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A History of the County of Yarmouth, N.S.
Chapter XII. Third Decade 1780-90. Loyalist Element in the County. Cape Forchue meeting house. Escheated property. Partition of the Township of Yarmouth. Original Settlers of Tusket. Church Covenant of 1784

ABOUT the year 1781, an unsettled period,—a some what painful affair happened at Chegoggin, in the house of old Mrs. Porter. Two officers, as one version has it, came there and begged a night’s lodging, for which they paid, intending to leave in the morning. They were Hessians, and could not speak a word of English. Two young men came to ask Mrs. Porter to a wedding. One of the young men laid his hand on one of the officers, pretending to have been sent from Halifax, and said, “you are my prisoner.” A scuffle ensued, in which the young man got the officer’s sword and stabbed him through the body, killing him instantly. All night the other lay with his arm under the head of his dead comrade. At day dawn he left the house; and they buried the murdered man near Zebina Shaw’s, at the head of the Salt Pond. Nothing more was ever heard of them. The affair was investigated at Shelburne, but nothing was proved against the young man, who pleaded self defence.

The mention of Shelburne reminds us that in the year 1784, the former County of Queens was circumscribed, by having the Townships of Shelburne, Barrington, Argyle, and Yarmouth set off as a separate County, with the new Loyalist Town of Shelburne for the County Town. This was some relief to those who, ten years before, had petitioned to have Yarmouth set off with other Townships, having Yarmouth as the County Town. The distance was now 70 instead of 115 miles. Between 1782 and 1784 Shelburne had become the most populous city in Nova Scotia, with handsomely laid out streets, and complete civic arrangements; the population being nearly ten thousand; and consisting for the more part of men who would sooner leave and lose all, than deny their King or Country. Many of them were gentlemen by birth, education and station; a large proportion had been men of means; all of them were strongly attached to British institutions. To the Loyalist proper, that is, those who strove till they could strive no longer, as distinguished from the earlier Refugees, who left the States at the first scent of possible hostilities, must be added a third element, the disbanded Hessians, who, for the more part, were rewarded for their services, by liberal grants of land.

It is a matter of painful history how rapidly Shelburne fell; more rapidly, if possible, than it rose. But the result, which alone concerns us here at present, was, that many of those men travelled westward, settling finally, some at Argyle, others at Tusket; some at Plymouth, and others again at Yarmouth. It is manifest that such an element as this being introduced into the County could mot but ultimately exercise a very wide spread social influence. The principal settlement, or as we may express it, THE ORIGINAL CENTRE OF LOYALIST POPULATION in this County, was in Tusket; and thence they finally spread into the vicinity and surrounding district. They arrived there about the year 1785; and at first consisted of twenty-five families, viz.: Hatfields, Lent, Blauvelts, Sarvents, Smith, Andrews, Tooker, and others, now household words among us, many of whom brought their negro slaves with them. At the time they settled, they found many patches of cultivated grounds, vestiges of the old Acadians. These grounds were over-run with a growth of young trees. They also found cattle grown quite wild, which had belonged to the French; and, I am told that the same breed is still found in the County, hardier though smaller, than others since introduced. The following account written by one of the first settlers,—Mrs. Van Tyle—long afterwards known as “Aunt Deborah Smith,” tracing the progress of her own and other families from New York to Tusket is worthy of record :—

