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COUNTY OF PICTOU
From the Commencement of the French Revolutionary War to the First
Contested Election, 1793-1799.
In the year 1793, as we presume all our readers know, commenced the French Revolutionary War. One of the first effects of this upon the County of Pictou was, that the Governor raising a regiment, a number of the disbanded soldiers who had settled in Pictou, took the opportunity of enlisting. As Dr. McGregor describes them, "All the drunken and profligate," while none of the sober and industrious, either of the soldiers or the other settlers, followed their example.
Before this time the timber trade had been carried on, and was of some importance to the infant settlement. The first effect of the war was a slight reduction in the price of timber; but this was soon succeeded by its rising to an unprecedented height, and with this came a rapid increase in the trade from Pictou, which was at its height, as we shall see presently, from about the year 1800 to the year 1820.
At this time, too, ship building was being carried on to some extent, Captain Lowden's efforts in that respect being specially worthy of notice. Indeed, he may be considered the father of the ship building art in Pictou. He was a native of the south of Scotland, and had commenced trading to Pictou during the American Revolutionary War. Previous to this, he had been fifteen years in Russia, and also employed in carrying convicts to Virginia. In the year 1788, he removed with his family to Pictou. He first located himself near the Narrows, at the East River, where he erected a windmill at what has since been known as Windmill Point, and commenced ship building there. But soon after he removed to town, where he occupied a two-storey building of John Patterson's, on the site of Messrs. Yorston's store, the lower as a dwelling house, and the upper with goods, which he exchanged for timber. He also built a wharf, on the site of what has since been known as the Mining Companys Wharf, and commenced ship building there. The whole eastern part of the town, from Ives' store to the Battery Hill, was covered with a fine growth of hardwood, and the timber necessary for the work was cut close by his yard, or, afterward, on the top of the Deacons Hill, whence it was slid down on the snow to the shore, and, when once set in motion, it may be supposed, went with terrific rapidity. He erected a building on the east side of Coleraine street, which he used for boarding his men, but which was commonly known as the Salt House. Some years later he erected a windmill on a round hill near the head of the wharf, long after known as Windmill Hill, but which has now been carried away in leveling the ground near the Customs House. This mill was well constructed, had a large amount of machinery in her, and for some time did a large amount of work, both in sawing and grinding.
He continued for a number of years the business of ship building, his vessels being sent to Britain for a market, and was rather noted in the Province for his skill. Of one of his vessels we copy from Murdoch's History the following notice:
"Pictou, October 25, 1798.
"Yesterday was launched here, by Messrs. Lowdens, the ship Harriet, burthen 600 tons. She is pierced for 24 guns, and supposed to be the largest and finest ship built in this Province. Her bottom is composed of oak and black birch timber, and her upper works, beams, &c, totally of pitch pine; on account of which mode of construction, she is said to be little inferior in quality to British built ships; and does peculiar credit, not only to this growing settlement, but to the Province at large."
This we presume was the vessel known as Capt Lowdens "big ship." She was commanded by his son David. She was mounted with four real guns, the rest being what were called "quakers." On her first voyage, she fell in with what was supposed to have been an enemy's privateer. The captain, backed by a determined Scotch crew, determined to fight rather than be taken. The other vessel, however, kept shy of them, and at night disappeared.
Another of his vessels he called the "Prince Edward" after the Duke of Kent, then in Halifax, who sent a sum of £50 to purchase a set of colours for her.
He had four sons engaged in business, first with him and afterward on their own account, Robert, who afterward removed to Merigomish, where his descendants still are, David who afterward lived at the Beaches, where his sons still reside, Thomas, whose house still stands near the head of the public wharf, and William, usually known as Bishop Lowden, long regarded as one of the characters of the place. He was a splendid scholar, knowing the classics and several modern languages, even acquiring the Gaelic. But owing, it was said to his being crossed in love in early life, he became partially insane. For years he never washed, and went about in a greasy coat, which made him the object of sport to the young. In his lodgings he pored over his books, and in later years gave himself to the composition of the English grammar, which he succeeded in getting printed in the United States.
The year 1795 was noted among the early settlers as the date of the arrival of a second minister to share the toils of Dr. McGregor, the late Rev. Duncan Ross. The settlement of a single minister would not now be regarded as involving very important results to a county; but at the time it was regarded as of sufficient interest to call forth rejoicing, and in many devout thanksgiving - in fact, to form an era in the history of the settlers.
Mr. Ross was a native of the parish of Tarbert, Rosshire, but at an early period of life, he removed with his parents to Alyth, in Forfarshire. He received his Latin education at the parochial school in that town, after which he passed through the usual curriculum at Edinburgh University. He studied theology under Prefessor Bruce at Whitburn, and was, on the 20th January, 1795, ordained by the Presbytery of Forfar. In June he arrived in Pictou, by way of New York and Halifax, along with the Rev. John Brown, afterward of Londonderry. They assisted Mr. McGregor at the dispensation of the Lord's Supper, and thereafter these ministers formed the first Presbytery of Pictou, under the name of "The Associate Presbytery of Pictou." Their first meeting was held in Robert Marshall's barn, as central for the whole district. It stood near the road from Glasgow to Middle River, on the ascent of the hill to the west of the bridge across McCulloch's Brook, and on the left - hand side of the road as you go westwardly.
Immediately after, Mr. Ross was called as assistant to Dr. McGregor, and until the year 1801 they were jointly ministers of all Pictou, though Dr. McGregor labored principally on the East River, and Mr. Ross on the West. In that year it was agreed to divide the congregation into three, the East River, with Merigomish, under the charge of Dr. McGregor; the West River, with Middle River and Rogers Hill, under Mr. Ross; and the Harbour and Fishers Grant to form a third, to be supplied by the ministers of the other congregations, till they should obtain one of their own. This arrangement continued till the arrival of Dr. McCulloch.
