May 9th, 1923

May 9th, 1923.

Origin of "Bluenoses"

(Toronto Globe)

"Bluenoses," as applied to residents of Nova Scotia, appears to have an earlier origin than the application to the potatoes from the East furnished to Upper Canada after the summerless year of 1816. This, at any rate, is the claim of John E. Woodworth of Yarmouth, N.S., a reader who sends a most informing letter in reply to the quotation recently published in this column from W.L. Smith's book "The Pioneers of Old Ontario." Mr. Woodworth says:

" A Bystander at the Office Window," writing in The Globe of April 14, attempts to tell us "How 'Bluenoses' Originated." That this nickname for Nova Scotians was derived from the name commonly - and very naturally - given to potatoes of the "Early Blue" variety, is an old story. That is originated in Ontario and in the manner that he describes is, as the boys say, "a new one on me." It cannot be correct, however, for the word was in use long before 1817. There appears good reason to think that it had its origin in a political campaign, and bore the same relation to the "Liberals" of 140 years ago that the term "Grits" does to those of today. In a letter written by the Rev. Jacob Bailey, about 1785, quoted by the late Mr. Justice Savary in the supplement to the History of Annapolis County, the writer says:

"The Bluenoses, to use a vulgar appellation, who had address sufficient to divide the Loyalists, exerted themselves to the utmost of their power and cunning." He is referring to the general election of 1785. Two members were to be chosen for the county. The Loyalists had nominated two candidates, and the old settlers (or Bluenoses) two. Then a third Loyalist took the field. If Mr. Bailey's letters are a correct sample of the feeling of Loyalist immigrants toward the earlier settlers, the ill-feeling of the latter toward the former, handed down by tradition, can be easily understood.

The "Bystander" I think, is also in error in his supposition that Nova Scotia "escaped the affliction" of the "summerless year. It probably was not as severe in this "colony" as in the Upper Provinces, but tradition has handed down its story. Further proof may be found wherever a piece of primeval forest is fallen before the woodsman's axe. If the circles that indicate the yearly growth of the tree are counted back to the year 1816, the growth of that tree may be found to be indicated by a mere thread. Such trees are scarce now, but they were numerous in the '60's of the last century, and I have often made the count suggested.

According to the account given in the article referred to, it would appear that the winter of 1816-1817 began in June 1816. As I remember traditional story, the winter of 1815-1816 continued to the autumn of 1816.