Issue # 45, April 2010, ISSN 1913-4134
This issue celebrates the beautiful 1830 sampler of Martha Barnes, described here by Jennifer Harris and donated by her to the Trust as a wonderful new addition to the artifact collection of the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre. On behalf of the membership, we thank you Jennifer for this very special donation and the most interesting article and photo of the sampler that you provided for this issue of The White Fence.
This newsletter also contains a special treat written by Al Smith: the family history of our country's prime minister, Hon. Stephen Harper, and his family roots in the Tantramar region. Whenever you get a chance, please thank Donna Beal for compiling the Harper family genealogy presented at the end of Al's article. As it was for me, the results of Al's research and Donna's sleuthing of the Harper family genealogy will likely be an interesting surprise to many of you!
I was especially pleased to receive the letter from Richard Snowdon (included in this issue) about the shopping day at J.R. Ayer's Ltd. in 1894 which was described in our last newsletter (no. 44). However, because of lack of space, I was unable to add another day of shopping; I'll make up for it Richard in the next newsletter (see inside). We have a lot to learn yet from that very special shopping list!
I also received some clarifications regarding the J.R. Ayer and Standard Manufacturing Limited article in White Fence No. 44. Instead of listing the number of issues and corrections here, I've added a Clarification near the end of the newsletter so that Al's important points could all be clearly made. His note makes the point that we have much more to learn about the many business activities of Middle Sackville more than a century ago. If anyone else could tell me more, please drop us a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me at email@example.com.
And read the short summary on the results of our Capital Campaign. There is a lot said in Frank's short summary!
Now please note that I had to do something with this issue that I never had the opportunity to do before. I had too much information for a single newsletter! So, I had to divide it all to fit into two newsletters. So, prepare yourself for a very interesting May issue to appear at your door and/or in your mailbox soon!
More and more gems just continue to sparkle in this deep Tantramar mine. Keep digging fellow prospectors and tell us all about the treasures you keep finding. We just love to hear from you and show them off to everyone!
- Peter Hicklin
Unraveling Martha Barnesby Jennifer Harris
Recently, with Daniel Vogel, I purchased and donated a nineteenth-century sampler to the THT (shown below).
It reads simply "Martha Barnes' work, Sackville, N.B. 1830." This sampler joins one other, by Sarah Ann Estabrooks, in the Trust's collection, as well as several quilts from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, together exemplifying the ways in which women's domestic arts have historically married both the functional and decorative. It also increases the representation of women's work in the Boultenhouse Museum, something oddly under-represented given that it is a house museum, and nineteenth-century thought celebrated the house as a sphere created and ruled by women. Admittedly, the sampler itself is worn. Some thread colors have faded while others have either disintegrated or been destroyed, though the pattern remains clear in such places. But as a historical document, it is a crucial record of the life and education of young girls in Sackville in the early nineteenth century.
Early on, two candidates named Martha Barnes presented themselves in relation to the sampler. The first, Martha Ann Barnes, was born to John Barnes and Hannah Dixon in 1830. (A sister, Rhoda, is notable for being one of a number of Sackville residents who converted to Mormonism, relocating to Utah, U.S.A.) However, the custom is to date a piece of work upon its completion, not by date of birth of its author. Thus it seems unlikely that Martha Ann Barnes was the maker.
The second Martha Barnes (Nov. 18, 1817-1885), a first cousin to the other, is the far more likely candidate. The fifth of approximately ten or more children born to Lucretia Ayer and Oliver Barnes, in 1830 Martha would have been exactly the right age to produce a work of this quality and subject matter. That said, it is difficult to reconstruct Martha's early life. Her existence appears to have been ordinary for a woman of her time, following a pattern of marriage, childbearing, and death. Because of this, she is fundamentally absent from the historical record and no writings by or about her survive. The sampler is therefore the only marker of her as an individual. "
We do have an idea of where she lived: her father is described by one historian as "Oliver Barnes of Wood Point", and Cynthia (Barnes) Atkinson recalled that, as of 1820, he was one of only six men who resided beneath Westcock Aboideau. In 1809, Barnes himself noted that he "has never obtained any lands from Government, that a few years since, he purchased some wilderness lots, about thirty acres of which he has cleared and are now under cultivation, and on which he has built a house and dam."
