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A History of the County of Yarmouth, N.S.
Chapter XVIII. Political and Educational Progress. Confederation. Incorporation. Judicial History of the County. Courts. Common Pleas. Our Schools and School-Masters

ON taking up the political thread from 1800, we are for many years met with a practical illustration of the maxim that “least said is soonest mended, and of that other happy is the Country that has no history,”—for then there will he at least peace and quietness. For fifty years, with the exception of the election of Mr. Nathan Utley in 1800, and that of Samuel Marshall in 1812, who died in 1814, Mr. Poole was regarded as the hereditary occupant of the red hench. In the House his words were few, but, we are told, pointed; and, even in 1834, when the Warehousing Act was extended to Yarmouth, he took part in the debate on the subject; although, through the infirmity of years, his remarks were unheard, except by those who were near him. In the year 1836


with its present limits, from that of Shelburne; and, from that date until 1867, three representatives were sent from the County, viz.:—one for the County, and one for each Township. The first three representatives under the new arrangement, were Herbert Huntington for the County; Reuben Clements for the Township -of Yarmouth; and Simon D’Entremont for the Township of Argyle. Mr. Herbert Huntington was the son of Miner Huntington who came to Yarmouth about the year 1784. Miner was a surveyor by profession; for many years he was Prothonotary, an office which he was the first to hold. He was also a magistrate. He died in the year 1839.

Herbert Huntington, who held the office of Prothonotary after his father’s death, was a man of uncommon penetration, and robust intellect, brusque in manner, but acknowledged by all, to have been foremost in the rank of the most fearless and incorruptible of Nova Scotian politicians. He was three times elected County member, viz.: in 1836, 1840, and 1844, having before served for several years as member of the old County. The Huntington family Memoir contains an article highly eulogising him, and we read in the same work that, “in a tribute to his memory, found in the Provincial Magazine, and still later in the Yarmouth Herald, are found most flattering testimonials of his worth.” The esteem in which he was held is better illustrated by the public offices and marks of honour which were conferred on him, than by any words of mine. Besides his services as member of the Nova Scotia Legislature he was appointed in 1830 by the House of Assembly, one of two delegates, to lay before the home Government the grievances of the Province. In 1848, he was chosen one of the Executive Council; and in 1849 he was appointed Financial Secretary. The following inscription on his monument—an unpolished block of native granite—tells its own tale :—

Herbert Huntington, represented his native County, Yarmouth, as member of the House of Assembly, for 20 years, with singular zeal, ability and disinterested cess; serving part of that period as Member of the Executive Council of Nova Scotia, and Financial Secretary.

The Legislature of a grateful Country, by unanimous vote, raised this monument to his memory.

Born 1800— Died 1851. '

His election was not always uncontested; and particularly in that of 1847, he fought a hard gained battle with another gentleman, long and honourably known in this County, and identified from an early period with all the elements of its prosperity. I mean the late E. W. B. Moody, who also contested an election with Mr. Thomas Killam in 1851. Mr. Moody was the grandson of the celebrated Loyalist Colonel James Moody, who published his adventures in the war, and who was on terms of considerable intimacy with the Duke of Kent, and Governor Wentworth. Mr. Moody was born in Weymouth in 1799. He removed to Yarmouth in 1817; and here, for upwards of forty years, he carried on an extensive business which was marked throughout by intelligence, probity, and liberality. For thirty-five years he was Lloyd’s agent for the district now contained in Digby, Yarmouth, and Shelburne Counties, the responsible duties of which were discharged with great ability and uprightness; and which, since his death, have been ably discharged by his son J. W. Moody, Esq. He was Custos when he died, which was in 1863: and the high esteem in which he was held was testified by the community at the time in every possible way. He was succeeded as Custos by the late W. H. Moody, Esq., long known as a valuable citizen, an honourable merchant, and an unbending magistrate. He died in the month of January, 1873.

Simon D’Entremont, who was elected to the parliament of 1836 as member for the Argyle Township, was a son of Benoni D’Entremont,


and also a Judge in the Inferior Court of Common Pleas. Simon was the first French member of the Nova Scotia Assembly, as well as the first French Collector of Customs.

