christmas meeting of the Bishop Family Association, the descendants of some of the original Planter settlers, John Bishop and his four sons, John Jr., Peter, Timothy and William.

The Inn was perhaps an appropriate  locale to talk about a family that was among the first New England grantees arriving here after the expulsion of the Acadians.  Below the Inn, running towards the Cornwallis River, are some of the original land grants the Bishops received on which some of them still dwell.  I have no doubt that the Old Orchard Inn stands on land granted one of the Bishops; perhaps it is land once held by Timothy since the Bishop genealogy, Tangled Roots, mentions that John Sr. resided at his younger son’s home in Greenwich.

Dr. Boates’ reference to the mudflats of Minas Basin and the Bishop connection was based on the fertility of the soil in this area.  The Minas Basin mudflats, its waters and the land mass teem with an almost unimaginable variety of life forms.  The tiny shrimp that Sandpipers and other shore birds feed on, for example, may number as much as 40,000 per square meter.  The Sandpipers that descend upon the flats every year in late summer number in the hundreds of thousands and the gyrations of these massive flocks have  become a local attraction.

Why talk about the varied lifeforms and the fertility of Minas Basin at a family association gathering?  Dr. Boates noted that is it this very fertility that undoubtedly attracted John Bishop, his sons and other Planters to this area.  Would the Bishops and other Planters have accepted the offer of virtually free land around the Minas Basin if this natural richness of soil, water and mudflats didn’t exist?

The answer to this question appears to be obvious.  Thus we must agree with  Dr. Boates’ suggestion of a “tenuous connection” between life in the Minas Basin, the Planter Bishops, and of course other Planter families that followed in the wake of the Acadians.

It was undoubtedly the rich, fertile environment of the Minas Basin that attracted the Acadians here as well.   When the Acadians were looking to expand beyond their settlement at Port Royal, the richness of life in the estuaries, tidal rivers and mudflats surely must have been a factor in choosing this area.

If you agree with this last statement, perhaps we could take Dr. Boates’ conjecture a step farther.  There is a connection, a tenuous connection but a connection nonetheless between the countless shrimp, the awesome flocks of semipalmated sandpipers that feed on them, the fertile Minas Basin mudflats and the Acadians.  This connection undoubtedly  shaped the history of this region.


History buffs and trivia nuts are well aware that Kings County was one of the five original divisions of Nova Scotia. In other words, there were only five counties at one time; the other original counties were Annapolis, Cumberland, Halifax and Lunenburg.

If you aren’t aware of the five original counties, you may find it confusing when reading some early historical records. Recently a friend was reading what he thought was a book on the early history of Hants County and of Windsor in particular. He found a surprising number of references to Kings County areas – the Canard and Cornwallis River district, for example. He was bewildered until I mentioned the early division of Nova Scotia and that Hants probably didn’t exist as a separate entity in the period the history discussed.

The book the friend was reading, Henry Yould Hinds’ 1889 work on Windsor, contains a number of references to Kings County in the Acadian period. These references would be confusing if the reader wasn’t aware that Kings County was immense at one time and included a great portion of what is now Hants County.

Keep the original five counties in mind when reading historical accounts in any period before the 18th century. The original five counties were split up beginning in 1762 when Queens County, once part of Lunenburg, was set up as a separate district. Digby County, once part of Annapolis County, came into existence in 1837; Yarmouth and Shelburne Counties, also once part of Lunenburg County, were formed in 1836 and 1784 respectively.

History buffs interested in the Annapolis Valley should keep the above dates in mind when reading local histories of Kings and Hants as well, especially the historian’s bible, Eaton’s Kings County history. Eaton’s magnificent work was first published in 1910; following are other historical books and papers with their publication dates.

A History and Geography of Kings County, M. G. Ferguson and M. McLellan, 1967. Place-Names of Kings County, Watson Kirkconnell, 1971. Bits of History of Canning, I. Cox, 1940.

Genealogical History of Long Island (North Grand Pre), Kings County, Nova Scotia, Douglas E. Eagles, 1997. A History of Horton Township, Kings County, 1975.