With so few neighbors, we can assume that Martha Barnes spent the majority of her time with her family, especially in winter months. As the middle of many siblings, she would have been the responsibility of those older; in turn, as she grew, she would have assumed care for those younger than herself. It seems likely that her elder sister Rebecca, who married into the Boultenhouse family, would have had particular care of her, given the twelve-year age difference. Martha was in all probability part of a close-knit extended family and community. It seems fitting, then, that she shared her name with her maternal grandmother, Martha Rounds, a woman clearly admired by her sons.
While she is described as literate in numerous census records, whether or not Barnes had any formal schooling is unknown. The earliest Sackville school records mention only the male students. But in early nineteenth-century middle-class families, girls were generally expected to be literate, even if how we understand literacy might have shifted. In the case of many, it did not include the ability to write or write well. Being able to read - particularly the bible - was deemed far more important, especially as women were not expected to engage in business transactions. (That said, I'd like to believe Martha could write; certainly her cousin Rhoda did, evident in her penning a short history of her life and travels.) Yet, despite what we might see as this oversight in female education, in the early nineteenth century, mothers were often responsible for ensuring their children mastered basic reading skills - the boys before starting school. And while women who could write might pass this skill on to their daughters, it was not deemed as crucial as instruction in sewing and other domestic arts. Such skills were considered both valuable and essential to young women who would be responsible for making everything from bed sheets to quilts and clothing.
Thus in sitting down to stitch such a sampler, Barnes would have not only been engaging in an artistic tradition passed down among women for generations, but also mastering life skills that she would in turn pass on to her own daughters. Moreover, in tracing Barnes' ancestry, an interesting fact arose: Barnes was the eighth generation of a direct matrilineal line of women who lived to see their daughters to adulthood. This trend begins with Hannah Reyner (1632-1704), born in Gildersome, Yorkshire, who arrived in New England with her Puritan parents in the 1630s. This means we can trace a direct bequeathing of skills from mother to daughter, from seventeenth-century Yorkshire to nineteenth-century Sackville. Given the female mortality rates in or following childbirth before the mid-nineteenth century, this trend is undeniably remarkable.
What Barnes inherited is in some ways dubious: her work is not as advanced or sophisticated as that displayed in other extant samplers of the time, including the Estabrooks example. Possible explanations abound: there may have been little opportunity in a large household to instruct daughters in such arts; if there was little time to instruct, there may have been even less time to practice or refine; moreover, Barnes might even have found such domestic arts boring, or been not so good at them. Additionally, the issue of education could have been a factor: girls who completed samplers at schools, rather than at home, consistently produced more refined work. Likewise, economics is not to be ignored: if houses were staffed by servants, daughters had more time to master such arts. Whatever the case, there is a charming naiveté to the piece. It is dominated by the alphabet, the majority of the thread disintegrated, but the holes in the fabric still visible. A Grecian motif separates letters and images. Barnes has made an attempt at symmetry, but none at scale: two decorative urns contain spiraling plants, disproportionately large when compared to the houses they loom over. And yet, this lack of proportion is evident in other works of the period. Notably, a 1818 sampler by a collateral relative of Barnes, Lydia Harriet Lane, reveals the degree to which Barnes's composition may have been less a matter of individual choice and more a matter of tradition. The Concord Museum - where the sampler is held - notes of Lane's sampler that it "has several elements that resemble those wrought in a Concord school at the end of the eighteenth century, i.e. the house, cursive alphabet, and trees." It is in this way that I suggest we read Barnes's houses: substantial two storey dwellings with attics and double chimneys. On the one hand, it might appear that they anticipate Cranewood, completed in 1836. And it could be that they are meant to represent Barnes' own Wood Point home. But given that the house in the Lane sampler is identical to that of Barnes, it seems more a matter of tradition, an ideal house standing in for an often less elegant reality. Finally, letters and pictures alike are contained within a border of flowers on a vine, a traditional motif found in much eighteenth-century work, although, again, Barnes' execution is less skilled.
