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Halifax County, Nova Scotia

Dartmouth Patriot, 21 September 1901 Edition


How the Old Stone Walls Came to be Built.

(Series of Articles by H.W. HEWITT)

No. 21

Before leaving the description of the Rous and Morris grants I must take notice of the old walls which are on these properties. Stone walls are yet to be seen near the Shrum and Lennox clearings. Another wall runs for almost a mile around the western and northern sides of Shrum's Marsh. This wall is narrow being only about the width of one large stone. Having been built on marshy ground it has sank down so that it is not very high above the surface of the ground. It is not known who built this wall or, indeed, is it fully understood why it was built. Still other stone walls are seen on the properties near the road. Most of these were built by the older McNabs about a century ago. But one wall which now may be seen by anybody passing along the main road a short distance above Battery Hill has an origin not known so well. It may yet be seen easily for a distance of half a mile but it originally extended much farther. It is on the eastern side of the present road and runs almost parallel to it. It lies on the western side of McNab's Brook. At one time it extended to the Creek now known as McNab's Cove. In the other direction its original extent is now known. Walls just like it and running in the same direction have been found at Woodside, near Mott's Mills and one may be seen on the upper side of the road at the turn of the road not far from the home of Mr. Harvey, Dartmouth. Whether these portions belong to the same wall or not I am unable to state, but they were probably built about the same time. Another wall started from Archibald's wharf and ran in a straight line to the wharf of Charles McNab. Every vestige of that has disappeared. This wall was like the wall which is still to be seen running parallel to the road. This stone wall is in some places four or five feet out of ground. It was probably that height throughout but has sank in places. It is about three feet in width and has two straight faces. With regard to its origin several views are held. It is ascribed by many to the French and is known locally as the 'Old French Wall.' This belief arose principally from the fact that no one living, nor yet the fathers of the old people now living can remember when it was built. It is certain that its age is much more than one hundred years.

Soon after the settlement of Halifax a bounty of 20 shillings per acre was paid for all land cleared and enclosed on the Peninsula of Halifax. One thousand acres was quickly cleared and fenced in as a result of the bounty. But a fire swept over all the country and undid the work, so that hay had to be procured for some years from Massachusetts at a high price. In May 1757 the Governor and Council offered a bounty on hay raised on the Peninsula, also for the erection of stone fences, likewise for raising grain and potatoes. In 1762, in consequence of the inducements offered 70 acres had been brought into a state of cultivation at an expense of twenty-two pounds ten shillings per acre. This offer was made to the inhabitants on the western side of the harbor at or about the time, and the Eastern Passage walls were constructed to obtain bounty.

This offer was elsewhere abused, and although the stone walls were constructed, probably to a greater extent than expected, they were built where they were of no use. Wherever a valley existed with many stones up went a "Stone fence" and the bounty repaid the builder even if the wall was of no use to him. On both sides of the harbor walls may be found which were built at this time. Back of Rockingham miles of wall may be seen and the same is the case I believe at Bedford and other places on the shores of the harbour. Some of these walls had only one vertical face the other side sloped to the ground.

Such was the origin of the Eastern Passage Wall. There was no lack of stones for the use of the builders, for in fact one cannot see where the stones were taken out although the wall in most places rests on a rocky bed. The stones in this old wall and the other wall I mentioned as running from Archibald's wharf to C. McNab's wharf were put to more practical use. A great many of the stones from the former wall were used in the construction of the foundation walls of the Woodside Sugar Refinery. Many of the stones from both walls were sold as ballast to vessels. In this connection it may be mentioned that at one time every property along the shore had its wharf. Vessels used to come and load ballast. Nowadays very little land is broken up, but in those days a ready sale was found for the stones taken from the land and the money paid for the labour used in breaking up the land. The ballast trade has become a thing of the past in Eastern Passage and the wharfs, almost without exception, have fallen into a heap of ruins.

On the Campbell properties which lie to the south of McNab's Cove are some places of interest. Not far back from the road and directly above the Cove is a hill called Maroon Hill. I have tried to find the origin of the name but have not been successful. There is indeed, a tradition that some of the Maroons lived here in huts a century ago, but no proof can be found of their residence in this place. The foundation of a white man's house was visible there not many years ago, so the hill was not totally uninhabited.

