Issue # 41, February 2009, ISSN 1913-4134
This newsletter comes to you from the quarrylands of "King" Seaman in Minudie and aboard the SARAH DIXON on her way to Melbourne, Australia. Amos Seaman's story is a maritime tale with a family-owned business growing from nothing to riches and, later, stumbling along amidst squabbling family disagreements and, ultimately, fading into obscurity. Jamie’s story is quite fascinating. Watch for the book launch!
As in the previous issue, I found Walter Dutton's story quite interesting and very moving. Travelling at sea for months with a "rum lot" is a scary notion for any civilized person. But it was quite likely a very commonplace occurrence throughout 100 years of travelling by sea. Walter's notes aboard the Sarah Dixon really bring the experience to life.
We dedicate this issue of The White Fence to Bill Godfrey. I think he would have enjoyed the stories herein. Bill fostered a love of history in many of us and particularly of local history. Jamie Heap, Bill's last Honours student at Mt A, presents us here with a fascinating article about Amos "King" Seaman, based on his thesis work supervised by Dr. Godfrey, now a book to be published by the Heritage Trust later this month. It is because of people like Bill Godfrey that the Tantramar Heritage Trust came into existence and why we value our Maritime past and enjoy so much learning, and discovering, more about it.
Thank you Bill - you will never be forgotten.
- Peter Hicklin
Lord of the Land
Amos "King" Seamanby Jamie Heap
The story goes that in 1796, when Amos was 8 years old, he paddled a birchbark canoe from Maccan to the shores of Minudie. One interpretation is that his canoe had a hole in the bow and he was taken in by the Minudie Ferry Operators (the Brines) for the night and later returned home. But our late friend, Bud White, wrote (White Fence no. 11) that Amos Seaman did make it across in the same canoe, with nothing but the clothes on his back, and was taken in by an Acadian family. Either way, Amos Seaman made it to Minudie and grew up to become the owner of an extensive commercial empire including the quarrying of grindstones which he shipped far and wide. Later Amos dropped the name "Peck" because he thought it was too insignificant (!).
Amos Seaman's formative years were spent in Boston where he learned the art of being a shrewd and successful entrepreneur despite lacking any formal education until he was well into adulthood. In 1814, he married Jane Metcalf (1793-1866) and, through their 50 years of married life, produced 11 children. All the children were well educated although Amos was unable to get a formal education himself.
In 1816, he built a wharf and a general store in Minudie. By 1818, he had built a home on his first half-acre of land in Minudie. As time went on, Amos began to export such goods as hay and timber, a commodity which was greatly valued in Britain following the Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815). This war involved attacks on his own ships. In 1834, he purchased the Minudie estate from DesBarres including exclusive access to the grindstone-rich quarries of Minudie and Lower Cove.
Tragically, four of Amos and Jane's eleven children died between 1855 and 1861; James had died at age five in 1837. For all intents and purposes, Amos also "lost" sons Gilbert and Rufus through their fallout from the leasing of the Lower Cove grindstone quarries.
Amos Seaman died in 1864. The prosperous community of 600 soon
dwindled into a tiny hamlet after his passing and the end of the
costliest court case in the history of Nova Scotia up until that point
in time. While "Grindstone Castle" no longer stands and the shad
fishery is all but extinct, the Amos Seaman School Museum, the Saint
Denis Roman Catholic Church and the Universalist Church all remain as
a living legacy and reminder of Minudie's "golden age" under their
beloved and benevolent Grindstone King, Amos Seaman.
The Journal of Walter Dutton
August 29-December 5, 1858
Note: The following is a transcription of the journal of Walter Dutton who, in the Fall of 1858, took passage on the Sackville built ship SARAH DIXON from Liverpool, England to Melbourne, Australia. It is an exact transcription keeping Walter's use of old English spelling and terms. Bracketed insertions have been added by Al Smith to explain some of the terms to the reader. This journal was kindly made available to the Tantramar Heritage Trust by Walter Dutton's great-great-grandson Stephen Simpson. The journal was received by the Trust in October 2008, exactly 150 years after the voyage.
Continued from White Fence No. 40
Sept. 9. The crew are all right today, but we have very little wind. We shall be a long time before we get to our destination.
Sept. 10. Calm and warm, 11th also.