It is possible that, in the interval between her completion of this sampler and her marriage to Thomas Christie in 1835, Barnes gathered some time to perfect her craft. But with at least seven children to raise, it seems doubtful that she gained much time following that. Still, she would have been expected to train her three daughters (Sarah Jane, Augusta, and Clara B) in the skill of needlework, daughters who no doubt produced samplers of their own.
*Jennifer Harris is currently researching Northumberland County's nineteenth-century black population and would welcome any leads. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prime Minister Harper's Tantramar RootsBy Al Smith
After a grueling nine-week passage, the ship landed in Nova Scotia on May 9 likely discharging its passengers at Cumberland Creek just below Fort Cumberland (Beauséjour).
Christopher Harper, age 44 years, had traveled from Yorkshire by himself leaving his wife Elizabeth and family of seven (four girls, three boys) behind in Sledmere. Typically, the father, or eldest son of a family, would travel out to Nova Scotia to select and purchase a property for the family then return or send for the family to join them the following year. Harper wasted no time in selecting and purchasing his new home immediately SE of Fort Cumberland. Yorkshire-man Nathaniel Smith who arrived with his family on the Brigantine Albion a week after Harper, wrote home to his brother Benjamin on June 20, 1774, reporting that (note: Nathaniel's original spelling is maintained; bracketed italicized insertions are mine - Al Smith):
". . . one Mr. Harper, from near New Malton (town just NW of Sledmere) hath purchased since we came for £550 a very pleasantly situated jentlemans mannor house with all the household furniture, livestock, which is no little, utentials of Husbandry (farming tools), garden, orchard, etc. In short all things within and without fit to accommodate a jentleman and 100 acres of very fine Marsh and upland, lying in one body contguous to said House and to the backwards of it all a fine opening onto the common of Fort Cumberland, called the Kings Common, where he may, if he chouses keep 50 head of cattle very well. The common is as good land as any I have seen in the place and upon this common the poor people have the opportunity of keeping cows. This I think is a very cheap purchase. The house and common have laid in a great deal more that he hath given for the whole."
"Mr. Harper is returning to England in the vessel Mr. Forster came in (150 ton Brig Providence ), for his family, and hopes to return next spring."
Yorkshire farmers John Robinson and Thomas Rispin who traveled through Nova Scotia in May and June 1774 and on return to Yorkshire published Journey through Nova Scotia containing a particular Account of the Country and its Inhabitants as a guide to potential settlers. Robinson and Rispin also commented on Christopher Harper's purchase:
"Mr. Harper has made a purchase here of a considerable quantity of fine cleared land, with a good house upon it, elegantly furnished, with barns, and other conveniences, besides woodland at a distance, and twenty cows, with other cattle, etc. for which, we are told he gave five hundred and fifty pounds. He lets out as many cows as bring him in twelve pounds a year."
Having made a sound purchase of valuable real estate for his family, Christopher returned to Yorkshire in August 1774 to collect his family. Departing Hull, Yorkshire, on April 10, 1775, Christopher and Elizabeth Harper and their family of seven children were among the 80 passengers aboard the 500-ton brigantine Jenny bound for their new home in Nova Scotia. Christopher Harper brought his nephew Thomas King, a 21-year-old blacksmith, out with him. Apparently before striking out for Nova Scotia, Harper had hired King to work for him for three years for £40. Shortly after settling the family in Nova Scotia Harper realized that wages were much higher in this new country and he released his nephew from the working agreement. Thomas King was employed for several years at Fort Cumberland and married Fannie Harper (his cousin).
