Nova Scotia, lying on the seaboard and lashed by the waves of the North Atlantic Ocean, with New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, form the Maritime Provinces of Eastern Canada. When first discovered, it was called Acadia by the French, and also known later as “The Land of Evangeline.” It has the distinction of being one of the first white settlements in North America. Many emigrants sailed from France and settled in that territory.
Grand-Pre, meaning great meadow, has an important place in the history of the Acadians, situated beside the Minas Basin on the Bay of Fundy. The surrounding country proved to be very fertile land and homesteads were erected by the new settlers.
The far-famed poem of Longfellow, looked upon as classic, has given the public a vivid word-picture of Grand-Pre and the landscape around the Minas Basin. With graphic style he describes its picturesque appearance in that day.
In the Acadian land,
On the shores of the Basin of Minas,
Distant, secluded, still,
The little village of Grand-Pre
Lay in the fruitful valley.
Vast meadows stretched to the eastward,
Giving the village its name,
And pasture to flocks without number.
Dikes, that the hands of the farmers
Had raised with labor incessant,
Shut out the turbulent tides;
But at stated seasons the flood-gates
Opened, and welcomed the sea
To wander at will o’er the meadows.
West and south there were fields
Of flax, and orchards and cornfields
Spreading afar and unfenced
O’er the plain; and away to the northward
Blomidon rose, and the forests
Old, and aloft on the mountains
Sea-fogs pitched their tents,
And mists from the mighty Atlantic
Looked on the happy valley,
But ne’er from their station descended.
Corn and vegetation grew there in abundance so that the barns of the Acadians in harvest time were pressed down and running over. Cattle and flocks of sheep covered the plains. The apple tree was introduced and, with climate and soil so suitable, this fruit excelled. Apple orchards have grown to wonderful proportions in quantity and quality.
A motor trip from Grand Pre through the Annapolis Valley in May is like being on enchanted ground. Can you visualize driving over one hundred miles through a solid orchard, and as far as the eye can see on either side, stretched for miles, only apple trees to be seen, with their beautiful white bloom filling the air with sweet perfume? The beauty and the fragrance throughout the valley in early spring surpasses any description that could be given and tourists flock there to enjoy it.
But in that early day many battles were fought in Acadia between the French and the British and the marks of fierce struggles are there still. Wells of water still fed by hidden springs are there, and from these the soldiers of the French and British armies quenched their thirst in ancient days.
In 1732 Acadia was ceded to the British, but the Acadians refused to swear allegiance to the Crown. Longfellow speaks of them as quiet and peaceful peasants with the priest moving among his flock as an example of what is godly. However, other historians gave a different view of the people and the French priests.
September 10, 1755, was the fateful day that made history for the Acadians. Some ships lay at anchor in the Basin. The men were called to St. Charles Church to hear a message from the king. It resulted in the sad story of their lands being confiscated and the people forced into the ships. They were expelled and deported to the colonies in New England that were still under the British rule.
History records that Evangeline was the fair young daughter of a prosperous farmer, Benedict Bellefontaine, and Gabriel was the son of Basil the blacksmith in Grand Pre. According to the poem, Gabriel was taken on board a ship and afterwards, Evangeline began that long search for her lost lover. At times hope rose high as she traced him from one place to another, but was always doomed to disappointment. Many years rolled by. Finally, while serving as a nurse in a hospital in Philadelphia, the faithful searcher was rewarded as she found him one day among the patients, aged and worn. She had both joy and sorrow but she nursed and comforted Gabriel in his last days. Multitudes have been thrilled with that interesting story and it has been immortalized.
The name was changed from Acadia to Nova Scotia (New Scotland) when a large number of emigrants sailed from Scotland to the more eastern parts of the province. Here the scenery was different from that previously described. Large forests of timberland covered the rolling country so that much labor and privation were the lot of those who cleared land to establish homesteads.
While the French were Catholic, these Scottish settlers were mostly Presbyterian, very hospitable, and devoted to their religion. In Cumberland County there was much activity. Farmers cleared much land and were prospering. Towns sprang up, many schools were built in towns and in rural districts for the education of the young, and when Canada became a Dominion, Nova Scotia had its place in the Commonwealth.
A Presbyterian minister, known as Reverend James Stirling, had a congregation in Pictou. He was noted for godliness and was an ardent preacher of the gospel. Mr. Stirling visited Cumberland County and preached in Port Howe school house. He lodged with a farmer named Kennedy who had a large family.
Dan was the oldest son and the sincerity and prayers of Mr. Stirling impressed him very much. He attended the meetings and became alarmed about his lost condition. One day, while working in the field, the light of the glorious gospel shone into his heart. He stood there and praised God for His great salvation. Some others were saved at the same time, but Mr. Stirling went back to Pictou and there was little spiritual ministry to nourish these young christians. The churches that then existed were cold and formal.
Some years later, about 1882, it was reported around Port Howe that a young Irishman who worked for a farmer was conducting services in the school house each Lord’s Day afternoon. Dan Kennedy was attracted by the plain earnest preaching and sought to encourage others to attend.
The King’s were prosperous farmers who lived beside the Kennedy’s. They had six daughters and one son. Fanny King with some other girls set off one afternoon to hear the preacher who was not “ordained” and who took no collections. On the way, two men came out of a side road and went before the girls in the same direction. One of the men was known to them but the other was a stranger. His tall and awkward gait, with a suit evidently too small for him, attracted their attention. However, the men stopped at the school house also. A Sunday School was in progress and when it was dismissed, a crowd of people filled the room. The girls were much surprised to find that the stranger whose appearance had amused them on the way was the preacher they had come to hear. A hymn was sung, he prayed, and then opened his Bible and read a passage from it. Fanny King was most attentive. The peculiarities about this stranger that she thought she saw in him on the way, all faded as she listened to the wonderful story of salvation. When the meeting ended, Fanny thought, “This man has a message from God for the people of this community.” Truly he had a message for her for in a short time Fanny was saved and she became a bright and shining light.
Samuel Wallace was born in Keady, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, and during a revival in 1877 was among those who were born again. He became exercised about believer’s baptism, after which he gathered with the assembly in Keady.
Samuel was brought up on a farm and he immigrated to Canada, landing in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was very energetic in passing out gospel tracts and dealing with people in a personal way about salvation. He worked with a farmer who said to him one day, “Samuel, do you ever preach?” “Oh, yes, I do at times,” he said. “Well, I shall get the school in Port Howe for you.”
Samuel was the preacher Fanny King went to hear that Lord’s Day afternoon. The interest in the meetings deepened. Mrs. Hume had a family who all died at the same time with diphtheria, but she went to hear brother Wallace and became much disturbed about her soul, resulting in her accepting Christ. She was early left a widow but she became a true worker and a soul winner, a deep student of the Word even to a very old age. Samuel worked for Mr. Lowther in Leicester, preached at times, and kept up personal work for the Lord.