Mr. Ross was a man of a very clear and logical mind and strong natural powers; he could scarcely be called a popular preacher, but by intelligent persons, his pulpit ministrations were highly relished for their clearness, variety and solidity of matter, and oftentimes ingenious and striking illustrations, while, among his ministerial brethren, for soundness of judgment, knowledge of Church matters, and intellectual capacity, he took rank among the "first three."
In private pastoral work he was laborious and faithful, visiting and catechizing over the whole of his extensive charge to the end of his life. He also laboured for the advancement of the general interests of his people, especially by encouraging education, and promoting agricultural improvement among them. The influence of his example and recommendations was, in a variety of forms, perceptible among them, so they became distinguished among our rural population for their intelligence and public spirit. As we shall see, he was also the first in the Province to found and support temperance societies.
He did not write much for the press. His principal publications were on the Baptist controversy, in which he showed himself a vigorous thinker and acute controversialist. He also contributed to the newspaper press, especially the Acadian Recorder and Colonial Patriot . He was a man of much quiet humour, one or two specimens of which may be given. Mr. Mortimer once meeting him riding on horseback, with a spur on one foot, said, "Mr. Ross, is one side of your horse slower than the other, that you have a spur only on one foot?" "Oh, yes," said Mr. Ross, "one side will get along without spurs as fast as the other will without spurs as fast as the other will with all the spurring I can give it." Meeting the late Jotham Blanchard, the latter began playfully to tease him about his hat, which was of rather more than the usual breadth of brim. Mr. Ross replied, "Oh, Mr. Blanchard, you need not be so hard, it is only an error of the head, not of the heart." Some of his sayings of mingled wit and wisdom still float among the people of that part of the country, of which the following may serve as examples: Hearing a man described as "hard and honest," he said "that generally meant hardly honest." Again he was accustomed to say, "that he tried three ways of living; the first was to buy just what he wanted, but he found that would not answer; he then tried only buying what he could not do without, but did not find that to answer either. He then tried only buying what he could pay for, and that he found to answer well." These may serve to illustrate a wit which, if not sparkling, was genuine, and which, combined with his affability and intelligence, rendered him a genial companion .
In bodily stature he was below the middle size, broad and strongly made, and during the latter years of his life, inclining to corpulency. His appearance in the pulpit, especially at that period, was particularly clerical, his long white hair contributing not a little to the effect. He died on the 25th October, 1834, after a short illness.
As society was now fully organized, and the community had assumed a settled form, we may here pause to give a brief view of the social and material condition of the population at this time.As to origin, the large majority were from the Highlands of Scotland. On the East River, when Dr. McGregor came, there were only two settlers who were not , and these were Lowland Scotch. In the other settlements there was a larger infusion of other nationalities; but in all, with the exception of River John, the majority were Scotch. The Gaelic language was everywhere heard; the customs of there fatherland everywhere seen, and its memories and traditions - in some instances, even its superstitions- fondly cherished. Some had been old enough to have been "out" in the Forty - five; many, at least, remembered Culloden; the sympathies of the majority were with Bonnie Prince Charlie, while all the older generation had their reminiscences of the scenes of that day. A few others had served under Wolfe, and had their tales of Louisburg and Quebec, while many more had been in the service of the British Government during the American Revolutionary War, and were full of hatred of "the Rebels."
The Highlanders, as settlers, have been pronounced unsurpassed for encountering the first difficulties of a settlement in a new country, but inferior to some other people in progressiveness. Accustomed to extreme poverty, they readily endured hardship; but it is said that they are apt to be content with a condition, but little beyond what they had previously enjoyed, and do not show the same eagerness for farther progress that others do. This has, to some extent, been the case where they have settled by themselves, but where they have been mixed with others, there is so much of the spirit of emulation in them, that they will soon compete with their neighbors in almost anything.
Physically the inhabitants were generally a superior class. An unusual proportion, both of the Highlander and Lowlanders, were remarkably stout, strong men. This was in no doubt in part owing to the fact, that it is the most adventurous who first emigrate, and they generally possess a good measure of physical vigour. But we cannot help thinking, that the tremendous drafts on the able bodied in the Highlands, to supply the British army, for more than fifty years previous to 1815, so much greater in proportion than in any other part of the empire, materially weakened the vigour of the race. Certain it is that the late immigration from the Highlands would not compare physically, with the first settlers of this country from the same quarter.
At this time, the population were scattered principally along the shores of the harbour, and the coast thence to the eastern extremity of the county, and along the banks of the rivers, wherever there was intervale, there the settler being attracted, as the eagle to the carcass. Only in a few instances, had settlers gone back from the rivers. William Matheson had settled on Rogers Hill, John Rogers farther up. William Munsie and John Blaikie were on Green Hill, and on the East River two or three settlers were on McLellans brook, Angus Campbell and perhaps two or three others were on Scotch Hill, but we know of none others, who at this time lived away from the shore or the banks of the rivers. And so scattered were they, that distances of from half a mile to three or four, commonly intervened between their residences.
