Small Pox

Small Pox is said to be very prevalent in New York, and yesterday’s telegram has reported its appearance at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. We would suggest the most vigilant observance by the authorities of vessels arriving in this port from the United States, also from England, so to prevent the appearance amongst us of this dreaded disease.

The Public Ledger, Jul 22, 1881.,+nova+scotia&article_id=4151,5648800&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi6xOvg7YOGAxVBFhAIHbWkCxI4MhDoAXoECA0QAg#v=onepage&q=dartmouth%2C%20nova%20scotia&f=false

History of Halifax City

“The [Mi’kmaq] had appeared in the neighborhood of the town for several weeks, but intelligence had been received that they had commenced hostilities, by the capture of twenty persons at Canso… On the last day of September they made an attack on the sawmill at Dartmouth, then under the charge of Major Gilman. Six of his men had been sent out to cut wood without arms. The [Mi’kmaq] laid in ambush, killed four and carried off one, and the other escaped and gave the alarm, and a detachment of rangers was sent after the [Mi’kmaq], who having overtaken them, cut off the heads of two [Mi’kmaq] and scalped one.

This affair is mentioned in a letter from a gentleman in Halifax to Boston, dated October 2nd as follows: “About seven o’clock on Saturday morning before, as several of Major Gilman’s workmen with one soldier, unarmed, were hewing sticks of timber about 200 yards from his house and mills on the east side of the harbor, they were surprised by about 40 [Mi’kmaq], who first fired two shots and then a volley upon them which killed four, two of whom they scalped, and cut off the heads of the others, the fifth is missing and is supposed to have been carried off.”

“The Governor deeming it expedient that some permanent system of judicial proceedings to answer the immediate exigencies of the Colony should be established, a committee of Council was accordingly appointed to examine the various systems in force in the old Colonies. On 13th December, Mr. Green reported that after a careful investigation, the laws of Virginia were found to be most applicable to the present situation of the province. The report was adopted. It referred principally to the judicial proceedings in the General Courts, the County Courts, and other tribunals.”

[More on the constitutional connections between Nova Scotia and Virginia: Virginia and Nova Scotia: An Historical Note, “As Near as May Be Agreeable to the Laws of this Kingdom”: Legal Birthright and Legal Baggage at Chebucto, 1749, Draught of H.M. Commission to Richard Philips to be Governor of Placentia and Cap. General and Governor in Chief of Nova Scotia or Accadie, June 19 1719 (relying on) Commission and Instructions to the Earl of Orkney for the Government of Virginia, 1715, Catalogue of books in the Nova Scotia Legislative Council Library, The First Charter of Virginia (1606)]

“In the month of August, 1750, three hundred and fifty-three settlers arrived in the ship Alderney… Those who came in the ship Alderney, were sent to the opposite side of the harbor, and commenced the town of Dartmouth, which was laid out in the autumn of that year. In December following, the first ferry was established, and John Connor appointed ferryman by order in Council.

In the Spring of the following year the [Mi’kmaq] surprised Dartmouth at night, scalped a number of settlers and carried oft several prisoners. The inhabitants, fearing an attack, had cut down the spruce trees around their settlement, which, instead of a protection, as was intended, served as a cover for the enemy. Captain Clapham and his company of Rangers were stationed on Block-house hill, and it is said remained within his block-house firing from the loop-holes, during the whole affair. The [Mi’kmaq] were said to have destroyed several dwellings, sparing neither women nor children. The light of the torches and the discharge of musketry alarmed the inhabitants of Halifax, some of whom put off to their assistance, but did not arrive in any force till after the [Mi’kmaq] had retired. The night was calm, and the cries of the settlers, and whoop of the [Mi’kmaq] were distinctly heard on the western side of the harbor. On the following morning, several bodies were brought over — the [Mi’kmaq] having carried off the scalps. Mr. Pyke, father of the late John George Pyke, Esq., many years police magistrate of Halifax, lost his life on this occasion. Those who fled to the woods were all taken prisoners but one. A court martial was called on the 14th May, to inquire into the conduct of the different commanding officers, both commissioned and non-commissioned, in permitting the village to be plundered when there were about 60 men posted there for its protection.

