1869

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

Ever since his meeting with Sir John A. Macdonald in August, Joseph Howe evidently had carried on further correspondence with the Prime Minister at Ottawa regarding “Better Terms” for Nova Scotia. As has been previously stated, much thought and anxiety about this matter was experienced by Howe at Fairfield where he must often have mulled over the situation before making perhaps the most important decision of his whole political career. Early in 1869 he left for Ottawa.

The news broke on January 30th when a dispatch from the Capital announced that Joseph Howe had been sworn in as a member of the Conservative Government. This meant that he was abandoning further efforts to seek repeal of Confederation, and was also abandoning the Liberal Party. One or two of the latter group bolted with him. As was the usual practice of the time, Mr. Howe was obliged to seek re-election in his constituency of Hants in order to be confirmed in his Cabinet position. The great difference was that he would now be running as a supporter of Confederation instead of on the ticket of the anti-Confederates, as he had been in the 1867 Dominion election.

Hundreds of Howe’s’ former followers in Halifax County and elsewhere, immediately organized their scattered forces to defeat their old leader in a political campaign of vengeance that lasted the whole of February. Powerful Liberal newspapers like the “Nova Scotian” and “Acadian Recorder” joined in the battle by publishing column upon column of abuse which denounced him as a deserter and a traitor to the party. The gist of the charges was that he had not submitted his “Better Terms” proposals to the Liberal Convention, and that in dealing with Prime Minister Macdonald, Howe had assumed functions which properly belonged to the Government of Nova Scotia.* (See Duncan Campbell’s History of Nova Scotia.)

The 1869 winter campaign in Hants County was mostly a test of bodily endurance. Howe’s opponents no doubt realized that he was their superior both intellectually and oratorically, and consequently they resorted to practices of physical persecution. The bitterest of his enemies openly declared that they were endeavouring to wear him down and even to bring about his death.

Joseph Howe was successful in that Hants by-election but the strain and suffering of the drawn-out meetings so shattered his constitution that he went back to his seat in the House of Commons at Ottawa, only a shadow of his former self.

From personal letters written to Sir John A. Macdonald after Howe returned to Dartmouth in the month of March, one gets an idea of the hardships he endured in the election campaign:

. . . At the outset had pamphlets printed and sown broadcast throughout Hants County . . . opponents came in great force to the Windsor meeting in a special train . . . had to make three speeches in a cold barn of a Court House, and to sit for hours in an atmosphere but a few degrees warmer than that of the streets . . . my room in the hotel filled with organizers until midnight. This sort of thing went on for fifteen days … at the hustings always had to reply to relays of adversaries brought in to speak against me.

The last place of meeting was at Welsford on the Shubenacadie where three Counties adjoin . . . drill shed had a ground floor, no fire, doors opening at both ends—rarely ever closed.

To sit for five hours in such a place saying nothing would have been punishment enough, but I had to speak one hour, and then sit three, and afterwards reply to Annand, Jones, etc., in an atmosphere every breath of which I felt to be cutting my throat.

Next day I spoke my hour. I then rolled myself up in a coat and lay down on the platform until Jones, Goudge and (name illegible) had exhausted themselves, and then having wiped out their slates, went off to a farmhouse where I lay for a week completely prostrated from repeated colds and chills ….

Mr. Howe was afterwards confined to bed for some days at his home58, according to a letter written to the Prime Minister on the 19th which stated that he had been out only once, and that for a short half-hour sleigh-ride.

Finally on March 23rd after being for nearly six years a tenant of “Fairfield”, Joseph Howe left secluded Dartmouth to take up residence at Ottawa; and Windmill Road saw him no more.

Other Dartmouth items of interest in 1869 tell us that the Steam Boat Company intended erecting a new station house in place of “the present dilapidated structure on Halifax side. The new building will contain a spacious waiting-room which will be warmed by stoves and lighted by gas.”

The new cemetery of St. Peter’s parish on Victoria Road at Tulip Street was formally blessed by Archbishop Connolly on Sunday afternoon, August 7th. There must have been 4,000 persons of various denominations in the cemetery where a fine stage canopied and decorated with forest branches was erected in the middle of the two-acre square. “The view from the grounds was magnificent,” said a newspaper report, “and this combined with a fine day, and elegantly dressed persons made the scene a memorable one. Crowds surrounded the platform on which stood His Grace and the assisting clergy.”

On the other side of the street at the northeast corner of Victoria Road and Tulip Street, Rev? Alexander McKnight then lived in a large new residence. St. James7 Church got a new pastor in 1889 when Alexander Falconer came from Charlottetown. He lived at the southwest corner of Prince and South Streets before erecting the residence now belonging to Mrs. R. H. Murray at 289 Portland Street. Two of the best known of this family are the late Sir Robert Falconer and Dr. James W. Falconer. The latter is still in our midst, and has often furnished us with valuable information concerning his own and Robert’s school days in Dartmouth.

Mount. Thom near the present Brightwood Club continued to be a popular spot for picnics of Halifax Sunday School classes. Boat loads of young people from the City rowed over to Sandy Cove for beach-bathing. The soft shore fronting the present Dominion Molasses Factory was a more convenient one for Dartmouthians. About this time velocipedes were coming into use. The large room in McDonald’s building was used to teach beginners.

The Saxby gale predicted for October 4th by Lieutenant Saxby, did not turn out to be as violent hereabouts as had been expected, but the tide rose to an unprecedented height. In other parts of the Province, however, and in New Brunswick, a wind and rain storm caused considerable damage to wharves and shipping.

The unlighted streets of Dartmouth gave rowdies an opportunity of destroying property and even of attacking people. Groups of tipsy soldiers travelling back and forth from Fort Clarence, made that lonely road a particularly risky one at night. Then, as now, forest fires occurred in spring and often got out of control. Burning houses, remote from a water supply, were hurriedly pulled down with grappling irons. Every year the inhabitants were obliged to perform statute labor, or else pay the equivalent in money.