“We left New York on the last day of October, 1783, in the schooner Cherry Bounce, Captain John Gilchrist, master, and arrived at Port Roseway the 7th November, so called then, now Shelburne. The snow was about two feet deep; went up to the town, there were a number of houses building, but none finished; plenty of marquees, tents and sheds for the people to shelter under, which they greatly needed at that season of the year. It looked dismal enough. Called on some of our friends in their tents, Col. VanBuskirk and his wife and two young daughters in one; and his daughter Sarah, Lawyer Combauld’s wife, and babe in another. I thought they did not look able to stand the coming winter, which proved a very hard one. The servants had sheds of boards to cook under. We heard the hammer and saw day and night. Fine times for carpenters. Three days after we sailed down to Robertson’s Cove, and there remained frozen up all winter, and the whole harbour too until the 17th March. During the winter, father and Mr. Van Tyle built a log house on shore, having provisions on hoard, the schooner, but when the spring came and we saw nothing but rocks and moss, they made up their minds to look for a more favourable place. They had orders from the Surveyors to take up land where they could find it unlocated. On the 20th March they left the family, and with thirteen others set sail for Yarmouth, Joshua Trefry, pilot. There they found the land all taken up; were recommended to Tusket. Found the land there looked more favourable, returned to Shelburne, took the family on board, and arrived at Tusket 11th May, 1784. At this time there was no one settled on the river, but the French. In the fall two families moved up, Mr. John Withby and Mr. John Williams. November 1st, Mr. Morris and Capt. Leonard came up to lay out the land about the lakes and at other places. In the course of the summer of 1785, Mr. James Hatfield and family came to Tusket; uncle Job Hatfield came up in the course of the summer, and others, viz.: — Mr. Lent, Mr. VanNorden, Mr. Maybee, and Mr. Sarvent. The river abounded with fish, salmon, and herring; and there was a large business carried on exporting them to the West Indies.

Before ten years, this new settlement had widely spread and clearly defined its position. It aimed at the erection of a new district, to he called Franklin Township, with Tusket as its centre, lying mid-way between the Township of Yarmouth and the then distant settlement at Argyle. The subjoined memorial will serve to prove this, as well as to illustrate other points; as, for example, to show-who were the then residents in Tusket and vicinity, meaning thereby Plymouth and both sides of the river, as far as Gravel’s on the one side, and Andrews on the other:— .

“To the Right Rev. Father in God, Charles, Bishop of Nova Scotia, the memorial of the inhabitants of Franklin Township and its vicinity: Humbly sheweth, That your Memorialists, members of the Church of England, and Loyalists, being destitute of religious worship and desirous and willing to contribute to the building of a Church and support of a Missionary to the utmost of our abilities, most earnestly solicit your patronage and benevolent intercession with his Excellency the Governor, to appropriate one hundred pounds to our assistance, and we promise, Right Reverend Sir, as soon as the season will admit, to enter into contract with proper workmen, and to join our subscriptions and all necessary proceedings, to carry the same pious work into execution. And your Memorialists, etc.

“Feanklin Town, April 6th, 1793.”

I have not inserted the sums which are set down against the individual names, as not coming within the scope of my purpose; but several are subscribers for £5 0s. 0d., and considering the time, and the circumstances of the Memorialists, the whole subscription bears marks of earnestness and attachment to their religious principles.

Although we are now describing the period approaching to 1790, we find that


This is evidenced by the Town meetings, which were almost invariably held before this in Chebogue. After the meeting-house was built in Cape Forchue in 1784, reference to the building of which has already been made, meetings in Yarmouth became more frequent; and on such occasions, they were almost always held in the meeting-house. This was quite natural, and in accordance with New England ideas of Government, which required that Civil officers should also be Church officers. A proof, if any more were needed, of the hitherto comparative importance of Chebogue, is the fact that it had its meeting-house seventeen years before Yarmouth. I have thought it well worth while to insert the


that was entered into by the severally interested parties, together with the names of the subscribers. It need hardly be added that after the lapse of ninety years, those whose names are appended have long since been gathered to their rest:—-

