Arrival of the Ship "Hector." Early Struggles of her Passengers.
Dr. Witherspoon became one of the proprietors of the Philadelphia company, and John Pagan, a merchant of Greenock, became the purchaser of the undivided shares. The ship " Hector," which was owned by Pagan, in 1770 arrived in Boston with Scottish emigrants, and there is a deed on record in the Pictou registry office, after the American Revolutionary War, from Witherspoon, conveying to Pagan all the land of the former in Pictou, in exchange for the lands of the latter in the States.
In order to carry out the obligations of their grant, the proprietors offered liberal terms for the settlement of it. They employed an agent named John Ross, with whom they agreed to give each settler that he might bring from Scotland, a free passage, a farm lot, and a year's provisions. Ross went to the Highlands, and drawing a glowing picture of the land, and the advantages offered, many knowing nothing of the difficulties of settling a new country, and allured by the prospect of being land-owners, gladly embraced his proposals. The "Hector" was chartered to convey them to Pictou. She was under the command of Captain John Spears, James Orr being first mate, and John. Anderson second. Three families and five young men embarked in her at Greenock, whence she sailed for Loch Broom, in Ross-shire, where she received the rest of her passengers, amounting to thirty-three families and twenty-five unmarried men besides the agent. Total number about two hundred souls.
On July, 1773, they left their native land. As they were leaving a piper came on board who had not engaged his passage. The captain ordered him ashore, when the passengers interceded, offering to share their rations with him in exchange for his music. He was consequently allowed to remain. There was not a person on board who had crossed the Atlantic except one sailor. Song, music, dancing, and other amusements relieved the tedium of a sea-voyage. The "Hector" was an old Dutch ship and a dull sailer. When they arrived off the coast of Newfoundland they met with a severe gale which drove them back a considerable distance. Smallpox and dysentery broke out on board, so that eighteen, most of them children, died and were committed to the deep waters. It is said the former disease was brought on board by a ,mother and child, both of whom lived to an old age. One child was born, afterward the late Mrs. Page, of Truro. For some time before their arrival their stock of provisions and water became low, and they were pat on allowance. The oat cake supplied to the passengers became mouldy, and they often threw part of it away. A prudent man, named Hugh McLeod, however, was in the habit of gathering up the fragments and putting them into a sack, and the last two days they were thankful to avail themselves of the refuse of food thus picked up.
On the 15th of September, 1773, this pioneer band of Scottish emigrants arrived in Pictou. Previous to their arrival the Indians had been troublesome to the settlers; if not positively dangerous they at least gave annoyance, and the whites, from their small numbers, were kept in considerable alarm. It was reported that there was a plot among them at that time to cut off the whole settlement. When word was received of the coming of the "Hector" with Highland emigrants, the whites, in reply to the threats of the Indians, told them that the Highlanders were coming, the same men they had seen in petticoats at the taking of Quebec. The "Hector" came, her sides being painted according to the old fashion in imitation of gunports, helped to induce the impression that she was a man of war. In honor of the occasion the young men had arrayed themselves in their kilts, with skeindhu, and some with broadswords. When she dropped anchor the piper blew his pipes to their utmost power; its thrilling sounds then first startling the echoes among the silent solitudes of our forest. The Micmacs fled in terror and were not seen for some time, so that trouble with the Indians was at an end.
The importance of the arrival of the Hector cannot be over-estimated, because with her passengers may be said to have commenced the effective settlement of Pictou. But this was not all; the Hector was the first emigrant vessel from Scotland to this county, or even these lower Provinces. That stream of Scottish emigration which, in after years, flowed not only over the county of Pictou, but over much of the eastern part of the Province Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, portions of New Brunswick, and even the Upper Provinces, began with this voyage, and even in a large measure originated with it, for it was by the representations of those on board to their friends that others followed, and so the stream deepened and widened in succeeding years. It may be truthfully asserted that there is no one element in the population of these Lower Provinces upon which their social, moral, and religions condition has depended more than upon its Scottish immigrants, and of these the little band in the Hector were the pioneers. The old ship Hector, when she had returned to Scotland, was condemned, and went to sea no more.
The expectations of the newly-arrived passengers were no doubt in some measure blighted when they beheld the unbroken forest before them. They had landed without provisions and without shelter, except as with the assistance of those here before them. They, however, at once commenced to erect camps for themselves and little ones, and in process of time became reconciled with their lot.
The company had the land laid out in blocks, which were subdivided into lots, and they soon began to select their future homes. The great difficulty with the passengers of the Hector, however, was that they were obliged to go back to the interior of the county, one, two, or three miles, and there amid the primeval forest they were invited to locate. The difficulties appeared to them so formidable that they all refused to settle on the company's land, and when a supply of provisions arrived the agents refused to give them any. A jealousy arose between them and the American settlers. The agent, named Ross, who had brought out the passengers of the Hector, quarrelled with the company. They refused his demands, and soon after he abandoned the newly--arrived settlers. Some who were in possession of a little money purchased provisions for a time, or even exchanged part of their clothing for food; but the greater number had nothing to buy with, and the little that the others had was soon exhausted. Under these circumstances they insisted upon having the supplies sent by the company. The agent, however, refused to comply with their request, when they helped themselves to such articles as they and their families required, leaving a correct list of the same, and engaging to pay for the goods when they were in a position to do so. This caused considerable disturbance, and intelligence was sent to Halifax that the Highlanders were in rebellion, with a request for assistance. It may be supposed that at a time when the scenes of the "forty-five" were still fresh in memory, this was heard with regret. It is said that orders were dispatched to a gentleman named Archibald of Truro, to march his company of militia to Pictou to suppress the rebellion. "I will do no such thing," said Captain Tom Archibald; "I know the Highlanders, and if they are fairly treated there will be no trouble with them." A true account of the case was sent to Halifax, and Lord William Campbell, who had been Governor, interested himself on behalf of the immigrants, and orders came from the government to let them have the provisions. Squire Patterson used to say that the Highlanders who arrived in poverty had paid him every farthing that he had trusted them.
