Wednesday Evening, March 20, 1940 (page 1)

Some Facts Relating To The Early History of Somerset


Community Is Outstanding For The Number of Persons Who
Have Made Splendid Contributions to the Life of the Nation.

The Register is indebted to Mrs. George King, one of the oldest residents of Somerset, and others for interesting data regarding the early history of Somerset.

Somerset was first settled one hundred and fifty years ago and descendants of the first settlers are still active in the life of the community. At the time the Annapolis-Windsor railroad was constructed there was a controversy as to the location of the right-of-way, and an attempt was made to have the railway constructed much farther north than was eventually the case. If this had been done undoubtedly Somerset would have developed into a town.

The community is outstanding for the number of persons who have made splendid contributions to the life of the nation. Judges, lawyers, members of parliament, school teachers and ministers are numbered among those who received their early education in the Somerset school. The community life has always been of a splendid type and the citizens maintained a debating club, temperance lodge, a singing school and in later years an excellent orchestra.

Mrs. King remembers many incidents of the early days, when pine knots and tallow dips were used for illumination; the primitive educational facilities and the long plank seats in the schoolhouse. Travelling shoemakers came once a year to fix up the shoes of the people. Mrs. King recalls that there were several Micmac Indian camps in the forests near Somerset, and that Dr. Silas Rand, the missionary to the Micmacs, rode on horseback from Hantsport to visit the Indians on his way to Annapolis. He was entertained in her home overnight on his journeys. She once accompanied him to one of the camps, going by way of a blazed trail through woods located where the Fisher orchard now stands.

The settlement goes back to the year 1790 when Matthew Fisher took up a grant of land, cleared it, built a log house and married a Miss Pineo of Habitant. He was one of six adventurous brothers who left their home in Somersetshire, England, and on their way across the Atlantic were shipwrecked. Matthew Fisher was rescued and reached Canning, where he was received kindly by the people. Nothing was ever heard of the other brothers.

The grant of land, all virgin forest, obtained by Matthew Fisher was a mile square and extended from J. Lathern Morses corner to what is now known as Somerset corner. With high courage and indomitable will he set to work to clear his land. It is said that he felled the trees rapidly and kindled a fire with birch bark by means of flint which he brought with him, and it is claimed that he never once lost his fire while clearing his land. Together with the scanty provisions he brought with him from Canning, he lived on game he trapped. He built a log cabin on a site near where Edward Fisher now resides.

It was some years before other settlers came and then a family by the name of Harris settled. Other families which followed and their locations were: Woodworth, on the road to Berwick; Morton, on Pleasant Valley road, Crocker and Killam on the Crocker road now known as the Thomas road; the Morses resided near Lathern Morse’s corner and the Pattons near the home of Mrs. George Pineo. Other names associated with the early days are Pierce, Steadman, Beckwith, Brennan, Kinsman, Parker and Rand.

Before roads were laid out the settlers blazed trails through the woods from house to house. The first road was laid out from Curry’s Corner (Berwick) to Lathern Morse’s corner and was known as Pleasant Valley road. From there the road was constructed to Grafton and Black Rock (the bulk of the food supplies were obtained from Black Rock on the bay shore). Later the Woodworth road was built past Magee’s to Weston and also a road from Magee’s to Curry’s Corner. The road to Harborville was built in 1842.

The mails were brought by courier on horseback who met the Halifax-Annapolis stagecoach on the post road. The first mail courier was James Hamilton. The first postoffice was kept in a store conducted by Mr. C. W. Barteaux, about 1860.

