It was more than two hunderd and twenty five years ago that the first of the "Yorkshire Settlers" arrived in the Maritime Provinces of Canada. Settling primarily in the Chignecto, the Petitcodiac and the Annapolis Valley Townships on lands purchased from Planter "Old Comers" as well as speculators, this relatively small group of immigrants made contributions that were crucial to the evolving character of the Maritime region. Their accomplishments as farmers helped restore productivity and prosperity to the fallow Bay of Fundy marshlands; the pious among their numbers sowed the seeds of Maritime Methodism, and their frugal merchants expanded the economic foundations of their communities and province.
Only a few of their number left journals or other significant historical papers upon which to judge their legacy. The story of most must be pieced together from fragmentary evidence such as genealogies, land records and other legal transactions, and from the scattered references in what may seem to be insignificant papers. Originally written to accompany a genealogical website, the following is the record of one such immigrant. Pickering Snowdon migrated from County Durham to Sackville on the ship Two Friends. His story, as gleaned from several diverse sources, illustrates many of the themes that came to characterize the era: the close relationship that quickly developed with the Planter community during the eighteenth century, the importance placed on land and inheritance by the agricultural community, the close familial relationships and the subsequent blending of cultures in the Maritime Provinces over suceeding generations.
The Snowdon family has had a continuous presence on the Tantramar for over two centuries. We date our origins to the arrival of our ancestor during the years immediately preceding the American Revolution when some 1,000 residents of the moors and dales of North Britain, primarily from the North and East Ridings of Yorkshire and the surrounding regions, were lured across the Atlantic to what was then the colony of Nova Scotia. Pickering Snowdon, the first of our family in North America, was among their number.
As landlord after landlord attempted to wrest increased rents from their traditional yeomanry, the call of Nova Scotia beckoned ever more loudly. The British province was in the frontier stages of its development, and a hard working and knowledgeable rural population was desperately required to restore the agricultural lands to productivity. The expulsion of the Acadian population just prior to the Seven Years War (or as it was more commonly called in North America, the French and Indian Wars ) that was fought primarily between Great Britain and France in the years 1755-1760 had left a void that could not been filled by the recruitment of German Protestants settlers or by the several thousand New England Planters, who virtually re-created the rural communities along the Bay of Fundy, the St. John River and the South Shore. Especially vulnerable were the leading governing officials and military hangers-on who had received extensive grants of land for perceived political favours, only to find that they could not attract tenants to improve and farm these lands. Colonel J.F.W. DesBarres and Michael Franklin, the former Lieutenant Governor, were two who found that their estates were, and would remain, virtually worthless without good tenant farmers or prospective buyers. The few returning Acadians and the even fewer disbanded soldiers, veterans from the Louisbourg and the Acadian campaigns, were all that could be induced to settle. The capital, Halifax, was a rag-tag city primarily comprised of naval and civilian migrants. It has been described as a place where "the most common single enterprise was the selling of rum"  and its population had little in common with those who lived in the agricultural and fishing communities. The governing elite, and even the military establishment, found it difficult to exert control over the diverse rural society.
The Planter migration of the early 1760s brought the first real semblance of a settled agricultural population when the government officials lured a few thousand of the surplus people from New England to Nova Scotia with the promise of free passage and free land and the prospect that the religious, political and social institutions would soon be made to resemble their own. These New England Planters, however, shunned the concept of tenancy in a colony where anyone could be a freeman, and could acquire virtually as much land as he or she desired- for free. And so Nova Scotia soon joined the orgy of land speculation that was sweeping North America. In short order, all the land in the New England style Townships was allocated to the first arrivals, their children, and to a number of speculators from New England and Halifax. From Maugerville on the River St. John, through the Chignecto, the Cobequid and Annapolis Valley Townships, and to those on the South Shore, lands were allocated to those first subscribers by the local Township Committees and later approved by provincial grant. Within a decade there was little agricultural land of any consequence remaining to encourage others to settle, and relatively few people to develop and manage the lands that had already been granted. Nova Scotia was falling into a recession partially of its own making. The province was chronically underpopulated and struggling to develop its agriculture and fishery resources at the very time that the British military reduced its presence in 1768. Faced with an acute shortage of labour, inflationary prices for consumer goods, and fewer and fewer markets as the military was withdrawn, many of the New Englanders returned to their old homes or continued elsewhere to search for the dream that had eluded them in Nova Scotia.