Many of the immigrants afterward removed to Truro, and a few settled at Londonderry. Some went to Windsor and Cornwallis, many of whom, even mothers of families hired out; and many of the children were bound out for service till they should come of age. The majority of them, however returned in after years. We have very little conception of the hardships which these early settlers endured. Oftentimes in the deep snow have they proceeded to Truro, and there, obtaining a bushel or two of potatoes or a little flour in exchange for their labor, they had to return, carrying this little supply on their backs.
The first, death which occurred among the immigrants that winter was a child of Donald McDonald and the first birth a son of Alexander Fraser, afterwards of Middle River, named David, afterward Captain Fraser.
Some trouble was experienced in getting their grants of land, chiefly through the opposition of the agent of the Philadelphia company, by whom they had been brought out, Donald Fraser, who had been a soldier in the Fraser Highlanders at the taking of Quebec. His lot was situated at the Albion Mines, which was afterward purchased by Dr. McGregor. The date of his deed is the 8th of February, 1772, and in addition to the condition of payment of quit-rent as in the other grants, contains the following: "That the grantee, his heirs or assigns, shall clear and work within three years, three acres for every fifty granted in that part of the land which he shall judge most convenient and advantageous, or clear and drain three acres of swampy or sunken ground, or drain three acres of marsh, if any such be within the bounds of this grant, or put and keep on his lands within three years from the date hereof three neat cattle, to be continued upon the land until three acres for every fifty be fully cleared and improved.
"But if no part of the said tract be fit for present cultivation without manuring and improving the same, then this grantee, his heirs and assigns, shall be obliged within three years from the date hereof, to erect on some part of said land a dwelling-house, to contain twenty feet in length by sixteen feet in breadth, and to put on said land three neat cattle for every fifty acres; or if the said grantee, his heirs or assigns, shall, within three years after the -passing of this grant, begin to employ thereon and so to continue to work for three years then next ensuing, in digging any stone quarry, or any other mine, one good and able hand for every hundred acres of such tract, it shall be accounted a sufficient seeding, planting, cultivation, and improvement, and every three acres, which shall be cleared and worked as aforesaid; and every three acres which shall be cleared and drained as aforesaid, shall be accounted a sufficient seeding, planting, cultivation, and improvement, to save forever from forfeiture fifty acres in every part of the tract hereby granted."
Many of the Hector passengers who remained in Pictou secured land on the Three Rivers, on what had been McNutt's grant, but they did not receive a deed of their grants until the 26th of August, 1783. The conditions were the same as Cameron's grant, and the mines reserved are gold, silver, lead, copper, and coals.
These hardy sons of toil used all the means in their power to provide for the wants of their families. Soon they learned to hunt moose, which served to benefit them materially. The finest quality of timber abounded, and they learned to split staves or long shingles, and vessels came from the old colonies, which supplied them with necessaries in exchange for these goods. Knowing the nature of timber in Great Britain, they formed the idea of preparing a quantity for exportation, and accordingly united a company of hewers from Truro, who assisted them in this enterprise. During the summer they prepared as much square timber as l oaded a vessel, which had been condemned, and purchased by Governor Patterson for this purpose. This was the commencement of what after ward turned out an extensive trade. The Indians, as soon as the mu- tual terror had subsided, treated them with much kindness, and learned them to make and use snow shoes, to call moose, and other arts of forest life. From them they frequently received supplies of provisions. They were sometimes disposed to make use of the terror which they knew their name and appearance inspired, especially among the weaker sex, to se-cure their object; but it is only fair to say that from the time of the arrival of the Hector they never seriously molested the settlers, but generally treated them with great kindness.
American Revolutionary War.
Very great inconvenience was experienced by the settlers of Pictou County on the breaking out of the war in 1776, as most of their supplies were received from the old colonies in exchange for lumber, fish, and fur. The communication now ceased and the want of this trade was very much felt. That most indispensable necessary of. Life, salt, could not be obtained. Necessity, however, is often the mother of invention, and the settlers might be seen for days boiling down sea-water in order to secure a supply of this useful commodity. Halifax was chosen as the chief depot for the British navy, and large sums of money were expended on the dockyard. Vessels of all classes were there annually refitted and employment was given to hundreds of people who otherwise, in all probability, would be idle. Prices of hard wood, squared pine, and barrel staves advanced in some cases fifty per cent, still they could not obtain British goods. In the year 1779, however, John Patterson proceeded to Scotland and brought to the county a supply of these useful goods. The Scotch, it is said, were loyally attached to the British Government. Most of the American settlers, however, with the exception of Squire Patterson, sympathized with the other side and doubtless would have manifested their sympathy by taking arms had they thought they could have served the cause.
In 1774, Mr. Patterson had been made a magistrate and was active in carrying out the instructions contained in the following circular, which had been addressed to all the magistrates in the Province: "Be watchful and attentive to the behavior of the people in your county, and that you will apprehend any person or persons who shall be guilty of any opposition to the king's authority and government, and send them properly guarded to Halifax." The oath of allegiance had to be taken by the inhabitants, and all magistrates were ordered to furnish lists of all those who complied and those who objected.
There are several incidents connected with the war relating to the county of Pictou, which on account of our limited space cannot be given.
Slavery - The following is a copy of a document which is on record in the office of the Registrar of Deeds in Truro, and shows that slavery existed in this county in 1779: -
" Be it known to all men That I, Matthew Harris, of Pictou, in his majesty's Province of Nova Scotia, yeoman, have bargained and sold unto Matthew Archibald, of Truro, within said Province, tanner, and I do by these presents, bargain, sell, alien, and forever make over to him, the said Matthew Archibald, his heirs and assigns, all the right, property, title or interest I now have or at any time hereafter can pretend to have, to one negro boy named Abram, now about twelve years of age, who was born of my negro slave in my house in Maryland, for and in consideration of the sum of fifty pounds currency, to me in hand paid by the said Matthew Archibald, or secured to be paid, and I do by these presence, for myself, my heirs and assigns forever, quit claim to my negro boy, now in possession of said Matthew Archibald. In testimony of which I have to this bill of sale set my hand and seal this 29th day of July, Anno Domini 1779, in the 19th year of his majesty's reign, Truro, county of Halifax. Matho HARRIS.
