HISTORICAL SKETCH OF NEW ALBANY
By Neander P. Whitman
Contributed to Whitmania! By Harriet Angulo, a Descendant,
through the courtesy of
Acadia University Archives
This wonderful essay on life in New Albany, Nova Scotia
was passed to me by Harriet Angulo, a Descendant of Neander P. Whitman.
I think you'll enjoy reading about the history of New Albany and the quaint customs
and deep religious faith that helped these early settlers triumph
against the harsh environment.
It took some time to get online, but the effort was well worth it.
Thank you Harriet!
To the Editor of The Monitor
Having been requested by Rev. A. H. Whitman of Lawrencetown, to prepare a brief history of this place for publication in your paper, I, perhaps, should apologize for having consented to do so because of lack of fitness educationally.
The request may be due to my having given something along that line at "Old Home Week" recently. Or it may be that fate has decreed it. Seeing that I was named for the "Historian" it follows that I must become a chronicler of history. However, that may be, I must confess that historical writings, have always appealed pleasurably to me And I anticipate some pleasure as well as some self-improvement in the task, and I hope, something of interest and profit may be found in this sketch for others.
Albany seems to have been settled upon a well-defined plan of those that had the arrangement of the early settlement of the country, that of planting one settlement at not too remote a distance from another or at least so that the traveler from point to point would not have to travel too far without finding a hospitable shelter. So it happens that settlements have been established from the necessity of the case rather than from the natural fitness of the place for settlement. And Albany certainly belongs to that class. Almost every lot has had some one begin to establish a home upon it. But many of them have long since been abandoned as unfit for farm purposes, so it may safely be said that those who have continued here have done so more in the general welfare of the country than from the point of remunerative advantage and in the service of hospitality have justified their existence. From these facts we are entitled to every consideration in the way of improved highways, etc. at t he hands of- the powers that be.
I do not wish to be understood as speaking disparagingly of my native place. There are now some well-tilled, productive farms and more that can be brought to the same degree of efficiency and yet be capable of further advancement.
The land when reclaimed is equal to the best for productiveness. But what has been accomplished has been done by hard, persistent toil, with comparatively small returns. The result has perhaps been, in a large measure, the production of an industrious, frugal people, traits of character, not without their compensation.
That that has been achieved has in a-large measure been the work of those who have ceased their toils or those who have passed the point of great endeavours. These in a large measure have served well their day. What the future will bring must fall to other hands. Albany is situated upon a highway that connects the far-famed Annapolis Valley, via Springfield, New Germany and Bridgewater, with Lunenburg, Liverpool and other southern points of the Province. It is now an important route expensively traveled, and the nature of things must become more so, especially in tourist travel. Therefore, the inhabitants should see to it that their homes and surroundings
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New Albany began to be settled about the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was surveyed into lots by Phineas Milidge of Annapolis, assisted by Nathaniel Parker, Joseph Morton, John McCormick, George Harvey and George Buchanan.
But I have learned from relatives of John Harris, of Annapolis, that he surveyed it, and gave it it's name, "New Albany'' named for "Albany'' in New York. The evidence seems quite reliable, as the camp of Mr. Milidge and crew was burned while they were engaged at the work, it may be quite possible that the survey work was then unfinished and afterwards finished by Mr. Harris. That would reconcile both claims which I think quite probable.
Just who first began to chop and clear the land, or who built first, will perhaps never be known. But on July 1st, 1809, Nathaniel Parker was appointed a commissioner by the Government to settle the place. This he seems to have done successfully and made a return to the Government in 1817.
(For this see Calneck Savery History of County).
I will not follow exactly his returns as quite a few soon left and others took their places, and are better known and perhaps deservedly so as first settlers. Beginning North, I will give a list of those that may be considered first settlers. Between Cleaveland, now called Nictaux South and lot number one of the Albany lots, is a flatiron shaped lot not numbered. This was first granted to and settled by Frank Smith, followed by his son William, then by the late E.P. Smith, of Nictaux Falls, where he resided the greater part of his life. The next in order would be David Tucker, George Keys, Abiel Robbins, John Saunders, John Ledbetter, Solomon Marshall, Sr., Solomon Marshall, Jr. Daniel Whitman, who also took over lot thirteen from Elisha Marshall, William Davis, Ezekiel Foster in place of Samuel Felch, William McKeown in place of Samuel Marshall. Phineas Caks in place of Abel Beals, Beriah Bent, Arthur Harris in place of John Whitman, John W. Tufts, Henry Parker, Daniel Benjamin, Charles Whitman, John Merry, and Henry Zwicker; all these except the two last named of the Smith's began living in log houses.