They had now, however, reached that position in which they had plenty to eat. The lands chosen were good, and when the wood was burned, produced plentifully; but from the large size of the trees, the clearing involved much labor, and the stumps were left, so that there was yet but little ploughing. The most of the crop was still covered with the hoe, but even with such husbandry, potatoes, wheat and other crops never failed to yield an abundant return. Fish in the river were still abundant. A net set at the end of Deacons Wharf has been found in the morning sunk to the bottom with the multitude of fish, and salmon and gaspereaux thronged the rivers, so that, even without the produce of hunting, to which we shall presently refer, the inhabitants were abundantly provided with the means of subsistence. But in regard to other conveniences, they were still deficient. Their houses were still generally of logs, small, and containing few elegances. Some British cloths were imported, but generally people were clothed in what they manufactured from their own wool or flax. As to their feet, all ages and sexes carried them a great part of the year in a state bare enough to appear in before an Eastern king. When the severity of the weather rendered necessary some additional covering, it was generally a raw-hide moccasin. * Store luxuries were little used. What would the present generation think, of Mr. Mortimer bringing home in a small green bag all the tea needed for a seasons trade in Pictou! There was consequently an ignorance of the proper mode of using it, which sometimes led to amusing mistakes.. A party of men who had gone from home on some work on which they were engaged, took about half a pound with them. Delivering it to the woman with whom they were staying, to prepare the beverage for them, they were surprised to be treated to a black and nauseous draught, which they were unable to drink, and, on enquiry, found that she had boiled the whole at once. And there is an instance well established of a woman just arrived from the Highlands, who, wishing to show her gratitude to a person who had kindly entertained her on arrival, boiled a half-pound of green tea, which she had bought before leaving Scotland, as a great rarity, and, throwing away the liquor, served up the leaves, as a special entertainment. Her chagrin on learning her mistake may be imagined. Much later, a man said, "We bought a pound of tea; it cost eight shillings, but it did us eight years."
* [A woman who arrived here
in 1795, told me that in attending the Sacrament, wearing a good pair of shoes,
she was told to take good care of them, as she would never see another pair.
John McCabe, coming home from Halifax in the month of October, staid all night
in a hut, which had been erected at Mount Thom, at what is now McKay's place.
On getting up in the morning, he found the ground covered with snow, while his
feet were bare and his legs covered only by pants, made from flax spun and woven
Horses were still few, so that the most of the traveling was on foot.. But those who were becoming more independent in their circumstances, were beginning to use them more for traveling to any distance, and "riding double," or pillion riding, as it is called in some places, for business of more family interest was becoming an institution. And a cozy way it was, for the good man and his wife to proceed thus to kirk or market, or the lad with his lass, to rural merrymaking. Years were yet to pass before there would be a single carriage in the district, and long after that, this was the common mode of traveling. We doubt not, many of the older generation still retain some pleasant associations of "riding double."
We may remark, that with all the cold and even hardship endured, the people were generally remarkably healthy and vigorous. In the country, consumption was almost unknown. Persons have told us of growing up to twenty years of age, without knowing a case in their neighbourhood. Infant mortality was rare, compared with what it is now. In settlements with which we are familiar, large families were reared on almost every farm, it being quite common to find cases of ten or twelve children, all growing up to maturity. Their little houses, comparatively open, and heated by large open fireplaces, had the benefit of the purest air, and were much more conducive to health, than more comfortable but ill ventilated dwellings, heated by close stoves; while in summer, women as well as men working much in the open air, they were just the class to rear a stalwart race.
Hunting was still largely followed, particularily by the young men brought up in the country, some of whom equaled the Micmacs in skill and endurance. The moose was the chief object of pursuit. Two modes of hunting were principally followed, the one was in September by calling, that is, imitating the cry of the female, so as to attract the male within gunshot; the other, and that chiefly adopted , was by running them down on snow-shoes in the months of February and March. Their pace is a trot peculiar to the animal. It is said that they neither gallop or leap, but the disproportionate length of the forelegs, enables them to step with the greater ease over fallen trees or other obstacles. When the snow is light, they sweep through it without difficulty, and as their power of endurance is great, it was at such times no easy matter to run them down, but when the snow became deep, and especially, in the month of March, when, by the sun thawing the surface of it by day, and this freezing by night, a crust was formed, they were readily overtaken, and afforded a good supply of coarse but well flavoured meat. When it was inconvenient to remove it at the time, the hunters were in the habit of making a trough, in which they would deposit it, and putting a cover upon it, to preserve it from bears leave it till they found it convenient to bring it home.
Among the men of this period, there are two specially worthy of notice as hunters. The first is John McCabe. In the chase, particularly in the pursuit of the moose, he manifested both the skill and the enthusiasm of the children of the forest. Catching sight of a recent track, he became all excitement; his bundle, and perhaps his coat, was thrown away, and even with the thermometer near zero, freely perspiring with his efforts, he pressed on till within gunshot. One or two incidents which befell him may here be given.
On one occasion he had shot a moose, which lay apparently helpless, though not dead; his companion urged him to kill it outright; he refused, saying that it would get cold too soon for skinning. They began digging a hole with their snow-shoes to prepare a place for a fire, when suddenly the moose sprang to his feet and rushed at him with the utmost fury. They had not reloaded their guns, and he had only time to take refuge behind a tree. The moose pursued him, and for some time he kept running round the tree. He could make a quicker turn than the animal, and was thus enabled to baffle him, till his companion got his gun loaded and shot the creature.
On another occasion, having shot a large moose,he, as night came on, wrapped himself carefully in the skin and laid down to rest. In the night the fire went out and he slept the sleep of a wearied hunter. On awakening in the morning he found the skin frozen solid, and so tightly round him, that he could move neither hand nor foot. He rolled about for some time, helplessly struggling to get one hand freed sufficiently to get hold of his knife, which he managed to do, but only after considerable effort, and then cut himself free.
On another occasion, returning to his camp, he stood his gun alongside of it, and stooping down to enter by a low door, out came a bear, snuffing. The two were frightened about equally. He ran back, forgetting his gun, while the bear took to his heels, and before he recovered his presence of mind, was beyond his reach.
On another occasion, a whole flock of wild cats came round his camp. They climbed upon it and ran round it, making a continual howling through the night. There seemed to him, from their noise, to be as many as twenty of them. He kept his fire burning, and watched till dawn. Toward morning they all left, and on examination he found the snow round his camp beaten as it would have been by a flock of sheep round a barn.
