Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

A History of the County of Yarmouth, N.S.
Chapter V. The first arrivals. Their locations, condition and first experiences

UNDER what distinct instrument or agreement, if any, the pioneers reached these shores, we cannot determine. We have reason, I think, to conclude that there was NO FORMAL GRANT MADE TO THOSE WHO ACTUALLY CAME, as there had been to those who did not come; and, that for several years, no partition was made. On Tuesday the 9th day of June 1761, the first vessel arrived having on hoard three families, who all came from Sandwich, Cape Cod. Those three were Sealed Landers, Ebenezer Ellis, and Moses Perry. On the following Thursday, Jonathan Crosby and Joshua Burgess arrived with their dependents. They came from Connecticut. During the summer, Elishama Eldridge and seven other families arrived. But whatever was the cause, two of those seven returned to New England the same fall; and the remaining five, the next spring. The three first named landed on the spot afterwards known as Crawley’s Island in Chebogue harbour. There Perry remained; Ellis moved further down the river, near to the point; hut Landers, settled at the head of the tide, now' Milton, on the west side of the stream. During the first summer and winter, Landers, at the head of the Yarmouth harbour, and Elishama Eldridge on the Fish Point, were the sole inhabitants of Cape Forchue. The other families as they arrived during the summer settled at the mouth of Perry’s Creek: extending their temporary habitations along “the hill” as it was called, from Crocker’s point to the east end of Wyman’s road.

For the bulk of the Settlers, their place of disembarking was all that they, as men chiefly engaged in fishing, could desire. They had nothing to gain by removing; and they were on, or near to, the cleared lands left by the Acadians. It was otherwise with Landers, who was a miller. He wanted water power. He and his son, soon after their arrival, followed up the Chebogue river to the spot where the bridge now is, at Arcadia. Here they, at first, almost decided that they would build; but not being satisfied with the prospect, they returned to their landing place, followed down the Chebogue point and up the Cape Forchue harbour until they came to the Milton narrows. This place satisfied them, especially after they had seen and examined the first and second ponds; and here they brought the frame and milling apparatus which had been discharged on Crawley’s Island. Upon the spot then, where the mill now stands, Sealed Landers the miller, built the first mill in the County of Yarmouth: and, in the garden belonging to Mr. Chas E. Brown, between his house and his store, Landers built the first framed house on the Yarmouth harbour. The spot is still observable, for it is hard to remove traces of an old cellar. But neither the mill nor the house were built during the first year; and we must return to the first season’s experience. It appears that besides the provisions which they brought with them, the families before named had made arrangements for further supplies to be brought during the season, before the winter closed in upon them. But, by some accident which befel the vessel, those supplies were entirely cut off, and the infant Colony was reduced ere the season opened to the most dire distress. They had brought oxen, cows, calves, hogs and horses with them; but under the circumstances, these only added to their distress. The season was exceptionally severe; the ground remaining covered with a fall of snow four feet deep for some months. Before succour arrived, many had suffered beyond description from the extreme rigour of the season and the scarcity of provisions. Twenty-seven of the horned cattle died of hunger and cold. The others were killed for food. A curious confirmation of this tradition is found in an old ledger. In the spring of the next year, one person sent over eleven hides to the Boston market. Apart from other hides, of which there may be no record, there could have been no necessity for killing a dozen cattle for thirteen families. The following extract from “The Book of Records for the Town of Yarmouth,” is also very much to the point, although entered years afterwards :—

Yarmouth, September 9, 1762.

“We, William Pring, Ebenezer Moulton, John Crawley, Esquires, being appointed by (government of Nova Scotia in Halifax as Committee men for settlement of Township of Yarmouth in said County called Queens County, provide *********

“Seventh. Pring's island to be given for service done to families in the Township in time of distress for their relief, to be William Pring's, Esq., and John Crawley’s jointly. *******

William Pring, Ebenezer Moulton, appointed by John Crawley, Authority.”

All were not alike. Some had been more provident than others, or more fortunate; but all suffered enough. In the early spring, before succour arrived, some were reduced to the necessity of trying to obtain sustenance from the hides of the animals they had killed and eaten. So extreme were their sufferings that one or two died of want. One of the party confessed in after years to a friend whose testimony is trustworthy, that the sweetest meal she ever ate was made from the tail of a hide, which she cut off and cooked. There has always been a traditional belief that the Government had promised provisions and other assistance, which never came to hand; and, in consequence of this belief, there has always been more or less of hardness of feeling upon the part of those who either in themselves, or in their, friends, thought they were injured. As a corrective of this feeling, I think the plain declaration of Governor Lawrence to the effect that he had no authority to promise provisions, will do good service. The truth is, there is ground for fearing that some of those who suffered most, were also those who had done least for themselves. But even if it were the operation of an inexorable law of nature, that effect follows cause, we feel a sense of deep sympathy with those who suffered so much then, but who can suffer no’ more in this world.