The first settler among them, that is the first to bring a wife and set up housekeeping, was John Whitman Tufts. He and his wife, presumably upon their wedding tour, walked from Nactaux Falls, carrying their belongings on their backs, camping over night, on the way (the distance being over ten miles) to their log-house, on lot twenty-five, about 1802. In a little over one hundred years after, their grandson, Prof. J.F. Tufts rode over the same route in an automobile.
At this time there was no road. Only in 1898 was a way chopped following an Indian Trail to Queen's County line on what is known as the Liverpool Road. With little exception, the route was the same as is traveled now. So the road was only a footpath among rocks and stumps, and walking the only mode of travel, except perhaps, an occasional venturesome person on horseback. The others followed at intervals and were nearly all here by 1911 except Mr. Foster, Mr. McKeown, Mr. Cakes and Mr. Harris, who took the places of others in the twenties. To these and their descendants chiefly belongs the foundation work of constructive improvement of the place.
The first money expended on the highway was a government grant of one hundred pounds in 1899, expended by Nathaniel Parker, from Cleaveland to Queens County line. This would no doubt mark the beginning of travel on horseback was the only mode, except walking, for sometime. As late as February 6th, 1821, my grandfather brought his Bride behind him on horseback (his second wife) from Wilmot. He often heard her tell of riding that way after Nictaux to church carrying a child in her arms. They, at that time still lived in a log house.
The first work was chopping down and burning the forest, ling the burnt logs in heaps and burning them, in this way clearing the land for crops. Planting was done by hand grub hoe, an instrument similar to present-day hoe, only heavier and of ruder construction made by a blacksmith. Grain was sown and harrowed in where possible with a homemade burntland harrow, or else hacked in with a hack. The mode of harvest was reaping with a sickle.
After the stumps were sufficiently rotted, breaking up, was called, began. This was done with oxen and a homemade wooden plow, lined with strips of thin iron, and an iron attached.
The first man I remember who manufactured these plows was the late John Hall, Sr. of Lawrencetown, father of Dr. B. Hall, now of that place. One of these would be a curiosity today. But they served their day remarkably. My first lessons in ploughing were with one of this f plows.
The first farm wagons were simply two wheeled carts, both for ordinary trucking and a rack shaped one for hauling hay and grain. These were drawn by oxen worked in a neck yokes.
The first sleighs or sleds were long runner pungs made with benches, a board bottom and a board cut in right dimensions nailed together and set on edge for sides and ends, with a short piece of board laid across when needed for a seat.
The first real sleighs I remember were made with doors. When you got in you would shut and button yourself in. But riding on horseback was quite common until a little over fifty years ago.
The first fireplaces were built of stones and clay, with tops of poles and clay to carry off the smoke.
All the first frame houses were built with large chimneys with fireplaces in every room that was to be heated. The bricks were made by the people here and many of them are still in use. They also had large brick ovens built in them for baking bread, pies, beans, etc. In the fall of the year these were often heated with coals and ashes cleaned out, and a bushel more Pumpkinsweet apples put in to bake. And many a happy supper was made of them; cut up in bowls of milk.
Matches were unknown in the early days. Fire was started with a flint and tinder, and was seldom allowed to go out in the winter time. At bed time a good sized stick of wood would be placed in the back of the fireplace with the brands and coals placed around it then covered with ashes, so there would be fire to rake out in the morning. It was not an uncommon thing to borrow fire from your neighbor.
Much of the time the only light was the light of the fireplace. Sometimes a cotton rag saturated in a dish of grease would be light for convenience, before tallow candles came into use. These were sometimes made in tin moulds, and in by dipping the wicks in melted tallow, then letting them cool, and repeating the process until desired size was obtained .
The first lanterns were made of tin with little slits cut in to let the light out, a candle being used for light. There are some of these lanterns on exhibition at Fort Anne.
One of the utensils for cooking I remember, was an iron bake-kettle, with a snug fitting cover, used principally for baking beans. When the beans were prepared in the kettle for baking, coals from the fire would be drawn into the corner of the fireplace, the kettle set on them, then more coals heaped over and around them, new ones being added until the beans were baked. It was often used in the same manner to bake short biscuit or barley short cake, etc. That cooking could hardly be excelled in our day of modern improvements.
Potatoes were often baked in a corner of the fireplace covered with hot ashes. Cooked in this way, then mashed up with cream or cream and codfish was a delightful dish.
The method of cooking a roast perhaps should not be forgotten. A strong cord with a hook fastened to one end upon which the roast would be caught, would be fastened above the fireplace to some object for the purpose, so the roast would hand before the fire. A pan would be placed directly under to catch the fat that would drop from the roast, out of which the gravy would be made. It was necessary to keep the roast in motion before the fire in order to have it cooked to a brown on all sides.
Another dish quite common was hulled corn. This would be scalded in lye to remove the hull, then washed and boiled until soft, then eaten with milk. Wheat was ~ often prepared in the same, way, and often furnished a complete meal. Appendicitis was then unknown.