The other was Simon Fraser of Middle River. He would sometimes spend weeks in the woods, usually with the Indians, who regarded him as their equal, if not their superior, in all the arts of forest life. He killed twenty-seven moose in one year, so that he earned the title, which he sometimes received, of Nimrod. He was the first to make his way through the woods from Middle River to Stewiacke, and blazed the first path between these places. He moved to Port Hood, where he took up a large grant of land. Having quarrelled with his wife, he left in a small vessel, in which he had been trading, professedly for Newfoundland, but privately declaring to some of his most intimate friends that he would never return. He was accompanied by his son, a young lad, and by a Cape Breton Frenchman. They were never heard of by the public, but I am assured that the family received communications, which led them to believe that he was living at the Northwest, and it is believed that he is the same Simon Fraser who, in the year 1804, first explored the country from Saskatchewan to the Fraser River, to which he gave his name, and who established, on behalf of the Hudson Bay Company, the first trading post in British Columbia, a short distance from the great bend of that river.
There was a smaller kind of hunters, of which, almost every settlement had its specimen, viz.: men who spent much of their time in hunting or snaring the smaller kinds of animals, especially for their fur, and to whom the catching of the black or grey fox was one of the prizes of life.
The bears were numerous, and gave great trouble, as the settlers began to keep farm stock, carrying off pigs, sheep and calves. Some were large enough, however, to attack cattle. Indeed, the settlers regarded them as of two kinds, which they distinguished as cow bears and sheep bears, the only distinction between them, except their size, being that the smaller had a stripe around the nose of a grey color, which, in the larger, was black; but we presume that they were the same species, differing only in age and size. At all events, the larger were able to carry off cows. I have heard of one springing across a brook, carrying a good-sized heifer. When killed, the meat dressed would sometimes weigh between five and six hundred pounds. The cattle, however, learned to resist their attacks. On being alarmed by the sight or sound of one, they would run together and take position like spokes of a wheel, with faces outward, and heads in the attitude of attack. In some places near the woods in the interior, where these animals were numerous, by imitating the noise of a bear, the cattle would immediately run together and assume this position. McGregor says that the largest and most spirited bull is soon vanquished and killed by a full-grown bear; but I have heard instances of their maintaining successfully a single combat with bruin . A man on the East River had brought home from Shubenacadie a very large animal of this kind. Missing him one day, he went in search of him, and found that he maintained a fierce conflict with a bear, and finally had killed his foe. Few of the old settlers, and, indeed, few of the old men of the present generation, but could tell of bear hunts, of losing pigs or sheep, or even cows, by them, or of catching them in traps. These, at first, were constructed of logs, so placed, that when the animal pulled at the bait, they fell across his back. Afterward large spring, traps were used, and we may observe, that the settlers regarded bears as superior in intelligence to most wild animals.
It was rarely that they attacked a man. The only instance we have heard of, was in the case of the late Alexander Cameron, Loch Broom. He had gone out to look after his sheep among which bruin had been regaling himself, when he met a very large bear, which immediately ran at him. To escape he commenced climbing a tree. It was a good sized spruce, straight and clear of limbs for about forty feet. The bear followed, and overtaking him, caught his heel in his mouth and commenced dragging him down the tree. When about twelve feet from the bottom of it, the buckle, by which, according to the fashion of the times, the shoe was fastened, gave way, and the bear was precipitated to the ground. Enraged, he tore the shoe to atoms, and again climbed the tree in pursuit of Cameron . The latter succeeded in getting among the branches, and having broken off a dead limb, struck with it at the bear's eyes as he came near. Between this and the approach of others at his call bruin retired. But one was caught in a trap a day or two after, with the eye badly torn, supposed to have been the same.
The most amusing bear story we have heard, however, was an incident that occurred to the late William Clark, whose family arrangements were considerably disturbed one morning by a bear, suddenly and without notice or invitation, coming down the chimney, as his wife was preparing breakfast. His house was built against a bank, with a shed roof. The bear had been attracted by the smell of the viands cooking, and came upon the roof, making his way toward the chimney, which according to the fashion in those days, was very large. Just as he came to it, David Stewart, who lived close by, and had been watching him with his gun fired. The ball went through his heart, and making one jump, he came flop down the chimney to the no small surprise of the inmates of the household. "Fac, it gave us a start," said the old man, as he told the story, which we can readily believe.
Strange as it may appear, the pigs became so fierce as in some instances to maintain a conflict with a bear. They were allowed to roam the woods during the summer, feeding as they could. After the nuts began to fall in the autumn, they became in a short time very fat, and by that time they were so wild, that it was dangerous to approach them. They would turn on a man. Even a good sized dog could do little or nothing with them. If he attempted to seize them by the ear, he was in danger of being ripped up by their tusks, with which they would inflict very severe wounds, so that the common way of slaughtering them was by shooting them. Of their maintaining a conflict with a bear, the following instances we believe well authenticated. On one occasion, a bear came into a pasture of James McCabe, West River, where there was a very large pig, which gave him battle and maintained the conflict gallantly for some time. The contest issued, like many an engagement among wiser beings, in great loss to both parties. The pig was so badly injured, that he slowly made his way up to the front of the house and there laid down and died, while the bear was either unable or afraid to pursue. On another occasion, near the same place, a bear came out of the woods into a field, where were a number of pigs, who combined their forces to give him battle. They were literally too many for him. Finding himself unable to cope with their superior numbers, he sprang on to a large stump. One of the boldest of his enemies, however, executing a dexterous flank movement, charged upon him in that position, and dislodged him, when being attacked by the whole pack, he was eventually torn to pieces.