There was a guard house and small military post at Dartmouth from the first settlement, and a gun mounted on the point near the Saw Mill (in the cove) in 1749. One or two transports, which had been housed over during winter and store ships were anchored in the cove, under cover of this gun, and the ice kept broke around them to prevent the approach of the [Mi’kmaq]. The attempt to plant a settlement at Dartmouth, does not appear to have been at first very successful. Governor Hobson in his letter to the Board of Trade, dated 1st October, 1753, says, “At Dartmouth there is a small town well picketed in, and a detachment of troops to protect it, but there are not above five families residing in it, as there is no trade or fishing to maintain any inhabitants, and they apprehend danger from the [Mi’kmaq] in cultivating any land on the outer side of the pickets.”

There is no record of any concerted attack having been made by the [Mi’kmaq] or French on the town of Halifax.”

“German palatine settlers (arrived on the 10th of June 1751, and) they were employed at Dartmouth in picketing in the back of the town.”

“On February 3rd 1752, a public ferry was established between Halifax and Dartmouth and John Connors appointed ferryman for three years, with the exclusive privilege, and ferry regulations were also established.”

“The government mills at Dartmouth, under charge of Captain Clapham, were sold at auction in June. They were purchased by Major Gilman for $310.”

“In 1754, an order was made for permission to John Connors, to assign the Dartmouth Ferry to Henry Wynne and William Manthorne.”

January 26th 1756, the term of Henry Wynne and William Manthorne’s licenses of the Dartmouth and Halifax ferry having expired, John Rock petitioned and obtained the same on the terms of his predecessors.”

“(1757) was also memorable as the one in which Representative government was established in Nova Scotia. The subject of calling a Legislative Assembly had undergone much discussion. It had been represented by the Governor and Council, to the authorities in England, that such a step at that particular time would be fraught with much danger to the peace of the colony. Chief Justice Belcher, however, having given his opinion that the Governor and Council possessed no authority to levy taxes, and their opinion being confirmed in England, it was resolved by council on January 3rd 1757, that a representative system should be established and that twelve members should be elected by the province at large, until it could be conveniently divided into counties, and that the township of Halifax should send four members, Lunenburg two, Dartmouth one, Lawrencetown one, Annapolis Royal one, and Cumberland one, making in all twenty-two members, and the necessary regulations were also made for carrying into effect the object intended.”

“In September, 1785, a number of whalers from Nantucket came to Halifax ; three brigantines and one schooner, with crews and everything necessary for prosecuting the whale fishery, which they proposed to do under the British flag. Their families were to follow. A short time after they were joined by three brigantines and a sloop from the same place. On the twentieth of October following, the Chief Land Surveyor was directed to make return of such lands as were vacant at Dartmouth to be granted to Samuel Starbuck, Timothy Folger, and others, from Nantucket, to make settlement for the whalers. The Town of Dartmouth had been many years previously laid out in lots which had been granted or appropriated to individuals, some of whom had built houses, and others though then vacant, had been held and sold from time to time by their respective owners. Most of these lots were reported vacant by Mr. Morris, the surveyor, and seized upon by the Government, as it is said, without any proceeding of escheat, and re-granted to the Quakers from Nantucket, which caused much discontent, and questions of title arose and remained open for many years after.”

“The whale fishery was the chief subject which engaged the attention of the public during (1785). Much advantage was expected to accrue to the commerce of the place from the Quakers from Nantucket having undertaken to settle in Dartmouth. They went on prosperously for a short time, until they found the commercial regulations established in England for the Colonies were hostile to their interests, and they eventually removed, some of them, it is said, to Wales and other parts of Great Britain, where they carried on their fishery to more advantage.

