Who said that? Many decades of time have passed since an American president voiced those nostalgic sentiments. Times have changed? Ruskin Bond an Asiatic Indian children's writer thinks that, "The world keeps changing but something, somewhere, always remains the same."Einstein reportly guessed that that something might be human stupidity.
Contemporary with President Washington was Charles Morris born in colonial Boston. He raised a company to the defense of Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia during the French-Indian Wars (1746-47). In 1750, he was appointed Surveyor-General of Nova Scotia and served in this post for thirty years. He died in 1781 and was assisted by his son, Charles Morris Junior who succeeded him. They produced the earliest rough detail maps of the Province of Nova Scotia.
Lyons Brook was the first landfall for English speaking Ulster Scots, who arrived on the Ship Betsy in 1767. It is on West River, inland just to the left of Pictou township. When the ship Hector arrived in 1776, during the period of the American Revolution, it carried immigrants from Scotland, who found 100 people already established at the further up the shore. These late comers were the first influx of a larger population(about 500). Their Cape houses resembled stone buildings in Scotland but were constructed of readily available wood. This is not a history, so let us merely note that the earliest settlers were subjected to some harsh conditions in ramshackle huts.
This inverted map of Pictou Harbour shows the location of important places from the public wharfs which developed. Pictou Landing is the land mass at upper right. The lighthouse was erected many decades after the original surveys. Survey maps like this one were the field work of surveyors. Map making was left as office work for mapmakers like J.F. W. Desbarres who constructed Atlantic Neptune, a compendium of superb sea charts constructed for the use of the British Navy.
A Desbarres map. Here is the general mainland where the Torey cottage is now located. Black Point was originally designated as Evans Point, which stands immediately south of Pictou Island. Some of the 20th century Mackays on Anne Torey's maternal side of her family summered at Kings Head near Melmerby Beach. This map was published for the Crown in England in 1781. Luttrell Harbour was then alternately named Margomish, which became Merigomish Harbour. Desbarrres acted in conjunction with Charles Morris, the Surveyor General of Nova Scotia.
It took a bit of time for the settlers at the shore to attain this level of sophistication. Photo of Ross Farm Museum kitchen by Rod.
It also took a little longer to develop comprehensive maps of the interior of Nova Scotia. William MacKay's "Great Map" was the first "complete" detailed map of Nova Scotia. There are 110 sheets in all, covering the entire province except for Cumberland County and Cape Breton Island.
It is entitled "Map of the Province of Nova Scotia including the Island of Cape Breton, compiled from actual recent surveys & under the authority of the Provincial Legislature, by William Mackay, draughtsman, July 10, 1834."
A PIctou panel from that assembly, showing West, Middle and East River and Pictou Town. McLeods Point became Abercrombie. New Glasgow was an East River settlement on the right hand, lower land mass. The roads of this time were closer bridal trails.impassible for portions of each year. Most travel was by water hence sensible folk settled in sight of The Salt.
Immediately east. Fishers Grant became Pictou Landing. The harbour entrance seems not to have had a well-developed sandbar at that time and no lighthouse. A pristine Boat Harbour where the Mi'kimaq camped is indicated, as is Chance Harbour, whose name is unreadable (to the right). Individual holdings are given. In 1812, Sir Hector Maclean (the 7th Baronet of Morvern and 23rd Chief of the Clan Maclean) emigrated to Pictou from Glensanda and Kingairloch in Scotland with almost the entire population of 500. After this time Pictou County became a refuge for victims of the Highland Clearances for the next couple of decades.
There is a tendency to romance the stone of social and economic conditions back then, but life was short, difficult and as hard as the hardest stone. Not many folk had the possibility of watching the clouds pass by while waiting for the wolves of winter.
Men and women had plenty of work at every season.
Oxen were preferred over horses since they had had a better ability to move over unimproved ground.
When the American Revolutionary War concluded, the 82 Highland Regiment was invited to Nova Scotia by the Crown as settlers. There land grants encompassed 26,000 acres of land grants as identified on this early map. Those blocks without notations were land grants already taken up by earlier immigrants. Other regiments were given lands further afield in Pictou County. About 11 Scottish regiments disbanded in the county and a good many of them developed their land.
In those times it was not all work, but there was a lot of work to be done in these self-sufficient communities. People with specific skills trades their wares.