The first school is understood to have been in a log cabin. A large barn-like structure was built near where Paul Bishop resides on the road to Welsford, and was used as a school. The first teacher was Miss Hinkle (later Mrs. Brennan) who taught small children. She with Miss Currie, another teacher, also instructed housewives in fine stitches and braiding. Mr. Guy Morton from Annapolis County, was another school teacher of the early days. Matthew Fisher, son of the first settler, held school for older pupils in the front room of Fred Fisher’s house. John Carmichael taught school for advanced pupils in a building owned by John Martin. Later Miss Selena Parker conducted a school in a room over a store built by Silas Chute, located where R. J. Witter resides. The present school building was opened in 1864 in which Rev. William Somerville taught the advanced department and Miss Selena Parker the primary department.

Somerset was an outstanding educational centre in the county and the school was at one time known as Kings County Academy in which Rev. Dr. Steel and Robert Somerville, who were well educated, taught pupils in higher education. Scholars came from long distances to attend this school. There was also a boarding school for girls, conducted in the house in which M. D. Sawlor resides. Miss Elvira Bent was principal.

Mrs. King is authority for the statement that from these schools have gone out thirty ministers and ...

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Some Facts Relating To The
Early History of Somerset

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...doctors, forty school teachers, three judges, two mayors of Halifax, several newspaper men, lawyers, members of parliament and missionaries. Included in the list are Judge John Chipman, Judge E. B. Cogswell, Judge William Fisher, E. D. Newcombe, the latter Deputy Minister of Justice in the administration of Sir Wilfred Laurier and Sir R. L. Borden; D. B. Woodworth, M.P.; J. L. Ilsley, M.P., Minister of National Revenue.

The first church was built in 1828 and located across the road from the residence of Lathern Morse and was attended by people from all parts of West Cornwallis. Rev. William Chipman was the minister, Rev. David Chase, grandfather of J. L. Morse, was a co-worker of Mr. Chipman.

The old Valley Meeting House, which was torn down in 1858 was an old-fashioned building. It had a gallery half-way around the auditorium. The pulpit was as high as the gallery and entrance was gained through a door at the top of a flight of steps. A sounding board hung by a chain over the pulpit. The seats for the deacons were immediately below the pulpit and facing the congregation.

Covenanter meetings were held in Welsford under the ministry of Rev. William Somerville. Upon his death in 1878, he was succeeded by Rev. Thomas McFall.

The Somerset Hall was built in 1863, the building committee being Messrs. Holmes Morton, Edward Parker, Silas P. Chute, Augustin Brydon, George Magee, and Adonijah Crocker. It was constructed by two brothers, John and George West.

G. W. Fisher conducted the first grocery store in 1846 and later C. W. Barteaux and B. Balcom opened stores. Other stores were conducted by J. Burgess and David Barteaux. Newcombe Bent was the first blacksmith and operated a shop near the residence of L. F. Best. Other blacksmiths who succeeded him were George Sanford, M. E. Parrish and Loran Blenkhorn.

W. K. Bennett purchased the carpenter shop owned by the West brothers and operated a carriage factory from 1870 onward. He specialized in high-class carriages and fancy sleighs. The factory had horsedriven power.

Daniel Woodworth was a weaver and besides carrying on his trade he instructed many of the housewives in the art.

Somerset was the scene of much military training between 1860 and 1870. A drill shed was built near the site of Rex Mullins’ residence. The local volunteers drilled under command of instructors from Halifax and England. The drill grounds extended from George Mullin’ orchard to the Pleasant Valley road, the fields at that time being owned by Holmes Morton. A number of men went from this drill centre to Western Canada under Colonel Garnet Wolseley in 1870, and took part in the campaign to suppress the Reil Rebellion. During the years there were several military parades, soldiers coming from different towns and accompanied by bands. The drill shed was later used for exhibition purposes and also as a cheese factory. The building was eventually moved to Weston.

The sawmill of Mr. M. D. Sawlor commenced operations in 1908. Mr. Fred Illsley started the Fairview Creamery in 1914, which was later moved to Berwick. The North Mountain Railway, through Somerset, was started in 1910, the first passenger train being operated on August 17, 1916. The apple warehouses were built in 1916. Electric lights were first used in June 1921.


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