Signed, sealed and delivered in presence of. David Archibald, Js. Peace."
In the records of Pictou we find the following singular document touching the same subject: - -
" Know all men by these presents, That I, Archibald Allardice, of the Province of Nova Scotia, mariner, for and in consideration of forty pounds currency, to me in hand paid by Dr. John Harris, of Truro, have made over and sold and bargained and by these presents do bargain, make over and sell to the aforesaid Dr. John Harris, one negro man named Sambo, aged twenty-five years or thereabouts, and also one brown mare and her colt now sucking, to have and to hold the said negro man and mare with her colt as his property, for and in security of the above sum of money until paid, with lawful interest. And at the payment of the above-mentioned sum with interest and expenses, the aforesaid Dr. John Harris is by these presents firmly bound to deliver up to the said Archibald Allardice, the said negro man, named Sambo, with the mare and colt (casualties excepted). But if the said negro man, mare, or colt should die before the said money should be paid, then in such proportion, I, the said Archibald Allardice, promise to make good the deficiency to the said Dr. John Harris. In witness thereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this tenth day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-six, and in the twenty-sixth of our sovereign Lord George the Third's reign.
ARCHIBALD ALLARDICE. [D.S.]
Signed, sealed and delivered in presence of James Phillips, Robert Dunn
Truro, August 26, 1786. Recorded on the oath of James Phillips.
JOHN HARRIS, D. R."
Along the margin the following words were written: "Assignment to Thomas Harris, 20th day of April, 1791, per JOHN HARRIS, D.R."
Further Accession of Settlers. - In 1783, at the close of the war, a large number from the old colonies arrived in the county, the most of whom here disbanded soldiers, with a few families, who had emigrated from the old country about that time. The majority of them were of the 82d or Hamilton regiment., who had been employed in garrison duty in Hallifax, with the exception of an expedition to Casco Bay, in the State of Maine, under General McLean. Many of them too had been employed in the Southern States and had seen severe service. The most unfortunate event, however, which occurred was the loss by shipwreck of a transport on the coast, near New York, York, when of three hundred men on board only eighteen were saved.
A large tract of land was set apart for the disbanded soldiers in Pictou, chiefly of the grants of Fisher and others, which had been escheated. It is known in the county as the 82d grant, and embraced the shore on the south side of the harbor at Fraser's Point, and from the upper part of Fisher's grant around the coast to the eastern extremity of the county, including Fisher's grant, Chance Harbor, Little Harbor, and Merigomish, with the exception of the Wentworth grant and of some smaller grants previously made at Barney's River, and extending into the interior to the depth of three or four miles. The quantity of land was said to he 26,030 acres, allowance being made for a town plot, common glebe and schools, and for other public uses. This immense tract of land was divided as follows: to the Colonel (Robertson) of Strun, in Perthshire, the Big Island, hence often known as Robertson's Island, estimated to contain 1,500 acres, though it is said it contained consider ably more; to Captain Fraser 700 acres at Fraser's Point, which obtained its name from him; to four other officers 500 acres each; to another 300 acres; to thirty-two non-commissioned officers 200 acres each; to two others 150 each, and to one hundred and twenty privates 100 acres each. This grant is dated 15th February, 1785, and is described as follows: -
"Six certain lots or tracts of land, containing on the whole 22,600 acres.
One tract, beginning at west boundary of land granted to Robert Patterson, near the head of Merigomish harbor; thence to run south by the Magnet, 373 chains of 4 rods each; thence west 120 chains; thence south 38 chains; thence west 109 chains: thence south 26 chains; thence west 187.50 links, or until it comes to Wentworth grant; thence north 276 chains to the harbor aforesaid: thence by the several courses of the said harbor, running east up to the grant made to Robert Patterson as aforesaid; thence crossing on that line to the west side said harbor, and running west down the harbor and round the sea-coast, running east to the bound first mentioned, containing 11,388 acres. Also one other tract, beginning at a stake and stones on the west point of the entrance in to the harbor of Merigomish : thence to run south 48° west 300 chains; thence north 78° west 107; thence north 12 chains; thence north 45° west 48 chains, to the harbor of Pictou; thence bounded by the several courses of the said harbor and sea shore, running east to the bounds first mentioned, containing 12,000 acres. Also one other tract, beginning at the point between East and Middle Rivers in Pictou harbor; thence to run south 65° west 43 chains; thence south 67 chains; thence east till it comes to the East River aforesaid; thence bounded by the several courses of the shore to the bound first mentioned, containing 500 acres, hereby granted wholly to the said Colin McDonald. Also one other tract, beginning at the first-mentioned bound of the last described tract; thence to run south 65° west 43 chains; thence south 104 chains; thence north 85° west, till it comes to the harbor of Pictou; thence bounded by the several courses of the said harbor to the bounds first mentioned, containing 700 acres, hereby granted wholly to the said John Fraser. Also one other tract, beginning at the northern bound of lands granted Archibald Allardyce on the aforesaid harbor of Pictou; thence to run south 85° east 158 chains, or until it comes to the lands granted to Rod McKay; thence north 48 chains; thence west 34 chains; thence south 3 chains 50 links; thence north 85° west to the harbor, and by the several courses of the said harbor to the bound first mentioned, containing 500 acres hereby granted to the said Donnet Fenucane. Also one other tract, beginning 28 chains to the east of land granted to R. Patterson aforesaid; thence to run south 140 chains; thence east 75 chains; thence north to the sea-shore; thence running westwardly by the several courses of the sea-shore to the bound first mentioned, containing 950 acres, and containing in the whole of the aforesaid tract of land 26,080 acres of land, allowance being made for a town plot, common glebe and school, and for other public uses, excepting always the land marked on the plan as reserved, and being all wilderness land."