A petition was presented this autumn to the Governor and Council from a number of merchants, tradesmen and other inhabitants, praying for a Charter of Incorporation for the Town of Halifax. This was the first occasion on which the subject was brought prominently before the public. It was, however, not deemed by the government ” expedient or necessary ” to comply with the prayer of the petition. The reasons are not given in the Minute of Council, which bears date 17th November, 1785. The names of the Councillors present were Richard Bulkeley, Henry Newton, Jonathan Binney, Arthur Goold, Alexander Brymer, Thomas Cochran and Charles Morris.

The functions of His Majesty’s Council at this period of our history embraced all departments of executive authority in the Colony. They were equally supreme in the control of town affairs as those of the province at large. The magistrates, though nominally the executive of the town, never acted in any matter of moment without consulting the Governor and Council. The existence of a corporate body having the sole control of town affairs would in a great measure deprive them of that supervision which they no doubt deemed, for the interest of the community, should remain in the Governor and Council.”

“Folger and Starbuck, the Quaker whalers, who settled at Dartmouth a year or two since, left (in 1792), for Milford Haven in Great Britain, where they expected to carry on their whale fishery with greater facilities than at Dartmouth.”

“…the Governor, M. Danseville, with several hundred prisoners and stores were brought to Halifax. They landed on the 20th of June (1793). Governor Danseville was placed on parole, and resided at Dartmouth for many years in the house known as Brook House, now or lately the residence of the Hon. Michael Tobin, Jr., about a couple of miles or more from Dartmouth town. The old gentleman displayed some taste in beautifying the grounds at Brook House. He built a fish pond and laid out walks among the beech and white birch groves near the house. The pond still remains, but the walks and most of the trees have long since disappeared. He remained a prisoner with an allowance from Government until the peace of 1814, when he returned to his own country a zealous royalist.”

“a poll tax had been imposed by Act of Legislature in 1791.”

“During the spring of 1796 Halifax suffered from a scarcity of provisions. The inhabitants were indebted to Messrs. Hartshorne and Tremain, whose mills at Dartmouth enabled them, through the summer, to obtain flour at a reduced price and to afford a sufficient supply for the fishery.”

“The following list of town officers appointed by the Grand Jury for the Town March 5th 1806, will be found interesting: … Edward Foster, Surveyor of highways from Dartmouth Town Plot to the Basin; Samuel Hamilton, Constable from Dartmouth Town Plot to the Basin; Jon. Tremain, Sr., William Penny, Surveyors of Highways, Dartmouth Town Plot; David Larnard, Constable, Dartmouth Town Plot; James Munn, Pound Keeper, Dartmouth Town Plot; Henry Wisdom, Surveyor of Highways from the Ferry up the Preston Road to Tanyard”

“In the autumn (of 1814) the small pox made its appearance in Dartmouth and Preston and was very fatal among the Chesapeake blacks].”

“There were two ferries (in 1815). The upper ferry was conducted by John Skerry, whose memory is still cherished by many, both in Dartmouth and Halifax, as one of the most obliging and civil men of his day. Skerry’s wharf in Dartmouth was a short distance south of the steam boat wharf (—at the foot of Ochterloney Street today). The other ferry was the property of Mr. James Creighton, known as the Lower Ferry, situate to the south of Mott’s Factory (—at the bottom of Old Ferry Road). It was conducted for Mr. Creighton by deputy and was afterwards held under lease by Joseph Findlay, the last man who ran a ferry boat with sails and oars in Halifax Harbor. These ferry boats were furnished with a lug sail and two and sometimes four oars. They were large clumsy boats and occupied some thirty or forty minutes in making the passage across the harbor. There were no regular trips at appointed hours. When the boat arrived at either side the ferryman blew his horn (a conch shell) and would not start again until he had a full freight of passengers. The sound of the conch and the cry of ”Over! Over! ” was the signal to go on board. The boats for both ferries landed at the Market Slip at Halifax.