Sheep were early kept, notwithstanding the necessity of yarding them at night to keep them from the bears. Even then they were not always safe. The wool was all worked up at home by the thrifty housewife and daughters, carded, spun and woven into cloth in hand looms, for men's suits, women's dresses, blankets, etc.; also knit into socks, stockings, mufflers and mittens, both for home use and for sale. It would be a rare thing to see any one dressed in anything else in the early days, except perhaps the women in cotton dresses in the summer time, and these were often home woven in various patterns. Flax was grown and manufactured into table cloths and towels in designs hard to be beaten by modern invention, and for durability unexcelled.
The tow shirt is not likely to be forgotten by the early wearer. One would have no occasion to get against a corner of a post to scratch his back. Neither if he had occasion to climb and in the descent should chance to catch on a spike or knot, was there any danger of a fall, for they were sure hold.
Straw hats were much made out of the wheat and rye straw. They were for Sunday as well as every day wear and both for men and women. Sometimes the straws would be colored in various shades before braiding and various mixed colors used, especially in women's hat shapes. Besides home use, these were much sold outside.
Shaved shingle making was very common, both for home use and for sale, in the early days, and often helped over many a hard place. Orchards were early set out, but were mostly of common variety. The apples besides what would be kept for winter use were peeled and dried for summer use, or for sale. These were carried mostly to Liverpool or Halifax and sometimes brought twelve and a half cents per pound, or six-pence in those days. Apple paring parties were quite frequent in the season and occasions of much fun to the young folks. These have become a thing of the past.
Saw mills were among the early enterprises. Probably the first of these was the one built by John Ledbetter and afterwards owned by Jesse Oakes, and sold by him about 1860 to James B. Patterson from Maine, who rebuilt it into a gang saw-mill, and conducted for many years quite extensive lumbering operations. He sold out to the firm of Pope & Vose. It afterwards changed hands quite often, but continued to be of considerable importance until it came into the handsof the Davison Lumber Co., of Bridgewater. Since then it has been deserted, and there is little even of the ruins remaining.
There was another mill built probably near the same time, by Henry Parker, on what is known as Trout Lake Brook. This was never more than a one sawmill, and remained for some time in different hands, but has ceased to be.
Another built at Shannon River on the Dalhousie road by Charles Whitman of this place and Elizah Roop, of Springfield, was run for a time, but has long since ceased to be. G.N. Reagh & Sons of Middleton, have a bungalow now where the mill used to stand.
There was one built by Edward Fairn about 1850 on what is known as Meadow Brook, afterwards by his son, Adolphine, until about 1890. Also another-built on the same brook by Jesse Oakes and William Mack. This later came into the hands of the Davison Lumber Co., and has become a thing of the past.
Henry Parker built a grist mill on Trout Lake Brook near where it crosses the main road. This remained until perhaps about forty years ago, when it was replaced by a sawmill, run now by Clyde and Leon Veinot, and used principally in the manufacture of barrel stock.
William Wood had a gasoline power mill for manufacturing barrel stock, etc. These are the only two remaining mills in the place, except the steam saw-mill, put up by a Lyman A. Whitman, at what is known as the Horseshoe Meadow, near the railway track. This enterprise has proved a serious financial loss to this highly esteemed neighbor who is deserving of every consideration and timely help in his heroic endeavor to retain manly honor. The mill will probably be sold at the best possible advantage by the owner as soon as opportunity offers.
When you take into consideration that in the early days the lumber from these mills was hauled to Paradise by ox team over rough roads, loaded on scows and rafter to Annapolis and sold at from seven to ten dollars per thousand for the best and less for much that would be classed as refuse, one can readily see that these men got their bread by the sweat of their brow. This was done until after the W.A. Railroad was finished in 1869. After that it was hauled to Lawrencetown and shipped by train. This continued until the completion in 1889 of the railway passing through Albany, and since then lumber has gone by train, principally to Bridgewater.
Forest fires, are in a large measure the cause of the decline of this industry, and the railway engine is one of the chief causes. The question has been asked, "Are the benefits of the railroad equal to the loss it has occasioned? There are a few perhaps who would be willing to do without the road, but the fact remains, it will be a long time before the balance will be on the right side of the ledger.
Another thing perhaps-causing equal if not more damage is the result of a relessness of the campers in not extinguishing their camp fire, or the careless smokers' lighted match or cigar stub thrown down. From these there can never come a day of return advantage. The loss is absolute. By these, Albany, suffers a severe loss in one of its principal industries. Should it prove the means of turning more attention to the farms, it might not prove an unmixed evil.
Dairying has always been an important industry, especially the dairy cheese, in the early days. This has ceased altogether and cream now goes principally to the creamery.