Disbanded soldiers have not always been the most successful settlers, although large tracts of land have been granted to them; and this appears to have been the opinion of Governor Laurence, who, when writing to the Lords of Trade and Plantations some time .previously, says:
" According to my ideas of the military, which I offer with all possible deference and submission, they are the least qualified from their occupation as soldiers of any men living to establish a new country, where they must encounter difficulties with which they are altogether unacquainted." This soon became apparent in the present case. Several came and inspected their property, and, without doing anything on the land, returned to Halifax, while others sold out for trifling sums. Still it is only fair to say that a goodly number of this class finally settled on their grants, and were steady, frugal, and industrious.
The arrival of another band of settlers must be briefly mentioned, who first occupied the upper settlements of East River. " These belonged to the 84th regiment, known at that time as the Royal Highland Emigrants. It consisted of two battalions originally embodied in the year 1775, though not numbered as the 84th till the year 1778, when each battalion of men was raised to 1000 men. Their uniform was the full Highland garb, with purses made of raccoon instead of badgers' skins. The officers wore the broadsword and dirk, and the men a half-basket sword. The first battalion was raised among the discharged men of the 42d Frasers and Montgomerys - Highlanders who had settled in Canada or the old colonies at the peace of 1763. 1t was stationed at Quebec under the command of Colonel Allan McLean, where it did good service in defence of that post, and was thus the principal means of preserving the province to the British crown. The other battalion was raised principally among immigrants arriving in the United States or Nova Scotia. At the time the war broke out, a large number were on their way from Scotland to settle in various parts of the old colonies. In some instances the vessels were boarded by a man of war before arrival. After arrival they were induced, partly by threats and partly by persuasion, to enlist for the war, which was expected to be of short duration. They were not only in poverty, but many were in debt for their passage, and they were now told that by enlisting they would have their debts paid, have plenty of food as well as full pay, and would receive for each head of a family 200 acres of land, and 50 more for each child, "as soon as the present unnatural rebellion is suppressed," while, in the event of refusal, there presented the alternative of going to jail to pay their debts. Under these circumstances, most of the able-bodied enlisted, in some instances fathers and sons serving together. Their wives and children were brought to Halifax, hearing the cannon of Bunker Hill on their passage.
This battalion was under the command of Colonel Small. Stewart, in his history of the Highland clans and regiments, says: - "No chief of former days ever secured the attachment of his clan, and no chief ever deserved it better. With an enthusiastic and almost romantic love of his country and countrymen, it seemed as if the principal object of his life had been to serve them and promote their prosperity. Equally brave in leading them in the field, and kind, just, and conciliating in quarters, they would have indeed been ungrateful if they had regarded him otherwise than they did. There was not an instance of desertion in the battalion. Five companies remained in Nova Scotia during the war. The other five joined General Clinton and Lord Cornwallis to the southward. At Eutaw Springs the grenadier company was in the battalion which, as Colonel Alexander Stewart of the 3d regiment states in his despatches, drove all before them.
Our limited space will not allow us to speak of the many other settlers who arrived, including those who came from the town of Montbelaird, part of the dominions of the Duke of Wurtemberg. Evident it is, however, that the number was very great, and the changes produced in the community were not always satisfactory. The greatest evil, no doubt, was the damage done to its morality by the profligacy of some of the men discharged from the army.
Geological Features of the County.
On the southern side of the county extends a line of hills of Upper Silurian formation, comprising beds of quartzite and slate, the latter varying considerably in color and texture with masses and dykes of syenite and greenstone. This band, which commences on the east at Cape Porcupine and Cape George, is about fifteen miles broad from the east side of the county, till it approaches East River, when it suddenly bends to the south, allowing the carboniferous strata to extend far up into the valley of the river. It again widens further west, and so continues beyond the limits of the county. There are rocks of the same formation further north on its western border, where the Eastern Cobegid hills enter the county at Mount Thom and adjacent hills. These rocks, in an economical point of view, derive their chief importance from their valuable iron ores. There are lower carboniferous rocks at the base of these hills, chiefly sandstone and conglomerates, over and associated with which is a series of reddish and gray sandstone and shales with thick beds of limestone and gypsum. These can be traced from the upper part of the West River eastward to the East River, along the valley of which they enter in the form of a narrow bay into the metamorphic district to the southward. They continue to skirt the older hills eastward, until they reach the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
There is northward, especially on the East River, a large development of the productive or middle coal measures, which we shall notice at large presently. The other portion of the county stretching along the Straits of Northumberland, consists of newer carboniferous rocks, supposed by Dr. Dawson to belong to the Upper Coal Measures or Permocarboniferous Series. Copper ores are found at various localities, including the West River a little below Durham, Cariboo River, the East River, and near the village of River John. There does not appear to have been a sufficiency of enterprise manifested to give these places a fair trial, and therefore up to this time there have been no large results.
Coal Mines in the County.
