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Nova Scotia: The Province that has been Passed By
Chapter VII. Annapolis Royal and Digby


The use of oxen for draught purposes is peculiar to Nova Scotia. It is practised by French, Germans, and English, and is common nowhere else in Canada. Along the country roads one sees the oxen coming along at a leisurely pace, swishing their tails; their red hides, touched by the summer sun, blending harmoniously with the landscape; and casting long shadows on the white road. Yes, the ox is the beast of burden up and down the Province. His harness has an unfamiliar look. Of arched yoke and boles he is often ignorant, and the comfort of collar and harness would lull him to slumber. Just behind his ears he carries his yoke, strapped to the base of his horns and around his forehead. He is shod with iron shoes like a horse, and is at once the admiration and the derision of the Yankee, who would not for a moment tolerate such slow progress. He calls the ox the “Blue-nose automobile.” I have heard the patient quadruped spoken of as one of the four characteristics of the Province—apples, oxen, cold nights, and pessimism. For the latter I should now substitute optimism. Besides, the Blue-nose never was pessimistic. At most he was (as you may see by reading “Sam Slick”) merely apathetic— unresponsive, or as other observers have declared, serene.

Here is the eastern gateway of one of the most celebrated apple-growing districts of the world. Long before Tasmania, South Australia, and California began to grow apples, it was the orchard of the Empire. Following the eastern course of the river between North Mountain (which shelters the valley from the Bay of Fundy) and South Mountain, there stretch seventy-five miles of fruit lands and enchanting scenery. Here is grown the luscious apple which is found in all' the world’s great markets. The apple-tree is the dominant note in the swelling landscape, and ia early June the whole valley is a scene and scent of sheer beauty, comparable only to the orange-groves of Seville or Santa Clara. This apple s not, of course, indigenous; but none can tell who brought the first pommier from Normandy. Perchance it was Lescarbot himself. At all events orchards were flourishing here in abundance long before the expulsion of the Acadian?. Ere the building of the Dominion and Atlantic Railway (now taken over by the Canadian Pacific), the apple production of “the Valley” was some twenty thousand barrels annually. Within a few years the output had grown to half a million. In 1909 it approached a million barrels.

Last year the apple-growers received a serious check. It was not a good apple year. There was the weather for one thing, not merely of tins but of the season of 1909, when the embryo bud was formed. A more serious and more permanent drawback I found to be the want of capital. They complain here that too much British capital is going wrest. Everything conducted on a large scale needs capital, and the whole situation was clearly explained to me by a leading orchardist m the Valley, who is a man of education and substance, and the argument was echoed by others who follow the industry.

“There is plenty of money in apples,” said he, “and we should be producing not one but thirty millions of barrels a year. The trouble is—-and there is no need to disguise it—that while a number of orchards which have constantly been well cultivated, fertilised, and sprayed, always yield the usual crops of the finest fruit, the great bulk of our trees are partially starved and neglected. Far more trees have been grown than can be brought into fruit-bearing with the present skill, labour, and capital.”

To plant and grow trees is a simple and not expensive operation. With such soil as this and proper attention, little or no fertiliser is needed. But the continued production and marketing of the fruit involves much more skill, labour, and capital. Owners of orchards hating the means of fertilising 100 to 150 trees, soon found it a difficult matter to grapple with an orchard area of 500 to ioco trees. Such attempt often resulted in less actual returns than the small orchards had produced. It is simply a question of want of capital, as it would be in lumbering, mining, or fishing.

As a result a very considerable proportion of the apples now produced are discarded as unfit for packing.

“It is out of the question,” continued my informant, "for us to do business with a mere fraction of the capital necessary to produce a proper quantity of the wonderful crops of fruit which twenty or thirty years ago excited the admiration of European pomologists, and gave a world-wide fame to this district."

In other words, the orchards are vastly greater, but too much of it is with wood, nut fruit. However, be it said, that the number of trees now capable of bearing are healthy and vigorous. While orchards in other lands bear earlier, the trees are far less healthy and sooner decay. The Annapolis Valley trees reach a great size, and I have been shown many beaming fruit in profusion at the age of 100 and even 150 years. Labour and capital are the great need of the district.