A History of Prospect in the County of Kings, Nova Scotia, Olive H. Lloyd, 1975. A History of Bishopsville, Kings County, Nova Scotia, 1710-1974, A. Phillips, 1974. A History of Greenwich, Edythe Quinn, 1968.

Historical Sketch of Church of St. John, 1810-1960, and the Parish of Cornwallis, Nova Scotia, 1760-1960, J. E. Rand, 1960. Grist from the Mills: A History of Sheffield Mills, Women’s Institute of Nova Scotia, 1967. The Port Remembers: The History of Port Williams, 1976.

Henry Yould Hind’s book, while it claims to be a Windsor history, is a “must read” for anyone interested in Kings County history and the period when Kings included Hants County. You should look upon Hind’s book as a companion piece to Eaton.

I haven’t seen Hind’s book in local stores but it is available from the West Hants Historical Society. Also available from the Society are histories of communities, Hantsport and Falmouth, for example, that are near or on the Kings/Hants border.



Leon Barron’s lifelong love affair with Minas Basin ships of sail probably began when he discovered the wreck of the Hattie McKay on the beach at Medford. Caught by an August gale in 1927 when she was moored at Medford, the Hattie McKay was driven up a creek and split in two.

Leon was four or five when he first saw the remains of the Hattie McKay while walking on the beach with his mother. Over the years the turbulent tides and shifting sands of Minas Basin covered and uncovered the wreck many times. When the tides uncovered the Hattie McKay a few years ago, Leon moved to have it recorded as the first registered shipwreck site in Kings County. Little remained of the Hattie McKay by this time but a few pieces of the ship were salvaged, some of which can be found at the Courthouse Museum in Kentville.

If he had the inclination, Leon Barron could write an interesting book or two on Minas Basin sailing ships. After a lifetime of researching, collecting and poking around the Minas Basin and Fundy shore, his knowledge of sailing ships and the marine landscape is considerable. Amazingly, he carries much lore in his head and can recall it instantly and accurately. He has astounded me on many occasions with his recall of obscure ship lore and statistics, which I found to be accurate when I went to his sources for additional research.

A conversation with Mr. Minas Basin Know-It-All on sailing ships, and his second love, the railway, is akin to a walk through local history. When I talked with him about the Clipper Brig Belle while preparing last week’s column, Leon came up with information that filled in some blanks and provided an overview of shipbuilding on the Minas Basin.

Shipbuilding began in the Minas Basin region in the late 18th century, Leon said. He referred me to Eaton’s Kings County history where it is noted that in or around 1790 a “schooner rigged craft of about 40 tons register” was built at “Cornwallis Town Plot.” Much later, Leon said, Canning became a major shipbuilding area but ships were being turned out in other Cornwallis Township ports, such as Kingsport and Lower Horton.

It may be difficult to think of Kentville as a shipbuilding port (the word “port” is used loosely here) but Leon tells me the shiretown once could claim this honor. Again, he referred me to Eaton’s history where it is recorded that in 1813 Handley Chipman built a 200-ton brig on the banks of the Cornwallis River near the bridge at Kentville. Some 33 years later James Edward DeWolf built a barque in the same location.

Leon said this shipbuilding site must have been on the south banks on the Cornwallis, perhaps behind the current municipal building or lower down near the Klondyke residential area; Leon’s research has centred on these areas since in the 19th century the town limits apparently ran only as far as the south bank of the Cornwallis.

Besides its little shipyard, which perhaps should be marked as a historical site, Leon told me about another bit of trivia regarding ships, the railway and the Cornwallis River. The first railway engine to reach Kentville came up the Cornwallis River by scow in bits and pieces. The scow ran up Elderkin Creek on Kentville’s eastern boundary, where the engine parts were off loaded and assembled beside the railway track.

Since it contains elements of his interest in ships and railways, this is Mr. Minas Basin Know-It-All’s most treasured piece of trivia.


“She was built at Cornwallis, N.S. by Mr. C. W. Conners, and is considered the handsomest craft ever turned out that port. Capt. Meagher, an old stager in the trade, commands her, and he is generally esteemed a whole souled sailor. Good luck to him and his beautiful clipper….”

This intriguing excerpt from an 1853 marine publication out of Boston was sent to me via e-mail earlier this year by Canning Internet buff, Ivan Smith. “While wandering around the Internet this morning, this popped up,” Ivan wrote. “Might be of interest to you.”

