Some Highlights of Truro, Nova Scotia in 1903

Street View, Truro (Image: McLeod, Markland or Nova Scotia)

Before I leave my grandmother Velma’s high school years behind as she enters Dalhousie University in the fall of 1915, I’ll share a few details about the town of Truro, where the high school she attended, Colchester County Academy, was located. My source for these details is Markland Or Nova Scotia: Its History, Natural Resources, and Native Beauties, by Robert Randall McLeod. Published in 1903, Markland Or Nova Scotia is the work of another of those obscure nineteenth-century historians in whose prose I take such delight.

Truro was about thirty-four miles from the Moore farm in Economy Point, so it was necessary for Velma to stay with her father’s sister, Addie Moore, when school was in session, returning to the farm in the summer.

When Velma entered high school in 1910, living in town would have been quite different from living on the farm. As McLeod’s history tells us:

Streets, dwellings, and stores are lighted by electricity. There are eleven churches and two superior hotels.1

. . . .

Quite a number of manufactories are in successful operation. There is the Truro Foundry Company, the Truro Knitting Mills Company, the Truro Condensed Milk and Creamery Company.

This town is also a railway center of considerable importance, being on the Intercolonial Line, also the point of departure for Pictou and all points in Cape Breton. Recently, the Hants Central Railway has been opened to Truro, and it will doubtless add not a little to the business importance of the place.2

As for Colchester County Academy itself, “[it] is a credit to the town, and its equipments are of a high order. . . . The academy has a good laboratory and is well-equipped with apparatus for scientific work.”3 Velma was well-served by the academy’s laboratory and faculty, as they provided her with the foundation needed to later pursue a university degree in biology. Opportunities for cultural experiences would also have been available to her in Truro: “A Conservatory of Music is among the later institutions of the town, and is reported to be in a flourishing condition.”4

Architect’s Rendering of Colchester County Academy, 1902 (Image: Annual Report of the Superintendent of Education of the Public Schools of Nova Scotia, 1902)

Another of Truro’s attractions was Victoria Park, with which McLeod was obviously very taken:

I have before me an elaborate description wherein the writer can hardly keep his feet for the tendency to take flight. Here too at my hand are half-tone views of rustic summer loveliness as they were caught by the camera, and they fill me with “longings for spring.” Here are driveways following cycloidal sweeps of a curve system that has delved under the sheltering hillside, where it frets the roots of ancient trees, and gets itself tented under their friendly branches.

It is very evident that the spell of the place is on me also, and to stop while I can is prudent.5

Image: McLeod, Markland or Nova Scotia

Image: McLeod, Markland or Nova Scotia

Before I return McLeod’s virtual dusty tome to its proper place in the Google Books stacks, I must give him credit for the following digression on his way to discussing the founding fathers of the town–which echoes the genealogist’s lament:

Alas that the mothers are so often overlooked in the records of people, and often in the written lives of illustrious sons. John Stuart Mill wrote his life and never once mentioned his mother, who was a worthy woman, and did more for him than his father, whom he never tires of admiring.6

Image: McLeod, Markland or Nova Scotia


1Robert Randall McLeod, Markland or Nova Scotia: Its History, Natural Resources and Native Beauties (Toronto: Markland Publishing Company, 1903), 326.
2McLeod, Markland or Nova, 327.
3McLeod, Markland or Nova, 327.
4McLeod, Markland or Nova, 326.
5McLeod, Markland or Nova, 326.
6McLeod, Markland or Nova, 327.

Ancestors Out of Context

This is one of my favorite pictures from The Family Archives. It looks to have been taken when my grandmother Velma was in high school, at the age of perhaps thirteen or fourteen. Although the photograph is obviously posed, I now know from my research that her posing with a book was not at all a photographer’s (or a parent’s) affectation. Posing with a book at her fingertips would have been a true reflection of who she was. Funny, though–I remember her cooking for us, cleaning (although she first shooed us out of the house), and arranging wild flowers for the table–but I never actually saw her sitting and reading a book that I can recall.

Along similar lines, when I discovered her name listed in the Nova Scotia provincial records1 as having passed her each of her high school examinations, it gave me the strangest little thrill to see someone I had known in only one context, as my grandmother, in a completely different context.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m reminded of E.M. Forester’s explanation in Aspects of the Novel of the difference between flat and round characters:

In their purest form, [flat characters] are constructed round a single idea or quality: when there is more than one factor in them, we get the beginning of the curve toward the round.

. . . .

The test of a round character is whether it is capable of surprising in a convincing way. If it never surprises, it is flat. 2

I suppose this must be the family history paradox. We want to know more about our ancestors because of their connection to us. Yet at the same time, we want to take our close ancestors out of their immediate context (i.e., their relation to us) so that we can know them as fully-realized, three-dimensional people, rather than flat characters defined only by their relation to us.


1Journal of education: being the semi-annual supplement to the report of the superintendent of education for Nova Scotia, 3rd ser., VIII, no. 3 (April 1915): 93.

2E. M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel (London: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1927), 67, 78.

A Nice Surprise from the Colchester Historeum Archives!

I mentioned in my last post that the archivist I had contacted at the Colchester Historeum e-mailed me information from my grandmother Velma Moore’s high school yearbook that I didn’t know, including scans of the relevant pages. Here is what she sent me:

 

This was my first e-mail inquiry to an archivist, and I was thrilled with the result!

I learned that Velma graduated at the top of her class and was awarded a bursary to help with her educational expenses when she entered Dalhousie University the following school year. In addition, I now have the title of her high school yearbook, as well as the names and faces for some of the teachers she would have had.

I’ve included the complete page of the last scan to provide some of the historical context for Velma’s high school years and also to call attention to the sacrifice of Raymond Fulton, who left high school at the end of Grade XI to fight in the Great War, where he lost his life due to illness. Velma would have been sensitive to reports of casualties, as her brother Fred (Fred Lawrence Moore, 1894-1971) was serving in the Army overseas at the time.1

I recently learned from a blog I’ve been following (Janice Brown’s Cow Hampshire: New Hampshire’s History Blog) that a significant number of soldiers and nurses died of influenza and pneumonia while serving overseas in the First World War. For some reason, this has made a big impression on me, although I’m not quite sure why. War fatalities resulting from respiratory illness just seem like adding insult to injury–as if getting shot, gassed, or blown up weren’t bad enough.


1Katharine Brown Gauffreau, “The Ancestry and Life of Velma Jane Moore Brown” (unpublished manuscript, December 2013), 25.