The County and Township retained the same representatives for 1840 and 1844; that of Argyle electing Mr. John Ryder, a well known and highly respectable man, who represented the Township till the year 1860. That constituency then chose J. V. N. Hatfield, one of the descendants of the well known Hatfield family, who took a very active loyal part in the Revolutionary War. The numerous and prosperous branches of the family now in this County are descended from Job, James, Jacob, and Abraham Marsh Hatfield, who came first from the States in 1783 to Shelburne, and subsequently, about 1785, to Tusket. Early in the seventeenth century, the family had settled in Elizabethtown, N. J., to which their forefathers had emigrated, from Durham in England.

The parliament of 1852 saw changes in the representation of both the County and Township of Yarmouth, Mr. Thos. Killam having been then elected for the County, and Mr. Jesse Shaw for the Township. Mr. Killam, a grandson of John, the first of the family, who came here in 1766, and settled at Chegoggin, was a man whose career is yet fresh in the memory of the public. From his election till his death in 1868, he represented this County; first in the local Legislature, and after tbe Union, in the Dominion Parliament, a seat still held by his son, Frank Killam, Esq. However widely divergent from the views of others his political ideas were, all alike credit him with having been an honest, upright man; considerate and forbearing towards all indebted to him; and liberal in his support of aft local improvements.

In the parliament of 1856, Nathan Moses, Esq. succeeded Mr. Shaw in the representation of the Township of Yarmouth; and in that of 1860, the late W. H. Townsend occupied the seat, which, in the year 1863, he lost by the return of Mr. G. S. Brown; but which he regained when that member resigned his seat in 1865, Argyle being represented by Mr. Isaac S. Hatfield. In 1867, Messrs. W. H. Townsend and John K. Ryerson were elected members for the County as a whole; the separate representation of the Townships having been abolished. At the next general election in 1871, Messrs. Townsend and Gayton were elected; this being the first general election under the Ballot Act. In 1873, Mr. Townsend resigned, and Mr. J. K. Ryerson was returned in his stead; and lastly, in 1875, Messrs. Gayton and John Lovitt were elected.

Divest the political history of the County of all personal details, and, to many, it is uninteresting. Better it should be so than that we should erect a memorial of strifes. Those frequent seatings and unseatings, which we have but enumerated, gave rise, in many cases, to the strongest political animus; and are the concentrated essence of many a stirring scene, and many a doubtful memory. But I have some ground for saying that since the “good old times” of the Shelburne County elections, when “man to man, and steel to steel,”—party against party,—moved from polling place to polling place; when the election lasted sometimes for a whole week, and excitement culminated as the end drew on, the people of this County have been conspicuous for quiet and orderly elections; and, in unpleasant cases, allowance being made for some insignificant exceptions, with short memories.

There is one political matter however, to pass over which in silence—although the time to write the whole has not yet come—would argue either ignorance or fearfulness. I mean

THE QUESTION OF CONFEDERATION; than which no subject ever more deeply stirred this Province or County.

The principle of Confederation, in some form or other, was for years before the union with Canada, a favourite theme with many politicians, including the late Herbert Huntington and Joseph Howe.

In the Provincial Parliament of 1866, Government introduced, and carried a measure, uniting this Province with the Canadas. Whatever was the popular idea or feeling on the subject before the bill was passed, no sooner was it carried, than numerous public meetings were held in the various Counties; the matter was discussed and public opinion defined. In popular language, the community became divided into Confederates and Anti-Confederates. But a more accurate analysis of the several classes of opinion would be —

1st. Confederates, who were in favour of the measure, and of the way in which it was carried;

2nd. Confederates in favour of the measure, but opposed to the manner in which it was carried;

3rd. Anti-Confederates, opposed to the measure and its carriage; and,

4th. A very small minority in favour of Annexation.

The results of the public meetings referred to were, that opposition to the bill became more and more defined; repeal was loudly called for from all parts of the Province, but from nowhere more strongly than from Yarmouth; and, deputations more or less fully representing the Province, were sent to England, to protest against what was looked upon as a violation of the principles of popular Government.