Even when the yield of the fine fruit is large, there appears a disquieting drawback. Many were the complaints I heard of the greed of the carrier by steamer or railway, or of the middlemen, as if these were in a conspiracy to squeeze the last cent out of this industry. For apples for which the Covent Garden dealer receives 30s. a barrel, the grower has often to be content with 5s. I was told of one middleman who often gains 50,000 dollars in a season ; while the last season three middlemen made an average profit of 40,000 dollars each.

I found here, as elsewhere in Nova Scotia, the existence of a deep-seated grievance not yet voiced abroad as .t may be. Bitterly does the farmer and the fruit-grower complain of that tide of population promoted out of the Canadian public treasury, which has been not only sweeping in its current tens of thousands from the old country, but the many stalwart youth from the Maritime Provinces as well, whose strength is so much needed at home. The millions spent in Western development are as a thorn in the side of the Nova Scotian. Hence, therefore, the warmth of the welcome he extends to the Canadian Pacific Railway, which the year will formally invade “the Valley.” Yet the action of this great corporation is rather merely a symptom than any cause of that awakening prosperity and general accession of enterprise which I noted throughout this part of the Province.

With regard to fruit, it cannot be pointed out too often that Nova Scotia is nearer the British and other European markets than any other part of the continent. Some of the best fruit growing sections of Canada and the United States are near the Pacific Coast, and the eight or ten days necessary to bring their fruit to Atlantic ports, besides the extra freight charges, must certainly serve as a serious drawback to those States and Provinces from which New Scotland is free.

But not merely British but a great deal of Nova Scotia capital is invested elsewhere—particularly in the Far West. The East is always financing the West. They tell a story of a Kansas man on a visit to the East, who looked with characteristic scorn on its old-fashioned methods and remarked to a New England farmer: “You are surely foolish to stay here where you have to do your spring ploughing with a pickaxe and your planting with a shotgun. Why don’t you come out West? Not a stump, not a stone in sight; soil ten feet deep; crops of one year make you rich.” The New Englander listened with evident interest and then said: “I am holding six mortgages on Kansas farms, and if you fellows will just keep it up, and pay the interest, 1 will try and pull along very well where I am.”

just how many mortgages on farms, how many title-deeds to fertile sections of land or valuable city lots in the rapidly developing West are to-day in Nova Scotian hands, and are a source of wealth to the ancient Province by the sea, it would be difficult to compute.

Not so long ago when the citizens of Winnipeg began to negotiate for land on a bend in the Red River in the immediate environs of the city for the purpose of a public park, it was found to be already in the possession of enterprising Nova Scotian capitalists. There are other instances.

In the Annapolis Valley the advent of the Canadian Pacific Railway is the great abiding topic of interest. Reports of its plans and movements are canvassed by all classes and all interests. It is said that the railway has decided to build four new steamers for a fast direct steamship service between Nova Scotia and Boston and New York. These vessels will be larger and faster than any at present engaged in the American or Canadian Atlantic Coast steamship traffic. This is one of the important developments that will follow the taking over of the Dominion Atlantic. These steamers, which will be able to make over 20 knots an hour, are to run between Yarmouth and Boston, Halifax and New York, and Halifax and Boston. There will also be a fast steamship service between Digby and Boston, and across the Bay of Fundy between St. John and Digby. The fleet of six steamers which the great corporation will take over with the Dominion Atlantic road will be placed on the subsidiary services.

The great corporation will probably build four big hotels in Nova Scotia—one at Yarmouth, one at Digby, one at Halifax, and one at Chester, a branch line from Windsor to Chester, only thirty miles, being contemplated to bring Chester into the Canadian Pacific Railway system.

It seems to be taken for granted that the railway authorities will make an organised effort to increase British immigration to this Province. They recognise that more population is needed, and they are going to do their part, so we are told, to bring in the people, and this with their publicity system ought not to be difficult.