Stock raising has always been a source of income to Albany, and at one time there were some fine cattle raised. There has been a decline of late especially in quality, due, I think to an effort to try almost everything and we have next to nothing. Seeing that no one breed can satisfy the general need and stick to it. If I were permitted to suggest anything in the matter I would favor the Durham as the most likely of the known breeds. At the settlement are small and the expenses heavy in obtaining and keeping desirable quality of stock, this would seem the only wise solution to the problem.
There are a few persons that are perhaps deserving of mention as being the lead in the way of improved farms. Beginning south I would mention B.C. Merry and Son, Lewis. This farm was always considered naturally rather a poor prospect, but by hard labor and skillful handling, it has become one of the best with convenient, well-kept building and productive fields, it has become an added wealth to home and community. Leonard Whitman and son, Reginald, on the farm first settled by Charles Whitman, are fast bringing this place into increased value both to home and country. Joseph Mailman, where Henry Parker first settled has, perhaps, the possibilities of one of the best farms, but the lure of the lumber camp to Mr. Mailman does not mean the best possible results from the farm. William Whynot and son, Seymour on the place first settled by John W. Tufts, have, by blasting, hauling and burying rocks, added much to home and community values. The late Charles Whitman, one of our most indust rious enterprising farmers, leaves one of the best farms to his son Lyman. The late A.B. Fairn was another, who by industry, left a good home and a fine farm as- a heritage to these who came after him.
There are others, perhaps worthy of mention, but without any desire to eulogize unduly or cast reproach on any, we will let these suffice as examples of what may be done, with a desire that all may be inspired to nobler endeavor, for possibilities and opportunities are nowhere exhausted.
The difficulties encountered in bringing the land into tillable condition owing to the rugged nature of the soil only add to their attractiveness when accomplished. They stand out as an "oasis in the desert", and they must advertise the people at least as thrifty and ambitious.
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Happily for Albany the majority of the early settlers were decidedly religious and nearly all governed by high moral standards; so the community life from the first was permeated by gospel truth.
For sometime religious service was kept up by the inhabitants from house to house, the first being held in the log home of John W. Tufts. These were kept up with more or less frequency for some time, but it was quite common for them on the Sabbath to go to Nictaux, either on horseback or on foot, when there was a preaching service.
During this early period they would at times be visited by some of the old fathers, more particularly of the Baptist denomination. The first we have any record of was Elder Thomas Ansley, when there was quite a revival. This work seemed to have its centre in the log house built by Beriah Bent, on the site where the present meeting house now stands.
The remembrance of which was one of the causes of the church being built there. The early inhabitants have told us how ,while prayer and exhortation were progressing the Invisible presence filled the house. The saints rejoiced and sinners repented. The number baptized is now known, but such as were became members of the Nictaux Baptist Church.
About this time or soon after, under the guidance of Elders Thomas Ansley and Ingram E. Bill, the Nictaux church dismissed thirty-seven of its members that were on the twelfth of June 1829, organized into the New Albany Baptist Church under the care of Elder I.E. Bill, he being pastor at Nictaux at the time.
Isaac Whitman and his brother Daniel Whitman, were chosen deacons. They were noted for their ability and devotion to the cause, soundness of faith, and sterling Christian character. Others who served in this office with more or less distinction were Daniel Whitman, Jr., Jesse Oakes, Harris Prentiss, and Phineas Whitman. The clerks were, in order, Asaph Whitman, Jesse Oakes, and Phineas Whitman, who still serves. Owing to the loss of the early records of the church, there are much of its early history missing and many dates uncertain.
Whether just before this time, or soon after, the first meeting house was built, is uncertain, but it evidently was not far remote. When people out of their abundant poverty and more abundant self-sacrifice, erected a very creditable house, the building being the same "remodelled" that is now used for a school house in the North Section. Here the people worshipped and experienced many manifestations of God's power to save in revival influences. The last and most extensive revival was under the ministry of the late Rev. Willard Parker in 1874, when over forty were added to the Church by baptism; again in 1833, fourteen.
In 1846 there seems to have been quite an extensive revival under Elder Rideout. The number baptized is not known, but was quite large. There were other revivals. - Since then there have been additions as follows: in 1878, seven; in 1881, eleven; in 1887, eleven; in 1891, thirteen, in 19049 eight; in 1906, three; in 1918, three. Since that time there have been no additions.
The second meeting house was dedicated September 5th, 1876, and since then has been renovated and a furnace installed. The first minister ordained here was Willard G. Parker on January 28th, 1843. The next following was James Parks, who was ordained January 4th, 1849; following him was E. J. Grant, in 1878; the last being one of Albany's sons, George E.A. Whitman, Missionary to Southern China, under the A.B.M. Union, on September 4, 1892.