While I set Ivan’s note aside for a while, I was definitely interested. Ivan also included the Internet site where he found the reference to the Belle; but before checking it out I hoped to find out more about the Belle, Captain Meagher and C. W. Conners.

This region was once noted for the building of sailing ships; some superb vessels were turned out in the shipyards of Canning, Kingsport, Wolfville and along the Fundy and Minas Basin shore. To find out more about them and the Belle I contacted the person who is literally a walking encyclopedia of information on Annapolis Valley sailing ships, shipyards and ship builders, Leon Barron. Leon gave me a brief overview of shipbuilding in this area and explained why the Belle was called a “clipper brig.”

The excerpt from the 1853 publication referred to Cornwallis as if it was a placename but it probably meant Cornwallis Township. The Belle could have been built in any number of places in the Township, Leon said, and pinpointing its home shipyard may be difficult. In the 1850s Canning was one of the leading shipbuilding areas and it’s most likely the Belle was built there. However, it could have been a Kingsport shipyard that turned her out; or a yard near the Blomidon shore or the Kings County shoreline of the Bay of Fundy or Minas Basin.

Leon told me that Conners was an old Canning surname that has “disappeared from the village,” and that there was a George Conners who was once a shipbuilder there He also explained that naming C. W. Conners as the builder of the Belle may not mean that this gentleman actually laid the keel and did the hands-on work. “Conners could have been the person who commissioned the ship and not the actual builder as such,” Leon said.

Between 1850 and 1857 the marine reporter of the Boston Daily Atlas, Duncan McLean, wrote detailed descriptions of some 161 ships launched in Boston and elsewhere. The Belle merited inclusion in the Daily Atlas since it was one of a line of Halifax and Boston packets that carried mail and passengers between these ports.

Readers interested in reading about the 161 ships that plied the Atlantic in the 19th century and about the part Nova Scotia played can find them on the Internet at Or you can do as I did when I misplaced Ivan Smith’s original message: Go a search engine and enter Clipper Brig Belle.

The Belle was of “about 218 tons register” and was built to carry 69 passengers in addition to the crew. Since the Daily Atlas saluted the Belle on her inaugural run, we have no idea how long she ran between Halifax and Boston. However, Leon Barron’s interest in the Belle has been sparked and I hope to have footnote on her in a future column.


“To a large extent the trails are improved gravel-coated roads and are excellent for motoring, and for open sea views and landscapes are without peer on the Atlantic seaboard.”

Thus reads a “road map and travelogue of Nova Scotia” that was written to entice the motorists of 1924 to venture out on the “modern, gravel-coated highways.” And if the super “gravel and earth roads” of 76 years ago weren’t enticement enough, motorists were advised that the “Nova Scotia Motor League has done splendid work in marking the various trails on telegraph and telephone poles at all important and confusing roads and turns.”

In addition to the “helpful markings,” the various trails were given names that were guaranteed to entice adventurous motorists. In the Annapolis Valley, we had three trails in 1924 that were being touted as attractive and worth touring; these were the Look-Off Scenic Trail, the Orchard Trail, and the Sam Slick Trail.

The Look-Off Scenic Trail, all of 14 miles, ran from Kentville on an “excellent wide gravel road” to the Look-Off on “top of the famous Blomidon” from which one could view five counties. “No motorist should pass Kentville without first taking this short detour.”

The Orchard Trail was a 31-mile route in Kings County “through continuous orchards, over good gravel and earth roads and through such centers as Centreville, Canning, Starr’s Point, Port Williams, Gaspereaux and on to Grand Pre,” the last community being described as one of the famed historic places in the province.

The Sam Slick trail (what a name!) was a “good earth road” some 48 miles long leading “from Windsor, through Brooklyn to Shubenacadie, connecting with the Atlantic Trail leading from Halifax to the New Brunswick border.”