It was this set of circumstances that led a number of interested, if self serving, individuals to look to Great Britain for some sort of solution. In particular, the politician and landowner Michael Franklin took the lead in encouraging the surplus population of North Britain to consider emigration. Franklin, during a visit to the area between 1769-1772, hired agents to recruit suitable people from among the tenants of Yorkshire's wealthy gentry. From the lands of Bilby Thompson and Lord Cavendish and others, these agents found many who expressed their desire to settle in Nova Scotia where, they were promised, they could buy their own lands and start life anew. They eagerly read the reports of the weather, the settlements, and particularly the farms that could be bought for seemingly so little; farms that they could own and therefore no longer be beholden to any landlord.
Pickering Snowdon was one of those who opted for the adventure and the hope of prosperity in Nova Scotia. As a young single man there was little to hold him. He had trained as a weaver, but had few prospects to acquire land or to practice his vocation in Great Britain. Land ownership still continued to be the preserve of the gentry, and with the enclosure process just beginning the future looked bleak. The majority of his fellow travelers were usually married couples with families or were migrating as part of an extended family, but Snowdon was solitary. He was but 22, unmarried, and gave his reason for departing as going 'In search of a better livelihood''. We do not yet know who his parents and siblings were, although it is plausible that he was a son of William Snowdon and his wife Elizabeth Pickering, who had earlier moved from the Great Ayton region north to County Durham where we think he was born at Monk Hesledon. His Christian name, and the fact that he would later name his first born son William point to this relationship.
THE MOVE TO NOVA SCOTIA
In March of 1774 the ship Two Friends sailed from the port of Hull for Nova Scotia. Along with Snowdon were many whose progeny would bear common names in the Maritimes: Bulmer, Wry, Fawcett, Layton and Harper, for example. Ever since the Duke of York brought the first contingent of recruits in 1772 there had been a steady stream of avid migrants who sent back reports to their relatives and friends, encouraging them to make the move across the Atlantic as well. In the ensuing years vessels bearing the names Thomas & William, Prince George, Jenny, Providence, and Albion brought their cargoes of British emigrants to Halifax or directly to Cumberland at the head of the Bay of Fundy. Cumberland County rapidly took on a new character and cast and, for the time being, the population "problem" had been addressed.
Pickering Snowdon probably hired out as a labourer upon his arrival in Sackville Township, and soon thereafter he married Dorcas Easterbrooks, the daughter of a prominent New England Planter family. In the early 1760s Valentine Easterbrooks, his wife Tabatha and probably the eldest of their five children had moved to Nova Scotia from Rhode Island accompanied by his sister and her husband Isaac Cole, and by his former sister-in-law and her three children from the first marriage---William, Grizzell and Elizabeth Easterbrooks; her second husband, Jonathan Cole and their children from Warren, Rhode Island. Valentine Easterbrooks, Esq., had been prominent in Sackville's early years in both the political sphere and as an Elder of the Baptist Church until his death in 1770. The Easterbrooks (Estabrooks) family has retained a leading numerical and social presence in Sackville ever since. Pickering and Dorcas had their first child in March of 1775, which suggests that they were married in or around the early summer of 1774. By 1803 their family had grown to include "five children over 10 and five children under 10" according to the Census of that year. William, the oldest son was recently married and living separately by that date. By 1820, when the next Census was taken, only four children remained at home. Their family would ultimately total eleven children--eight daughters and three sons. All reached adulthood, married, and all but one settled in the Sackville area.
