Halifax at the Time of Confederation

“Skating was a favorite pastime with young and old, rich and poor. Besides Chocolate Lake, the Dartmouth Lakes, the Arm, and Bedford Basin there were many ponds near the city, most of which have vanished-Steele’s and the Quarry Ponds at Point Pleasant, the Egg Pond on the Common, two at Fort Needham and on the Rockhead property, and Stanford’s Ponds near James Stanford’s Tannery, and Bone Mill at Three Mile House, now Fairview. Prisoners were sent from Rockhead to clear snow from Griffin’s Pond, where it was the ambition of every boy to strap on the skates of some girl and take her for a spin in the moonlight”

“The fall fishery had been a failure, especially in Halifax County. At Prospect and in the villages around St. Margaret’s Bay the people were confronted with the spectre of starvation during the winter of 1867-68. This destitution was reflected in a further decline of business in Halifax, and in the steady emigration of young men to the United States. The citizens of Ottawa raised funds for the relief of the “Distressed Fishermen” by concerts and solicitations, while in Halifax committees in each ward collected subscriptions to add to the proceeds of a literary and musical concert. The Rev. John Ambrose of St. Margaret’s Bay advertised in the newspapers for work for his parishioners, and asked the merchants of Halifax to buy nets made by hand from the fishermen instead of those manufactured by machine. Just before Christmas fourteen girls from St. Margaret’s were driven from their homes by hunger to look for work in Halifax. The newspapers wasted no sympathy on their plight, for the Acadian Recorder merely commented that “parties in need of domestic servants will now have no difficulty in supplying themselves.”

“In marked contrast to the observance of Natal Day, when all businesses were closed and the newspapers suspended publication, was the first Dominion Day. The majority of Nova Scotians did not want union with Canada and resented the fact that the Legislature had agreed to Confederation without consulting the people at the polls. Three-fourths of the 28,000 people living in Halifax had been born in Nova Scotia, and this would partly explain their strong attachment for the sea-girt province of their birth and the lack of patriotic feeling for the new Dominion. Although 1 July had been proclaimed a provincial holiday nearly one-half of the stores ”were doing business: showing unmistakably that it required something more than a proclamation to compel men to rejoice … over the destruction of the liberties of their country.” Both the Morning Chronicle and the Acadian Recorder appeared as obituary editions with broad black lines between the columns mourning the death of Nova Scotia. Arrangements had been made for special church services at 7 a.m., an oration on the Parade by the Rev. Dr. Richey and a “Procession of the Trades and other Societies and Citizens”, and a grand military display on the Common in the morning. The afternoon and evening were to be employed by sports on the Common and rowing and sailing matches on the Harbor and a torchlight procession and fireworks. The Morning Chronicle gave this ironical description of the procession:

The procession, which we may safely call the principal feature of the day’s rejoicing, was a good one, that is about six hundred people, including a large number of boys and girls, took part in it, and flags were borne, and bands played, and hats of decided rustiness were waved in the air … About six hundred people-as many as have occasionally attended a decent funeral in the city-were all that could be scraped up to join in this great display.

The Acadian Recorder added that Moir & Company contributed a

“bread waggon” gorgeously decorated with spruce etc. Mr. Scrivens’ ditto, from which biscuit was occasionally thrown out to the crowd; the Virginia Tobacco Factory a team, whence issue stray cigars and lumps of tobacco. Symonds’ Iron Foundry, the Nova Scotia Iron Works, Starr’s Nail Factory, had each cars in the procession. The Stonecutter’s and Carpenter’s Societies were represented by a few members from each craft.

I do not want to emphasize the antipathy towards Confederation because until such antagonisms are forgotten it will be difficult for Canadians from all sections of the Dominion to feel that they are the citizens of a united nation owing a common allegiance to it.”

Blakeley, Phyllis R. “Halifax at the Time of Confederation” Dalhousie Review, Volume 27, Number 4, 1948 https://dalspace.library.dal.ca/bitstream/handle/10222/62543/dalrev_vol27_iss4_pp391_402.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y