1841

From The Story of Dartmouth, by John P. Martin:

When the new House met in February 1841, Joseph Howe was chosen as Speaker. That appointment brought a bit of political prestige to our side of the harbor, because Dartmouth was the largest center in Mr. Howe’s constituency.

An Act incorporating the City of Halifax was passed by the Legislature that session. Of more local interest, however, was an Act for regulating Dartmouth Common.

This was the “new town-plot” … As the trustees of the Common were all dead by 1841, there was no one in authority to prevent the increasing number of squatters from occupying parts of the Common, especially those portions adjacent to the waterfront in the vicinity of Black Rock. (The whole area of the new town-plot must have been so called from earliest times, no doubt from the black color of the slate rock there.)

The Act of 1841 appointed new trustees in the persons of John E. Fairbanks, Henry Y. Mott and William Foster. They were empowered to subdivide the large area of Common land on the western side of Windmill Road, extending from about the present line of the new bridge on the north, to Geary Street on the south.

William MacKay, a well-known surveyor of that time, subsequently laid off the section into 41 building lots which were advertised at auction and conveyed to the highest bidder for 999 years, subject to an annual ground-rent of £1. Thirty-one of the lots were sold that summer. Some were bought outright by the holders, but others continued paying ground-rent for many years afterwards. (The MacKay map of the section, is still preserved at the Town Engineer’s office.)

According to the Act, revenue from the sale of these lands had to be applied to improve the remaining portion of the Common, and provide for the laying out of a street along the waterfront. (This is the present Shore Road). Names of other streets in that vicinity like Fairbanks, Hare, Mott, Best and Lyle, commemorate trustees and original property owners. (Geary Street was named after the Priest who had charge of the Catholic cemetery. Turner Street, directly opposite, runs through the old Turner tanyard. The name of Foster certainly should be applied somewhere to honor a forgotten family who were long included among our early industrialists.)

From the Dartmouth “Atlantic Weekly” of April 29, 1899, readers may obtain the number of each lot of Common land, and the price paid for same at time of sale. The following names were among the first purchasers:

George Turner, James Synott, William Stairs, C. A. Mott, James Whiteley, John Fenton, David Hare, Gilbert Elliott, James Keating, William Walker, Richard Best, Michael McKenna, John Thornham, John B. Woodworth, John Kennedy, Alexander Lyle, John E. Fairbanks, Richard McLearn and John Tapper.

On June 8th 1841, the Nova Scotia Philanthropic Society celebrated the Natal Day of Halifax by holding a picnic and athletic games at Turtle Grove “near the Windmill in Dartmouth”, whither they were transported on the “Sir C. Ogle”.

Another large group enjoyed an outing at Dartmouth on the afternoon of St. John’s Day, June 24th 1841, when the members of St. Mary’s Total Abstinence Society of Halifax crossed the harbor. A brass band on the deck of the “Sir C. Ogle” kept playing lively airs during two or three trips, until the full crowd of people had been transported.

These then “marched to a beautifully situated field, half a mile from the ferry, and kindly loaned for the occasion by Mr. Boggs.* The progress through the pretty village of Dartmouth, and through the rural ways and woodpaths, was delightful”, says the account in the Nova Scotian.

Between 700 and 800 met on the appointed ground where they indulged in games of ball and bat, and other sports. Quadrille and Contra dances were also got up on the green.

*About this time, the temperance cause was being preached in Europe by Father Theobold Mathew, and his influence was felt in North America. St. Mary’s Society had about 3,000 members. The Halifax Temperance Society had almost as many. In Dartmouth, St. Peter’s Total Abstinence Society had over 1,000, among whom many were Mi’kmaq. Most of Austinville district was then owned by Thomas Boggs. Roughly, the area from Christ Church cemetery to St. Peter’s School grounds was known as “Boggswood”. Not likely Pine Street was as yet constructed. Definitely lower Maple Street was not. The field referred to, must have been somewhere in “Boggswood”, other than the swampy section. The “ball and bat” contest mentioned, is the earliest written record of a baseball game being played in Dartmouth.