There can be little doubt that coal mining is the most important branch of industry in the county of Pictou. The discovery was, we understand, first made in the year 1798, and Dr. McGregor exhibited a fire of it to the candidates at the election of 1799. John McKay obtained a license to dig for the inhabitants, and later to export, in the year 1807. He and his father commenced working a small three-feet seam on the farm of the latter, but it soon became exhausted. Having searched further, they found what has since been known as the "Big Seam," though at that time they had no conception of its value. For some time John McKay continued to work the mine, selling it at the pit's mouth and sending it down the river in lighters. During the war an extensive demand sprang up, to supply the garrison, navy, and inhabitants of Hali-fax, and in 1815 some six hundred and fifty chaldrons were exported. After the peace the price fell considerably, and the result was that McKay unfortunately failed and was imprisoned, and his property seized by the merchant who furnished his supplies at Halifax. The government afterward let the mines to Messrs. Carr and Mortimer, and in the year 1818 they obtained the lease. Having worked together until Mortimer died the following year, the lease was transferred to George Smith and William Liddle on the following terms: the mine on the west side the river at an annual rental of £260, and three shillings per chaldron for all raised over four hundred. The mine on the east side the river for £110. It may be observed, however, that the latter has not produced coal of the best quality.-
The home government in the year 1825 leased all the reserved mines of the province for sixty years to the Duke of York, excepting those which had already been leased to others. Sir James Kempt, in laying before the Council correspondence on the subject, intimates that he was authorized to state that the reserved profits of the mines would be applied to the benefit of the country. No person will in the present day defend this transaction, and subsequent British ministers have acknowledged themselves unable to justify it. One very important good, however, has come out of the apparent evil; that is, the introduction into the country of a wealthy company at a time when the same capital could not have been easily raised. Messrs Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell, of London, received a transfer of the Duke's lease, and they subsequently transferred the lease to the General Mining Association, in which, it is said, they were extensive shareholders. The company in due time sent an agent to the province to explore for mines, and on his report resolved to commence operations at the East River. Mr. Carr sold his lease to them, and ultimately they obtained the rights of the lessees in the Syd-ney mines, so that they came in possession of all the mines and minerals in the province, except what might be found on a few old grants on which there had been no reserve. In the summer of 1827 they sent out Mr. Richard Smith, intending to commence work both in coal and iron; the necessary machinery and implements, with colliers, engineers, and machinery, arrived in June of the same year.
The Lieutenant-Governor issued a proclamation on the 11th June, calling on the officers of government, magistrates, and proprietors of land to give every facility to Mr. Smith in carrying on his operations.
He at once made the necessary arrangements for working on a large scale. The farms of Dr. McGregor, William McKay, and Colin McKay were purchased by him, and he commenced sinking new shafts 212 feet, and erecting the proper machinery for working on an extensive scale and in a more scientific manner. The new company's first coal was raised on the 6th September, and in the month of December they had a steam engine in operation, the first erected in the province. The following reference to the event is from the local paper of December 7, 1827:-
"The same day on which our first number appears (the above date) another event happened, which we may with great propriety hail as the harbinger of illimitable prosperity to Pictou, of great utility to the whole province, and, we might fairly add, to the British North American Colonies. On Friday last for the first time in Nova Scotia the immense power of steam was brought into successful requisition at the Albion Mines on the East River. Let us rejoice that this district is the favored scene of its first operation. The engine is of twenty-horse power, and the perfection of its first operations evidence the skill of the engineer. The company's work will now proceed with redoubled celerity and vigor. Their progress, though retarded by the selfishness and overreaching disposition of individuals, has surpassed the imagination of individuals."
To get their coal to market was the next consideration, and in order to do so they constructed a railroad from their works to a point below New Glasgow, on which they hauled their coal by horses. Here shoots were erected, and vessels drawing not more than six feet of water were loaded. To load larger vessels they constructed lighters, in which the coal was conveyed to the loading ground.
They considered this plan of loading too slow, and knowing that locomotives on railroads had been tried successfully in England, they determined to build a railroad from the East River to the loading ground for the conveyance of their coal in that way. In the year 1836 the road was laid out and operations commenced. It was opened in the year 1839, when the first locomotives in British America ran upon it. The length of the road is six miles, and so nearly straight that the least radius of any of its curves was 1300 feet. Its width was 18 feet. The estimated quantity of excavation was 400,000 cubic yards. At the terminus was a wharf 1500 feet long by 24 feet broad, commanding a fall of 17 feet above high water level at the shoots. Estimated cost, $160,000.
An unforeseen and unfortunate occurrence happened on the 29th of December, 1832. The mine was on fire. When the men assembled for work on the following morning, they found dense volumes of smoke emitting from the shafts. The manager very warily set all hands to work to cover the mouths of the pits. They were left covered for several weeks, but still the fire was not extinguished. Finally the managers were obliged to introduce the waters of the East River, which proved effectual. The loss to the company was immense. Many other fires occurred, but the one of October 1839 was doubtless the most severe. In 1866 a new shaft was sunk to the face of the west workings . This pit, known as the Foster Pit, was found on fire in May, 1869. It has since been abandoned. The Foord Pit, the last sunk by the association, is said to be unequalled in the costliness and efficiency of its equipments, in America. When the mine is in full working order, it will produce 1000 tons of coal per day.
The company own about 400 houses, which are occupied by their employes.
The General Mining Association, in the year 1872, sold all their rights in the mines at Pictou to a new association, known as the Halifax Company, of which Sir George Elliott is chairman.
The monopoly of the General Mining Association was abolished in 1856, they retaining in Pictou four square miles where they might select. The area as chosen by themselves extends from the Albion mines to the upper part of New Glasgow, a distance of about two miles, embracing the ground on both sides of the river, extending a greater distance to the west than to the east of it.
Acadia Company.- This company, of which the principal shareholders are in New York, was formed by the late James D. B. Frazer, Esq., whose efforts in search of coal were very considerable. They commenced working the McGregor seam at the place formerly worked by Dr. McGregor. Having expended a large sum in erecting buildings and providing machinery necessary for the work, they discovered a seam of coal now known as the "Acadia seam" about two miles to the southwest of the Albion seam, where the Nova Scotia Company's works now are. The company have built a railroad connecting their present works (having nearly abandoned the McGregor seam) with the government line, and have sent their coal for shipment over it to Fisher's grant, which is said to be a distance of thirteen miles. The quality of the coal at this mine is excellent, and the daily quantity produced is about 400 tons, which is considerably below what could be raised with increased help.
Intercolonial Company.- The coal seams to the southward were traced by Mr. John Campbell, who obtained a lease and subsequently sold his rights to a company in Montreal, of which G. A. Drummond was president. They at once commenced operations, and in the year 1868 two slopes were sunk to the dip of the large seam known as the "Acadia," and a pair of winding engines erected at their mouth. Some 14,000 tons were mined the same year, and a considerable amount of preparatory work done. A railway about six miles long was constructed to the Middle River, where they had built wharves and provided other conveniences for the shipment of coal.. On the 1st of October the railway was opened, since which time they have erected a short line from their works to the government road, by which they are enabled to send coal to Halifax and elsewhere.