Others that have, or are serving in the ministry who are native of this place are the late Rev. George E. Tufts, whose ministry was chiefly confined to the State of Maine, Rev. M.B. Whitman, pastor of the Baptist Church, Lawrencetown, N.S., and also of the home church, New Albany.
In pastoral service, the church has been ministered to with more or less irregularity, at first in connection with Nictaux. Later it became grouped with Springfield and Dalhousie East churches. This continued until about 1907. Since then it has been served by student supply, and at present in connection with the Lawrencetown church. The church has been remembered by gifts and-bequests as follows: A Bible and hymn book for the pulpit, by the late Gardiner Tufts and Dimock Whitman; a silver communion set, and hymnals for the pews, by Mrs. Eunice Oliver and Mrs. Victoria Holden, of Lynn, Mass., and Clyde 0. Whitman; a bequest by the late Charlotte Woodbury, of this place, sixty dollars; also one of a thousand dollars by the late Dr. J. F. Tufts, of Wolfville. These are the expressions-of their interest in their home church, all of which is gratefully acknowledged with the assurance that their reward will be in full, in harmony with the spirit and motives that have; prompted the gifts.
The Sabbath School was first organized by Mrs. Lovett Oakes and Miss Margaret Whitman in 1843, and has continued ever since, with more or less regularity, but often closed during the winter months.
The Women's Missionary Aid Society was organized by Mrs. E. J. Grant in 1885, the late Mrs. Hannah Saunders of Kingston, being its first president. The oldest living member now is Mrs. Phineas Whitman, aged eighty-eight years, and for over thirty years it's honorable president.
The Society has been continuous in its efforts, and has been responsible for the raising of over a thousand dollars for various benevolent objects. Considering the fact that the membership would not average over ten or twelve members, and none of large means, the record is praise worthy.
There were in the early days three Methodist families, who, when not holding united service with the Baptists, held their services at the home of Ezekiel Foster. These have long since moved away. Any that may remain that were connected with that body have now joined with others in what is known as the United Church of Canada, and hold their services in the Baptist house of worship.
By removals and deaths, the church how only numbers twenty six resident members, with its spiritual life low. The general history of the church may be stated in brief as being noted for its revival periods, followed by declines, and perhaps it is not different in this respect from the majority of our churches. Whether this is a condition necessary and unavoidable, it might be well to inquire. If not, we should seek to discover the cause, and find the remedy.
From the conditions of our churches today, it would appear that there was a very general opinion that Heaven or Hell were places that being permitted to enter, were responsible for happiness or misery, regardless of the personal character of those that inhabit. While the facts are, our personal character in a large measure, make heaven or hell anywhere. Consequently the inhabitants of a place are responsible for the conditions of the place, not the place for the conditions of the inhabitant. Both places will be habitable.
Our own personal names and our community life is in accordance with our own personal efforts or the efforts of others that have been before us have made it. Whether good or bad, God is in nowise to blame if we have missed our opportunities. We have just what we have put into it.
A wrong understanding here may easily lead to a wrong conclusion respecting the atoning sacrifice of Christ. One may believe that if Christ died for all men, if we believe it we will be saved or permitted to enter Heaven regardless of the fact, whether we have become fitted by a change of heart or purpose of life to enter that place. This condition must first come before admittance can be granted. Instead the great atonement opens up or makes possible to the repentant sinner the possibilities of entrance into life, and through that fact they become heirs to Heaven.
The whole aim in the toils and labors of God to usward have been to the end that He might elevate our moral manhood. If we have failed to grasp this fact and laid hold of him who is able to accomplish it in us, we have failed of all there is in it for us. From these facts it would appear that the only remedy was repentance toward God, as a first requisite, then faith, evidenced by life.
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The education of their children has been a matter that has always been to the front by the people of this place. The abundant efforts and difficulties overcome are too apparent to class them as having been indifferent in this matter.
From its earliest settlement to the present time there have been no less than fourteen different places where school has been kept. Some of them had been deserted dwelling houses fitted up, or an unoccupied room in a dwelling house or shop; and some of them log-houses. There have been eight school houses as such built first and last.
The first school was kept in a dwelling house built by
Henry Matthews (afterwards of Dalhousie East) on the east side of the road, just beyond John W. Tuft's south line, undoubtedly serving the whole community. This building at one time was struck by lightning and Gardner Tufts, youngest son of John Tufts, was carried out, supposed to be dead, but he afterwards revived.
Patrick Scanlin of East Dalhousie was teacher at that time. After this place was abandoned, there seems to have been two schools kept, but continually changing to various places until about 1848 when a school house was built in the north end of the settlement, just a little south of where the present one how stands. And about the same time there was one built in the south end of the settlement, on the same site of the present house. That was removed and the present house built about fifty years ago. These first two houses were built in about the same style.