Tourism was in its infancy in 1924 and it’s amusing to note that the “good and excellent roads” were either gravel or earth. Imagine pounding along those dusty roads in a Ford or Chevy roadster, watching for the Motor League’s color-coded telephone and telegraph poles while looking at the scenery. The Look-Off Scenic Trail was denoted by poles marked with a white band flanked top and bottom with blue. One would know he was on the Orchard Trail from the poles banded in yellow flanked with red, while the Sam Slick Trail was marked with black bands flanked top and bottom with white.

This was motoring in Nova Scotia between the two world wars. The best highways outside of Halifax in 1924 would rank as secondary roads today. However, the highway out of Halifax was “excellent bituminous macadam pavement;” this is one of the few mentions of paved highways in the province and apparently at the time it was only seven miles in length.

There’s an amusing reference to the New Ross road, which is described as a “road in fair condition during fine weather.” Wolfville is singled out as being almost unique in the province when it came to roads. Smack dab in the centre of Wolfville one “meets with a delightful surprise – a splendid paved street which runs straight through the town.”

Published by the Morning Chronicle and Evening Echo of Halifax, the travelogue and road map (price 35 cents) described the amenities to be found in Valley towns. Thus we find that Kentville and Windsor were the leading Valley towns in 1924, between them boasting seven hotels and five banks.


Kentville historian and collector Louis Comeau e-mailed me to comment on last week’s column on McAlpine’s Directory and to send along a list of directories that have been published over the years. His list includes six old directories, five of which were first published in the 1800s, and four that were published in the 1900s. “There may be others which I haven’t yet located,” Comeau said.

Before attaching the list of directories that his research uncovered, Comeau added interesting comments on their preparation and publishing. As with any publication, Comeau said, the date can be misleading. “The date on the publication is when it was printed by the publishing house and not when the information was collected,” Comeau said, which is something researchers, especially amateur genealogists, should keep in mind. Information for the 18th-century directories might take a year to collect, for example, and then another year and more before the information is organized, typeset and printed.

Here are the directories with publication dates that Mr. Comeau has discovered:

Two Hutchinson Directories – 1864 and 1866; two Mercantile Directories, – 1866 and 1897. These are not as detailed as the Hutchinson Directory, Mr. Comeau notes; ten McAlpine Directories – 1868/769, 1870, 1877, 1880, 1890, 1896, 1902, 1907, 1908 and 1914; one Lovell Directory – 1871, which does not have the details in the Hutchinson and McAlpine Directories; one Bard Directory, which again is not as detailed as Hutchinson and McAlpine.

(Researchers should note that some of the above directories, and especially the detailed McAlpines, can be found in the Kirkconnell Room at Acadia University).

More recent directories:

One Town of Kentville Directory – 1936. This was the first Directory with the numbered street addresses listed; six Mosher Directories – 1948, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1956 and 1958/59; four Kentville Directories, published by the Kentville Lions Club – 1968, 1971, 1974 and 1978.

In addition to the directories, a series of maps (actually they were a combination of map and directory) were published earlier. Mr. Comeau said that these maps are much more useful for researchers and genealogists since they indicated where people lived and gave occupations. Mr. Comeau gave two such combination map/directories the first of which is well known to genealogists.

The Church map of Kings County, which Mr. Comeau says has an 1864 date. Comeau said that 1864 was the commissioning date and this map (or map/directory) was actually published in 1872; Price’s map of Kentville – 1894.

Price’s Kentville map is not as well known as the Church map – or Church maps, I should say, since Ambrose Church did a series of them county by county. At one time the Kings County Church map was on display in the lobby at the County municipal office and I assume it is still there. There are still a good number of the Kings County maps in existence but they are definitely collectables.

Ambrose Church created his county maps between 1865 and 1888 and the old gentleman must have done some of the field work and mapping himself. There is a record of the cartographer being a guest in 1871 at Kentville’s Lyons’ Inn. Readers interested in the maps of Ambrose Church and the story behind his work in compiling them are referred to volume 37 of the Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, published in 1970. This issue contains an article on Church by Charles Bruce Ferguson.


Garments knitted by hand, the mittens, socks, jerseys and men’s underwear made from wool that had been laboriously spun at home. From the loom -” if there was not one in the house, there would be one nearby” – came homespun material for outer garments, blankets and even “patterned carpeting which wore like sheet iron.”