Sept.12. Head wind. Dressed up today and attended prayers on the poop (upper rear deck), which were ready by the captain.
Sept. 15. A storm set in on Sunday night and it has continued blowing and raining until this afternoon. It is now a little better though most of the passengers have been sick again.
Sept. 16. The wind right against us and going very slowly.
Sept. 17, 18, 19. Calm weather and nothing going on worth mentioning.
Sept. 20. A little wind. We can see the Canary Islands on one side and peak of Teneriffe on the other, rising like a great sugar loaf out of the sea. We have seen a great number of fish there last few days. It is also getting very hot. The sun rises at about half past six o'clock and sets at about five o'clock, and it is dark at half past six o'clock.
Sept. 21. Got up early this morning to look at the comet (Haley's Comet appeared in 1758 –A.D. Smith) which was very plain to be seen. We have had a regular row on board today the carpenter was going to strike the black cook with his axe but the sailors set upon him and nearly killed him. There is very little wind yet and one can still see the peak of Teneriffe. It is a great height, being nearly 2˝ miles above the level of the sea.
Sept. 22. Fair winds, going 9 knots.
Sept. 23. We have got fairly into the trade winds.
Sept. 24. Going about 10 knots. We have had another fight today between one of the crew who is a Scotsman and one of the steerage passengers who is an Irishman.
Sept. 25. Not much wind, all quiet, nothing worth naming.
Sept. 26. Honley Feast (a local annual celebration in the Huddersfield area of England - A.D. Smith) for you and I hope that you have enjoyed yourself. We have had today a good raisin pudding to dinner.
Sept. 27. Saw a great number of fishes.
Sept. 28. Going at about 8 knots.
Sept. 29. We have had a storm today accompanied by thunder and lightning but the wind is now in our favour. One of our sailors has had a misfortune; by falling from the main yard, and is seriously ill in the back. He is a Portuguese and is a favourite with all the passengers and a very sharp and active young man. We have spoken with two homeward bound vessels today.
Sept. 30. Calmer today. We were very near catching a shark but the hook broke just as we had got him up to the bulwarks (ship's side above the water).
Oct. 1st. Calm and hot nothing worth mentioning has taken place.
Oct. 2nd. Hot, and a deal of rain, which has found us water sufficient to wash our clothes.
Oct. 3rd. Sunday - We had no prayers to-day on account of the unfavourable weather.
Oct. 4th 5th 6th. - Calm.
Oct. 7th. A little wind but it comes from the wrong quarter but we have had plenty of rain these last three days. I never saw it rain half so fast in England - We can see the Comet to-night very plainly. It looks to be about half the size of a Rainbow, I wonder if you can see it at home; we have had two fights to-day and the captain has stopped half their rations as a punishment. I will just say a word about our passengers, they are a rum lot, especially the women, there is one in our cabin who is a disgrace to her sex, and which makes the matters worse she is a married woman going out to join her husband, poor devil he has been kuckled some hundreds of times already.
On the 8th 9th and 10th - there has been but little wind, to-day it is calm also, we shall never be there; we have been at sea 44 days and not crossed the line (equator) yet spoke a ship to-day from London to Melbourne only 32 days out.
Oct. 12th. Plenty of wind, but it blows the wrong way for us.
Oct. 13th. The wind still in the same quarter, we have row to-day, some of the sailors got beastly drunk and one of them went up to the Captain and asked him to put him in irons and told him if he refused, he would stab him, and he flourished his knife about to the terror of all the passengers; with a little persuasion the Captain got him to his own place without him carrying his threat into execution, three or four of the crew are desperate villains, and the Captain is afraid of them; we can see the Comet plain to-night.
Oct. 14th. We have crossed the line to-day after a long and dreary passage of 47 days from Liverpool, there was some fine sport with the sailors shaving and other sports; most of the passengers paid 1/- each to the sailors for drink, and they kept the sports up until a late hour this morning, but I did not take any part in the proceedings, and it passed off without an serious row.
Oct. 15th. We have a steady breeze but not quite in our favour.
Oct. 16th. Fair wind, our water is very bad and stinks awfully I would not wash myself in it at home.
Oct. 17th. Nothing of importance yesterday the 16th dressed up to-day and attended divine service, prayers read by the Captain, although he was slightly elevated with liquor last night, the wind still in our favour.