In the year 1869 the colliery under the management of the late James Dunn, Esq., was in full working order, having been equipped with everything necessary for the production, transportation, and ship-ment of coal, and under the improved markets of the following years the company's business increased considerably, and in 1872 their sales were 105,545 tons, their shipments ranking second in the province. The markets continued to improve in 1873, and preparations were made for a heavy production. An immense stock of coal was banked on the surface, and 7000 tons stowed in the upper workings of the mine. There was every prospect of a successful year's business, the company having on hand an unusually large stock - more than any other company to commence the spring trade. When the shipping season opened, however, the terrible explosion which resulted in the loss of so many valuable lives took place. Of course, much damage was done - plants destroyed and operations suspended. We cannot do better here than furnish the following account taken from the report of the Inspector of Mines. "Early in May the shipping had already become vigorous, when a strike of the colliers for certain privileges and higher rates of wages closed the workings. After a week's intermission an agreement was made with the men, and they resumed work on the 13th. About noon of that day a shot fired in one of the low levels on the south side of the pit ignited the coal. Every exertion was made to put out the fire, but the peculiarly broken condition of the face of the level prevented the men from attacking the flame, where the burning gas directly issued in great volume from the solid coal. The fire spread rapidly, and as it was soon evident that the chances of subduing it were small, an order was issued that all the hands who were disinclined to assist at the fire should leave the pit. Many had previously left, having been driven out of their bords by the smoke. The boys, all except one, and of the rest all but about a dozen men who remained with Richardson, the over man, at the fire, left the lowest landing to walk up the slope. Richardson and his men, who so heroically remained to battle with the fire, so long as there was the slightest hope of success, must soon have followed to endeavor to check as speedily as possible the progress of the flames, and save the pit by closing all openings. No attempt to do this, however, was made, for before many of the men who were in the slope had time to escape, an explosion of gas, unexampled on this continent for violence, occurred, dealing on all sides death and destruction. The force of the explosion was so great that the wooden rope rollers were torn from the track and hurled out of the slope, as from the mouth of a cannon, falling in the woods some two hundred yards back of the bankhead. Great banks of timber, 14 feet long by 9 inches through, were cast up out of the Campbell pit to so great a height that, on falling, they struck the ground with such force as to fracture them, and the rush of air swept away as would a hurricane the exposed roof of the bankhead. Many explosions took place during the afternoon, and the second, occuring about two hours after the first, killed four volunteers, who were nobly endeavoring to secure some men then known to be alive at the bottom of the pumping pit. By the second explosion the ventilation was thoroughly destroyed, and as hopes could no longer be entertained that any life still existed in the mine, all the preparations to explode the workings were then abandoned, and attention alone directed to saving property. The violence and frequency of the explosions struck terror into the hearts of all who rushed to the scene, and paralyzed the efforts of those who sought to close the openings. All the available water was turned in to cut off the lower workings, and effectually seal the bottom of the pumping pit. Still the fire raged, despite of every exertion, for 36 hours, and the flames shot up with a fierce roar to a height of from 30 to 40 feet from the many openings along the crop. Two days passed before the men engaged in filling the openings had effectually sealed this fiery grave of fifty-five of their comrades.
The workings remained closed until the end of October, when one of the slopes was opened and air allowed to circulate between it and an opening made by a fall near the rise. At the end of a fortnight, and just when appearances seemed to warrant, preparations being made to re-open the workings in a regular manner, the return air showed unquestionable signs that the fresh air was finding its way into places where the heat was still sufficiently intense to cause combustion of the coal or bituminous shales of the roof. In consequence the pit was again closed."
The number of lives lost was 60, among whom was Mr. Dunn, the manager, of whom 31 were married and 28 single men, and 1 boy, leaving 29 widows and 80 orphan children, besides parents dependent on the lost. The handsome sum of $23,000 was contributed in the Dominion and the United States for their relief.
In order to keep a small business going a pit some seventy feet deep was sunk to the south of No 2 slope. In the fall of 1873, Mr. Robert Simpson, M. E., was appointed manager. He came from Glasgow, and under his supervision a new slope was driven to the south of the old workings and winding machinery there erected. Afterward he conducted the re-opening of the two original slopes, an operation involving great skill and expense, but one successfully consummated, the most of the exploded workings being recovered in 1875, and safety in restoring the remainder assured. It is no doubt now in a better position than ever for extensive operations. For the ventilation of the underground workings, a fan twenty feet diameter, six feet wide, on the Guibal principle, was erected in 1875, which works very successfully.
Nova Scotia Company. - Mr. French, who had obtained the lease of an area of three and a half miles, where the extension of the seams in this direction was first discovered, worked for a time without much success, and his rights were transferred to a company composed chiefly of persons resident in New Haven, Connecticut. They constructed a railway in 1869 from their mine to the Middle River, a distance of six miles, and in July, 1871, they had it completed with shipping wharf, and commenced the shipment of coal. One remarkable feature on this railroad is the high bridge across McCulloch's Brook. It is a trestle work built of southern pine imported expressly for the purpose. It is four hundred feet long, consisting of four spars of one hundred feet each, the middle span being seventy-eight feet above the bed of the brook.
Montreal Company. - This company sank a shaft just opposite New Glasgow on an area owned by them, which thus lies at the north side of the coal field, and near the base of the conglomerate. Coal of a very good quality was found here, but lying at a very steep angle. The coal abounds in inflammable gas, which for some purposes would doubtless make it the more valuable. Little or nothing, however, has been dote to develop the mine.
Pictou Mining Company. - This company re-opened a seam which had been opened prior to the General Mining Company's operations. Unfortunately, the coal was considered inferior in quality, and consequently abandoned.