Many of the Scots had been tenant farmers so they did have the skills needed herd and grow crops, but the land in Pictou County was not hugely productive for every kind of crop.
Even reenact ors at Ross Farm find linen and wool clothing and the work agenda tiring. In Sutherlandshire, where the Mackays gathered before then Highland Clearances, the soil was even less congenial and people supplemented their income and meagre lifestyle by fishing streams and the ocean.
And that is what many of them did in farmings shoulder seasons. Painting by Nicholas Convors Wyeth.
Life seems so good if you happen to be a time-traveler from their distant future. In those days one was elderly at 50 years of age.
Part of the Victorian Era MacKinley map of 1868. This one shows the Albion coal mines south of New Glasgow and a rail connection with Fishers Grant. All the current place names were by then in place excepting Abercrombie, another unfortunate designation for those who understand a Gaelic mythology. "Cromm The Crooked?" The lighthouse was by then in place.
Victorian Era writers helped to romanticize rural life.
Their mapmakers and graphic artists leaned more on emphasizing the British Empire, those "lands of hope and glory," industrialized for trickle-down good.
This atlas is very collectible in Pictou County. It divided the county into three "districts:" Pictou, Egerton and Maxwellton. Harold Torey had a puzzling attachment to Maxwellton in spite of the fact that his people were early settlers of nearby Guysborough County. Patterson noted that these political designations were still recognized decades later. He also noticed a good degree of weathering and erosion of the coastline. On Big Island he observed that two extensive hayfields had become "narrow beaches" during his time on earth. That is to this day, an unfortunate truth for those living in the north east.
Anne Of Green Grumbles, popularized by Lucy Maud Montgomery of Prince Edward Island narrowly missed the Victorian Era, since she came to press in 1908. She was a little less over the top than her American counterpart, showing signs of introspection at times. Still she did establish the strange idea, promoted by Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer, that painting fences is fun!
The Victorian and Edwardian Eras are noted for exuberance in architecture as well as for the misplaced idea that paternalistic industrialists should be trusted with the common weal. The Custom House still stands.
With shipbuilding on line in 1879, this township was at at height in terms of population, wealth and good humour. They cross-hatched blocks constitute Old Town Pictou. Note that an Intercolonial Steamer crossing route from the Upper Canadas which made port at Pictou Landing before visiting Pictou's public wharf.
This entire map shows Pictou Town's location 0n the north east face of Pictou Harbour. Notice that the large body of water into which the harbour empties is termed "Strait of Northumberland."
This might be entitled the "Pictou Landing Section, which stood immediately across the harbour from Pictou Town. Notice the two blocks designated as "Indian Lands."
To access that bathing beach deeded to Hector McKinnon and labelled "Sand And Gravel" visitors had to cross "Indian" territory, and for a brief spell they hoped to profit from that fact.
From the same 1879 atlas: This section is immediately east of the last map and also show Boat Harbour where the First Nation has land holdings today. Chance Harbour and Black Beach stand in the area between it and Little Harbour.
Here is an enlargement in which Chance Harbour is a bit easier to read.
Not good enough? This one makes mention of the "Roaring Bull" reef. It also shows land holdings in 1879. The Reid family continued to hold extensive real estate at Evans (Black Point), and they remain a presence. If I recall correctly, MacGregor's 45 acres passed to the Mackenzies through marriage to a descendant.
A cottage/homestead is marked on the above map. A half-Cape with a kitchen ad-on it may have been the residence of J.R. Reid on 90 acres of land. The family had subdivided the original grant.
Same period. Think this is from the Roe Brother's Atlas of the Maritime Provinces. This map emphasizes the growing importance of rail lines in transporting goods. At first rivers were the only means of rafting logs to mills at The Salt, where they were converted into lumber. That meant that shipbuilding and lumber production was at first limited. The advent of better roads and railway connections led to industrial prosperity.
Nova Scotia's Golden Age Of Sail" commenced in the 1820s, and was based on constructing "wooden ships," captained by "iron men."By the 1860s, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island were wealthy, confident, self-governing colonies that stood little to gain by uniting with the virtually bankrupt and politically deadlocked colonies that would later become Ontario and Quebec. "East Coast sailing ships ruled the seas, and Maritimers produced textiles, timber, foodstuffs and other products for New England, Britain, and the West Indies." The Bank of Nova Scotia had been born in Halifax in 1832. The Merchants Bank was established in Halifax in 1864, and it became the Toronto-based Royal Bank of Canada.
