Inverness Miners' Museum
Inverness, Nova Scotia

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The Broken Ground: A History of a Cape Breton Coal Mining Community

 

 

On April 9,1792, Michael Wallace received a letter from the Province of Nova Scotia stating their approval of the amount owed to him.

April 9, 1792

Sir,

The Committee of Council for Examining Public Accounts, report on the annexed account for two hundred fifty one pounds, Six Shillings, Seven Pence Currency, equal to two hundred and twenty six pounds, Jour Shillings Sterling, referred to them.

That it appears to them perfectly vouched the Cost of the Articles reasonable, & the charges moderate;-They therefore recommend that Mr. Wallace .should have a Certificate granted to him for the amount on the Lord of the Treasury...

The significance of these documents is dramatic. Although some settlers were in a better position from the September, 1791 emigrants it is obvious that the majority were not prepared to face the challenges of a new and harsh environment. They travelled light and were hopeful of government support when they arrived. The land grants promised were available, but the newcomer, at this time, was directed to the Regions of Antigonish and Cape Breton.

The Province was desperate for settlers and government authorities were expected to materially assist the newcomers. Lieutenant Governor John Parr did not hesitate to do what he could in the form of supplies. In many situations, tools and settlement assistance was provided.

The 1791 landing illustrates the demands placed on the early families. They were totally ill-equipped, and were forced to adapt to circumstances and conditions that were foreign to their previous lifestyle. They were farmers, and all they could see were trees. The land would have to be prepared for next years crop. Trees would have to be cut down and a dwelling built. They were skilled craftspeople and artisans. They persevered and are a testament to the settlements that grew into a nation.

Once a land grant was made available the settler soon realized the need for community and a system to help tame the land. They knew little of their surroundings, but once they adapted, made their way to areas where common bonds eased the pain. For example, shiploads of Catholics mostly made their way east to Antigonish and Cape Breton after the initial landings. Settlement patterns in these regions resemble known patterns of communities in Scotland. Oftentimes, whole villages would emigrate as a group and find themselves as neighbours in the new land. In 1784, although under-populated, Cape Breton became a distinct province, to ease the administrative complications of governing from Halifax. With the capital centre at Sydney, its potential in the already established fishing industry, was well known. The discovery of coal would revolutionize the Island. It would also be the factor in its being annexed to Nova Scotia. The settler made their communities self-sufficient, proud in spirit, and provided Canada with a people whose character, dedication, and heroic virtue formed an indelible part of Canada.

 

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