Christopher Harper and his family arrived in Nova Scotia at a time of brewing unrest and outright rebellion. With the rebellion of the American colonies to the south, the authorities in Halifax ordered a re-establishment of the garrison at Fort Cumberland which had been militarily idle since 1768. On June 4, 1776, Col. Joseph Gorham and 200 men of the Royal Fencible Americans arrived at the Fort. On July 1, 1776, Yorkshiremen Christopher Harper and William Black sr. were commissioned as justices of the peace. Halifax hoped that those appointments and the military presence would help maintain law and order in the Chignecto region. Such was not to be the case as local residents and patriots Jonathan Eddy and John Allan recruited a small rebel force. By late October 1776, that force had grown to nearly 200 and the uprising, known as the Eddy Rebellion, began a siege on Fort Cumberland.
Since moving his family to Nova Scotia, Christopher Harper had worked industriously to improve his lands. He built and operated a store on the property and his estate was considered a "model farm" much to the envy of his largely New England neighbours. That, along with the officious way that he carried out his duties as magistrate, made him a target for the rebels and their local sympathizers. An armed rebel patrol visited the Harpers' farm during the daytime on November 6. The boldness of the patriots so close to the fort clearly frightened the Harpers. Christopher gathered friends and family and moved them into the Fort. He also recruited 12 men from the community to take up arms to help the garrison fend off the rebels. Rebel forces engaged the Fort's defenders with near nightly gun battles and on November 9 the patriots torched the Harper farm. Christopher and Elizabeth watched from the protective works of the Fort as their cherished homestead was reduced to ashes.
The Eddy Rebellion ended on November 30, 1776, when the patriots were routed by recently-arrived British forces. Presumably, Harper rebuilt on the site below Fort Cumberland but shortly after 1783 he sold the property to loyalist Gideon Palmer who had married his daughter Catherine. The Harper family moved to Middle Sackville where he had obtained title to the lands of Elijah Ayer. In 1780, Christopher Harper had obtained a judgment in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia against Capt. Elijah Ayer who was on the side of the rebel forces and allegedly involved with the burning of his farm at Fort Cumberland. He was awarded £585 to satisfy the judgment and was levied against the Ayer's property holdings of lots 53, 54, 55 in Sackville Township; that property included the mill pond (or a portion of it) and a large tract of land in Middle Sackville.
Upon taking possession of the Middle Sackville properties, Harper discovered that although the Ayer family had long held possession of lots 54 and 55, they had never been granted and remained the property of the Crown. Additional legal actions were instituted by Harper against the Ayer family over rights to the mill and mill stream which had been given to Nehemiah Ayer, son of Elijah and, in 1786, Harper took possession of Ayer's interest in the Mills. Such actions created animosity between the families and there were generally poor relations between loyal Yorkshire men and some planter families following the Eddy Rebellion. W. C. Milner in the History of Sackville states that there were suspicious fires set in Middle Sackville, including at the Harper home that was burned when Christopher and Elizabeth were away at Fort Cumberland attending a military ball.
Christopher Harper and his son John operated the mills at Middle Sackville and on May 18, 1807, petitioned the government to obtain clear title to the mill-pond property. Harper claimed that he had erected two new mills, two new houses and three new barns on the property at a cost of upwards of £1000. In 1809, the government granted him title to the property and it stayed in the Harper family until 1821 when John Harper sold the mill property to John Morice and John Humphreys.
At Middle Sackville, Christopher continued his role as Justice. He was also active in civic and church affairs. In 1785, he was elected to the Nova Scotia legislature to represent Cumberland County. However, by that time New Brunswick was severed from Nova Scotia and the election was declared void on the grounds that Harper was not a resident of Nova Scotia. It is recorded that Harper owned the first two-wheeled chaise (a light-weight horse drawn buggy with a collapsible top) in Westmorland County.
The youngest child, Harris Harper (1902-1950), was born in Port Elgin, but became a teacher and school principal (Prince Edward School) in Moncton. Harris and his wife Fay Coy had two sons; the youngest was Joseph (Joe) Harris Harper (1927-2003) the father of our 22nd Prime Minister.