Oct. 18th. Fair wind, spoke (to) a vessel from Rio Janeiro, and our Captain told the Captain of the homeward bound vessel to report us.
Oct. 19th. Nothing of importance going 9 knots an hour one of the sailors slept with a woman last night of course she was married, going out to join her husband, the married women are ten times worse than the single women.
Oct. 21st. Nothing of importance yesterday - We had a death last night, a little boy about the same age as our Earle, and he was buried today, the Captain read the funeral service and the affair was very impressive, the people standing with their heads uncovered, the body was launched overboard and sank immediately as it was weighted - I don’t want to see another funeral at sea.
Oct. 22nd. We are going along very well we have had two fights today.
Oct. 23rd. We are going very fast about 12 knots, and we have had an increase in the number of our passengers today in the shape of 8 young pigs and the old sow and her family are doing very well.
Oct. 24th. Sunday - No service the wind and sea very high but we are going along first rate.
Oct. 25th. There is a very strong wind, almost a hurricane but rather against us.
Oct. 26th. We have had one more passenger, today, the wife of a Dutchman, who is an Englishwoman, having given birth to a little girl, bothe are doing well the sea is very high, but rather against us.
Oct. 27th. Calm - Cape pigeons (Cape Petrels - a seabird) in sight today, we have now been at sea 60 days, and have not yet got to the Cape - Our vessel requires as much wind as it takes to move a castle.
Oct. 30th. It was calm on the 28th and rather windy on the 29th. We are now opposite the Cape after a long and dreary passage of 63 days. - We had a birth yesterday, an English woman her husband is a German, the woman has been ailing since she came on board. A young man on getting up this yesterday morning found himself without his coat, waistcoat, watch and chain, and a Meerschaum pipe (a smoking pipe made of a rare hard white clay mineral), there has been a deal of searching among the people in the steerage, which has occasional rows, - We are indeed among a lot of rouges and thieves, and robberies take place continually one young man has had a pair of top boots stolen, another a gold ring, while our mess is continually having its few things borrowed by some prigs who never return them. We have just had a nice loaf taken which we had thought to enjoy tomorrow at our breakfast time.
Oct. 31st. Sunday morning no service on account of the stormy weather, some of the passengers are sick again and Joe is among the number, it blew very hard and rocked the vessel about very much.
Nov. 1st. We have had another death today the child that was born last and they have interred it this afternoon it was sewed up in canvass and it floated like a cork.
Nov. 2nd. The wind is rather more in our favour it is very cold we are going in our right course, that is South East by east.
Nov. 3rd. Calm weather, nothing worth mentioning. A little wind but not in our direct course.
Nov. 4th. A little wind but not in our direct course.
Nov. 5th. Smart breeze and very cold, we have about fifteen hours day- light, saw a ship at day-light this morning.
Nov. 6th. The weather the same last night we saw a ship which is supposed to be the "William Jackson" which signalled with blue lights which we answered - This morning there has been a fight between the second and third cabins under-stewards; they fought very furiously for some minutes the one being backed by the storekeeper, and the other by his intended father-in-law, while his sweetheart encouraged him with her smiles and told him to "mind he did not get hurt." We have had two more fights to-day, there is some rum goings on, on board, card playing, dice, dominoes, and indeed gambling of every description and drink, - One young man a Scotsman has spent about 30 pounds since he came on board, your brother William saw him in the ship - The Captain is much to blame for selling the drink to such an extent, no matter to whom it is, whether passengers or crew, they can have drink for money. Last night the second mate was drunk, but I am happy to say that I have not troubled them once. Nearly all the grog (rum) is now sold, and all the tobacco, I have had my share of that and no mistake.
Nov. 7th. Sunday morning - no service on board on account of the weather, the wind is very strong and it is awfully cold - two men have staked some money to fight a wager as soon as the anchor is dropped in Hobson's Bay, the one is Irish and the other comes from London, there are a great many cockneys on board.
Nov. 8th. The wind the same as yesterday, the passengers can scarcely stand on deck. The vessel is sailing so very much in one side.
Nov. 9th. The weather very misty and windy and last night the same sailor who committed the excesses and used his knife a short time ago, came into the next room to mine, and threatened to stab somebody at the same time he was brandishing his open knife it was with difficulty that he was taken away - This morning the Captain offers to keep him in irons if any of the passengers will be witnesses against him when at Melbourne, - however it would not be policy to do an such thing, as they would probably get half killed by the crew who with hardly one exception are a lot of ruffians.