MARRIAGE & FAMILY
To the landless classes of Great Britain, North America provided the opportunity to acquire one's own property. Land ownership was a dramatic event that signalled the end of hundreds of years of tradition, where peasant farmers had tilled and improved the estates of the gentry and in return were paid with only a portion of the proceeds. Pickering Snowdon, like most of these eighteenth century immigrants, saw his future and that of his children tied to the acquisition and the improvement of land. Throughout his life there is a continuous record of land transactions as he purchased, traded, sold and deeded property. In the 1786 Inquiry into the State of Sackville lands, the Commissioners reported that Snowdon had purchased the lands of C-10, granted to Lemuel Lattimore, and the lands of C-11, granted to Oliver Mason. He lived on these lands, located in the present Upper Sackville at the head of the Mill Pond or Silver Lake, until November 9, 1791 when he purchased the farm at Wood Point which initially consisted of 1,050 acres. Consisting of dyked marshland, upland and wilderness or wood lots, this property abutted Cumberland Basin and ran from Wood Creek southwest until it met Lot # 9, initially the Glebe Right. In addition he acquired lands at Long Marsh, A-21 (the property of the late Ernest Rogers) where the eldest of his three sons, William, would later live. For the next several generations all this Wood Point land would be divided and subdivided among the Snowdon sons and daughters, and their sons and daughters in turn. Much of it is still owned and lived on by their descendants, over two hundred years later
It is unfortunate that so few written or material records remain that could provide a better understanding of the family and community life of the Snowdons. The house of Pickering and Dorcas and those of the second generation have long since disappeared, and along with them any letters, diaries, drawings or mementos which once must have existed. No known furniture or other material items have survived. What we have been able to piece together comes from scattered references in legal documents, a surviving diary of his brother-in-law, and other bits of information. For instance, Pickering subscribed to the Anti-Militia Protest of 1776. In that year war clouds appeared on the Nova Scotia horizon as the Thirteen Colonies embraced the concept of independence from Great Britain. The Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, Francis Legge, hysterically feared the loyalty of the province's population, and especially the majority of the New England Planters. He and Council decided to mobilize the militia, a move that was vehemently opposed from every quarter of the province. The residents of Sackville signed this Protest, suggesting that military service would exaserbate the labour shortage and bring hardship to their families.
With the outbreak of war between Great Britain and the American Colonies in 1776, the Chignecto region became a focal point of hostilities in Nova Scotia. A majority of the Yankee population as well as many non Yankees sympathized with their New England relatives and friends. The more radical among them organized a Committee of Safety and a Committee of Correspondence to encourage the Cumberland population to rise up against the British. It is unclear where Snowdon sympathies lay--- as a British native recently married to a New Englander whose family and neighbours were sympathetic to revolution, he must have had mixed feelings. As a farmer, however, he probably found that the growing demand for food supplies resulted in wildly inflated prices and windfall profits for all that could be produced. So, as war clouds gathered over Chignecto and the Eddy Rebellion at Fort Cumberland in the Fall of 1776 was suppressed, Snowdon was probably providing hay and cattle to whoever would and could pay. It was during these years of war that he began to purchase marshland-- a reflection of his primary interest that would last for the remainder of his life.
The prosperity brought by war did not abate with the peace treaty of 1784 that saw the British negotiators being as inept as had been their armies. With independence secured by the United States of America, a new form of immigrant began to arrive in what remained of British North America. The Loyalists were the losers of the American Revolution, the political refugees and the disbanded soldiers who chose, or in most cases, were forced to live in exile. Nova Scotia became their haven, with free passage and a promise of free land to all. The arrival of so many people resulted in dramatic change. New Brunswick was created from the Nova Scotia lands north of the Bay of Fundy, with old Cumberland County being the border territory. Sackville, therefore, was included in the new province while that portion of Cumberland Township south of the Missaquash River, Amherst Township and the other neighbouring communities remained in Nova Scotia. For the Snowdons and the other residents of Wood Point, Westcock and Rockport, New Brunswick has been their province ever since.