Guides helped the early "lumber barons" spot the best prospects and later some of them positioned other to profit from mineral resources. Meanwhile, that Maritime union was derailed when politicians from the Canadas, led by Sir John A. Macdonald, showed up "with a boatload of Champagne, a proposal for railway connections, and a plan for a larger federal union."John A. admitted that, "The blueprint worked out at Quebec offered little to the region, and took away a great deal." And it nae came back again! Thus Maritime "Canada" was reduced to supplying raw materials by rail in aid of its more populous partners. Painting by Winslow Homer.
This idea has parallels with the unfortunate events which unfolded after the Martimes united with the Canada in 1867. Again, this is not a political history, so let's bypass this theme? Illustration, N.C. Wyeth.
The family farm looked even more endearing in the 20th century, but Rod's immediate ancestors never cried out, "Why, oh why, did I ever leave Bonny River..." They were happy, converted urbanites. But then, almost everything they valued had been swept away by forest fire early in that period of time. By the way, the place was not "bonny" but named after the Bonny family, who were the first settlers on the Maguaguadavic River. You may be a Charlotte Countyite if you can pronounce and define that Passamaquoddy word. The Mackay family farm was less grand than this, more like that owned by the Reids. Painting: N.C. Wyeth.
In that last century, their remained a more intimate connection between the land, people and animals in spite of the first stirrings of agribusiness during World War II when it was realized that food, particularly value-added long-lasting "food" could be a source of huge profits. The pork industry has lately lost some of the "smell of success," and slaughter houses have moved west. Again, a painting by Nicholas Wyeth.
In Wyeth's day (1908-1945) the family farm remained a solid reality, although some consolidation of small farms into larger business enterprises was moving ahead. In the post-war years. The 2011 Census of Agriculture by Statistics Canada showed that while the number of farms had decreased 10% in the previous five years, the average farm acreage had jumped 7 per cent. The long-held image of Canadian farmers plowing small plots of land to eke out a meagre existence was changing due to the increased mechanization of farming equipment. It used to be fresh air and sunshine outside urban centres where coal burning buildings and factories proliferated.
Pigs is, of course, pigs. However, in those days of mixed farming there were no massive herds of them and what stench there was was usually confined to the individual farmer's small land holdings. The idea of specialization had not yet taken root as it has since the last century. "Today, a growing number of farmers generate millions of dollars in annual sales and rely on a staff of paid employees. Farms with $1-million or more in annual revenue represent the fastest growing sector of Canadian agriculture, jumping 36 per cent since 2006. While those farms still make up less than 5 per cent of the total number of producers, they account for nearly half of Canada's food production." Today it takes expensive, specialized equipment to tend of the needs of agribusiness whatever the focus of production.
In the case of produce the business of planting and harvesting is much more expensive. "When a city person sees a demonstration of tractors or combines, that doesn't really represent a lot of the business members in agriculture," said Norm Shoemaker. His family runs a 12,500-acre farm near Regina, Alberta with $2-million in annual sales but employing only five people. They grow canola, durum wheat, peas and lentils, and they have doubled the size of their operation in the past four years. It used to be that schools were suspended to allow children to help harvest crops the hard way. It was all very, very labour intensive. There were always more human harvesters in the field than this Wyeth painting suggests, and harvesting crops was back-bending work rather than fun.
It was once the case that high-paying industrial jobs drew farm bred children away from the farms. In the case of Pictou County that involved work in steel mills and railway car manufacturing. However, that was before the age of computerization and robotics. Meanwhle there is some not so-subtle propaganda circulating in favour of new century "family farms." Family Farm Seaside is one of the top grossing mobile games. It was published by Beijing based video game company FunPlus. Available free on both iOS and Android platforms, and available in 18 languages it allows players to build a small farm, take care of their farms through planting and harvesting crops, feeding animals, and constructing buildings and machines. In-game items are sold for "Coins", a virtual currency. And note the objective? Small is not considered better.
