Just a couple of days ago I bought a nice Nova Scotia item, Three Premiers of Nova Scotia, which then lead to the topic of this week’s musing. There are innumerable histories of the Province of Nova Scotia written over the centuries. I truly enjoyed Nova Scotia: Shaped by the Sea – a Living History written by Lesley Choyce in 1996. Choyce teaches English at Dalhousie University, but he is best known for the 90+ books he has written and as an avid surfer in his home location of Lawrencetown.
The purpose of this musing is to introduce alternate routes to learning about the history of Nova Scotia other than by reading histories of "the Province".
Many of these volumes have been published over the centuries as well, including the book
mentioned above. "Three Premiers of Nova Scotia: The Hon. J.W. Johnstone; The Hon. Joseph Howe; The Hon. Charles Tupper" by Edward Manning Saunders; William Briggs publisher, Toronto, 1909. This is a three-for-one deal! What you get with a biography, aside from the personal side of things, is an insight into that person’s occupation, during a set period and place. So, it might be politics, business, academia, religion, etc.
These are an intimate look at the families who have created the culture of Nova Scotia. The good histories are full of stories, to go along with the listings of 8 children, and who they married and so on. These volumes are intimate looks not only at the family but also on the areas in which they lived. The featured book for this section is The Smiths of Cape Breton by Perley W. Smith written in 1967. That is what is printed on the cover of the book and the half-title. But the title page reads "History of Port Hood and Port Hood Island with the Genealogy of the Smith Family 1610 – 1967". What is interesting is that each of these family histories is written in very different formats depending on the author. Just this week we picked up "Gabriel Purdy – his ancestors and descendants: born Westchester, N.Y., 1754 died Westchester, Nova Scotia, Cumberland County, 1841. A co-incidence in placenames? I think not. And how many towns and villages in this Province have a name that is family name followed by "ville"!
Speaking of municipalities, I would think that every city and town in Nova Scotia has at least one written history to its credit. And many villages as well. Some are modest, such as the one we have on Sheet Harbour, some are extravagant, and some are almost elegant such as our example Chester – a Pictorial History of a Nova Scotia Village written by four residents and published by Pagurian Press, Toronto in 1983. But there is more to the story when you read the verso to the title page. It reveals that the copyright is held by The Chester Chamber of Commerce which is common for such histories. And not so common is the statement "a Christopher Ondaatje publication". Obviously one of Chester’s famous inhabitants had a hand in the creation of the book. This is the second copy of the book we have had. In July, we sold our copy of Yarmouth Past and Present that was published by the town’s newspaper family in 1902. It is the only book I have seen that had linen backed fold-out pictures.
I think every county in the Province has had its history in print. We have several and we have chosen "The History of King's County Nova Scotia – giving a sketch of the French and their expulsion; and a history of the New England Planters who came in their stead, with many genealogies 1604 – 1910, by Arthur Wentworth Hamilton Eaton, The Salem Press Company, Salem, Mass, 1910". That is a full title page! The author was descended from New England Planters on his father’s side and American loyalists on his mother’s. In his early twenties he emigrated to the "Boston States," where he would spend most of his career as a gentleman scholar writing about the experience of pre-loyalist and loyalist settlers in Nova Scotia. Most of the county histories were written in the first quarter of the twentieth century and have been reprinted. The King’s County history is 898 pages, which is one of the longest. But if you add up the total page count of all the county histories, you will exceed the page count of any single history of the Province.
Original documents – the ultimate source of facts. And in Nova Scotia, these treasures are to be found primarily in the Nova Scotia Archives, on University Avenue, Halifax. That is a treasure house. And sometimes they publish works on their holdings such as our sample volume "Selections from the Public Documents of the Province of Nova Scotia, Halifax, N.S., Charles Annand, Publisher, 1869." The majority of its 755 pages is dedicated to the Acadian French followed by a section called "War in North America, 1754 – 1761". No wonder the publishers acknowledge the translation prowess of Benj. Curren on the title page.
If you really want to know the details of our history here in Nova Scotia, there are substantial