We must, however, notice the Aborigines in their relations to the settlers. We have already mentioned that they sometimes gave trouble to the first inhabitants. That they ever contemplated any serious injury to the English is not probable. Their boast is that when they made a treaty of peace by burying the hatchet, it has never been broken by them. Knowing the terror which their name and appearance inspired, they took pleasure in frightening people who showed any fear of them. The late Deacon McLean, of West River, used to tell that when a little boy, going down to an encampment of Indians, near his father's house, one of them came up to him, and assuming a fierce look, said:- "Sopposum me killum you - scalpum," and, taking out his knife, he brandished it over his head, dancing around him, sounding his warwhoop, and frightening him generally. In the same way, they would take advantage of the absence of the men, to extort from the fears of the women what supplies they fancied, though in this, sometimes the mother wit of our good foremothers proved a match for their cunning. On one occasion, an Indian having entered a house where a woman was alone, and being rather threatening, she immediately went to another part of the house, and calling her husband loudly by name, let a roll of leather , which happened to be on a bench, fall on the floor. Before she returned, the Indian was off. Mrs. Roderick McKay was a woman of great firmness and strength of mind. She never yielded to them, and when they came to her house, she would order them round, and scold them if they attempted too much freedom. On one occasion, some of them coming in, asked her, "What news?" She replied, "Ah, ha, great news; there is another regiment of soldiers arrived at Halifax, and the Indians must now behave themselves." They were quiet, and soon went away, and shortly there came an invitation to the whites, to attend a feast provided for them by their red brethren. It was accepted, and on going to the place appointed, they found provided every variety of provision, which the sea or the forest afforded, fish, flesh and fowl, which they requested the whites to cook in their own way. This was intended as a grand peace offering, and as such was accepted.
The Government did what it could to gain their good will by annual supplies, particularly of blankets and a kind of coarse blue cloth, usually known as Indian cloth; but they doubtless retained a lingering attachment to the old French, and, there is reason to believe, that had there been a prospect of the French again having possession of these regions, they might have been roused to renewed hostilities. At times, too, particularly about the years 1804-8, there was considerable agitation among them; gatherings of different tribes at Quebec, at which Micmacs were present, and among those returning, hopes were freely expressed of a French invasion. In 1808, Judge Monk, Superintendent of Indian affairs, writes on the report of Mr. Dunoon and others, through the Province:
"That the Indians expect the Province will be invaded, and that it appears generally to be their intention, in case of such an event, to remain neutral until they can form an opinion of the strength of the enemy, and then [in their own words] to join the strongest party."
"That several Indians went last autumn from Pictou to Quebec, as it was understood, to establish a communication with the Indians of Canada,- that two Nova Scotia Indians, who had been for some time in Canada, had returned to this Province last summer, and informed a man employed in the Indian Department , that there were many Indians from the United States with the Canada Indians, and much talk of war with them,-- that in the district of Pictou some Indians have declared they will not accept of anything from Government, as they expect the country will soon be invaded and conquered; and one of them was heard to say, that in case of war he and a few others would scalp all Pictou in two nights."
The last was, of course, bravado, yet the circumstances were sufficient to excite apprehensions, and rendered it prudent for the Government to take precautions against hostilities. As a general rule, however, they were kind to the whites; oftentimes they supplied the first settlers with food, and frequently I have heard old people speak gratefully of their kindness. It was their characteristic, to manifest strong feelings of gratitude to those who treated them well, but equally strong feelings of animosity against those who treated them with injustice or harshness, though a sense of the superior power of the white man kept them from any violent acts of revenge. * Indeed, when we consider the manner in which they were deprived of their lands, and the unfeeling manner in which they have often been treated, it is wonderful that they have been so quiet and free from deeds of violence.
* [The only instance of this kind which we have heard, which threatened serious consequences, was an affair between Lulan and Rod. McKay. Soon after the arrival of the latter, he had in some way seriously offended the former, who came all the way from Merigomish to the East River to shoot him. It was night when he arrived, and McKay was at work in his forge. Lulan looked in but as he saw the glare of the fire on his face, and the sparks flying from the anvil, and heard the reverberation of his blows, he became scared, and his hands could not perform their enterprise. For long after the two were good friends, and Lulan used to tell the story, graphically describing his feelings, "Sartin, me taut you debbil"]
It is, perhaps, more surprising that they have been so honest. How easy it would be for them to steal our sheep or cattle as they wander in the woods, or to purloin articles from our barns yards; and yet an act of theft is rare among them; and when such has occurred, the others have generally surrendered the guilty to justice. Squire Patterson and others of the first comers gained their confidence, and as an instance of his tact and their sense of justice we may give the following incident: On one occasion Simon Fraser going down the ice met Patlass, who pointed his gun at him. Fraser immediately went to him, took the gun out of his hand, and dashed it to pieces on the ice. Patlass went to Squire for redress, who issued a summons, and directed him to bring as many Indians as he could to the trial. They came, and the Squire heard the whole case, -- Simon defending himself on the ground, that he thought Patlass was going to shoot him, and the latter maintaining that what he did was in fun. The Squire said he had no jury, and must have one. He, therefore, selected five or six Indians to whose judgment he committed the case. The result was, that they gave a verdict against Patlass.
When the English came, the Indians had several places, where they had clearings and cultivated a few vegetables, as beans and Indian corn, but the Government, in granting the land, made no reserve of such rights. We do find it ordered, on the 18th December, 1783, that "a license be granted to Paul Chackegonouet, Chief of the tribe of Pictou Indians, for them to occupy the land they have settled upon, on the south-east branch of the harbor or River Merigomish or Port Luttrell, with liberty of hunting and fishing in the woods, rivers and lakes of that district." But the land was not reserved in giving grants to settlers, and the Indians were gradually worked out of their claims. Some settlers honestly bought out all their rights, and had no trouble with them afterward. Walter Murray, in Merigomish, finding them coming and planting corn, even where he had planted his potatoes, finally agreed to pay them five pounds to relinquish all claims, which they accepted and never troubled him again. Donald Fraser, McLellans Brook, paid Lulan a bushel of wheat annually, and was accustomed to speak of him as his landlord. Thus they were gradually deprived of all places of this kind. The last we know of was the front of the farm at Middle River Point, since owned by William McKay. This had been one of their places of encampment, from the time of the arrival of the first English settlers. It was on Cochrane's grant, the title to which was in dispute. Here they had some five or six acres cleared, each having his own patch, on which he raised potatoes and beans, and with fish offal and the refuse of their camps, it was very rich. Within the memory of persons living, they even raised a little wheat. Parties who attempted to settle, they drove off. On one occasion, a person came and built a house in their absence. Having left to bring his family, the Indians returned, and when they saw the intrusive dwelling, they gathered brush round it, which they set on fire, causing a great conflagration, around which they danced and yelled as long as it lasted. Through Mortimer's influence, McKay was allowed to remain on the land, and gradually obtained possession of their little plots.