“This Covenant and Agreement made and executed at Yarmouth in the Province of Nova Scotia on the 12th day of Jan’y A. D. 1784 by and between us inhabitants of Yarmouth aforesaid, whose names are hereunto subscribed Witnesseth, that we the said Subscribers do bind and oblige ourselves each to the rest to build a meeting house for the Public Worship of God on the Easterly side of Cape Forehue Harbour and on a Lott of Land known, by the name of the Ministerial Lott. Further we do Covenant and agree that all moneys voted from time to time until said house shall he compleated shall be assess’d in just and equal proportion according to each mane interest to be done by a stall bill made for that purpose. We do further agree that all moneys so voted shall he assessed by such persons as the Subscribers shall chuse and appoint and when so assessed shall be paid into the hands of such persons as shall be appointed to collect the same and those assessors are hereby invested with full power to authorise said Collector or Collectors to make distress upon such person or persons as shall refuse to pay such assessment so made or any part thereof and all moneys so assessed and raised to be for the purpose above mentioned and that only and that such collector or collectors shall pay all such moneys so collected hy them into the hands of such person or persons as shall be appointed to receive the same We do further covenant and agree that all matters relating to the premises above mentioned such as the size of the house, sums of money to be raised, chusing of Officers and selling the Pews or the Ground for them shall be voted by a Major vote of the Subscribers.

“For the performance of the above the subscribers and each of us bind ourselves firmly in the sum of fifty pounds current money of the Province of Nova Scotia.

"That they and every one of them shall on his part well and faithfully perform all and everything contained in the premises above.

“That they shall pay and keep all and singular the Contracts, payments and agreements which on his or their parts ought to be paid and kept and that according to the true intent and meaning of the above articles with out fraud or cover. In witness whereof we have set our hands.”

This document has been inserted as it was originally written, viz.: without punctuation, and with the orthographical peculiarities retained.

Immigration during this period was almost at a stand. New comers had to purchase, and possibly, better prospects for farmers were to be found in other parts of the Province. I do not think that those who had settled here, had any cause of complaint. Farming was not their strong point; but still in the year 1786, Justices Benjamin Barnard and Samuel Sheldon Poole, made a return, in accordance with the Governor’s orders, to the effect that in Yarmouth Township there were 161 oxen, 456 cows, 887 young cattle, and 686 sheep, “which account,” say they, “may be depended on as just, we having been particular in taking the same.”

The reader will compare this with Mr. Crawley’s return of 1764, made twenty-two years previously.

It is plain, however, that


not only did no good, but they did positive harm; and it was felt that some steps should be taken to promote greater prosperity. Accordingly we find Mr. John Crawley and Mr. Poole swearing, in Halifax on the 27th of June, 1783, that

“William Haskall, Thomas Moore, Benjamin Morgan, William Moore, Stephen Gallishan, Alex. Godfrey, Samuel Allen, and Thomas Sinnot, proprietors in the Township of Yarmouth, have made little or no improvements on their shares of lands, and that they have not been resident on their said shares of land for these seven years past.”

This was but the first step in the argument; for at the same time, Mr. Poole put in a -word for himself and others by memorializing the Governor and Council,—having taken the precaution to have his memorial certified beforehand by Mr. Crawley. The document is curious and full of information, direct and inferential : —

“The memorial of Samuel Sheldon Poole, in behalf of himself and sundry settlers in the Township of Yarmouth, sheweth,—

“That your memorialist represents that some of the said persons have been settled in said Township one and twenty years, and none less than nine years, except Jesse Rice and Waitstill Lewis, who have been there between four and five years.

“That they had never had any lands granted them by government: but have made improvements on lands purchased by them in this Province.

“That they are desirous of remaining settlers in the Province.

“That the most of them have families and stocks as per list annexed.

“That there are several rights or shares of lands in the Township of Yarmouth, liable to forfeiture, having been deserted many years, and without improvement as per list annexed.

“That, therefore, your memorialist, in behalf as aforesaid,—Humbly prayeth that the said rights of land may he escheated and regranted to them in such proportions as to your Excellency and Honours shall seem meet.”