If you comprehend and believe in the possibility of a "resilient production landscape," you would probable enjoy creating a megabucks the above computer program. Presently 9,602 farms generate 49 % of Canada's $51-billion in total gross farm receipts. And nearly all of them are family-owned corporations. And they do not employ massive numbers of field or barn workers. Writing for The Atlantic, Wendall Barry noted that in the American mid west where farm land has been " given over exclusively to the production of corn and soybeans, the number of farmers is lower than it has ever been." He concludes that "Confronting industrial agriculture, we are requiring ourselves to substitute science for citizenship, community membership, and land stewardship... Science... does not make itself accountable for unintended effects. The intended effect of chemical nitrogen fertilizer, for example, is to grow corn, whereas its known effect on the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico is a catastrophic accident. Moreover, science... is invariably limited and controlled by the corporations that pay for it. And some of these corporations will own the farms of our future.
"The guy with the straw hat and overalls with chickens and cows and pigs, growing vegetables, to a large extent that's an image of the past," said Allan Mussell, a senior researcher at the George Morris Centre in Guelph, which studies agriculture issues. Experts say the shift to fewer, larger farms has been driven by "improvements in technology, rising prices for many crops and better-educated farmers." Many farmers no longer till the soil to plant crops. Instead they use "air seeders," which plant faster and result in less soil erosion. Those big farms comes amid other radical changes in Canadian agriculture.
Wheat has lost dominance as the prime Western crop to canola. Beef farming had its mad-cow/red meat scares which helped reduce its market share from 27% to15% in the last five years. Agribusiness can support multiple families of the same gene pool, but some farm families are concerned the shift to large farms will attract buying by investment funds eager to cash in on the rise in global food demand. Others note that the average age of a Canadian farmer has tipped over into near retirement age.By 2012, the percentage of farm operators under 35 had fallen to 8.2 per cent from 9.1 per cent in 2006.
Scott paper came to Pictou County in 1966. This is a bleached softwood kraft plant which went into production in 1967. Since then it has changed ownership a number of times and is now owned by an Indonesian conglomerate named Sinar Mas. Industrialization of various sorts has been bad for the land and the air, and had been part of the reason for Climate Change. Most farmers are not yet speaking about that issue. Pollution is another of a long series of unfortunate happenings, worthy of an article in its own right. The fishing industry was more directly affected by water contamination from the wastes of heavy industry.
Collateral damage to a small family farm at a location on Melmerby Harbour. A Statistics Canada study found last year that the average age of Canadian farmers had reached 55 years after rising for decades, and that 92% of farmers had no written plan for who will take over at retirement.There are now more farmers over age 70, than under 35. Where the acreage is small this has to be the result.
While Andrew Wyeth's Dad, Nicolas, based a part of his reputation on illustrations of well-endowed family farms, Andrew Newell (1917-2009) churned out some dark predictive paintings. His father was his only art teacher.
The Mackenzie farm at Black Point in 2017. At 42 acres it had no future as an active mixed farming business. Aside from that George Mackenzie, who inherited the property from his parents, was allergic to cattle.That said, there's no shortage of young well educated youngsters with business plans who want to get into farming, and many older farmers want to see their land used by a new generation when they retire.
That's the cattle barn in the top photo. Change can be discouraging although the strength of the Mackenzie homestead is obvious. Unfortunately, it appears that the "kids" are looking for something more cushy in a cottage/summer home. Our best to George and Elizabeth! Many farmers have fallen into serious debt in recent decades, having borrowed against the rising value of their farm properties, which spiked nearly between 2011 and 2016, according to Statistics Canada. Some, whether active or not, have had to sell off land to pay their increased taxes.
That barn lost this wall many years ago. That hay will no longer be of use. Small farm owners need to sell their at full market value in order to retire, so their only buyers tend to be large agricultural operations consolidating farmland in rural areas or, property developers who are looking to profit by creating homes or cottages. And seaside property in Nova Scotia is at a premium.
This was an example of a work in progress. "If you're a new farmer who's trying to buy a piece of land and pay for it by working the land, it's almost an impossible proposition," says Christie Young, of Guelph, Ontario, who is trying to tackle that issue with Farmlink, an online business matchmaking service she runs for farm owners across Canada.
At Black Beach. Another view of the Reid farmstead, currently used by John Reid and his extended family. He diligently cuts grass for a very good reason, but is not a farmer. "Young uses Farmlink to help farm owners and young farmers set up partnerships that begin years before the owner's retirement, such as lease-to-own arrangements that can allow a new farmer to start small and expand."