Large sums of money have been expended in endeavors to trace the course of the seams further east, and several beds of coal have been discovered; but the field on examination has been found so intricate, the measures so disturbed and broken that their extent and position as well as their relation to the other seams, are as yet involved in uncertainty.
There are two seams immediately behind New Glasgow, which have been opened, the lower known as the Stewart seam, upwards of three feet in thickness, and the upper as the Richardson, two feet nine inches, both of which are regarded geologically as overlaying the main seam.
Crown Brick, Coal, and Pottery Company. - This company was formed for the purpose of working an extensive deposit of fire-clay found here. The seam (noticed above as the Richardson) was small, though the coal was found to be of superior quality. So far, however, the company has only partially developed the property.
One mile further east two seams have been discovered about three and a half and four and a half feet thick, and another layer. Here a fault is found to crop the field, and the whole measures are so broken that very little has been done in the way of mining upon them.
Vale Coal, Iron and Manufacturing Company. - This company, of which Sir Hugh Allan is President, purchased several years ago the lease which four young men named McBean had secured. The field which the lease included, on examination by Sir William Logan, was found to contain several rich seams of considerable extent.
This colliery is situate about six miles to the eastward of New Glasgow, on a seam formerly known as the McBean seam, and contains three square miles, or 1920 acres. In order to facilitate the shipment of coal the company has built a railroad six miles long leading from the colliery to the Intercolonial Railroad at New Glasgow, thence it is conveyed to the Pictou landing.
Iron Deposits. - The intention of the General Mining Association, when they commenced operations, was to work the iron as well as the coal mines, hence they quarried ore from a bed now known as the Blanchard bed, and collected a quantity of limonite about the banks of the river near Springville. A blast furnace was erected at the Albion mines for the purpose of smelting these ores. Those in charge, however, being accustomed only to English ores and English fuel, did not appear to understand how to manage ores of a different class; consequently, they declared that the ore was too rich and the company not having discovered the bed of limonite abandoned the work.
Attention of late years has again been directed to the subject, and careful explorations have been carried on under the direction of competent scientific men. Their researches have gone to show the existence in this county of a variety of iron deposits of considerable extent and richness of quality.
There is an extensive bed of red hematite at Blanchard near the east branch of the East River of Pictou, and on the upper part of Sutherlands River. Here is an enormous deposit varying in width from fifteen to thirty feet, and where it has been opened affords from ten to twenty feet in thickness of valuable ore. This bed has been traced for several miles and rises into some of the higher elevations of the country. It is found at an elevation of four hundred feet above its bed at Sutherlands River.
Valuable deposits of spathic iron ore or siderite - specular iron ore and clay, ironstones, with abundance of limonite are known to exist in various parts of the county.
The presence of a cheap flux for the manufacture of iron is of very great importance, and limestone is found in almost every part of the county. Fire-clay too, may be found in abundance in various places, while moulding sand is plentiful on the East River and elsewhere.
Agriculture. - On the 1st January, 1817, the first agricultural society in the rural districts of the province was organized at West River, and was appropriately named "The West River Farming Society." Some twenty six persons joined the association, and the following were elected officers: Rev. Duncan Ross, President; Robert Stewart, Vice-President; Donald Fraser, Treasurer; John Bonnyman, Secretary; David McCoull, John Oliver, Anthony Smith, George McDonald, John McLean, Jonathan Blanchard, Committee.
By the rules then adopted, each member paid five shillings entry money and fifteen pence quarterly. No persons were to be admitted members except farmers and freeholders of good moral character. To insure continued good behavior, it was enacted that "if any member shall curse or swear, or use any indecent language, or introduce any subject inconsistent with the business of the society, he shall be fined by the president and a majority of the members present in a sum not exceeding five shillings."
The meetings of the society were held quarterly, when a topic connected with rural economy was discussed, "each member to come prepared either with a written essay, or to speak on the subject;" the question selected for the first quarterly meeting in April, being, " What is the best method for preparing and increasing manure?"
Quarterly meetings continued to be held to discuss agricultural topics. In 1818, they held a ploughing match in Mr. Mortimer's field, said to have been the first ever held in the province. They imported seed, grain, agricultural instruments, and Ayrshire cattle. They likewise held cattle shows, at which prizes were given for the best stock. They also gave prizes for the best acre of wheat and other crops, the greatest amount under summer fallow, and "to the person who should stump and plow fit for crop the greatest quantity of land never ploughed before, not more than three stumps per acre left on the land, and all stones that materially obstructed ploughing and harrowing to be removed, the quantity to be not less than two acres." They offered, in April, 1824, the sum of £7 10s in addition to the legislative grant, for a flax mill. This task was undertaken by a gentleman named Anthony Smith. He commenced it that year, and in the following he received a prize for it, being the first of the kind erected in the province. Not having received sufficient support, however, it did not work a considerable length of time.
The name of the society was changed in 1819, when it was called the Pictou Agricultural Society, and Mr. E. Mortimer elected president. Some time subsequently they presented the Rev. Duncan Ross with a new plough, "to be one of Wilkie's best, as an expression of their appreciation of his services to the cause of agriculture."
We find in the vear 1820 a notice of a similar society on the East River, of which Dr. McGregor was secretary. Several others were organized in various parts of the country and continued for years, aided by grants from the Central Board, and had beneficial effect in improving the general habits of our farmers.