The only land in the county, so far as we have been able to ascertain, reserved for them in Government grants is a small lot at their burying ground, at the mouth of the East River, but this they sold to the late James Carmichael, with the exception of the burying ground itself. The Sessions, however, have purchased a lot for them inside the beaches, which they now occupy. The only other land to which they lay claim are two islands in Merigomish Harbour, one, on which their chapel and burying ground are, known as Indian Island, and another claimed by Peter Toney, both of which are said to have been given them by Governor Wentworth, but attempts have been to dispossess them of the latter.
Every year, usually in the month of September, they assembled in large numbers from Prince Edward Island, Antigonish and other places, their usual place of rendezvous being either Frasers Point or Middle River Point. A person brought up at the latter place, has told me that he has counted one hundred canoes at one time drawn up on shore, and it was said that they would sometimes number one hundred and fifty. Sometimes two days would be spent in racing or similar amusements. At night came feasting. My informant on one occasion, when a boy, spent an evening at one of these entertainments. He says they had twelve barrels of porridge prepared, which the squaws served out to the men, ladling it into dishes that, he supposed, would hold near a peck each. Two moose were also served up on the occasion, and also a quantity of boiled barley. Afterward they had various plays and games, but the last night they spent in singing and praying. These gatherings continued yearly till a vessel with small pox was sent to quarantine at the mouth of the Middle River, about the year 1838. They have now a similar gathering annually, in the month of July, on Indian Island, Merigomish. All assemble in their best attire, and after mass, and the celebration of any marriages that may be coming off, the rest of the day is spent in feasting and dancing. As to the latter we are informed, that they have adopted the common Scotch figure of eight reel, in which men and women join.
A common amusement was to get the Indians to dance the war dance. At weddings or other occasions, where they might be present in numbers, for a share of the good things going, they would go through all the scenes of war, even to the scalping and torturing their prisoners. They acted the whole so perfectly, and their appearance in doing so was so frightful, that women and timorous persons would sometimes get thoroughly scared.
Among the Indians two were particularly noted, and are still remembered by the older generation, viz.: Patlass and Lulan. The former was particularly distinguished for his skill in draughts, so that his death was announced in a Halifax paper, as that of "the celebrated draughts player." At this game, it is a question whether he was ever beaten. When he met a stranger, he would allow him to win the first game, but then he would induce him to play for a wager, which was all he wanted to show his skill.
He was also noted for that grim humour, characteristic of the red man. On one occasion a sea captain had brought a fighting cock ashore, and set it fighting with one belonging to the town. Patlass came along, where a number of persons were standing looking on. After looking at the scene for a few minutes, he seized one of the combatants, and walked off with it. The captain called out angrily after him to come back, asking him what he was about. "Take him to jail, fightin' on the streets," wWas Patlass' reply. On another occasion Mortimer met him on the wharf, smoking one of the long clay pipes then in use. The former being disposed to cultivate familiarity with all classes, asked him for a smoke. Patlass handed him the pipe, when Mr. M,. taking a silk handkerchief from his pocket, wiped the stem carefully, before putting it in his mouth. When he had finished smoking, he returned it to Patlass who, holding it up, immediately broke two or three inches off the stem, saying, "Dat more better, Missa Mortimer." The following joke is often told, but we believe that Patlass was the real author of it. He was coming from Halifax and by the time he arrived at Shubenacadie, his supply of rum was exhausted. Applying at a tavern there for a supply, he was charged at a much higher rate than in Halifax. He grumbled at the price, when the tavern keeper said, alluding so the cost of license, it costs me as much to sell a puncheon of rum as to keep a cow. "No eatum as much hay, but sartin drinkum more water," was the Indians rejoinder. He was drowned near Middle River Point, on the 1st September 1827.
Lulan was of a milder disposition, though reputed to have been a great warrior in his youth. He used to boast that he had scalped ninety–nine persons, though there was probably some bounce in this. He was rather below the middle height, but straight and broad-shouldered, and in his later years corpulent for an Indian. He was the means at one time of saving the life of the writer's grandfather, old John Patterson. The latter was crossing the ice, when it gave way, and he fell into the water. The Indians put out to his help, and succeeding in rescuing him, but he was insensible for a time, and when he recovered, he found himself in a large tub in Lulan's camp. Lulan was ever after freely entertained at my grandfather's house, of which he did not fail to take advantage. As an instance of the attachment induced by kindness, we may mention an incident that occurred at my grandfather's funeral. It was customary then to hand liquor round to all present, some was offered to Lulan, who replied: "Me no drinkem long time, but bleev take some to-day; me most dead grief my friend." After my grandfather's death, however, he continued to expect from my grandmother the same attention as in his life time. Me save your husband's life, was the appeal which he supposed would never lose its efficacy, which he rendered more impressive by adding particulars: "Walk out on thin boards; only head and arms out of water; most lose my own life save his.” And after her death, their sons' store was laid under contribution on the same ground.
He died about the year 1827, when he was said to have been in his 97th year, so that he must have nearly reached manhood when Halifax was founded, and been in full vigor when Louisburg and Quebec surrendered.
His son is still well remembered as Jim Lulan. He had somewhat of the dry humour of some of the race. Mr Carmichael had built a vessel, which, in honor of the old Chief , he called the Lulan. Some persons, teasing his son, said to him that he ought to make a present of a set of colors. “"Ugh!" said Jim, "me build big canoe, call it Old Carmichael."