There were but very few of the first classes of those four in this County; and, without pronouncing one way or the other, when we reflect, we cannot but admire the handful who stood up for a principle in which they believed, against overwhelming odds. In the small minority in favor of the measure in this County, there were, however, several influential citizens; and, when the day of nomination came on, they selected John S. Hatfield, Esq., as their candidate, not bo much with any hope or prospect of his being returned, as with the intention of representing the existing Confederate element in the Electorate. Mr. Hatfield was supported by rather more than a hundred electors, out of a whole electoral body of nearly two thousand. And when we say this, we best exhibit, and that without words, the intense dislike with which the people had been brought to view a measure, which, but for the mode of proceeding adopted by the Government as the opposing party alleged, might possibly have been passed as a popular measure.

The persuasion that this Township could best attend to its own special interests, if it were a corporate body, together with other influences, resulted in that condition being assumed in 1855; but unmanageable divergences of public opinion in certain sections, on social, political, and financial questions, having soon sprung up, the community, after a three years trial of the Municipal form of government, decided, by a considerable majority, to have the Act repealed so far as it applied to the Township of Yarmouth.

Once more to keep a clear woof and web, we must return. We traced the working of our social system, and as far as scanty and trivial details would admit, our Civil institutions up till the end of the last century. After 1784, the County Town being Shelburne, the sessions of the Supreme Court were held there; but after 1836, at the division of the County, alternately at Yarmouth and Tusket, public convenience seeming to require this arrangement.

The number of Justices now in the County is about ninety; whilst for that whole district there were only FIVE ACTING JUSTICES IN 1813, whose official duties were so laborious that they applied for an increase of the bench. The five who acted were: Samuel S. Poole, Joseph Norman Bond, Henry Greggs Farish, James Lent, and Benoni D’Entremont. Two others had been nominated in 1810, viz.: Joshua Frost and Nathaniel Richards; but, for some reason, they declined to take the oaths of office. The Justices assembled, and recommended James Bond, Abram Lent, Joshua D’Entremont, Daniel Frost, Jacob Kelley, and Thomas Dane, “as fit and proper persons for the said office.” Similarly laborious were the duties of the Justices of the INFERIOR COURT OF COMMON PLEAS; especially as all three of them, viz.: Samuel S. Poole, James Lent, and J. Norman Bond were acting Magistrates besides. They also recommended for this inferior Judgeship, Messrs. H. G. Farish and Benoni D’Entremont. Both requests were seen to be so reasonable, that their petition was granted at once by the Council.* Mr. James Lent, who was here recommended to a Commission as Justice, was one of the old Loyalists. He had held a commission as early as 1779, in the King’s Militia Volunteers, and was one of the first who settled Tusket,—all who bear his name there being his descendants. He died in 1838 at the advanced age of eighty-four.

The Court of Comtnon Pleas, to which we have made frequent reference, was finally abolished ifi 1841; the Supreme Court having been opened for the first time, in the present County, in 1834.

’The following lists show the successive Justices of the Court of Common Pleas, Custodes, and Sheriffs, who have held office since the settlement of the County.


Closely connected with the Officers of Courts, is the mutter of Buildings erected for the purpose of carrying out justice. The Court House and Jail at Tusket, which was the first built for the purpose in the County, was completed in 1805. Before that time the Sessions met, as regards Tusket, at some place of business; and at Yarmouth, sometimes in a building known early in the century as the Court House, which stood at the north-east corner of the old Episcopal Church Lot, and which was removed about 1805 by the late David McConnel, and sometimes in “Richan’s long-room.” The Yarmouth Court House and Jail, which was built in 1820, gave place in 1863, in the first instance, to a commodious Court House, and in 1865 to a substantial Jail. The original Tusket Court House was twenty feet long; in 1833 its length was doubled, and about 1870, it was trebled,—the building being now sixty feet long.