The desks were built against the wall, on two sides and one end. The windows were small sized, over the desks, high enough so the scholars' attention would not be drawn from their studies by outside attractions. The seats were made out of a substantial slab from a log in one of the near-by saw mills. These had four holes bored in them and good strong legs put in so that when set up in the flat or sawn side would be up to sit on, the pupils facing the wall, and the centre being used for class exercises.
Books in those days were not plentiful; perhaps the most that would be had was a reader, spelling book, arithmetic and grammar. I can remember when the only history in the school owned either by a teacher or school (I think the teacher) who would read or relate a portion of it one day, the test being to see who could answer the questions he would ask the next day. -Then he would give another lesson, etc., and this, with frequent reviews, would keep things freshened in memory. Geography was taught much in the same way in the early days. Arithmetic was not much used until the scholar had passed long division. Your lessons were given you by the teacher on your slate, and they always set all copies for writing.
Reading and spelling were considered important and drilling in those respects were usually pretty thorough, especially the spelling. The class usually stood in a row. The teacher would begin at the head of the class giving out words and if a pupil missed the word, would pass to the next below, if that one missed so on until one found to spell it, they at once would go above the one first to miss it. In this way the position of the pupils in the class would be constantly changing. Sometimes the whole school would be divided into two classes, under captains, the teacher giving out words in the same manner to first one class, then the other, then when one missed they would drop out. This would be kept up until one or the other was spelled down or sometimes until the last scholar was out.
Pens for writing were made of goose quills, with the ends sharpened into pen-shape with a keen penknife, with the point slightly slit after the manner of pens. If the pens were crude, the penmanship was not always so.
The qualifications of teachers were not very exciting. They were supposed to be expert in making quill pens as they were expected to manufacture these from the quills taken by the scholars for them and also to be a good penman, as their copy would be supposed to be the highest possible attainment for the scholar. If they were able to advance the pupils under them for the term employed that was about all that was required of them.
Schools were not kept in regular terms as they are now. But the teacher would be hired for whatever time the means could be raised to pay them. This was done sometimes by subscriptions or by those desiring their children educated paying so much per scholar for the time employed, the teacher being boarded by the different families in proportion to the number of scholars sent as part payment. Advancement was continually being made, but was very slow, until after the present law came into force in 1864. Since then there has been rapid advancement all along the line.
The passing of this law invoked bitter opposition upon the part of those who had educated their children and those who had none to educate. The strife was so bitter that some loaded their guns and declared they would shoot the first tax collector upon appearance. However, the law has survived without the tax collector having suffered violence.
It is well to note just here that under the old system the basic idea of both parent and child was an education for the sole purpose of the advantage it would give them in the affairs of life. This idea may seem quite right under that rule or custom of education. But the idea is altogether changed by the new or present custom. That is, an educated community is in every respect better than an uneducated one. And as it is a community benefit, there the community ought to support it.
The scholars, on the other hand, always owe a debt to their community or country that has made these things so generally possible for them. And they are under obligation their community or country to make themselves of the greatest possible service to it as a first consideration and selfish ends the last. This principle is Christ's or Christian Principle and therefore right.
That there is always a personal advantage in ones personal knowledge however acquired cannot be denied. But it should be the second consideration. Service should be the first, and the order is so arranged. The community service was first to you. And your debt will not be paid until life ends.
If we have not become better citizens because of these facts, we have missed the largest measure of good there is in them for us.
Albany, taking into consideration its size and general advantages has sent out more teachers and others filling important positions in life than the average. The common school teachers number thirty-three. Besides these that was the late Dr. J.E. Tufts, Wolfville, who walked from his home here to Wolfville with only twenty-five cents in his pocket, and worked his way through college.
Dr. I. B. Oakes, another prominent man in various positions of trust; Daniel S. Whitman, Ingram Oakes and Asbury Murray, college graduates, admitted to the Bar.
Clyde C. Whitman, Civil Engineer; L. R. Fairn, Architect, Aylesford5 N.S.; Frank S. Whitman, Instructor in Manual Training, Bridgeport, Conn.; Clifford N. Oakes, insurance agent, Kentville, and Lorimer Whitman, graduate of Halifax Business College, now holding a responsible position with Price Brothers, Quebec. One thing worthy of note is that Albany's teachers have very largely been those of its own production, and our senior teacher, Phineas Whitman, now ninety years of age, has perhaps given more service in this respect than any other, and consequently has had more than any other, the moulding and training of the community life of the young.
The little round ruler that was prominent in correction, with his teaching, is doubtless still preserved in memory of those days.
The delinquents are quite ready to allow that debts due in this respect were never fully paid, but they are quite ready to exercise without a grudge a relinquishment of the debt, and then extend a friendly hand to the venerable old school teacher.