One should not perhaps complain of the perpetual insistence upon lands in the making, of the “possibilities” of the virgin prairie, of the sun-kissed solitudes of the Golden West. But this is the Golden East, the long-settled, pleasant East, where the genius of history muses amidst moss-grown battlements and ancient tombstones. This is Canada—the first Canada—Acadia. Even Quebec yields precedence to Annapolis Royal, the “cradle” of the Canadian Dominion.

Rich indeed in historic and poetic association is Annapolis Royal. What romantic memories cluster about this little town, superbly set at the head of Annapolis Basin! Save Quebec no spot on the entire Continent has a more abiding interest. Three years before a white man’s hut had been built on the site of Quebec, a fort and village were to be found at Port Royal. On the waters of this basin was launched the first vessel built in North America; here, too, was the first mill fashioned. Also the problem of Canadian agriculture was here solved by the successful production of cereal and root crops.

Nor Is this all. At old Port Royal was witnessed the first conversion to Christianity; here echoed the first notes of poetic song in Canada—the chanson composed by Lescarbot in honour of Champlain. And here flourished the first social club in the western hemisphere.

So we are carried back to the very beginrings of both French and British rule—to the days of De Monts, Champlain, and Poutrincourt. Founded in 1605, the vicissitudes of the fort and town (renamed in Queen Anne’s honour) have been numerous enough to fill a portly volume.

Port Royal once bade fair then to become a great city and Acadia a populous province. I have already told about Champlain and the “Order of a Good Time,” about Membertou and the hopes of the early French settlers. In 1607 De Monts’ charter was revoked by the King, and his friends would support his scheme with more money. The Indians at Port Royal watched the French depart with sadness, promising to look after the fort and its belongings until the white men should return.

Champlain had chosen another field—the lands far inland on the St. Lawrence; but Poutrincourt resolved, after first dealing a blow at his enemies in France, to return to take deep root in the fertile Acadian soil.

In the spring of 1613 the Jesuits who, in the meantime, had through the influence of Madame De Guercheville got rights in Acadia, despatched an expedition under a courtier named La Saussaye, who, landed at Port Royal, took on board two priests left there, and then sailed on and founded a new colony at Mount Desert, on the coast of Maine.

All Acadia, as well as Canada, was given hack to the French by the treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye, and King Louis and his Court were now inclined to abandon their policy of indifference and resume the work of colonising. In the spring of 1632 a nephew of Richelieu’s, Captain de Razilly, arrived in Acadia with a shipload of colonists, including artisans, farmers, several Capuchin friars, and some gentry. Amongst the latter were Nicholas Denys, and an extraordinary person, Charles de Menou, Chevalier de Charnisay, whom I commend as a really superb stage villain.

Young De la Tour, who considered himself the rightful lord of Acadia under De Monts’ charter, I was naturally jealous of Razilly, thinking the King ought to have appointed him Governor, instead of giving him the mere lordship over a limited territory. Even upon Razilly’s death in the following year, De la Tour’s hopes were frustrated. Razilly had ceded all his rights to Charnisay, his Deputy-Governor, whose first act was to remove from La Hicve to Port Royal, where he built a new fort.

Now began the astonishing drama of Charnisay and De la Tour. The latter believed it to be Chamisay’s aim to dispossess h;m of those rights which he had acquired in Acadia by so much energy and sacrifice. The King tried to settle the dispute by fixing the limits of Charrdsay’s government at the New England frontiers on the one hand, and at a line north from the Bay of Fundy on the other, westward of this ’ine to be De la Tour’s province. Charnisay’s friends poisoned the King’s mind by alleging that De la Tour was a Huguenot in disguise, and orders were sent to his foe to arrest him and send him a prisoner to France. The young commander strengthened Fort la Tour and defied his enemy to do his worst.

Not until the spring of 1643 was the crafty Charnisay ready to wreak vengeance on the “traitor,” as he called De la Tour. With the ships and 500 men Richelieu had sent him, Charnisay led the assault. La Tour proved too strong, and to starve La Tour into capitulation was begun a close siege by sea and land. A long-expected ship, with provisions, merchandise, and gunpowder for Fort la Tour, was sighted off the coast, and De la Tour and his wife managed in an open boat to gain the decks.

