Nearly 500 years ago in 1520 (497th), a Portuguese cartographer named Fagundes mapped the Bay of Fundy as far as the Minas Basin, if not right up to Amherst, and 150 years later in 1671 (346th), Jacques Bourgeois, a surgeon and farmer, arrived to be the first European to live permanently on the Missiguash (346th).
The other anniversaries? …the Acadian Deportation in 1755 (262nd); Yorkshire migration in 1772-75 (245th) when whole families sought a new life here; and in 1783 (234th), Loyalists, refugees from the Revolutionary War, appeared throughout Cumberland fleeing persecution, and even death, for supporting England.
If you need more proof of our tenacity, look at Amherst’s old house, still in use and still loved and well-maintained, reminders of the hard work and strong spirit of those who came before us.
One house on Lawrence Street reportedly contains a back ell with elements from a nearly three hundred year old Acadian home.
Then there’s the Charles Bent House built between 1770-1790 on a 600 acre grant overlooking the Marsh and Fundy on East Victoria’s south side. Bent arrived from New England about 1764 as part of the Planter migration, designed to resettle the land taken out of production by the “departure” of the Acadians.
Originally clad in clapboards, with two windows each side of the door, this Cape Cod style house currently sits on a broad well-manicured lawn and wears well-aged shingles and white trim. The back ‘ell” has housed a blacksmith shop as well as a grocers and produce shop. A recently uncovered dormer suggests the house may have once faced south.
Another early gem, from 1830, sits across East Victoria. Once called the Apple Tree Inn, it offered travellers stabling for their horses and a bit to eat. Today It still sits serene and well-cared for on the north side of the Old Halifax Road. What tales those old boards could tell.
Robert McGowan Dickey, a local politician, built Grove Cottage, (Cumberland County Museum) in 1838 on what is now Church Street. His son, Robert Barry Dickey, was a Father of Confederation, lawyer, businessman and senator. When R.B. married, he and his wife moved in with his parents and raised their family there. Eventually, R.B added an office on the north side which included an “L-shaped passageway so he could move easily between his office and house without going outside. Today, Grove Cottage remains very much as it was with gracious gardens and faithfully maintained architectural details.
And Sir Charles Tupper, another Father of Confederation and our 6th Prime Minister (96 days), chose the north side of East Victoria for his home. His yellow Gothic style clapboard house is said to be actually two houses. The western part was built onsite in 1856 and features two five-sided Scottish dormers; the eastern half shows its gable end to the street was moved there and attached later.
Recently, I photographed some 150 historically interesting houses in Amherst …….and I have many more to go. Amherst’s built heritage is a unique resource, capable of drawing visitors from across North America and the globe. Let’s start talking them up and inviting travellers to stop by and share them. After all there’s just one road into Nova Scotia.
On your travels around town, take time to thank the owners who spend their time and money to keep our heritage alive and beautiful.
Mark your calendar.
From June 27 to July 11, Amherst Heritage Trust and Heritage Trust Nova Scotia are hosting a two week Witnesses to a New Nation: A Photo Exhibition, featuring 150 heritage house from across Nova Scotia at Dayle’s Grand Market.
Discover more about other Nova Scotia heritage houses built before 1867 along with lots more details on houses right here in Amherst.
Leslie Childs is a member of the Amherst News Community Editorial Panel.