Soap making was an “annual sport.” A barrel was filled with wood ashes over which water was poured; the resulting liquid, called “lye,” was placed in a huge pot that was “set aboiling” outdoors. To the pot was added fats and grease that had been saved during the year. Boiled until it emulsified, then cooled and cut into squares, the homemade soap was stored away to season.

Writing in 1941, W. S. H. Morris was describing the chores that were part and parcel of the homemaker’s life in Nova Scotia more than 100 years. Home-spun clothing, homemade soap, homemade candles and before kerosene appeared, goose grease lamps: the 18th- and early 19th-century housewife would have been as familiar with these items as the modern housewife is with microwave ovens and vacuum cleaners.

Morris’ reminiscing, describing the tedious chores that were the lot of housewives long ago, appeared in the Nova Scotia Historical Society annual journal for 1941. This was an age when household conveniences, the few that existed, were made by hand. It was a time when currency was scarce, the barter system common, and a time when household items that couldn’t be produced in the kitchen or barn were almost non-existent.

Like the housewife, the male member of the 18th-century household had to be a Jack of all trades as well. Morris says that while there were workshops of various trades scattered here and there, the man of the household had to be good with axe, saw, auger, and chisel with which he could make most of his needs. “He could build a woodshed, shape an ox yoke, mend harness, tack on a horseshoe,” harvest grain with a scythe, thresh it by hand, make barrels.

Doctors were scarce here in the old days and for many minor ailments, people had to look after themselves. Morris writes that herb doctors, who had resources “highly valued but not orthodox” were often consulted. The herb doctor, whose plant lore may have been obtained from native Indians, came with “the necessary herbs in small bundles and steeped them in a pot of boiling water” to treat all but the most serious ailment. He also came with his store of magical spells that were pagan in origin but often used successfully.

Many afflictions, Morris writes, were treated with water. A person believed to be possessed would have sea water, taken from the “very flood of the tide,” thrown in her face. Whooping cough could be cured by taking the afflicted across water and so on.

Other “medical cures” involved feeding the afflicted with roasted mice. For sprains, a strip of dried eel-skin was tied around the injured part. The 18th century householder believed, says Morris, that a weak or puny child could be strengthened by passing it three times around the father’s right leg.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Morris’ reminiscing is the language the farmers of long ago used. What would you do, Morris asks, if you received this order? “Take your ‘frow’ and ‘beetle’ and ‘rive’ me some head-stuff – or it might be stave-stuff or shingle-stuff – from those pine balks.”

An 18th-century farm hand would take a wedge and mallet (frow and beetle) and split (rive) a slab of wood into the desired thickness for shingles, barrel heads or barrel staves.


I’m not sure if McAlpine’s Directory was the first business publication in the province but it certainly was one of the earliest. McAlpine’s Nova Scotia Directory was published as early as 1868 and was continued well into the 20th century. The Directory is much sought after by collectors and researchers and copies are hard to come by. You won’t find one in the local library but there are copies in the Kirkconnell Room at Acadia University.

While not a directory in the strictest sense of the word, one “directory feature” of McAlpine’s must endear it to genealogists. McAlpine’s listed the occupants of each major town and village it covered and gave their occupations. Thus we can take McAlpine’s Directory for any two-year period – it was apparently published every two years – and discover what people worked at and how their trade reflected the period.

I did this for the town of Kentville, checking out the occupations of its citizens in the period 1868-69, for no other reason than curiosity. What I found is that the majority of Kentville’s citizens in this period were farmers or were in trades relating to agriculture. Kentville’s population was 500 in 1868. According to McAlpine’s, about 90 percent of the town’s occupants worked on the land with the balance in the service industry; today it’s the reverse.

In 1868 there were farmsteads near what is now Kentville’s downtown core. Kentville had two blacksmiths in this period and they were George E. Marsters and Otto Eaton. The tradition (if you can call it that) of the town having a blacksmith continued until modern times. As recently as the late 1940s and perhaps the early 1950s there was a blacksmith shop on Cornwallis Street near Kentville’s main business area.

A number of Kentville’s citizens listed their occupation as “saddler,” which is a maker of saddles and other equipment, harness, halters, etc., for horses. Since the automobile was still decades in the future and the horse was the main source of farm power and transportation in the mid-19th century, saddlery would have been a key occupation.