They sailed for Boston, where, although they dared not give him direct assistance, the Puritan elders of that new town had no objection to striking a bargain, and at a good price permitted their visitor to hire four stout ships and seventy men. Sailing back with this force, De la Tour was able to make his enemy flee before him. The siege of his own fort being raised, he followed the foiled Charnisay to Port Royal, captured a shipload of rich furs, and would have taken Charnisay himself and his settlement, had it not been that the scruples of his Boston allies led to the making of a false peace. There could be no real peace between De la Tour and Charnisay. After many adventures Marie De la Tour was left in charge of their fort. Charnisay, constantly on the watch, fell upon her, but her defence was so vigorous that but for the action of a traitor he would never have taken it and her. He placed a common halter round this brave woman’s neck and forced her to witness the cold-blooded murder of her garrison.

She pined away and died three weeks later at Port Royal. Her husband became for years a wanderer on the face of the earth, until he learnt of the drowning of Charnisay, when he returned and married the widow of his life-long foe. This is truly half the drama: but the rest can be read in the history books.

I found the good folk of Annapolis very busy over preparations for the celebration of the bi-centenary of the Church of England in Canada. A shoal of bishops was imminent—amongst them the distinguished prelate who signs himself “Arthur F. Londin.” One prospective hostess desired my opinion on the propriety of ensconcing three bishops in one room—so full to overflowing would the old town be, and so limited the accommodation. Here was a problem in episcopal—nay, in doctrinal accommodation, not without bearing upon High, Low, and Broad bishops and their respective powers of bodily as well as spiritual adjustment, a problem I could only hint at and evade.

All this Anglican inbilation is to signalise the fact that two centuries ago, in September 1710, with the English conquest came the chaplain of the garrison to minister to the English newcomers. Here the worthy cleric, a certain Rev. John Harrison, of whom little is known, set up his altar and celebrated Holy Communion in English for the first time in the Province and in all the land destined later to become the Canadian Dominion. Not that these are the first anniversary fetes the town has witnessed. In 1905 Annapolis Royal recalled its tercentenary, when a monument to De Monts was erected on a commanding site within the grounds of the dismantled fortress. Few vestiges now remain of the old masonry, but the site is in charge of Government, and is maintained in excellent condition as a public park.

Digby has grown into a flourishing summer resort from a fishing town which was famed far and near as the home of the “Digby chicken,” an article almost as famous as Yarmouth bloater or Bombay duck. Some seventy years ago Haliburton wrote in words often quoted:

“Digby is a charming little town. It is the Brighton of Nova Scotia, the resort of the valetudinarians of New Brunswick, who take refuge here from the unrelenting fogs, hopeless sterility, and calcareous waters of St. John. About as pretty a place this for business, said the Clock-maker, as I know of ;n this country. Digby is the only-safe harbour from Blowmidown to Briar Island. Then there is that everlasting long river running awray up from the wharfes here almost across to Minas Basin, bordered with dikes and interval, and backed up by good upland. A nice, dry, pleasant place for a town, with good water, good air, and the best herring fishery in America, but it wants one thing to make it go ahead.” “And, pray, what is that?” said I, “for it appears to me to have every natural advantage that can be desired.” “It wants to be made a free port,” said he. “They ought to send a delegate to England about it; but the fact is they don’t understand diplomacy here nor the English either. They haven’t got no talents that way.”

Steamers now run between Boston and Digby, as well as between Digby and St. John.

A favourite rendezvous for tourists is the mountain, from which a good view of Annapolis. Basin, extending away up to Annapolis Royal, and taking in Bear and Goat Islands and the Granville shore, is to be enjoyed. There are many interesting drives hereabouts, one passing a camp of Micmac Indians, who turn an honest penny by fashioning fancy baskets for the tourists and posing for amateur photographers.

The Shore Road winds for a couple of miles along the edge of the Basin and the base of Ben Lomond towards Digby Strait, otherwise known as “The Gut” or “The Gap,” the great natural wonder of the vicinity. It is a break in the North Mountain range less than a mile in width, and through it the tides of Fundy and the Annapolis Basin rush with ‘rresistible force.