One important collection that provides a glimpse into the social and cultural circumstances of the time is the hand written "Job Seamans Journal", in the Collection of the New London, New Hampshire, Library, and two letters written by Seamans to his brother-in-law, James Easterbrooks in the Acadia University Archives. Seamans grew up in Sackville, and married Sarah Easterbroks, the daughter of Valentine and Tabatha and a sister to Dorcas Snowdon. In 1773 he returned to the Massachusetts/Rhode Island area and subsequently served as the Baptist minister at New London where he remained until his death. One letter, written in October 1796, is addressed to James Easterbrooks with the request on the envelope that Any gentleman who is bound up the Bay is earnestly desired to forward this letter --a request that was honored by Mr. William Eddy. Written from Attleborough (sic) Mass., it described in casual detail matters of family interest, mutual friends and the deaths of relatives. Especially poignant is the description of his own son's death which occurred in 1793. Young Charles has fallen from the rafters of a church under construction in Newport, Rhode Island, and had ...broke in his skull over his right eye, cracked his skull round his head; otherwise bruised his body and broke his bones. He lived without reason about four hours and then died. In a reference to the burgeoning agricultural and commercial economy of the Maritime Provinces during the late eighteenth century, Seamans commented that: we hear that you in Nova Scotia have prospered in worldly things. I wish and pray that God may bless you all with those blessings which are not to be had from the fields nor yet from the thrashing floor.
JOB SEAMANS JOURNAL
In the summer of 1803 he and Sarah and their daughter Rhoda visited their relatives on the Tantramar, arriving August 12: ...early in the morning, came up to Sackville and laid the schooner upon the flats near to brother Pickering Snowdon's house. The following Saturday (August 13) Brother Snowdon sent his man and brought us to his house, where we breakfasted. While his Journal consists primarily of religious observations, there are a number of passages of interest to the Snowdon family history. On Sept. 11, for instance, he attended a family reunion at the home of Mother Burnham---the former Tabatha Easterbrooks [mother of Sarah and Dorcas] who had remarried to Jacob Burnham upon her first husbands death:
Lords Day Sept 11th. I preached in Sackville A.M. from Isa. 39-19. In the intermission, mother Burnham saw all her children and children in law about her own table, two sons & four daughters and as many sons and daughters in law**this we thought to be a remarkable, smiling Providence: seeing we lived at so great a distance apart: I and my wife about 600 miles. There were also a number of her grand children present, one of them a married woman [Sarah Snowdon] with her husband, Capt. Nicholas Seamans, son to my cousin Nathan Seamans.
On October 5, the Seamans left Sackville and returned to New England: Wednesday Oct. 5th. In the afternoon, mother Burnham, brother James Easterbrooks, brother and sister Snowdon with their children and others, accompanied us down to the shore, at Wood Point, where we took our leave of them (which was hard work) and embarked upon the PrinceThomas Ayer master. Amey Snowdon, daughter of brother Snowdon, came with us. Run down and anchored at Pecks Cove alongside of Nicholas Seamans schooner.
The final correspondence between the Sackville family and the old Baptist preacher is a letter written from New London on 21 November 1817. Again written to his brother-in-law James Easterbrooks, it consists of a rambling account of his religious life. One paragraph, however, illustrates the level of communication between the Tantramar region and New England, and suggests that Amy Snowdon had probably settled in New London:
We understand by Dorcas's letter to Ameyt that mother had about twenty pounds for us, if we could get it; but there is the difficulty: the voige is so long, dangerous and expensive. At our age and infermities sick, that we dare not undertake it unless you, brother Snowdon or some of the rest of our friend would come over, make us a visit, and bring it, I know not how we can git it.While Job was more interested in getting his wife's inheritance from her mothers estate than in family matters, such simple statements as those help fill the gaps of information in the family tree and provide a glimpse of the lifestyle during the era.
