A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #3: TOC
The Road To Being Canada
Chapter 37, Agriculture

In comparing the years 1808 to 1827: The number of cattle in the province went from 57,000 to 110,000; sheep, 75,000 to 174,000; swine, 28,000 to 72,000; horses, 6,700 to 13,000.1 The cattle, sheep and swine were raised by the rural farmers, especially by those located in the Annapolis Valley. Horses were on these farms, too; but most of them were not owned by farmers but by the well-to-do. To a gentleman of leisure (meaning a man of money and rank) a horse, his horse, meant more to him than most of the people around him. We learn from one of Joe Howe's biographers, Wm. Lawson Grant that Viscount Falkland, a blood blue, who, in 1840, was sent out to govern the colony of Nova Scotia, "shortly before leaving Halifax ... had his carriage horses shot, lest on his departure they should fall into the plebeian hands."2

On July 25, 1818, the first issue of Agricola's "letters" appeared in the Acadia Recorder. There were 23 letters which came out in series, the last on December 26th. "The letters of Agricola attracted great attention from their intrinsic merit, which was increased by the mystery as to their authorship. In consequence of suggestions they contained, agricultural societies were rapidly organized3 in different counties and settlement, and ploughing matches took place, many of the prominent men of the country taking part4, and their proceedings were published, as were many letters addressed to the yet unknown Agricola." In 1819, the legislature granted £1500 for the foundation of the Agriculture Society. John Young, who had avowed the authorship of the Agricola papers, was appointed its secretary.5 It should be noted that there was a James Anderson (1739-1808), a Scottish writer who ran a farm in Aberdeenshire and, indeed, invented the "Scottish plough." He had a special interest in political economy and it is said (Chambers) that his theories on rent anticipated those of Ricardo. His nom de plume was Agricola and a number of articles were collected up and published in 1777, Observations on the Means of Exciting a Spirit of National Industry.

According to Joe Howe,6 this interest in agriculture died away with the arrival of Lord Dalhousie's replacement, Sir James Kempt. Kempt had a decided interest in road making and "the agriculture mania died away."

It is not as if agriculture was neglected before John Young and his "letters" came along. We can see that the farming communities of the Annapolis Valley -- containing most all of the good growing soil and attending good climatic conditions -- grew much the same products that we find growing on these farms in the present day. It is instructive to look at the Journal of Captain John Harris. Harris was a resident of Clements, located within the Annapolis Basin in Annapolis County.

May 11, 1815: "Morning went down to Elijah Purdy's and bought some apple trees ... p.m. clear, went down with the team and brought home 50 young trees. (These would be set out on the land cleared by Frank and the boys.)"
May 12, 1815: "... Emply'd setting out trees along the roadside for the good of the rising generation. P.M. at Gate's shop [the local blacksmith] ... fitting the plough ... Frank and the boys went after Gaspereaux."
June 10, 1815: "Boys grafting trees for experiment being in the new of the Moon, but late in the season ... The trees beginning to blossom ... Sheared the sheep ... Cherry tree in full blossom."7
Products of Nova Scotia were shipped down into the Caribbean Islands. We know from an analysis of Perkins Diary that great quantities of timber and fish were shipped down. Our trader from Clements, Captain Harris, sailed down with fish, alright, in addition he brought down agricultural products produced on the lands surrounding his valley community. Here are a couple of entries from his journal which will give some flavour to this trade:
Nevis: November 18, 1815: "9 a.m. went on shore but could not sell my cargo ... Retaile out some smoked herring (Digby chickens) apples and cheese."
Jamaica: November 29, 1815: "Delivered to Mr. Jones as follows: 36 cheese (571 pounds), 10 boxes smoked herring, 10 bbls potatoes, 10 bbls apples and 37 bushels oats."

NEXT: [Chapter 38, The Durham Report]


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Peter Landry