Far back to the south east across a swamp known as Freeman's swamp there is a little elevation where the high range on which the clearings of Shrum and Lennox were, comes to an end. Here, surrounded on three sides by a swamp and far away from human habitation, lived over 100 years ago, a man named Freeman. A mound or two of rocks in the midst of which is an immense birch tree, mark the site of his house. About a century ago William Donaldson who lived on and owned the property now owned by Mrs. Campbell, went back with the father of John and Benjamin Hines, to look at this place. They found growing in the fireplace a small birch tree. That tree has become the mighty tree of to-day. Freeman kept a hen farm and it is said he had exactly twelve dozen hens.

Many, many years ago a man named Hurri lived in the hollow back of Frank McDonald's property, near McDonald's lake. Later on a man-of-war sailor named Raikshaw lived in a house standing not far from the house occupied by Mr. Roderick McDonald. He served in the British navy and was on board H.M.S. "La Hogue" at the time she chased the American privateer "Young Teaser." He witnessed the explosion when in June, 1813, the English deserter set fire to the powder magazine of the "Teaser." I have heard it stated that he drew a picture of the explosion which people of Eastern Passage afterwards saw.

Henry B. Heslap built a house many years ago back of John Donaldson's present house. He was a native of Carlisle, England. He moved from that house to one which stood till recently on the site of Charles Gilgar's new house. His three daughters married, one William Wellsman, another Christopher Hines and the third Mr. Sheen. Descendants of all three live at Eastern Passage. Mr. Heslap died March 10, 1848, aged 77 years, his wife Elizabeth died January 20th, 1860, aged 85 years. William Wellsman lived in the house which stood on the site of Charles Gilgar's house. Mr. Sheen built the house now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. John Coonen and Christopher Hines built the house occupied by Mr. Benjamin Hines. Christopher Hines came from Country Harbour, Guysborough Country. His father was a United Empire loyalist. M. Hines died February 17th, 1871, aged 67 years.

Further down the road is another old house built by Edward Trider, who died December 4, 1890, aged 95 years. His father, Christian Trider and his mother came to Halifax in the original expedition.

Before we come to the house just mentioned we pass the house occupied by the widow of Provo Horne. This house was not the original homestead of the Hornes, that stood on the bank of the next creek down. Provo Wallis Horne hold for his father a most illustrious man. At the time of his baptism his godfather was Midshipman Provo Wallis. Years after he brought in the Shannon after the notable fight of the Chesapeake. He became Sir Provo Wallis, G.C.B. and Admiral of the fleet. His death occurred in 1892 when the Admiral had reached the age of 101 years.

A house older than most of those mentioned, but which is not now standing was the house in which Mr. Jacob Horn, Sr., the forefather of the present Horns lived. This stood in the field where the new house of Mr. Arthur Romkey has lately been erected. It was torn down not long ago for firewood. That it was strongly built is evident from the fact of 3 inch. jumiper tree-nails having been used in its construction. After the death of Jacob Horn Sr., his son John occupied the house. His widow married a [man] named Strutton, who lived in the same house after his marriage. These facts given, I must now give a description of one of the most important settlers in the Eastern Passage, viz., Jacob Horn, Sr.

Jacob Horn was a German who came to Canada and fought under General Wolf at Quebec in 1759. After the capture of that place he came to Halifax. It is said that he came from Quebec on snowshoes which is not improbable for many others at that time did the same. After the close of the war between France and England grants of land were given to the discharged soldiers. Mr. Horn was given a choice between McNab's Island and a large grant on the eastern mainland. He chose the island at first and built a house there. He found it [in]convenient, however, to take cattle and produce from it to the City, so he gave up his grant and removed to Eastern Passage. His first grant at that place was the 220 acres which had been granted to Hon. Joseph Gorham July 20, 1752, a description of which will be found in a previous paper. This land was escheated August 24, 1797, and granted to Jacob Horn and his son Jacob November 1st of the following year. Mr. Horn afterwards came into possession of the land formerly granted to Otho Hamilton and Hon. John Collier. His property extended down to the farthest bound of the R.C. cemetery, which land he presented to the Catholics. Jacob Horn prospered at Eastern Passage. Cordwood and cattle were in great demand at Halifax and he found it easy to take both to the city, for in those days the harbor was frozen over almost every winter. Jacob Horn has been described to me as a small man with light hair hanging over his shoulders. He married a French woman from Quebec. She could not speak English at first, but would pat the heads of children when they spoke to her.

Jacob Horn, Sr. left five sons:- Jacob, John, Andrew, Benjamin and George. He himself and several of his sons rest in the Horn graveyard on the lower side of the road. His wife also is buried there. Jacob Horn, Sr. died at the age of 101 years in 1821. I need scarcely mention that those Horns now living at the Passage are descendants of Jacob Horn, Sr.

(To be Continued)

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