Nov. 10th. Not much wind, but in our right direction.
Nov. 11th. Some of the sailors are drunk again, the Captain is very much to blame in selling them the drink, but he derives a profit from the sale of grog and I suppose our lives are not of much consequence. This morning 2 large whales were seen about a quarter of a miles off spouting water into the air. I forgot to mention on Sunday the 7th that we saw "William Jackson" which left Bristol the same time or nearly so that we did Liverpool, she came very near alongside but in consequence of the wind howling we were not able to speak by mouth so we hoisted the mame of our mizen royal, and they hoisted their Spanker sail, and then commence a race and we went through the water at the rate of 13 or 14 knots an hour. In about an hour we left her behind, and as if ashamed of us and was soon lost in the fog. Although too far from each other to speak or exchange greetings, the passengers on both ships waved their hats and cheered each other as long as they could, and altogither it was the most pleasing little incident that has taken place since I have been on board.
Nov. 13th. One of the passengers who was drunk last night found himself robbed of 2 pounds odd this morning.
Nov. 14th. Sunday morning, no service, very strong wind, we had been going very quickly these last few days, the Captain says that we shall be in Melbourne in 15 days, we have now been at sea 73 days and I do assure you that it is long enough for it is as bad as being in prison, with this in your favour you have the chance of being robbed killed or drowned here. Today we had a nice dinner of fresh pork for the first time since we left England through the good nature or perhaps policy of our Captain, who as we are drawing nearer to our journey's end may be wishes to leave a favourable impression on the minds of the passengers, as they will all be required to give a testimonial of his kindness when at Melbourne; all other live stock is almost used up but it has been for the use of first class alone. Our mess (living space) is in good spirits from the knowledge that it is not long to undergo the many disapeerables which it has endured for so long a time. Our mess consists of myself, Joe, and those two young men whom your brother William dined with in Liverpool, and we all four agree very well but I cannot say the same for two other messes adjoining ours - there is a Mr. Walker (who is an associated cockney) and his wife who is a tall, robust and course woman, these two scarcely let a night pass over without keeping us awake by their cursing, swearing and abusing each other in all the choice language used in the London dialect, however Mrs. Walker generally comes off victorious, in these squabbles. There is also another person who occasions more amusement than displeasure by his droll and singular behaviour; his name is George Roebuch a respectable woollen manufacturer from Huddersfield, on one occasion this Mr. Walker attacked him with all the abominable expression commonly used in Gin Vaults and tap rooms, but Mr. Roebuck like a true Yorkshireman kept on quickly eating his biscuit and drinking his tea, and never taking the slightest notice. We have also another rather out of the way character for a woman who says she is married, a Mrs. Barber, who is a most disgraceful woman there are indeed some very bad reports about her which are but too true; and when I make the contrast in my own mind with my own wife and this wretched creation I am filled with thankfulness. It is very terrible to think of the drunkenness and wickedness which is going on, especially when I consider that there is only a plank between us and eternity. The above named Mr. Roebuck I have got misgivings about, I cannot help thinking that he has left his native place against his will, I have several times tried to draw him into conversation but to no purpose - he is very close and seldom commits himself in speaking. He is about fifty years of age with a sound red face, and very stout; Good tempered and rather good natured, and I have good reason to believe that he is from Huddersfield, or at least from the neighbourhood of it.
November 15th. Fair wind, going 12 knots, some of the passengers got very drunk, and kicked up a real disturbance last night, Sunday that it was - the Captain is very much to blame for selling his spirits especially on Sundays.
Nov. 16th. We are going along at a good speed, but it is awfully cold, I had no idea that we should have had it half so cold; this morning the decks are covered with snow, and the wind is most bitter cold - Last night we lost our fore topmost, studding sail, the boom snapped like a carrot although of great strength and thickness. It was with great difficulty that we kept in our beds, the ship was so pitched and tossed about so - sleeping was out of the question. We are still 4000 miles from our destination.
Nov. 17th. Strong fair wind, and the sea rises very high, it keeps dashing the water over the bulwarks and it is very unpleasant, owing to the intense coldness of the weather.
Nov. 18th. Nothing of importance my little woman.