Speaking of the wit of the Indians, we may give an instance, which was long a standing joke of Pictonians against their neighbors in Colchester. Some Indians being after geese in spring, shot one which fell on the ice. Seeing that it could not escape, they did not go for it at once, when some persons coming along in a sleigh picked it up. The Indians, however, came up and claimed it. The others refused to give it up, saying that they had shot it. "Where you from?" said an Indian. "From Truro," was the reply. "Sartin bleev so: Pictou man no shoot dead goose."
Another, usually known as Beetle John, is especially worthy of notice, as having been the owner of a shallop. It was built on the Big Island of Merigomish, in a small cove at the head of the French channel, and for some time he traded in her.
As to their numbers, we have no doubt that the views entertained by many and expressed by themselves, regarding the large numbers of the Aborigines in this and other parts of North America, are greatly exaggerated. On the other hand, the assertion made by some who have studied the subject, that the Indians in these quarters are now as numerous as ever they were, is not correct, as to this part of the country. In the year 1775, a return was made by Dr. Harris, by which they were estimated at 865. This may not have been an exact census, but could not be far from the truth. Yet in the report of the Indian branch of the Department of the Secretary of State for the Provinces, 1872, the number in the County of Pictou is estimated at 125, and in Antigonish at 93, while Colchester has only 31. This agrees with the recollection of the old people, who speak of seeing 40 or 50 travelling together, or of 60 camps in one place. Before the first of these periods, there is a tradition of a great mortality among them by small pox. During the war against the English, a number of them had killed and scalped a family sick with the disease, by which they caught the infection, which spread through the tribe. It was their practice, as soon as one felt himself unwell, to plunge into the water, and all who did so died.
Since the period referred to, the free use of fire water, the diminished supply of food to be obtained by fishing and hunting, and epidemics at different times, have diminished their numbers. But of late there has been an improvement among them. Their supplies of food from their old resources having failed, they have been engaged in industrial employments, such as cooperage, and supplying the markets with fresh fish, in which, from their activity and skill, they can earn a more regular and better living than formerly. We believe, too, that both from the laws against selling liquor to them, and their own sense of the evils which it has brought upon their race, there is now much less drinking among them than years ago, and that not only are they better off, but their numbers are beginning to recruit.
The Government, at various times, have projected measures with a view of inducing them to adopt more settled habits. With this view a series of queries was addressed, in the year 1800, by Judge Monk, the Superintendent of Indian affairs, to leading men in the different sections of the Province, seeking information regarding their willingness to adopt the employments of civilized life, or to have their children receive education or training in useful arts. Mr. Mortimer replies for Pictou, and to the enquiry; "Are there any who have shown a disposition to settle, or who have taken up trades?" He says, "Joseph Purnall has made several attempts to settle by planting potatoes, Indian corn, beans, &c. Indeed, the greater part of the Indians who frequent this quarter have shown disposition to settle, by planting a little, as above, in several parts of the district. An Indian from 'Mathews Vineyard,' named Samuel Oakum, who has married into this tribe, is a tolerable mechanic in several branches, particularly coopering and rigging vessels, and is also a pretty good sailor." Proposals were also made to teach the women knitting and spinning.
It is but just to add that the benevolent of this county, from Dr. McGregor downward, have been interested in the improvement of their social and spiritual condition. On various occasions attempts were made to educate young Indians, but these failed, partly from their own repugnance to the restraints of civilized life, and partly from the opposition of their spiritual guides. In the year 1828, a society was formed in Pictou, called the Indian Civilization Society. But all these efforts produced no permanent result.
The year 1799 is notable in the history of the county as that in which the first contested election was held within its bounds. From the first settlement of Halifax, society embraced churchmen and dissenters, and thus contained all the material for Whig and Tory parties. The American Revolutionary war, and the influx of Loyalists, the majority of whom were Tories and high churchmen, tended to strengthen the hands of power, and repress everything like popular influence. Still there had been a growing feeling of opposition to the irresponsible power of the Provincial rulers, and an increasing desire to bring the Government under control of public opinion. This state of feeling, which afterward swelled to a flood, under the guidance of S. G. W. Archibald and Joseph Howe, first found expression in this election, and had for its exponent and apostle, W. Cottnam Tonge, said to have been a man of brilliant talents, an eloquent speaker, and having many qualities fitted to make him a popular leader. At all events, he was now the tribune of the people and everything that was bad in the eyes of Sir John Wentworth and his official clique. To their no small annoyance, he now offered for the County of Halifax, (which then embraced what now forms the Counties of Halifax, Colchester and Pictou) against the old members, Michael Wallace, Lawrence Hartshorne, Charles Morris and James Stewart (afterward Judge Stewart), who were friends of the Government, and who had issued a card jointly, appealing to the electors, though afterward they denied that there was any combination among them.
Another element, however, had perhaps more influence in the country. The representation of the county had hitherto been in the hands of the town of Halifax, and, indeed, of the Government officials. A feeling, however, was growing up through the rural districts, that their views were little understood and imperfectly represented at the Capital; and though Colchester and Pictou, there was a strong desire to have local members. Accordingly, the people of these districts generally combined in favour of Edward Mortimer of Pictou and James Fulton of Londonderry, and united with the friends of Tonge in Halifax, to oppose the Government candidates.
The poll opened at Halifax on the 13th November, and closed on the 23rd. It was then adjourned to Onslow, where it continued for two days. It was thence adjourned to the town plot of Walmsley, as it was called, at Fishers Grant, where it opened on the 5th December, in the barn of James McPherson. By consent of the candidates, the last day's polling was at the East River, where it finally closed on the 13th December. In Halifax, the country candidates received very little support, and Tonge, though receiving more, was still far behind the Government candidates, but Colchester and Pictou went almost unanimously for their local members, and at the same time gave large majorities for Tonge, so that the three were triumphantly elected, and with them, the highest on the poll of the Government candidates. The result of this election to the Province was a systematic attack upon the old irresponsible regime, which, however, produced little fruit.