An act of the Legislature had been obtained this session to incorporate a Steamboat Company with an exclusive privilege of the ferry between Halifax and Dartmouth for 25 years. They could not succeed in getting up a company, steam navigation being then in its infancy, and in the following year had the act amended to permit them to run a boat by horses to be called the Team-boat. This boat consisted of two boats or hulls united by a platform with a paddle between the boats. The deck was surmounted by a round house which contained a large cogwheel, arranged horizontally inside the round house, to which were attached 8 or 9 horses harnessed to iron stanchions coming down from the wheel. As the horses moved round, the wheel turned a crank which moved the paddle. It required about twenty minutes for this boat to reach Dartmouth from Halifax. It was considered an immense improvement on the old ferry boat arrangement, and the additional accommodation for cattle, carriages and horses was a great boon to the country people as well as to the citizens of Halifax, who heretofore had been compelled to employ Skerry’s scow when it was found necessary to carry cattle or carriages from one side of the harbor to the other.

The first trip of the Team-boat was made on the 8th November, 1810. The following year an outrage was committed which caused much excitement and feeling in the town. All the eight horses in the boat were stabbed by a young man named Hurst. No motive for this cruel act could be assigned, drunkenness alone appearing to be the cause. The culprit was tried for the offence and suffered a lengthy imprisonment. Mr. Skerry kept up a contest with the Company for several years, until all differences were arranged by his becoming united with the Company, and after a short time old age and a small fortune, accumulated by honest industry, removed him from the scene of his labors.

The team-boat after a year or two received an addition to her speed by the erection of a mast in the centre of the round house, on which was hoisted a square sail when the wind was fair, and afterwards a topsail above, which gave her a most picturesque appearance on the water. This addition considerably facilitated her motion and relieved the horses from their hard labor. As traffic increased several small paddle boats were added by the Company, which received the appellation of Grinders. They had paddles at the sides like a steamboat, which were moved by a crank turned by two men. In 1818 the proprietors of the old ferries petitioned the House of Assembly against the Teamboat Company suing these small boats as contrary to the privilege given them by the Act of Incorporation. It afterwards became a subject of litigation until the question was put an end to by Mr. Skerry becoming connected with the Company. Jos. Findlay continued to run his old boats from the south or lower ferry until about the year 1835.”

“During the month of February (1818), the harbor was blocked up with float ice as far down as George’s Island. Between 13th and 20th, persons crossed from Dartmouth on the ice at the Narrows.”

“By the 27th of January 1821 the ice formed a firm bridge between Halifax and Dartmouth, over which a continuous line of sleighs, teams and foot passengers might be seen on market days.”

Akins, Thomas B., 1809-1891. History of Halifax City. [Halifax, N.S.?: s.n.], 1895.

The Development of Public Health in Nova Scotia

Throughout the history of Nova Scotia, epidemics and infectious diseases have been recurring challenges, shaping legislation and public health measures. From as early as Champlain’s account of scurvy in 1606 to the smallpox outbreaks in the 18th and 19th centuries, diseases like smallpox, cholera, and typhus have had significant impacts on the region’s population.

Similarities can be drawn between past responses to epidemics and the modern approach to managing COVID-19. Social distancing measures, such as quarantine and isolation, were enforced through legislation dating back to the 18th century. Centralized decision-making, often led by governmental bodies or health officials, played a crucial role in implementing and enforcing these measures. For instance, laws were passed to regulate the entry of infected vessels into ports, mandate quarantine procedures, and appoint health officers to oversee public health initiatives.

Over time, legislation evolved to address specific diseases and public health challenges. Measures included the establishment of quarantine stations, vaccination programs, and the creation of boards of health to oversee public health initiatives at the local and provincial levels.

“Disaster is frequently the parent of legislation. In surveying the long history of Nova Scotia, we find this saying particularly true.”