Dorcas Snowdon died August 12, 1827. Pickering died three years later on November 3, 1830. They are buried in the Westcock Burying Ground. They lived into old age during an era when childbirth, accident and disease prematurely took the lives of many. Dorcas left no Last Will and Testament or any other legal documents, a reflection of women's lack of legal standing in society at that time; Pickering made a will that clearly attested to his perceived position within the family. Written on 27 September 1830 and signed with an unsteady hand, it clearly outlined the division of his property between his children as well as the orphaned grandchildren of daughter Charlotte who had pre-deceased him. Son William, now 50 years of age, finally received the farm at Long Marsh where he had been living for thirty years, along with a seven acre West marsh lot. John and Valentine equally divided the remainder (upland, wilderness and marsh) with Valentine having that portion of the homestead along with the dwelling house where I now reside ...and all my goods chattels and personal estate whatsoever. It is interesting that William was provided access to the hardwoods so that he could cut ...fuel yearly provided the same does not exceed eight cords in any one year, and that John and Valentine were to share the lands northwest of the road ...as tenants in common and not as joint tenants. Each of his daughters received four acre portions of diked marshland except Sarah, now a widow, and Amy, living in New England, who received forty pounds each. Witnessed by Charles F. Allison and Bedford Boulltenhouse, the will was probated on April 19, 1831.
THE END OF THE ERA
Another significant collection of documents is the Records of Probate. Included are receipts for the payment of legacies, executors notes, and An Inventory of the Real and Personal Estate of Pickering Snowdon . The appraisers, Charles F. Allison, William Evans and Oliver Barnes, detailed the real estate, the personal effects, and the finances of the deceased on May 26, 1831: the property was valued at 1465.0.0; personal effects including livestock and household goods valued at 132.4.0, and outstanding notes amounting to 79.2.21/2. The total was 1676.7.1. It represented a lifetime of financial success and a level of prosperity of which he could have only dreamed when he left England 56 years earlier.
THE SECOND GENERATION
Daughter Sarah (Capt. Nicholas Seaman and lived first at Wood Point and later across the Cumberland Basin at Minudie, where her sister Mary (Jotham Smith) resided. Cynthia (James Clark) also lived in Minudie and then around 1828 they built their house in Wood Point adjacent to the south-west corner of lands owned by her brother John. Known as the MacKinnon house, it is now owned by William Snowdon, and is probably the oldest house in Wood Point. Dorcas (Mark Campbell; William Tower) and Lois (James Ward) stayed in Wood Point, while Rebecca (Jonathan Smith) lived in Upper Sackville. Daughter Amy remained in New London, New Hampshire, where she married David Everett and had a family of at least one son.
The three sons- William, John, and Valentine each received an equal portion of the Wood Point lands that were accumulated by their parents, where they would live and raise their own large families. William Snowdon, the eldest son, continued to live at the Long Marsh in Wood Point. He was married three times and his first two wives both died in childbirth. Following his death and that of his widow Elizabeth, his two sons and many of his surviving daughters with their families migrated to New England during the late nineteenth century.
John Snowdon received half the homestead farm adjacent to Cumberland Basin and half the undeveloped wilderness lands west of the main highway that ran through Wood Point. His house was located near the shore on the oak-treed point and was inherited in turn by Obadiah Snowdon, Luther Snowdon and Melbourne Snowdon. It recently passed out of the Snowdon family for the first time in over two hundred years.
Valentine Snowdon, the youngest son, inherited the homestead next to the Cumberland Basin shore and the remaining half of the wilderness lands north of the road upon the deaths of his father and mother. Both John and Valentine allotted portions of their lands to their children, and in turn their children to their children. Many of the houses were constructed and are still owned by descendants.
This story is unremarkable by its familiarity. Countless individuals and families repeated these themes throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as they began new lives in the rural communities of the Maritimes. On the other hand, it is local and family history such as this that provides us with a better social profile of the Maritimes. The Planters Studies Centre at Acadia University, through its sponsorship of conferences and its publications program has encouraged family and community research by Planter scholars, both professional and amateur. Yorkshire 2000, a gathering of descendants of the Yorkshire Immigrants, is slated for August, 2000 in Sackville, N. B., has promised to extend our horizons even more as individuals explore their roots and the relationships of their ancestry. The Snowdon Family Record , I hope, is just a beginning.
1. John Bartlett Brebner, The Neutral Yankees of Nova Scotia . Toronto, 1969, p. 14
2. "Job Seamans Journal" Unpublished manuscript, New London, N.H. Library Collection .
3. "Job Seamans to James Easterbrooks, October 1796".
4. "Job Seamans to James Easterbrooks, 21 November 1817". Acadia University