BERWICK, NOVA SCOTIA
MAY 6, 1954
New England Planters And Webster Genealogy
By LEORA C. CROSS
The colonists of New England, numbering about 250,000, occupied a narrow strip along the Atlantic Seaboard, hemmed in by the hostile French and Indians on the West. Not until 1760 was French power expelled from the continent. This date is one of the most important in the history of the world. It marks the beginning of the expansion of our Anglo-Saxon civilization in America.
In 1758, after the final capture of Louisburg, a proclamation by the Government of Halifax, appeared in the Boston Gazette, offering free grants of land in the territory from which the French Acadians had been evicted.
In April, 1759, a delegation was sent from the colony of Connecticut to "spy out the land". At Halifax, they met with Gov. Lawrence in Council and received assurance of favorable conditions of settlement. To satisfy them thoroughly, the Council sent them in an armed vessel to see the places, proposel for settlement. By the time they arrived in Minas Basin, the orchards were budding, dykes growing green and here and there stood a lonely barn or house that had escaped burning. Compared to the rocky soil of New England, the fertile valley looked very attractive. An agreement was signed to settle a Township at Minas and one at Canard (names being changed to Horton and Cornwallis respectively), the latter to be settled by 150 families and to consist of 100,000 acres.
On the 21st day of May, 1760, fleet of 22 vessels convoyed by a Brig of War, commanded by Capt. Pigot, set sail, laden with many precious souls who had pulled up stakes in their erstwhile home in the colony of Connecticut to stake their claim in a new "promised Land". After a long hectic voyage, the tired passengers set foot on Acadian soil at Town Plot on the shore of Minas Basin on June 4th, 1760.
The distribution of lands to the N. E. Planters in the Township of Cornwallis, was made in a very systematic way. Lot layers were appointed and lots numbered and drawn for, each full share consisting of 666 acres. The first settlers numbered 128 families.
Their first homes were set up with a tent and a few pieces of home-made furniture. Frames of the first houses were brought from New England and were soon surrounded by many garden flowers they had cultivated with affection on the places they had left. (We had their lineal successors, such as the fragrant honeysuckle, as well as the spicy Balm of Gilead and sturdy Mountain Ash, laden with scarlet berries, beside our home in Cambridge).
With untiring industry, these first English settlers, enlarged the great marsh spaces, expertly reclaimed from the sea by the French, set out new orchards, sowed flourishing fields of flax and corn, tackled "the forest primeval", built churches, established schools, and laid the foundations for a College (Acadia) in one of the loveliest regions of Eastern America.
The following is a graphic extract of their domestic life from the pen of Dr. J. B. Calkin: "Our fathers were sons of toil but they often got amusement out of their work. Frolics or "bees" were common in which the neighbors for miles around, would assemble to help one another in husking or "raising". The most sacred spot in the home was the hearth with the big open fire where the family gathered round in winter evenings and listened to the fathers oft repeated tales of early efforts at home-making, varied by a thrilling story of a bear hunt, in search of "Bruin" which had killed a sheep or a calf.
Most of the New England planters came from Lebanon, Conn. This Town boasted a Grammar school which drew pupils from most all the N. E. Colonies, many of whom continued their education at Harvard or Yale. It was in this progressive town that Abraham Webster was born and bred and having the courageous, pioneering spirit and faith of his namesake, the Hebrew Patriarch of old, with his wife Margaret (White) of Coventry, Conn. and year old son, Abraham, Jr., joined the migration to Cornwallis, in 1760. His younger brother, Moses, begat a son, named Isaac who had the benefit of higher education and studied medicine at Edinburgh. Young Dr. Isaac Webster decided to follow in the trail of his "Uncle Abe" and "hang out his shingle" in the famed Acadian land, later immortalized by Longfellows poem, Evangeline. Accordingly these two pioneer settlers of Cornwallis, (1) Abraham, the sturdy self-reliant tiller of the soil, and (2) his nephew, Dr. Isaac Webster, the most renowned physician of his day in Kings Co. became the progenitors of all the Kings Co. Websters.
In common with most all the New England planters, these forebears possessed a fine integrity of character, derived from deep religious convictions. They were the descendants of the Puritans who migrated from England during the time of religious persecution, to a land where they could worship God according to the dictates of conscience. The name "Puritan", derived from the desire to purify (purge) the church of formalism. They were simply bound together by a covenant of loyalty to their Lord and mutual love and service to one another. They were still loyal subjects of Kings James of England, the mother of our Democracy, and as Theodore Roosevelt declared, "The best mother we could have had".
"I admit" said William Lyon Phelps speaking of the Pilgrims, (associates of the Puritans) "that all but one of the Mayflower Pilgrims were deprived of College training, but they brought a book of New England the King James Version of the Bible, then only nine years old, the best written book in the English language. No group can be described as uneducated who read and know the Bible".
Religion was such a vital part of the life of the first settlers in Cornwallis, that they soon began to plan for the erection of a "meeting house". After a few years, with the help of their New Eng. "Brethren", this objective was realized in the Congregational Church at Chipman Corner (near Kentville), the first Minister also being supplied by the brethren of N. E.
When dissention arose through the preaching of a young itinerant Evangelist, named Henry Alline, concerning the personal conduct of Church members, a number of the "conscientious" ones withdrew to form the "New Light Church". The original church, unable to procure a minister of their particular faith, emerged as "Presbyterian" with rev. Hugh Graham as Pastor. he was succeeded by Rev. Wm. Forsythe who also conducted a Grammar School. The Webster offspring received their early education from "Parson Forsythe".
From the New Light evolved the First Baptist Church at Upper Canard, through a controversy on Baptism. From this historical church organized in 1807 by Rev. Edward Manning, have gone missionaries, ministers and other christian workers as lights in the world. Many of the descendants of Abraham Webster, who lived in the vicinity became adherents of the Baptist church, while those of Dr. Isaac Webster, adhered to the Presbyterian (now incorporated in the United Ch. of Canada) and became pioneers of the Town of Kentville.
In 1771, Abraham Webster received another grant of land in West Cornwallis, "situate on the North side of the road leading to Annapolis". He sold this grant of land to his son, Abraham, Jr., who soon extended his domain until he owned a large part of Cambridge, selling off lots for farms to his sons as soon as they reached years of maturity, "reserving the cemetery or burial ground and "meeting house yard".
His youngest son Asael, located on the "old" Homestead" there, and married twice, both wives being first cousins of Sir Charles Tupper. He had eight sons, the oldest, Joseph, became Principal of the Normal College, Charlottetown, and the youngest by the first wife, Dr. David, became an eminent Eye Specialist of New York City. The other sons settled in Cambridge and left many descendants to carry on the Webster name.
Asaels brother, John Webster, bought a large tract of land from Ebenezer Condon, on the Woodworth Road, West Berwick (then called "Condons Corner") in the year 1838. He was one of the pioneers there, who started the first Sunday School in Kings Co and his son, William, was a promoter of the Methodist (now United Church) encampment in Berwick.
Queen Elizabeth, in a Christmas Day broadcast said, "Many grave problems and difficulties confront us all, but with a new faith in the old and splendid beliefs given us by our forefathers and the strength to venture beyond the safeties of the past, I know we shall be worthy of our duty".
Our historical heritage is a reminder of the sacrifices and struggles of a Godly, courageous people who well and truly laid the foundation of this great country.