LEO J. DEVEAU: This Week in Nova Scotia History: July 4-10
July 4, 1898 – Shortly before 5 a.m., while traveling at full speed in thick fog, the French mail liner SS La Bourgogne collided with the British ship Cromartyshire 60 nautical miles from Sable Island.
Five hundred and fifty lives were lost from La Bourgogne (out of 726). Cromartyshire, which was sailing at just four knots with her foghorn, survived the collision and was able to save 173 survivors. News of the sinking was reported to Halifax on 6 July when Cromartyshire arrived in Halifax Harbor under tow by SS Grecian.
After the survivors came ashore, controversy arose when it was learned that only about 13% of the passengers survived, while over 48% of the crew did. All the officers were dead and it was reported that violence and “desperate fighting” broke out as sleep-weary passengers fled to their lifeboats. Only one woman was saved out of 300 and no children survived.
July 5, 1881 – The Royal Canadian Academy of Arts exhibition was held for the first time in Nova Scotia at Province House, Halifax. A year earlier, on March 6, 1880, His Excellency the Marquis de Lorne, Governor General of Canada, and Her Royal Highness Princess Louise inaugurated the first exhibition in Ottawa at what was then called the Canadian Academy of Arts. It was later designated by Queen Victoria as the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts on July 16, 1880.
During their residency in Canada, His Excellency and His Royal Highness have been active promoters of the culture of art and design in Canada. His Excellency was also an accomplished draughtsman, while Princess Louise received a formal art education at the British National Art Training School. During their time in Canada, both had painted or drawn a number of works reflecting their interest in nature and the Canadian wilderness.
In Nova Scotia, Forshaw Day (1831-1903), a British-born landscape artist and seafarer living in Halifax, became a founding member of the new Academy. In 1882, 27-year-old Nova Scotian artist Frances Bannerman also became the first woman elected to the Academy.
Six years later, in 1887, the Victoria School of Art and Design was established with the help of Anna Leonowens. It was the precursor to the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, now known as NSCAD.
(Reference: Records of the Founding of the Royal Canadian Academy [electronic resource]: by His Excellency the Marquis of Lorne and Her Royal Highness Princess Louise, 1879-80. Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Hathi Trust Digital Library.)
July 6, 1775 – The New England Chronicle and the Essex Gazette published Thomas Jefferson’s statement establishing the causes and the necessity of taking up arms. A year later, on July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress declared the British King, George III, a tyrant and proclaimed the colonies of New England as free and independent states. The political philosophies of republicanism and liberalism prevailed, rejecting the rule of monarchy and inherited aristocracy.
News of the start of the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) would soon reach Halifax. But locals and business owners had known for some time that trouble was brewing, starting with the Stamp Act of 1765, then the Boston Massacre of 1770 and three years later the Boston Tea Party had broken up.
As a declaration of peace was announced and Britain recognized American independence in September 1783, thousands of Loyalist refugees arrived in Nova Scotia, doubling the province’s population.
Military officer and artist, Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Hicks, stationed in Halifax from 1778 to 1782 with the 70th Regiment of Foot, graphically documented with numerous images of the fledgling colony of Halifax during the final years of the American Revolutionary War .
July 7, 2010 – The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada has declared Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site an official Dark Sky Preserve, covering an area of 404 km2. predominantly second-growth forests. Parks Canada now has 26 designated dark sky sites in Canada. Locations can be identified at https://rasc.ca/lpa/dark-sky-sites.
August 19-21 is the annual Kejimkujik Dark Sky Weekend.
July 8, 1874 – George Brown (1839-1875) of Herring Cove is named world champion rower. A champion individual and long-distance rower, Brown had won the $150 belt awarded by the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron five years in a row. He was also the only Nova Scotian to win the World Rowing Singles Championship.
July 9, 1875 – A tourist/traveller’s handbook on the Maritime Provinces was published this year by Cambridge, Massachusetts, entitled The Maritime Provinces: A Handbook for Travelers. A Guide to the Principal Towns, Coasts and Islands of the Maritime Provinces by MF (Moses Foster) Sweetster, Cambridge, MA: James K. Osgood and Company. The material had been compiled from “the editor’s personal experience, after several months of almost incessant travel”.
The publication was to “help the traveler to obtain the greatest possible pleasure and information from traversing the most interesting parts of eastern British America…with economy of money, time and temperament, by giving lists of hotels with their prices, descriptions of the various land and water routes, and maps and plans of the principal towns.
Halifax has been described by the editor as both the capital of the province and the “chief naval station of the British Empire in the Western Hemisphere, (occupying) a commanding position on one of the finest harbors in the Atlantic coast “.
If one arrived in Halifax (pop. 29,582) by rail, the guidebook suggested that after arriving at Richmond Rail Station (today this would be located at the bottom of North Street on Barrington – the Intercolonial Railway depot was still under construction near there and would open later in 1877), it was “some distance from the city (downtown), but passengers can enter it either by horse-drawn carriage or by hotel-omnibus, or by horse-drawn carriage…”. Hotels to consider include the Halifax Hotel, “the largest in the province,” at 107 Hollis – $2 per day; the International, also on Hollis St., -$1.75-$2. one day; the Carlton House on Argyle, described as “small but aristocratic”.
If anyone wanted to travel outside of Halifax, ‘legs’ left town daily for Chester, Lunenburg, Liverpool, Shelburne and Yarmouth – departing at 6am. Stages also left for the east coast on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. There was also the train to Windsor in the Annapolis Valley, to Truro and to New Brunswick.
For international travel from Halifax, Allan Line steamers and a number of other steamers provided passenger service from the city to Liverpool, Boston, Norfolk, Baltimore, the West Indies and Panama. , Bermuda, Glasgow, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island. And a steamer also leaves the “old college town” at Windsor every Wednesday at “high water”, touching first at Parrsboro and then at Saint John, New Brunswick.
July 10, 1778 – Around this time, the name Fort Needham first appeared on the glacial hill of Drumlin, at the north end of Halifax. A few years earlier, the hilltop site was known as Pedley’s Hill Redoubt, formerly owned by James Pedley who had farmed there for many years. The land had been expropriated in 1776 to build a fort to protect the northern end of the Halifax Dockyard.
Designed by William Spry and built in the summer of 1778, Fort Needham was captured in an early illustration by military officer and artist, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Hicks in 1780. In the late 1880s Fort Needham fell in ruins and the land has become a polo field. for officers from nearby Wellington Barracks and a firing range. It is now the home and settlement of Fort Needham Memorial Park in remembrance of the victims of the Halifax Explosion.
(Reference: “Needham Street”, William D. Naftel. Pp.107-108. In Halifax Street Names An Illustrated Guide. Shelagh MacKenzie, with Scott Robson, eds. Halifax: Formac Publishing, 2002.)
(Leo J. Deveau is an independent librarian, researcher, speaker and author of 400 Years in 365 Days – A Day by Day Calendar of Nova Scotia History. His most recent book is Fideliter The Regimental History of The Princess Louise Fusiliers. It may be reached at [email protected]).