“The first recorded instance of illness in Nova Scotia is the account of Champlain of an outbreak of scurvy at Port Royal in 1606. His group of settlers had spent the winter of 1605 at St. Croix Island, where, of a group of seventy-nine, forty-four died of scurvy. In Port Royal in the following year twelve of forty-five died.”

“Of all the epidemics, that of smallpox carried with it the greatest destruction and terror. In 1694 an epidemic was present among the [Mi’kmaq] of Acadia, but we have no knowledge of the number dying as a result. We may be sure it was large, however…”

“There was again an outbreak in Acadia in 1709 where there is evidence to suggest that the disease was of the hemorrhagic type. It was present in Louisburg in 1749. In October of the same year, a few months after the founding of Halifax, it broke out in this settlement. It was particularly destructive in type and during the autumn and winter months about one thousand persons died.”

“In 1801 we find it again in Nova Scotia and there is definite evidence that it was present the previous year. The total number of deaths in 1800 was one hundred and eighty-two, of which one hundred and thirty-eight contracted the disease in the ordinary manner and fourty-four by direct inoculation. In the epidemic of 1801, there were over 8,500 cases in and about Halifax of which accounts are scanty.

The early records indicate that a large number of persons were immunized by inoculation. Vaccination with cowpox was first used in Nova Scotia in the early spring of 1802 by Dr. Joseph Norman Bond of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.”

“A terrible epidemic, that was in all probability typhus, prevented a successful French invasion in the summer of 1746. A fleet of seventy sailing vessels, having on board 3,150 disciplined troops under the command of the Duc D’Anville, was sent from France to join a force of 1,700 French troops in Nova Scotia. The expedition was to first take Annapolis Royal and then Boston, proceeding thereafter to the West Indies. The fleet arrived in Halifax Harbor, or as it was then known, Chebucto Harbor, ninety days after leaving France. During the voyage, 1,270 men had died and the remainder were ill. The Canadian force had, in the meantime, grown tired of waiting and had retraced its steps to Quebec. After landing the troops an additional number, probably about 1,200, died. The [Mi’kmaq] who approached the camp on the shore of Bedford Basin contracted the disease and in the months following, it is estimated that at least one third of the whole [Mi’kmaq] tribe in the province died.”

“On September 7, 1827, the brig “Fame” arrived in Halifax with 130 persons on board ill with typhus. Smallpox was prevalent in the city at the same time. There was a great loss of life from the two diseases. A large number of deaths were amongst the poor. Some 800 persons of the 11,000 inhabitants died. From Halifax the disease spread to other parts of the province. The first mention of cholera in Nova Scotia is in 1834. It continued for two or three months, particularly in Halifax and about twenty persons died daily.”

“In 1854 a severe epidemic of cholera broke out in Saint John, New Brunswick. It fortunately did not reach Halifax, but its proximity brought such anxiety to the minds of the legislators of that day that as a direct result a City Hospital was built. This afterwards became in turn the City and Provincial Hospital, and the Victoria General Hospital.”

“A ship arrived at Halifax with cholera on board in 1866. Dr. Slater of Halifax, one of those who went on board to care for the victims, died as a result of the disease. It does not appear that an outbreak followed. In 1871 the steamship “Franklyn” came to Halifax with cholera on board. The disease was carried ashore to Chezzetcook, on the coast east of Halifax, where two deaths occurred. So far as is known this was the extent of its spread.”

“Since 1749 various outbreaks of the infectious fevers, particularly scarlet fever and diphtheria, have occurred throughout the province. Diphtheria was particularly fatal amongst children. As these diseases were almost endemic, the public grew used to them and they did not strike the same terror into the populace as those brought by ships. It was the old story of an evil that became tolerated and as a result, public records contain little reference to the ordinary infectious diseases.”