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The hardships endured by those early settlers so far removed from any markets, with no roads, and everything conveyed to and from upon their backs, can better be imagined than described.
The facts are, many things thought indispensable today, were unknown to them. The hard toilers did not require delicacies to tempt their appetites. Their fare was simple and their wants of necessity few. The game of the forest and the fish of the streams abundantly aided them over many a difficult place. These with the vegetables and cereals raised, besides pork, beef, lamb, chicken, geese and ducks, afforded substantial fare.
While money was scarce there were few who lacked sufficient to eat. And these articles of produce were the chief coin of the day that paid the grocer, carpenter, black-smith, teacher, minister and doctor.
For every ill the herb of the garden, fields and woods were gathered, dried and stored. The gall of the beef, and oil of the fowl were bottled. These, with a home-made sticking plaster for cuts and wounds, in the hands of the mothers who were skilled in nursing, made doctors' visits rare.
The sugar and syrup made from the maple in a large measure served for the sweetening, while the seed of the caraway used whole and of the coriander ground in a mortar, with a few nutmegs, sufficed for spice.
The chief weapon for the capture of game, large or small, was first the flint musket, then the muzzle-loading shot gun.
The moose hunt was usually an annual event, about the month of March when there was nearly always quite a crust on the usually deep snow, sufficient to carry men on snow-shoes and the dogs on foot, but difficult going for the moose. There chases were sometimes exciting events.
After fifty years had passed it was an easy manner to go to the nearby streams and in a short time secure a substantial string of trout, or to take your gun and in a few hours return with partridges for a pot pie. But if you could accomplish either in a day now, you would do well.
The only method of fishing was with hook and line, with worms for bait, or sometimes a bit of salt pork. The lines used were usually made out of hair pulled from the tail of the horse. The method was to take three goose quills and cut them off squarely up near the feather, then cut the points off in the same way, and this would give you hollow quills. Insert a number of hairs desired in each quill, then place wooden stoppers prepared, in the largest end of the quills, just snug enough so you could draw then at will, then knot or tie the ends together, and make them fast to some object, the take the quills in hand and twist to desired hardness, and begin your braiding or twisting. When more hairs were required the stops would be moved and hairs placed in as might be required to keep the number good, thus twisting and braiding until your line is finished.
With a hook fastened to one end and a bit of lead usually fastened to the line not far above the hook for a sinker, and with a long slim rod cut with your jack-knife from the forest, you were equipped for fishing. This method of line making evidently gave rise to what in my school days we used to call "the twister". "The twister in twisting three twines doth intwist. If the twister is twisting one of the twines both untwist, the twister in twisting untwisteth the twist."
So far as I can learn there was no mail service here only as it was brought by private individuals that might chance to be out to either Middleton or Lawrencetown, until about 1850.
Asaph Whitman kept the first Post Office in the house now occupied by the writer; and this could not have been earlier than that date, and more probable a year or two later. The mail was first driven through here from Lawrencetown to Bridgewater and return once a week, driven by Elijah Phinney. This service was later increased to two trips a week and was driven by Mr. Phinney and others until it was delivered by train.
An event in my childhood was the capture of a bear. This bear came out and crossed the road in the hollow south of our place, where the watering trough now is, about sun-set, going east. It happened to be seen by parties on both sides of the hollow. Needless to say all the men of the neighborhood were soon on the chase, with dogs, guns, pitchforks, axes or any other weapon obtainable. The dogs, upon the first snort from bruin, all fled home with their tails between their legs, but one named "Carlow". This dog laid seige in a lively manner. He would take the bear by the heels and the bear would turn to strike him with his forepaws, then the dog would dodge back. When the bear would turn to go, he would nab him by the heels again. By this method he kept the bear until the men came up and shot him. Carlow was the hero of the neighborhood after that.
In the endurance of their hardships these people labored with buoyant spirits, and slowly but surely overcame the difficulties and advanced toward a better day. They were very generally noted for their hospitality. Perhaps there was no one more deserving of mention in this respect than James E. Whitman, and his sister, Salome. Their home was a haven to all classes and conditions of travellers. By the early death of a brother who left three fatherless children, they cared for two of these, namely the late Charles Whitman of this place, and a sister, now Mrs. George R. Whitman of Lawrencetown. Besides they had to battle against heavy financial difficulties, made heavier by the death of the brother, with whom he was associated in business. Through all this their honor was maintained. The last debt was paid. They died in a good old age, beloved by all that knew them. "Uncle Jim Ed" and "Aunt Loam", were names by which they were universally known.
Those that have gone out from here have very generally distinguished themselves by industry and sobriety as successful citizen-s in other places.