In a series of letters written to Lloyd (Bud) White in 2002, Joe Harper relates stories of living in Sackville for "3 or 4 summers" in the late 1930s when his father (Harris) attended Maritime Summer School at Mount Allison University. The Harper family rented a small three-room apartment in the home of William Fawcett in Upper Sackville and became close family friends with the Fawcetts. Coincidentally, Fawcett is another Yorkshire family whose ancestors arrived in Nova Scotia on the Brigantine Two Friends .
Joe Harper became a chartered accountant and, in the late 1940s, spent a lot of time in Sackville as an articling student for the Moncton firm of Hudson McMackin & Co. He stayed at Marshlands Inn and worked on accounts for the Town of Sackville, Randworth Apartments, and several other businesses. He moved to Toronto in 1951, married Margaret Johnson in 1954 and raised a family of three boys: Stephen, Grant and Robert.
The roots of this historical town of Sackville run deep in this nation. In July, 2012, the Township of Sackville will observe its 250th anniversary - a time to celebrate and remember the early families who pioneered this community.
Lloyd White collection files RC 2004.1 3/8 H - Resource Room, Boultenhouse Heritage Centre, Sackville, NB.
Nathaniel Smith - A Stranger in a Strange Land , publication of the Tantramar Heritage Trust, Sackville, NB, August, 2000.
W.C. Milner, History of Sackville NB , Tribune Press Ltd. 1934 - reprinted 1994.
Ernest Clarke, The Siege of Fort Cumberland , McGill Queens University Press 1995.
Howard Trueman, The Chignecto Isthmus and its First Settlers , Toronto, William Briggs, 1902.
Allan D. Smith, Aboushagan to Zwicker – an Historical Guide to Sackville, New Brunswick Street Nomenclature , Tantramar Heritage Trust, May, 2004.
The White Fence #15, April 2001, Newsletter of the Tantramar Heritage Trust.
Biographical Directory of the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia, 1758-1983, PANS 1984.
John Robinson and Thomas Rispin, Journey Through Nova Scotia containing a particular account of the country and its inhabitants, C. Etherington, York, 1776.
Chapman Family genealogy provided by Don Chapman http://www3.telus.net/chignecto/
To: Hicklin,Peter [Sackville]
Subject: Article in The White Fence
Good afternoon ... just finished the interesting article on the 1894 ledger of Ayers store ... the "2 pairs glasses" is actually "2 pains glass"... the correct spelling would be 'panes' but a lot of words were spelled like they sounded in those days and more so today with kids on the internet. The fellow was installing new glass in some windows as he purchased putty which was necessary to install the glass in the frames. The "2 chimneys" would be the glass top part of an oil lamp ... I have heard my grandmother who lived in Wood Point state that she had to "clean the chimneys" in the days before we had electricity. She would remove the smoky and sooted chimneys and wash them, trim the wick, and place them in their usual place for another few days of use before doing it all again. The purchase by Thos Mark appears to be a meat order for 12½ lb of roast and what appears to be two 6lb steaks. I would think that Mr Mark would recut this meat order when he got home into smaller portions for table use. Broad leaf hay was the hay that grew naturally on the marshes and was fed to non-milking cows as it was coarser than the "English" hay that was grown from seed that was sown on the upland in previous years. This hay was apparently sweeter and more nutritious and was fed to milking cows.
Regarding the 100 lbs of bran, I can recall my mother buying white flour in 100 lb bags, baking bread every day for 8 kids, and that flour did not last very long. I would think in 1894 that bran was more available than white flour and that if this was a large family the bag would probably just get them through the winter. In reference to the hay orders, it appears as if the hay was being delivered by Mr Estabrooks and Mr Landry from the barns of Mr Cole who had probably sold the hay to Mr Ayer after he had harvested it.
This is very interesting and a lot of fun trying to put it into real life more than a century later. Thank you for the article.