Fieldstone Fences: Part 1

We all know of the land grants of Nova Scotia, how instead of being settled, they were sold. Our district was no exception. The private carriages would wheel past here on their way to Windsor Township. Many prominent men would wave their hands in our direction and boast that they owned land out this way. No less than five “Honourables” were among them.

Let’s go now and mingle with those who didn’t wheel past, but stayed to cut out their homesteads from the forest. Many have, of course, gone from living memory but, fortunately, not from the records. I hope you will enjoy meeting them as much as I did.

There are usually three things remaining of an old homestead. The most prominent is the old apple tree with its gaunt arms pointing to where the home stood. The tree has been dead for many years but its roots refuse to let it go. It gave of its beauty in the spring, its fruit in the autumn and would guarantee the one who planted it that it would out live him by several generations.

The next thing is the Fieldstone Fence. It might be a little harder to find for the fields have grown smaller as the trees crept back but it’s there just where those who broke in this farm so long ago set it out. Today, when you are trying to put in a little garden you think of them as just a bunch of stupid rocks. So too did the farmer but he made use of his stupid rocks. He built the foundation of his home, lined his well and still had enough left over to make a fence around his field.

If you aren’t sure where the house stood, go through these fields with an inquiring step. The well doesn’t mean to take you by surprise, it’s just that the field has grown up around it. You’ll find that it was always close to the house. Now that you have a picture of this old farm, you will realize that it’s only the time of then, and the time of now, that separates you from those who lived here. Before the township days, our district might have been known by any description but “Twenty-five miles along the Halifax Road to Windsor” seems to have been enough to place us on the map.

That’s where Conrad Pence of Halifax bought a hundred acres of land from W. Fairfield in 1778. When he died a year later, this land passed onto his son Jacob. Jacob cleared the land, started his farm and moved his family out. This would become his home from then on.

By 1810 the land bordering Jacob’s was slipping into Escheat (reverting back to the Crown). Jacob, his brother William, and three friends decided to put forward a Petitioners’ Grant Appeal.

This is such an excellent example of the applications for escheated land. We are fortunate in knowing how the land came to be distributed, as well as the wording of the original petition.

PETITION #23: Jacob Ernest Pence, William Pence, Andrew Hawes, James Hogan and Cornelius Tryant 1810.

Jacob Ernest Pence, born in Halifax whose father was one of the first settlers of Halifax, wife and six children. William Pence, wife and three children. Cornelius Tryant, a single man born in Germany – came to England, joined 5th Battalion of 60th Regiment and was regularly discharged in Halifax after serving six years and nine months. He is about to make a connection and become a settler in this country. James Hogan, wife and four children, born in Ireland, served three years in Surrey Rangers, was discharged from the Regiment when the Regiment left the province in 1807. Andrew Hawes, single, born in Nova Scotia, “does, by the stint of his industry, support his ancient parents.”
All of the counties of Halifax and Hants sheweth that they have never received any land from Government and that there is a tract of land uncultivated or improved, between the farm of grant petitioner Jacob Pence and the land of Roger Johnson, Esq, although it has been granted more than twenty years. Your Excellencies, your petitioners humbly pray the land may be escheated and granted to the petitioners. That is to say Jacob Pence, 500 acres next to the land he is living on. To convey to James Hogan, William Pence, Cornelius Tryant and Hawes, the amount of 200 acres each. They are ready to pay all of the costs attending the escheat and re-granting of the land and will take the Oath of Allegiance to His Majesty.”

Signed W. Smith J.P. (The warrant was given in July1810)

Now for the results of the petition. Jacob Pence was already on his farm. He married twice and it was the children of the second marriage who would be the descendant fathers of the Pence families.

William Pence and Tryant, the young man from Germany, never did come here to live. Andrew Hawes, his part of the grant being at the turn of the Post Road, was glad to come and he built the big plain house at the corner of the road that would, many years later, be known as the Moulton house.

James Hogan came only long enough to take a good look around and decided to sell. When he did sell, all of the rest of the petitioners had to sign their agreement as he had sold so soon it was still of the one grant.

It was Darby McDonald who bought Hogan’s grant in 1810. Darby was a bit of a collector of grants and he got three brothers from Falmouth to join him in a petition for land in East Uniacke. The Lawrence brothers were never really interested in coming here but they did their friend a favour. Darby was ready to take up the slack and he bought out some of the Lawrence boys’ grant so that now he owned a big slice of East Uniacke, and the acres over on the Post Road.

Darby built himself a log house (just beside the Brand house of today). They say that the log house had real shutters on it, with real holes in them to poke rifles through. Maybe Darby did need that kind of protection in his early days along the Post Road?

At this time, one of the “Honourables” was digging in, even if he wasn’t doing the digging himself. Richard Uniacke was building his mansion. Of all of Uniacke’s acquisitions, this was the one that would keep his name alive in history.

Andrew Hawes did care for his aging parents in his big house at the corner and he also shared his grant with a relative – Widow Hannah Robsen and her two little children, George and Mary. George would one day grow up to take Andrew’s place on his land and in the community.

In 1819 Darby and Jacob noticed that down at the county line there was a lumber mill being erected beside the lake.

Richard Lacy had bought the land for the timber and to set his sons to work. He died about a year later. He left the mill and land, along with a flute and fiddle, fifty-nine gallons of rum, five gallons of brandy, four gallons of gin and some wine, to his sons. His must have been a very spirited household.

You know, in those years, a fifty acre lot was considered a small lot, one hundred and fifty being the norm. When you come to think of it, the next door neighbour wasn’t really next door.

Just up the Post Road a bit from the Lacy Mill, another newcomer was clearing the land, although it wasn’t too clear what he had in mind. John Fitzmaurice had come to Nova Scotia from England where he had served as a Lieutenant in the 8th Field Regiment. When he took his discharge he asked for four hundred and fifty acres of land for a farm. They don’t seem to have ever given John any land. After a while, living in Windsor with his family, he got to know someone who would lend him money for a farm. John Pryor was a member of a very wealthy shipping merchant family and he didn’t mind lending Fitzmaurice the money to buy his four hundred and fifty acres twenty-five miles out along the Halifax-Windsor Road. In 1820, what Jacob, Darby and the Lacys were looking at was a brand new Highway Inn. The new neighbour called his property “Homestead Farm”, and he was ready to become one of the leading citizens of the area.