There may have been a post office in Kentville in 1868-69 since one John F. Hutchinson is shown as the town’s postmaster. Frank Jones is listed as the town’s telegraph operator. Harry Kilcup is shown as a “coach driver and owner.” Kilcup can be found in Eaton’s Kings County history. Eaton describes the coach run, writing that the drivers for many years were Kilcup and Walsh, who were “excellent whips,” that is, good drivers.

According to McAlpine’s, the town’s jailor in 1868 was William Gould. Mr. Gould may have been the town’s first jailor. In her Kentville history (The Devil’s Half Acre) Mabel Nichols mentions Gould as the first jailor and the town crier who “with his ‘O-Yes, O-Yes’ opened, adjourned and closed the court.”

Kentville must have at least three inns in 1868. McAlpine’s lists three innkeepers, these being Tully James, William Redden and Mrs. Daniel Mullowney. This last may have been a misspelling of Mulloney. John F. Mullowney is shown as the town’s sole dentist in McAlpine’s but Eaton’s history has a Dr. John Mulloney and no Mullowneys. The innkeeper William Redden is referred to in Eaton’s history and apparently was also a mill and hotel operator.

Going by McAlpine’s directory, Kentville apparently was the county’s shiretown as early as 1868. But we must question McAlpine’s placing of Acadia College in Kentville. I believe this honour belonged to Wolfville.


In keeping up with the times, I have an Internet website in which this column is posted. You can find most of the history columns I’ve written over the past four years on my web page, along with my hunting and fishing articles.

At times I wonder why I bother with a website since it seems to be an exercise in ego stroking. However, e-mail letters from people outside the circulation area of this newspaper – people who see this column only because it’s on my website – tells me it’s more than that.

Often the letters I receive are inquiries, readers looking for information, searching out their ancestors and so on. On occasion, I’ve mentioned inquiries here in the hope that a reader can be helpful. Following are a few of these inquiries. If you have information about any of the topics mentioned, please contact me and I’ll pass your information along or put you in contact with the people making the inquiries.

Pius Rottler

Linda Chase is looking for information about a “group of 300 passengers who arrived in Nova Scotia from Germany about 1857.” One of the passengers, Chases says was Pius Rottler (1871-1937) who lived in Kings County. Chase mentions that Pius’ grandson may have been Roy Rottler who was Kentville’s Mayor from 1950 to 1954. Chase believes there may have been an article on Pius in this paper at the time of his death in 1937.

Hillfoot Farm

Gordon Bainbridge, California, is seeking information about Hillfoot Farm which he writes was a “receiving home for homeless children that was established in or near Aylesford in the 1880s and which burned to the ground in 1895.” Bainbridge adds that Hillfoot Farm was established by Miss Emma Stirling, from Edinburgh, Scotland. “She never rebuilt the farm and the children who were living there at the time (of the fire) were given to other orphanages around Canada.”

Bayer Settlement

Marion Bayer is seeking information on the Bayer Settlement and one George Bayer who arrived in Nova Scotia from Germany in 1751. Bayer’s original holdings may have been in the Musquodoboit area. An article on the Bayer Settlement appeared in a provincial newspaper in 1965.

Capt. Clare Baker

Barbara Niro is looking for information on Captain Clare Baker of Margaretsville. She writes that Baker built a home in Margaretsville, which was destroyed by fire over 70 years ago, and that there is a monument to him near the village lighthouse. I referred Ms. Niro to the history of Margaretsville but any information a reader might have would be appreciated.

Finian’s Raid

David MacKinnon of Raymond, Maine, writes to inquire about his great-grandfather, Allan, who was born in Cape Breton in 1845. “Apparently there was some local trouble that required turning out the militia when Allan was a young man in Nova Scotia,” MacKinnon writes. “My uncle was unsure of nearly everything about the incident (he thought it might have been referred to as Finian’s Raid) except the fact that (Allan) earned 100 dollars from the government for his part in it.” MacKinnon believes the incident took place between 1860 and 1871; he wonders if anyone can tell him more about what is obviously the Fenian threat of 1866 when Nova Scotia’s volunteer militia was mobilized.