“As previously mentioned, legislation, often temporary, was enacted from time to time following the appearance of epidemic diseases. While there is little doubt that the medical profession from time to time played a part, a great deal Of credit must be given the official bodies of Government for their efforts to meet the recurring dangers.

A perusal of the Uniacke Edition of the Statutes (1758 to 1804) of Nova Scotia, reveals that in the year 1761 an Act was passed which provided that vessels entering the port of Halifax with an infected person or infected persons on board, must anchor at least two miles from town, having an ensign with the Union down at her mast head; no persons were to land and the master was to give notice to the Governor and conform to his orders. Before infected persons were landed, the master was required to give security to pay attending charges; masters violating this Act were to forfeit 100 pounds, to be recovered in a court of record. In other towns one or more of the nearest justices were charged with the responsibility of preventing persons landing from or going on board infected vessels and of transmitting intelligence to the Governor for instructions.

In 1775 authority was given to two justices and the overseers of the poor to make provision for the care of persons coming from infected places and of local persons infected. If such persons were unable to pay the incidental expenses, the town of residence was made liable; if strangers, the charge was to be recovered from the Provincial Treasury.

Provision was made for “inoculating” such persons as desired it against smallpox in houses 160 rods from any dwelling. During the period of resulting illness they were not allowed to go farther than 80 rods from the inoculation houses and flags were to be flown on the premises in order that others might avoid the places.

In 1779 reference is made to the neighboring States of America having been, for several years, visited by yellow fever or “Putrid Fever” or other “Infectious Distempers” and as a consequence, the desirability of requiring persons coming from infected places to “perform” quarantine in such manner as may be ordered by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor or Commander in Chief for the time being and “for punishing offenders in a more expeditious manner than can be done by the ordinary course of law”. The Governor, Lieutenant Governor or Commander in Chief was given authority and was obliged to appoint during pleasure, health officers in all counties and districts of the province ; such officers, duly sworn, were to be paid out of the provincial treasury a reasonable sum for services rendered upon presentation of the accounts to the General Assembly. The 1799 legislation was quite drastic and gave wide powers to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor or Commander in Chief and health officers, to compel quarantine, to punish offenders, to use force if necessary, and to burn or purify goods, wearing apparel, beds, etc. It was provided that “two justices, with the overseers of the poor, where authorized by Governor’s proclamation and after consulting skillful persons, might make provision for treating persons, storing and airing goods on vessels, for removing persons and goods to houses, tents or lazarets appointed for the purpose”. “Skillful persons” as defined in the Act, meant “one or more physicians, surgeons, apothecaries or other skillful persons living in or near the place.” Persons refusing to conform were liable to imprisonment for 6 months or a fine of 50 pounds. “Persons concealing from health officers or emerging letters or goods from a vessel, shall be guilty of a felony, without benefit of clergy”. “Governor’s orders respecting quarantine to be published by proclamation and read the first Sunday in every month in places of public worship.”

In 1809 legislation was enacted which obliged persons within the “town” of Halifax, to keep gutters and streets before their houses, buildings or lots, clear of dirt, filth and nuisances of all kinds. A fine of 20 shillings was imposed on anyone permitting such nuisances and the expenses incurred in removing them.

On the 14th day of April, 1832, two important pieces of public health legislation were placed upon the Statute books of the province. Both appear to demonstrate how apprehensive the authorities of that time were respecting the spread of communicable diseases and particularly their desire to prevent the entry of these from without. By their introduction all previous legislation on the same subject was repealed. One was termed “An Act to prevent the spreading of contagious diseases and for the performance of quarantine” and the other “An Act more effectually to provide against the introduction of infectious or contagious diseases and the spreading thereof in the province”.