After a long dreary winter, the Spring came; and with it, a vessel bearing supplies to the well-nigh famished Colony. We cannot record their expressions of thankful joy; but we can imagine their jubilant feelings. Mien, women and children saw, for a time, the end of their sufferings. It is an uniform tradition that one of the men, half starved and reckless of the result, ate so freely of biscuit, that he only just lived, even after laborious rubbing and oiling. But even then, the prospect was one inviting only to the strong-hearted, the self-reliant and the industrious. There was a possibility of guarding against similar extremities during the next season. The immediate result of the lately endured privations was that five families returned to New England. The names of those five, together with those two who returned in the fall of the previous year, are—Basset, Pease, Abbey, Crosby, Hall, Howard and Carpenter. This early exodus was by no means reassuring to those who remained. Seventeen families comprising fourteen adult males, twelve adult females, forty male children, and fourteen female children, in all eighty souls, had spent the first winter in their new home. But the opening of the next season, that of 1762, saw the number reduced to six families, comprising in all thirty-eight souls.

There is a first to everything, and we believe that the year 1762 saw the first birth, the first death, and the first marriage. The first English child that was born in this County was Anna, the daughter of Moses Perry. She was born in September of that year. The house, if it can be so designated, in which this pioneer stranger first saw the light, was an amusing instance of ingenuity; her father having settled on what had been a French Acadian orchard, utilized one of the apple trees as a centre support, and disposed his tenting materials all round it. In the spring of the same year, Lucy, daughter of Crosby, died; and,

I think, that the circumstances already detailed supply the probable cause. The month of December of this same year saw the first marriage, which was that of Jonathan Crosby, Junr., and Patty Howard, who had evidently found more inducement to stay than the other members of her family.1 Whilst mentioning these first domestic details, I may here add that the first male child born was William son of Samuel Harris. His father settled on the western side of the harbour, opposite. Killam’s shipyard. Whether William was horn in the year 1762, or 'in the year following, is uncertain; but he was at all events the first English male child born in the County.

The seven families who returned could not have given a very cheering account of the land. Still, others came in their place. Experience, the best of teachers, had taught all to be ready for the winter, and being better provided they spent a less dreary season. Still, we are assured on good testimony, that for years want was not unknown.

“Many a time when the men had gone out to the banks fishing, women and children were obliged to wait without a morsel of food within their reach, until the receding of the tide enabled them to wade out on the flats and collect a meal of the clams with which the harbours abounded, and which were cooked and eaten on the beach; while at other times the hungry children have been indebted for a feast on their moose and eels to the benevolence of the inhabitants of the neighbouring wigwams. A respectable ship master and owner told me that when a boy, he had often fished in his father’s boat, day after day, with no food but, to use his own plain but expressive words, ‘dried halibut and bounaigh clabbcmgk,’ except when they landed to cook a mess of the fish they had been catching. These narratives may appear scarcely credible, but truth is sometimes stranger than fiction,—and as I had them from the lips of the actors themselves, I have no doubt of their entire accuracy.”

In the face of such testimony, it must require no small scepticism to reject, and no ordinary hardness of heart, to be unmoved by the recital of such details.

During the available season of 1762, we are certain of the arrival of several men, whether their families accompanied them at first or not, whose names are now as household words: and one or two of them may have been in Yarmouth during the previous season. Those of them, of whose coming, from a variety of considerations, drawn from different sources, there is no doubt, are John Crawley, long after known as Squire Crawley, Captain Ephraim Cook, Josiah Beal, Seth Barnes, Edward Tinkham, Benjamin Barling, Patrick Gowen, Samuel Harris, Phineas Durkee, Hezekiah Bunker, Pilchard Rose, Ebenezer Corning, Samuel Wood, and Ebenezer Moulton. And to those may he added the name of Samuel Oats, who, although unknown in after history, was placed by the Council in Halifax on a Committee for laying out lots to individual settlers. A glance at names mentioned shows, at once, to any one acquainted with the Township, how the little one has become a thousand. There were several other arrivals not enumerated here; hut not very many. No lists or reliable data have been available; hut if a person’s name is mentioned in some record as having had a lot of land laid out to him, or as serving on a Committee; or is named as the holder of a piece of land adjoining that which was being laid out, we may safely conclude his presence.

Phineas Durkee, whose name is mentioned above, was a tanner by trade; a business which he carried on in Yarmouth, quite extensively. He came from Brinfield, Mass., in 1763. He was the first Town Clerk, prominent in all public business, and influential as a Magistrate,—an office which he and Mr. John Crawley were the first to fill. He was the ancestor of all who, in this County, bear his name. He died in the year 1800.

Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.