The increasing business of this community is, I think, curiously illustrated in connection with the number of gentlemen of the Bar. For more than thirty years there was no Barrister in the County, and for more than thirty years after that there was room for only one at a time; whereas now there are ten resident Barristers who are all, more or less directly, engaged in professional duties, — and six of whom have been admitted within the last ten years?. I have ventured to set down this increase to the account of a proportional increase in the amount of business; although I am aware of the impression, which we all hope, and I believe, is wrong, that it is to be traced to a growing spirit of litigation. I here append the names, together with the dates of arrival, or of admission to practice, of all the Barristers who have practised, or do still practice, in this County:—

John Prout........... .....1795 0. B. Owen, Q. C.. ......1852
James Buchanan... ......1809 S. H. Pelton, Q. 0. ......1867
John Lawson........ .....1820 J. W. Bingay. ......1869
John Forman....... .....1824 Thos. E. Corning .....1869
W. H. Keating...:.. .....1832 S. B. Murray. ......1870
H. A. Grantham, Q. C... .....1834 T. B. Flint ......1871
T. Y. B. Bingay .....1835 George .... 1874
James Murray .....1841 Bingay .... 1874

Leaving the Political and Civil, we now trace the EDUCATIONAL ELEMENT from its very small beginning, at the point indeed where the stream is so small as not to he seen, until it has become a comparatively great river, fertilizing the remotest sections of the County.

A school before the year 1800 was an institution, for the more part, known only by name. There were indeed from time to time private schools on a very limited scale, which aimed at teaching the three R’s, and little more. The oldest school house I have heard of in the County, was one which stood on the site of the old Episcopal Church from about 1790 till about 1805. This building was also used as the Court House till it became too small, — when the Court afterwards met, as before said, in “Richan’s Tavern,” which stood at the head of Marshall’s Lane.

The first schoolmaster in Argyle, of whom any record is preserved, was Mr. John McKinnon, son of Captain Ranald, who was appointed to that office by the Sessions of 1812. As late as the year 1811, there were only three schools in the Township of Yarmouth. In that year, however, a Government commission dated July 29th, was issued to the Rev. Ranna Cossit, Samuel S. Poole, and Joseph Norman Bond, Esquires, appointing them Trustees of the Yarmouth Grammar School — the first institution of the kind in this County, and somewhat hard to beat even now,

' for as early as the year 1819, it had on its roll, thirteen boys engaged in the study of Latin. The first who was appointed teacher of this school was Mr. Poole, who, in order to become a candidate for the mastership, resigned his office as Trustee. He held the position till October 1815, after which the Rev. R. Milner officiated as master till 1819, when the Rev. T. A. Grantham took charge of it. But through various causes, by the year 1830, the Grammar School had become a thing of the past. The next institution in the interests of the higher branches, was started in 1836, and was known as the “Yarmouth Education Society.” Funds were to be raised by voluntary contributions and by tuition fees. This Society built the Academy, and it was assisted by a Provincial grant to the extent of £130 annually.

The Grammar School and the Education Society with its Academy, provided in some measure for the wants of all who lived in the vicinity of the County Town. But for the great bulk of the population, there were no school houses, text books, or suitable masters. Those who offered themselves as teachers were frequently men of intemperate habits; and who, when their evil deeds persecuted them in one place, fled to another, although indeed, honourable exceptions are not wanting. In 1811, when the late Dr. Farish was appointed Superintendent, there were but four schools in the County. In the year 1826 all the children attending school in the two Townships, were 120. By the year 1848, there had been a very great improvement, there being in the Yarmouth Township alone, thirty-six school houses, in which an aggregate of seventeen hundred children were taught; and, although none of the schools were free, still there were three hundred pupils who received the benefit of a free education.3

AT THE PRESENT DAY, apart from private schools, there are in the County sixty-five Public School houses, most of them being in excellent condition, and furnished with all kinds of necessary apparatus, such as text books, maps, globes, and blackboards,—accommodating 4,500 pupils; and presided over by eighty teachers, bolding Government certificates. The value of Public School property in the County is, in the aggregate, nearly $90,000. "Whatever objections the present system may be thought to lie under, or grievances to which in individual cases it may give rise, the testimony of our eyes, and the careful, moderate reports of the Government Inspector prove, that at no time were the means for educating our children so complete; so able to bear favourable comparison; or to stand critical examination. We here insert a view of the Seminary, a building which to some extent has served as a model for several structures which have been raised since the passing of the new Law. This building cost $20,000, independent of the grounds.

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