UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Land and families in Horton Township, N.S., 1760-1830 McNabb, Debra Anne


In the 1760s, some 5,000 New Englanders established fourteen townships on the former Acadian farmlands of northern and western Nova Scotia and the sheltered bays and inlets of the colony's south shore. Drawn to the area by the promise of free land and access to cod-rich fishing banks, they 'founded both farming and fishing communities. Although the full treatment of New England settlement in Nova Scotia must consider both types of community, reconstructing the initial stages of settlement in an agricultural township serves as a beginning. Among the agricultural townships, Horton may be considered representative, if not typical. It was the focal point of the four Minas Basin townships which received the bulk of the New Englanders. It was among the first townships to be settled. Its resource base - dyke, upland, forest, and fish - was essentially the same as that of the other townships. The story of New Englanders at Horton raises fundamental questions about the process of settlement, the foundations of economy and society, the nature of the family and the evolution of the landscape. To explain how Horton's development unfolded, this thesis follows the lives of 89 men and their families who came to Horton as proprietors and after surviving the first years of hardship became the core of a permanent society. It covers the period from 1760 to 1830, from the time these grantees arrived in Horton until their deaths. The study focuses primarily on landholding and inheritance patterns and agricultural development and how they affected the lives of individuals and families and the evolution of community. It discovers that despite the relevant abundance of land in the new settlement, local landholding practices led to restricted access almost immediately. This had a profound effect on the fortunes of Horton families and the development of agriculture and community. This conclusion argues against existing theories of rural community development which maintain that land scarcity evolved only after several generations of increased population, partible inheritance, and extensive agricultural practices.

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