Nov. 19th. This morning at 1/2 past 1 o'clock, the poor English woman who is the wife of the German, has as I expected followed her little child, her husband has been very attentive and kind, and nobody could be more tender. She was buried this afternoon, at about three o’clock, the ships bell tolled, and the British flag was hoisted half mast high, and the body was served up in canvas wrapped round with the Union Jack, and carried out of the hospital on a plank, the Captain read the funeral service over it and the husband was very much affected, the corpse was lowered into the sea in 45. South latitude, and about 1.3 east longitude, a little to the North of Herguclen’s Land or the Island of Desolation (Kerguelen - a volcanic sub-antarctic island), and in the middle of the Great Southern becan (ocean?). Five minutes after the funeral the chasting, laughter, joking, swearing and cursing, went on as if no such event had ever happened; The poor creature was a Roman Catholic and had the comfort and consolation of her church administured as much as possible. Our ship is very badly laid out, (at least to my thinking) for the Hospital is down in the Intermediate among the provisions and where the water is served out; it ought to be in the dick (deck) house; Both the Captain and the Doctor will have to answer to a deal at Melbourne as there are a few passengers who are determined to not let the matter rest, with regard to the poor woman, of whom it is said that she has been sadly neglected and had no proper treatment it is even said that our Doctor asserted that she was not in the family way; and that she had to die before he would believe that she ailed anything she is supposed to be about 33 years of age, and it is a comfort to know that she leaves no children to mourne her loss.
November 20th. The weather is much warmer, we hope to see Australie in 14 days.
November 21st. Sunday morning we had service, on deck, read by Captain Salt, it is pleasant to have service, as it brings up old associations in one's mind.
November 22nd. Very fine weather, going about 12 knots an hour.
Nov. 23rd. The sea is rougher today than we have ever had it before, and the passengers can scarcely stand upon deck. I saw one woman have a very awkward fall this forenoon, one of the sails was blown in ribbons during the night.
Nov. 25th. Yesterday a large whale was seen spouting up, at about 2 miles distance. Last night the people in our cabin had a sort of party, they had 3 bottles of rum besides ale; I was asked to join them, but refused, although Mr. Roebuck offered to pay for me. There were present a married couple from the dick house, she is a very handsome, and I always took her to be a decent woman but I am sorry to say that she along with the other female was with them got beastly drunk. The wife of the Londoner who sleeps in the next berth to ours, was also far gone in drink, she kept us awake for a long time after the party had broken up, with the most earnest and long winded protestations of love, and friendship, the grog had evidently opened her heart, and made her talkative she likewise offered to share her last farthing with me; We have made very little progress in sailing these last two days.
Nov. 26th. They are fresh turning the rigging and scraping the spars, so that the ship will appear to advantage; all is uproar and confusion the boats are being repainted and mended, and all together it is very sloppy and filthy on the decks.
Nov. 27th. It is exactly thirteen weeks today at 12 o'clock since we left Liverpool and we have good hope of very soon seeing land, it will be a most welcome sight, as all is filth, misery and confusion on board.
Nov. 28th. Sunday No service it is always a disappointment when we have
no service, as it helps to do away with the sameness, and causes,
Sunday, to appear more like the Sabbath just imagine how you at home
would feel, if you were 13 weeks and no Sunday.
To be Continued
Publication Dedicated to Bill Godfrey
The Tantramar Heritate Trust has dedicated its 18th publication, "Lord
of the Land",
to the memory of William Gerald Godfrey, BA, MA, PhD (1941-2008)
Despite his own heavy teaching and supervisory load, Bill published a substantial list of publications. Bill was twice honoured with the Paré Award for Excellence in Research and Teaching; he also received a Corpus Christi College visiting Fellowship at Cambridge University, and the Stiles-Bennett Professorship of History at Mount Allison University. After his retirement from Mount Allison, Bill was awarded the Kwansei Gakuin Professorship of Canadian Studies in Japan. Bill was one of a number of Mount Allison faculty who successfully demonstrated the combination of research and teaching at the undergraduate liberal arts and science level that provided Mount Allison with its excellent reputation.
Bill was a person who had an impact on his community, his colleagues, students and friends. The dedication of this publication to his memory helps remind us of his deep interest in local history and his significant contributions in preserving Tantramar's past.
| Return to
main page of