The election however had a special importance for the County of Pictou, as it was the origin of those party feuds, for which it has since been noted. The opposition to Mortimer formed the nucleus of a party, formed partly on political and partly on personal grounds. The division thus formed was fostered in after years by various circumstances, and unfortunately became mixed with ecclesialstical, we can scarcely call them religious, differences, which gave intensity to the feelings excited.
Mr. Wallace , who was defeated , was at that time treasurer of the Province, had been for some time a member of the House and became so again, by the unseating of Tonge, for want of a freehold in the county. He was afterward a member of Council, and several times administered the Government in the absence of the Lieut. Governor. He was a native of Scotland, but had emigrated to the Southern States, where he had been doing business as a merchant, but, on the American Revolutionary war breaking out, he espoused the side of the British Government, and removed to Halifax, where he was engaged in business, till he became Provincial Treasurer. He was thus described in one of the Halifax papers at a later period. “He is one of those who think the King can do no wrong, that the British constitution is the most perfect fabric the world ever saw. He hates a radical as he hates Satan himself. He would, if he had the power, shake all the liberals in the world over the crater of Vesuvius, but his heart would be too kind, to let them "fa’ in." When he was a member of the Assembly many years ago, his opponents used to take advantage of the irritability of his disposition, and generally put him in such a passion, as to deprive him of the power of speech. He was once sitting on the bench of the Inferior Court, and was engaged in some calculation of damages, when one of the counsel for the parties uttered something, which grated on the old man's ears, and forgetting for a moment the dignity of his office, he abruptly asked, "What's that you say, you ___ rascal?"
He was distinguished even in those days of irresponsible power, for his adherence to arbitrary principles, and his hatred for everything like popular rights. On one occasion of the Speaker of the Assembly having presented an Appropriation Bill, which had passed both branches of the Legislature, to Dr. Croke administering the Government, the latter said, "I do not assent to this bill," and three days after summoned the House, and addressed them in a speech in which he told them, that the Government would appropriate the revenue of the Province more beneficially and economically, than the Assembly had provided for by their bill, "after which", as the journals of the House say, "Mr. Speaker offered to address his Honour the President, but was prevented in a turbulent and violent manner, by the Hon. Michael Wallace, acting President of His Majesty's Council, who declared the House prorogued." And on the President consulting the Council whether he should not draw warrants on the Treasurer, without an Appropriation Bill of the Assembly, Wallace alone voted in favour of the proposal.* At a later date, the House of Assembly having made some enquiries regarding the revenue received from the coal mines, Wallace replied that the disposal of it was none of their business.
* [Murdoch's History, III,
But we have here to do with him as his influence affected Pictou. He took his defeat with a keenness that we can now scarcely understand, and Mortimer having given free expression to feelings of triumph, natural under the circumstances, he publicly vowed revenge. From that time his course was one of unrelenting hostility not only to Mortimer, but to the leading men in Pictou, both in church and state. Those being the days of irresponsible Executive power, and from his offices being always influential, and at times administering the Government, he had the machinery of Government very much under his control, and was ever ready to exercise it for their annoyance, and to nurture the personal and party feelings that had begun at this election. Years after even the descendants of those who opposed him, might be driven from his office with passionate execrations, while for a man to quarrel with his minister was sufficient to entitle him to official favour.
He is said to have kept a book containing black and white lists, of every man in Pictou at the time of the election. When any application was made to Government from parties in Pictou, his first care was to examine these lists, to see what had been the conduct of the parties at that time, and treat them accordingly. On one occasion, a road having been laid out in such a way as to do a great deal of damage to a man's intervale, a petition was forwarded to Government, to have its course altered. On applying to Mr. Wallace, he asked if the course in which they proposed taking the road would suit the public as well. The parties said that they thought it would suit better. He began making a favourable reply, but on glancing over the petition, and observing the name of the party interested, he stopped and exclaimed, "John D__." Reaching down his black book and finding the name, he said, "Take it where it was laid out, if it should go through his house." He, however, afterward relented. The following incident, which I received from my father, however, will show that he could remember favours as well as injuries. Among those in Pictou who voted for Wallace was his father, old John Patterson. Some years after, my father and his brothers applied to Government for a grant of Crown lands. At that time there was an unwillingness to grant land in quantities, in consequence of parties taking it up on speculation. On applying to Mr. Wallace, he asked who they were. They said they were the sons of John Patterson, deacon. "Sons of Old John Patterson! Oh, Yes, you'll get your land," was the immediate rejoinder. Other parties having applied about the same time, they were told to "go to Mortimer, and let him get them land."
An incident may be mentioned in connection with the close of the poll, as illustrative of the progress of the country. On the last day of the election, Dr. McGregor entertained the candidates and some strangers at dinner, and made for them a fire of coal. This was considered quite a novelty, and an important event for the Province. It was only the year previous that coal had been discovered on a brook, passing in rear of his and William McKay's lots. William Fraser (surveyor) in that year carried a sample to Halifax to the Governor, Sir John Wentworth, who sent him with it to Admiral Sawyer, who ordered a small cargo to be sent to Halifax, which was done, but it did not prove of good quality. Soon after the Dr. and some of his neighbours took out licenses from Government to dig coal, but undoubtedly he was the first to use it as fuel. He first opened a pit on what is still known as the McGregor seam, discovered on his own land, and used the coal in his house. This would be as early as 1801 or '2. From that time he regularly, in the fall of the year, got out his winter's supply, and sometimes sold some. Previously the blacksmiths had used charcoal, but now John McKay, of Pictou, commenced sending lighters up the river, and took the coal to Pictou for use in his smithy, and other blacksmiths soon followed the same course.