While Lunenburg County remains essential rural, Pictou County has tipped over into a dominantly urban situation (about 53%). Since 2006, the number of farms increased by 4. In 2016 these had receipts of almost $20,000,000 up 4.94%. A majority declared receipts of under $50,000 with about 23% saying they had more than that. Four admitted income of more than a million dollars, while one had more that two million. Total acreage devoted to farming per se decreased very slightly but the average size of an individual farm was 254 acres. By 1911 Christmas tree farms, woodland and wetlands account for 50% of land use. At about 28%, Pictou had a higher than average use of land for crops, summer fallow, natural pasture and tame seeded pasture.
By 2011, the predominant farm types in Pictou County had become Fruit and Tree Nut farming (25.3%), other crop farming (22.4%) and Cattle Ranching (1905%). This last remained important economically but the number of farms had decreased from 88 to 54 farms. The slack was taken up by sheep and goat herds, vegetable and melon production and fruit and nut growing acreage. Other forms of farming were static over tat period. There is good news relating to this industry but this is about "unfortunate events." We will leave that to forthcoming sunshine pages.
The mouth of Pictou Harbour, with their lighthouse barely visible on a sand bar. Parts of Pictou County look impossibly rural and unspoiled but the lack of familiar grazing animals is apparent here, and a lot of abandoned land has returned to forest since the 1950s. Industry has had a broad foot print on some former country pastures and so do agribusinesses with their single rather boring crops.
Boring is not the least of agricultural worries. It isn't just the rich and famous who are now found camped put on. There are seven classes used to rate agricultural land capability. Class 1 lands have the highest and Class 7 lands the lowest capability to support agricultural land use activities. Nova Scotia has no Class 1 acreage. Pictou County does have a good deal of Class 2, 3 and 4 areas. About 28 percent of Nova Scotia land falls within these classes. Unfortunately, quite a bit of it is "underutilized" for agriculture for obvious reasons. Any class from 5 upward has "severe limitations" when it comes to farming.
The Harbour Light Campground is summer land for those that like to tow recreational trailers or drive private buses. Lunenburg County has no Class 2 soils. Provincially, urban development footprints 17% of these arable soils. Wild blueberries are perhaps the only crop which will grow on poor acidic soils. Urban Pictou has the highest encroachment on good crop lands of any county.
Just down the road driving toward the P.E.I. ferry, the entrance to a nice, expensive resort which sprawls over even greater acreage per tourist or visitor. Fortunate event? The City of Halifax was inadvertently sited on the worst agricultural soil in the province. The automobile democratized tourism and this spelled the eventually end of rail tourism.
In the last century we still moved agricultural and industrial products and people by rail at reasonable cost since roads were not fully developed. With the completion of the Trans Canada Highway and the paving of inter-provincial highways and even byways, most of that commerce ended. Pictou Town's famous terminal building was recently sold to a private citizen for one dollar. What he will do with it remains to be seen.
Massive trucks and trailers now move virtually everything including timber; most by road. What rail lines remain have been commandeered by big industry to move wholesale lots of product. Most in Maritime Canada are out of the public domain.
There was a time a few decades ago when principles of agriculture were a part of the school curriculum, and there were schools of agriculture in small communities. Oddly, a "School of Fisheries" persists in the outskirts of the Town of Pictou in spite of the fact that there is no harbour fishery. Agriculture has fallen under the wing of Dalhousie University, and now consists of degree programs which appear to favour the interests of big business.
The more things change, the more they change; sometimes with unfortunate consequences. Many young farmers are now motivated by a passion for small-scale organic farming and local food, and some people seem willing to pay more for freshness and some small guarantee of freedom form toxic compounds and genetic modification. Brenda Hsueh, aged 33 in 2009 sold her condo in Toronto, and exchanged it for one of these farms. She admits that other interns who took her training course could not afford entry into profitable farming. The overall amount of Canadian land being farmed has remained relatively stable over decades, as farms have consolidated to become larger, and the number of farmers has fallen. “That’s OK if what we care about is GDP and gross farm receipts,” said Young. “But it’s not OK if what we care about is farm livelihoods and farm families and thriving communities.”