“The Gut” is the dominating feature of Digby scenery, and very popular with visitors. On the other and western side of the town is Digby Neck, a length strip of land which forms the seaward barrier of St. Mary’s Bay.

Bear River is the scene of an annual cherry carnival. It may be reached by sail-boat or steamer, the route lying part of the way across Annapolis Basin. The village lies four miles up the winding stream from the station, and is an important lumber centre, but chiefly famous for its cherries. This luscious fruit grows here in rich profusion, and long ago suggested the great summer event in Bear River, the annual cherry carnival, which, is held in July. On carnival day hundreds of tourists and natives visit the pretty town to feast on the cherries and to witness a procession and aquatic sports.

The small but enterprising town of Wey mouth boasts some shipyards and shipping. With its high river banks, its attractive residences, and ius surrounding forests, Weymouth is a pretty place and popular with American tourists.

Sissibo Falls, some distance up the river, is one of the scenic features of the locality.

People who have read Longfellow’s “Evangeline” often ask what became of the Acadians—did they virtually disappear after the expulsion? Those of sympathetic temperament as well as the historical student would doubtless be glad to know if it is really the case that—

“Only along the shore of the mournful and misty Atlantic Linger a few Acadian peasants, whose fathers from exile wandered back to their native land to die in its bosom.’’

To such, therefore, I am glad to state that scattered through the Maritime Provinces, Magdalen Islands, Gaspe, St. Pierre and Miquelon, and Newfoundland, are close upon 150,000 descendants of the expelled Acadians. By far the most interesting Acadian settlement is that of Clare, in the extreme south-west of Nova Scotia. Here in a single continuous village, twelve miles long, dwells a primitive people, some 10,000 all told; wholly out of touch of the railway, and only to be seen on foot or by motor. Many travellers pass on the borders of this district without suspecting its existence, only marvelling perhaps why the railway line from Digby to Yarmouth describes such a curve inland at this part. The reason is this: When the railway was built the French priest in spiritual charge of the Clare Acadians took alarm for his flock, and by supplications and threats managed to get the line diverted, so as to cat off his parish between the railway and the sea. All the traveller sees, therefore, from the car windows is a stretch of unfilled land and a succession of tree stumps. Were he to descend and push on a few miles he would come to the best road in the Province, hundreds of neat dwellings at Meteghan, Salmon River, and Church Point, and a cheerful, contented, ignorant people, living now as they have lived for a century and a half on the south shore of St. Mary’s Bay. Here Maidens still wear their Norman caps and their kirtles of homespun, And by the fire repeat Evangeline’s story.”

This latter is no poetical fiction. The story of the expulsion is really fresh in the hearts of all these peasants. The Roman Catholic establishment is very strong hereabouts, one of the largest churches in the Province being here; and they can also boast of a college and convent which, I believe, as is the case with other Roman Catholic institutions in the Province, is in receipt of funds from France.

Here once dwelt a priest whose deeds and whose example still live amongst the French Acadians of Clare. I talked with a man who well remembered the worthy Cur6 of Montaignan.

"Born and educated in France,” wrote Captain Moursom, “M. Segoigne emigrated from that country when revolutionary suspicion threatened the lives of all whose virtues were inimical to the views of the ruling democrats, and for the last thirty years has devoted his attention exclusively to the welfare of these children of Acadia. Buried in this retreat from all the thoughts and habits of the polished world, he yet retains the urbanity of the old French school; or rather, I apprehend, possesses that natural excellence of disposition which gives to urbanity its intrinsic value. He is at once the priest, the lawyer, and the judge of his people; he has seen most of them rise up to manhood around him, or accompany Li° own decline in the vale of years; the unvarying steadiness of his conduct has gained equally their affection and respect; to him, therefore, it is that they apply in their mutual difficulties, from him they look for judgment to decide their little matters of dispute.”

In French-speaking Canada one frequently comes across the priest in this dignified, affectionate, paternal character. Denied real fatherhood he consecrates his life to his spiritual children; and the virtues of such men constitute the real strength of the Roman Catholic church in Canada, amongst a simple folk to whose minds, absorbed in labour and domesticity, doctrine and logic are as the scattering of chaff on the sands of the sea.


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