The list of deserters is the same as that sworn to by Mr. Crawley and Mr. Barnard: and the list for whom application was so ingeniously made and well put were :

“ Nathan Titley, wife and four children.
Benj. Barnard, “ “ three “ '
S. S. Poole, “ “ three “
Levi Horton, “ “ seven “
Waitstill Lewis, “ “ two “
Samuel Foot, “ “ one child.
Jesse Eice, single, a refugee, and a Physician.

Elishama Eldridge expects to marry soon, a trader, who has been in Yarmouth twenty years.

There is no date to this document; but it is bound up in the volume of Records extending from 1783-7.

Mr. Benjamin Barnard, to whom reference is here and elsewhere repeatedly made, was a native of Salem, and a graduate of Harvard. He was a useful citizen and magistrate; a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and Registrar of Deeds. He died in 1827, aged 74. At first, and for some time, all deeds were recorded at Liverpool. The earliest record is dated September 19tli, 1768; and was a deed from Benjamin Ellenwood to Daniel Fogler of Nantucket, of “one acre of land on the north side of Cape Forchue Harbour formerly laid out to John Oates.”

Waitstill Lewis, the ancestor of all who bear the name in the County, was a Loyalist. He died in Yarmouth in 1838, leaving a large and respectable family.

Jesse Rice was a physician, a native of New Hampshire and a Loyalist, who was proscribed and banished.

This application for the escheatment of unimproved and deserted lands bears marks of having been made just before the

FINAL DIVISION AND SETTING OFF OF THE TOWNSHIP to the individual grantees, which was not done till 1787; in which year also the plan of the Township was made by Samuel Goldsbury. The mandate of partition was issued at Halifax on the 21st of July, 1786; and the writ is returned as having been complied with, dated Yarmouth, January the 20th, 1787. The document is somewhat lengthy; but important, as exhibiting the principle upon which the division and allotment was made. The preamble sets forth to the Sheriff of Shelburne County, as it then was, his duty to call together the proprietors, whose names all follow, of the said Township of Yarmouth, to be summoned by you, by giving forty days notice to the aforesaid persons if they will he present, and in the presence of two of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace, that you do assign in severalty the shares or proportions of the said lands actually occupied or improved to all such proprietors who have occupied or improved the same by the oaths of twelve lawful men of the said County; and that you also cause the improved lands in the said Township to be divided respect being had to the value of the said lands and tenements with their appurtenances and to our several Grant or Grants to the several parties aforesaid to be divided by ballot agreeable to the purport and meaning of their respective titles and pursuant to the laws of our Province of Nova Scotia aforesaid, in that case made and provided, and to be alloted and set out to each and every the parties aforesaid his, her, or their true parts or proportions of the said lands, tenements and appurtenances as aforesaid, to hold to them and their respective heirs severally, to be by you delivered and assigned so that all and every the parties above said receive and have a just and proportionable quantity of the said lands and make due return of this writ to the Justices of our Supreme Court at Halifax.”

All was done accordingly; the twelve men, as disinterested parties living out of the Township, were chosen from Argyle and Barrington, and the whole was certified by Elishama Eldridge Deputy Sheriff, J. Homer, and John Coffin, Justices. The italicised words are mine,—being intended to draw attention to the governing ideas of the partition. Several parties—among them Mr. Poole,— were included in the list of Proprietors, who were certainly not Grantees. But Mr. Poole’s petition, before detailed, supplies the explanation.

We have already referred, at some length, to the escheatment of certain lands, on the ground of desertion or non residence, between 1767 and 1787. Similarly, by order of the Supreme Court, in 1797, ten years after the partition of the Township, an escheatment of sundry lots of land belonging to sundry persons respectively in arrears in payment of their shares and proportion of the expense of executing  the partition, was made. The names of the delinquents, fifteen in number, are those of families who are now, for the more part, of little note: whilst those of the purchasers must be identified, in the main, with the gradual prosperity of the Township. All this is reasonable; for men who after ten years were unable or unwilling to pay the expenses incurred in laying out their lands, would hardly be likely to make very good or very active use of the land itself.

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