Pictou County Reminiscences --- Highways

ictou County Reminiscences--- Highways

written by Stanley Graham, Scotsburn, Nova Scotia

© COPYRIGHT 1997 by Stanley Graham


The first days of travel were very hard, first on foot and horse back. Then roads were opened up for horse drawn vehicles. When the early settlers became settled and could afford to get a horse and build a sled and wagon, then wagons were used in summers and the sled and sleigh in winters. A lot of travel in winter was with snow shoes and ski and on foot. Indeed much travel was on foot and many miles were traveled on errands, visits and to attend Church. Many times we have been told of people walking from Millsville to attend Church at Durham, walking with bare feet, carrying their shoes to save leather and stopping to put them on before they reached the Church.

The local people had to do the roadwork under supervision of the Provincial Government. I shall quote a few regulations from a May 10, 1864 revised Statute of Highway labor.

" Section(2) Every male between the ages of sixteen and sixty being able to do a reasonable days work shall be liable to perform two days labor as a poll tax.

(3).All males whose names are included in the assessment roll, and are assessed for any sum over one hundred dollars shall be liable to perform in addition, according to the following scales.

$100.00 - $200.00 - one day.

$200.00 - $400.00 - three days.

$400.00 - $600.00 - four days.

$600.00 - $1,000.00 - five days.

$1,000.00 - $1,400.00 - six days.

$1,400.00 - $1,800.00 seven days, etc.

(4) Males over sixty years of age, holding property assessed for a sum less than one thousand dollars shall be exempt, from the performance of Statute labor in respect of such excess etc.

(5). Persons holding commissions in the Military or Civil departments of the army, and enrolled volunteers classed as effectives, firemen and enginemen, gerrymen, and ordained Ministers, Couriers and licensed ferrymen shall be exempt from Statute labor, unless they are assessed for over one thousand dollars, in which case they shall be liable in respect to their property for the excess over that sum, but shall not be liable to the poll tax, and firemen and enginemen certified as such by the Clerk of the peace shall be absolutely exempt.

(7). The Surveyor may require any person owning a horse or ox team or teams to send such a team or teams, properly yoked and harnessed with a driver or drivers and a cart to the extent of one half the labor such a person is required to perform and every days labor of such a team shall count for two days.

(8). The Surveyor may require the whole amount of Statute labor imposed under this statute to be performed within a period of eight days.

(9).A day mentioned in this chapter shall be eight working days.

(10). The Surveyors and Commissioners shall cause to be summoned the person contained in their list to labor on the highways at the most seasonable time between the first of April and the fifteenth of Sept.

(14). Every person duly notified who shall not labor agreeable to the notice, or tender the commutation there-for as directed in the last session shall forfeit sixty cents for every days labor to be performed

( 15 ) . The Surveyors and Commissioners shall as often as may be necessary, during the winter order every person liable to do statute labor to work with their shovels, horses, oxen and sleds upon the highways in order that the same may be rendered passable, and every person so liable, not Complying with the order shall for every omission forfeit seventy cents, but no person shall be obliged to furnish more than two days labor of himself and team, for any one fall of snow, or work in any case when the fall or drift of snow shall not exceed twelve inches in depth."

The above may show the rules and regulations for the maintenance of the highways in the winter and summer, and also show that even to have and keep up a dirt road for travel, there had to be a commitment from every farm place.

The road Joining the Rogers Hill Centre road and West River is always known as the Rockfield Road. The road joining the Rockfield and the McKay road know as the Union Road.

We were always told that for many years, up until nearly 1900 the Union Road had eight gates, each farm place had gates to keep their cattle from straying across the farm line.

Gradually over the years conditions improved, the highways were improving, some were being graveled. And of course the many gates along the highway had been eliminated for some years.

About 1927, Robert Carson became the owner of a new Chevrolet Automobile, the first in Rockfield. Then in the fall of 1928, our Grandfather James Graham bought a second hand Model T Ford and my brother Calvin obtained a drivers license to drive it for him.

In these early years the roads were not passable in winter for cars, with the result the cars were laid up for the winter months . In the spring months nature cleared the snow away, and the roads dried up. There were no snow plows at this time.

I have no record of when the Provincial Government took over Highway maintenance, and the cost shared with all taxpayers.

In the early 1930' s paving of highways became a project under consideration. John Hawkins in his history on the life of the Hon. Angus L. MacDonald states. " One of the pledges in Angus L MacDonalds manifesto was to eliminate the dust nuisance on gravel roads, and to embark as soon as possible on a gradual program of hard surfacing the main highway of the Province." After Angus L MacDonald became Premier of Nova Scotia in 1933, A.S. MacMillan received the portfolio. "When A.S. MacMillan received the Highway portfolio in 1933 there were only twenty miles of paved road in Nova Scotia, when he relinquished his position in 1940, there were 1,000 miles of paved road in Nova Scotia.

The snow removal in winter apparently started soon after this. I have one record of shoveling snow the road to get the car put on February 1944. Then on March 15,1945, a record of the snow plow opening up the road. Then each succeeding year saw increasing activity with snow removal.

When the Rural Schools were consolidated, then the highways had to be kept open in order to bus the children to school.

William H. MacCurdy in his history of the MacKay car produced in Nova Scotia tells of the first cars in the Province. " In the spring of 1904 Archie Pelton along with Mr. Porter of Kentville, a successful businessman went to the first automobile show in New York city. Here they bought two curved Dash Oldsmobiles and had them shipped to Nova Scotia . These were the first two cars in the province for resale. In 1904 there were 15 other cars in the Province, but these had been bought by their owners in the United States.

Contrast the early days with the hustle and bustle of present day locomotion. I imagine to my forefathers -- hard to believer.

Pictou County Reminiscences

Stanley Graham, Scotsburn, Nova Scotia

Compiled by: John Broderick

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