The soil as a rule in Pictou County is unquestionably of a superior quality, rich, fertile, and productive. Like every other it has its inferior land, but it is a fact that in early times as many as a dozen crops in succession have been taken off the land, and yet it has remained good. The great drawback in every part of the county appears to be that the undivided attention of the land owner is not devoted to the cultivation of the soil, hence we often find that men with excellent farms make serious blunders by leaving the land and embarking in some kind of business with which they are totally unacquainted. The result too often is utter failure. This appears to have been the case in the early history of this county and province. In 1821 and 1822 several letters appeared in the Acadian Record touching this subject, and as lessons of great value may be gathered from them, even by the present enlightened and refined generation, we cannot do better than quote a portion of those letters which are said to be from the able pen of Dr. McCulloch, especially that portion referring to Solomon Gosling. The names as will be seen are fictitious but the principles are sound and good. " About thirty years ago his father David left him very well to do, and Solomon who at that time was a brisk young man, had the prospect by using a little industry of living as comfortably as any in the town. Soon after the death of old David, be was married, and a livelier couple were not often to be seen. But unluckily for them both, when Solomon went to Halifax in the winter Polly went along with him to sell her turkeys and see the fashions; and from that day the Goslings had never a day to do well. Solomon was never very fond of work. At the same time he could not be accused of idleness. He was always a very good neighbor; and at every burial or barn raising Solomon was set down as one who would be sure to be there. By these means he gradually contracted the habit of running about, which left his own premises in an unpromising plight. Polly too, by seeing the fashions had learned to be genteel, and for the sake of a little show, both lessened the thrift of the family and added to the outlay, so that between one thing and another, Solomon began to be hampered and had more calls than comforters.
" Though Goose Hill farm from want of industry had not been productive it was still a property of considerable value, and it occurred to Solomon that converted into goods it would yield more prompt and lucrative returns than by any mode of agriculture. Full of the idea accordingly my neighbor went to town, and by mortgaging to Calibogus, the West India merchant, he returned with a general assortment suited to the wants of the town.
" When a merchant lays in his goods he naturally consults the taste of his customers. Solomon's accordingly consisted chiefly of West India produce, gin, brandy, tobacco and a few chests of tea. For the youngsters he had provided an assortment of superfine broadcloths and fancy muslins, ready made boots, whips, spurs, and a variety of gum flowers and other articles which came under the general denomination of notions.
" When all these things were arranged they had a very pretty appearance. For a number of weeks little was talked of but Mr. Gosling's store, for such he had now become by becoming a merchant. Little was to be seen but my neighbors riding thither to buy and returning with bargains, and during the course of the day, long lines of horses fastened to every accessible post of the fences rendered an entrance to his house almost impracticable. By these means the general appearance of the town soon underwent a complete revolution. Home spun and homely fare were to be found only with a few hard fisted old folks, whose ideas could never rise above labor and saving. The rest appeared so neat and genteel upon Sundays that even the Rev. Mr. Drone, though I did not see that his flock had enabled him to exchange his own habiliments for Mr. Gosling's superfine, expressed his satisfaction by his complacent looks.
"Mr. Gosling, too, had in reality considerably improved his circumstances. The greater part of my neighbors being already in debt to old Ledger, and other traders about, and considering that if they took their money to these it would only go to their credit, carried it to Mr. Gosling's store, so that by these means he was soon able to clear off a number of his old encumbrances, and to carry to market as much cash as established his credit.
" Among traders punctuality of payment begets confidence in the settler; and the credit which this affords to the purchaser is generally followed by an enlargement of orders. My neighbor returned with a much greater supply; and here his reverses commenced. Credit could not be refused to good customers who had brought their money to the store. Those also who formerly showed their good-will by bringing their cash, proved their present cordiality by taking large credits. But when the time for returning to the market for supplies arrived, Mr. Gosling had nothing to take thither but his books. These it is true had an imposing appearance. They contained debts to a large amount, and my neighbor assured the creditors that when they were collected he would be able to pay them honorably, and have a large reversion to himself. But when his accounts were made out many young men who owed him large sums had gone to Passamaquoddy, and of those who remained, the greater part had mortgaged their farms to Mr. Ledger, and the other old traders; and now carried their ready money to Jerry Gawpus, who had just commenced trader by selling his farms. In short nothing remained for Mr. Gosling but the bodies or labors of his debtors; and these last they all declared themselves very willing to give.
" About this time it happened that vessels were giving a great price, arid it naturally occurred to my neighbor that by the labor which he could command, he might build a couple. These, accordingly, were put upon the stocks. But labor in payment of debts goes on heavily, and, besides, when vessels were giving two prices, nobody would work without double wages, so that the vessels like the ark, saw many summers and winters. In the mean time peace came and those who owned vessels were glad to get rid of them at any price. By dint of perseverance, Mr. Gosling's were finished; but they had scarcely touched the water when they were attached by Mr. Hemp, who at the same time declared that when they were sold he would lose fifty per cent upon his account for the rigging. Such was my neighbor's case, when happening as I have already mentioned to step into Parson Drone's I found that Mr. Gosling had been telling his ailments and was receiving the reverend old gentleman's ordinary clerical consolation. What can't be cured must be endured; let us have patience. I'll tell you what it is, parson, replied my neighbor, patience may do well enough for those who have plenty, but it won't do for me. Calibogus has foreclosed the mortgage; my vessels are attached, and my books are of no more value than a rotten pumpkin. After struggling hard to supply the country with goods, and to bring up a family so as to be a credit to the town, the country has brought us to ruin. I won't submit to it. I won't see my son Rheoboam, poor fellow, working like a slave upon the roads with his coat turned into a jacket, and the elbows clouted with the tails. My girls were not sent to Mrs. McCackle's boarding school to learn to scrub floors. The truth is, parson, the country does not deserve to be lived in. There is neither trade nor money in it, and produce gives nothing. It is only fit for Indians and emigrants from Scotland who were starving at home. It is time for me to go elsewhere and carry my family to a place that presents better prospects to young folks.
" In reply the parson was beginning to exhort Mr. Gosling to beware of the murmurings of the wicked ; when Jack Catchpole, the constable, stepped in to say that the sheriff would be glad to speak with Mr. Gosling at the door. Our sheriff is a very hospitable gentleman, and when any of his neighbors are in hardship, he will call upon them and even insist upon their making his house their home. Nor did I ever know any shy folks getting off with an excuse. As it occurred to me therefore, that Mr. Gosling might not come back for the parson's admonition, I returned home, and soon learned that my neighbor had gone elsewhere and made a settlement in the very place where Sampson turned miller."