The name of Dimock Whitman will be familiar to many in this county. At the age of twenty-one he walked from his home here with fifty cents in his pocket, barefoot, carrying his shoes under his arm to save the wear of them, to his grandfather's at Rosette, on the farm first settled by his great-grandfather, John Whitman, the first of the same to settle in the county. He afterwards bought the farm; was three times married, raised a large family, and died in a good old age, and considered a wealthy man in his day. While attending to business he always found time to visit his childhood home annually, and frequently oftener.
Edmund M. Whitman at the age of nineteen in the spring of seventy-one, went with his father Asaph Whitman, to the United States in an effort to improve their financial condition. About four months after, his father was taken sick and started for home, getting as far as St.John, where he died. This left his widowed mother and five younger children to be cared for, He stayed at his job while his father's affairs were settled up, the family going to him in Lawrence,
Mass., where he kept the home together until the younger children were grown and settled and his mother died. He is now living in retirement, spending his old age in beautifying his home in Arlington, Mass., being past three score and ten. He says he owed his success in life in a large measure to the discipline received in his struggle with comparative poverty in his early days.
The late William Whitman, of Yarmouth was another especially noted for his thoughtful care for his aged parents.
These have not lived to gain wealth alone, but were noted for their liberality and worthy examples of what can be done by industry and frugality. There are others equally of mention, but space forbids.
The real success in life is not measured by the wealth accumulated alone, but by the service rendered. And they that add to their wealth by industrious toil in the development of their country, add to their country's wealth as well.
When we look back we find that Albany had its largest number of families in the first fifty years. With its largest population reaching within the next twenty-five years. Since then there has been a steady decline, due chiefly to the young leaving for other places. This in a large measure is unavoidable, as community expansion is not under present world conditions very probable, the best that can be hoped for is a future development of that which is already begun. And for this purpose a few more able and willing for the toil and service could find room.
The outlook for the future is far from bright. Especially is this true in the north end of the settlement, which has always been in the lead in the earlier days. From Nictaux South to lots twelve and thirteen, where Daniel Whitman first settled, there are only two families now living, where there has been as high as eighteen, including those at the gang-mill. Besides, the most of the farms up to lot twenty-four are seriously on the decline. I doubt if the number of cattle now kept in the settlement was ever smaller, except perhaps for a short period in the earliest days. Then sheep were kept on almost every-farm. There are now but two small flocks. Also, nearly every place had a flock of geese. There is not a goose today; at least none with feathers on. Nor is there anything to indicate a substantial advance in anything else to offset the depreciation.
It is a noticeable fact that there is a serious decline in the assessment in this and other outlying districts, which is not only a serious loss -to these places, but to the whole county as well.
Now, what is the cause? There are no doubt many causes that are unavoidable, due to the ever-changing conditions in which we live, and these differ in different localities. But the one that applies not only here, but to most places as well, is, in my opinion, the want of a patriotic spirit for the development of our country that inspires us to the endurance of the hardships necessary to the accomplishment of the task. If this spirit pervaded us, you would hear less about the drudgery of live. Especially in farm life. But rather joy would animate us in the privilege of labor and its everywhere beneficial results.
This spirit far more constrained the earlier settler that it does us today. It may be that the necessity of the situation impelled it. There are doubtless many now that are actuated by this ideal. But there are far too many that are like the early aborigines, whose only motive in life was to subsist, without any other objective that the least labor and the most pleasure or ease obtainable.
The only end to such motives must bring bitter disappointments in any earthly good, as well as in that which is infinitely more important, the loss of the higher possibilities of live in Christian Citizenship. For any per-son actuated by such motives are out of harmony with God and all his purposes in life for them.
To attain the highest good, all labor should be intelligently directed to the accomplishment of worthy and noble ends, to insure ever increasingly better conditions in life. And nowhere is this more needed that in farm life today, to connect itself with that vital godliness that has the promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.
There is toil in every occupation in life and they that succeed have got to apply themselves with diligence to attain success in it. And the farm is no exception to the rule, but it certainly affords as much freedom and diversity of occupation with certainty of stability, besides being the most worthy of all occupations because it is that upon which all others rest.
And they that succeed must in the same rates of necessity, leave the world the better for their having lived in it. The real matter is not so much where you have lived, as how you have lived, or whether you leave the world better for your having lived in it.
If this spirit or principle actuates the people of Albany or elsewhere, it will make their history worth writing.
Our thanks are due to our aged friend, Phineas Whitman, for much of the early history of the church, as well as in matters of early education.
NEANDER P. WHITMAN, New Albany, April 20th, 1936.
Formatting and Design Copyright 2000, P.D. Crowe
Acadia University Archives
"This copy is provided for research purposes only.
Permission to reproduce must be obtained from the Acadia University Archives."
Collection: CNDNA FC2349.N42W45
"Historical Sketch of New Albany"
Represented by the contributor to be free of copyright
May 3, 2000
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