The first Act provided for quarantine at definite anchorage points of all vessels coming from ports declared to be infected by the Governor-in-Council. Plague, smallpox, yellow fever, typhus and cholera morbus were mentioned. Power was given the chief officers of the crown to make orders dealing with any health emergency which might arise. Masters of infected vessels were required to report their state and to hoist signals when meeting other vessels, or when within two leagues of land; the day signal—”a large yellow flag of six breadths of bunting at the main top mast head”, and the night large signal lantern, with a light therein at the same mast head”. Penalties up to 200 pounds could be imposed for disobedience or refractory behavior. Provision was made for appointing health officers, superintendents of quarantine and assistants at the several ports, by the Governor.

In the second Act reference is made to a highly dangerous disease called “Cholera” or “Spasmodia” or “Indian Cholera”, which had prevailed on the continent of Europe and in Great Britain. Power was given the Governor to appoint, when expedient, at the several ports of the province, not only health officers, but boards of health for “carrying out and enforcing regulations made by the Governor-in-Council and generally to preserve the public health.” Sweeping powers were given the chief officers of the Crown to make regulations in emergencies.

All ships entering port were required to anchor at quarantine and remain there until boarded by a health officer and given a permit, which permit had to be shown the customs officer. Fees for the health officer’s services in this particular were collected from the masters by the customs officers and paid to the health officers; such fees were fixed by the Governor-in-Council.

This Act also gave the Governor power to appoint “Health Wardens” in Halifax and Justices of the Peace authority to appoint such wardens in any county or district of the province, the wardens to act gratuitously and to be sworn to the due performance of their duties. Wardens were required to examine in day time, as often as they deemed necessary, all houses, buildings, lots, stores, wharves, yards, enclosures and other places and all vessels and boats lying at any place in the province and to ascertain and report to the Governor, or such other persons as might be appointed to receive such reports, “the state and condition of all such buildings, places and vessels in regard to any substances, articles or animals there or therein being, or any trade or business, matter or thing there or therein used, followed or transacted, whereby or by means whereof any nuisance might be occasioned or the public health might be endangered or affected”. The wardens were given power to order the removal of all nuisances and to order any premises “lime washed”, disinfected or “purified”. Penalties of 5 to 100 pounds could be imposed for any infringement of the act.

The two Acts just referred to were to be in force for one year. From this time on and for many years both Acts were, at each session of the legislature. continued for another year.

Chapter 71 of the Acts of 1833 made provision for the destroying. by any constable, of dogs by whose bite the disease “Canine Madness” might be occasioned. Two Justices of the Peace were empowered to make and put into execution such rules and regulations as they thought proper to prevent dogs or other animals, by whose bite the disease “Canine Madness” might be caused, going at large and to destroy them if necessary.

In the year 1850 authority was vested in general sessions of the Peace, or special sessions, consisting of not less than seven magistrates on requisition of the Board of Health, or whenever they considered such measures necessary to prevent the spread of smallpox, to order a general vaccination of persons in a county or district, or any portion thereof ; persons unable to pay to be vaccinated at the expense of the county or district concerned.

On April 8, 1852, a statute was passed empowering the Governor-in-Council to select a site and erect a building for a lunatic asylum.

On the 28th day of March, 1861, legislative enactment was given for the incorporation of the Medical Society of Nova Scotia. In the act of incorporation, the following were named : Rufus S, Black, James C. Hume, Edward Jennings, Daniel McNeil Parker and William B. Webster.

In the year 1862 legal provision was made for the appointment of a medical officer for the City of Halifax by the Board of Health of the City. This medical officer was not to interfere with the health officer for the port of Halifax, appointed by the Provincial Government. The city medical officer was to be under the control and subject to the orders of the Board of Health. He was given power to remove from dwellings in the city, or from boats at wharves within the city, persons having infectious diseases. If the sick persons should not, in his opinion be taken out, then the other occupants could, by him, be removed. He was also authorized to call in consultants; such consultants to be paid out of city funds. In the following year (1863) it was enacted that hereafter the mayor and aldermen of the City of Halifax should constitute the Board of Health of the city and any Acts previously passed and inconsistent with this ruling were thereby repealed.

Three years later (1866) provision was made for the establishment of a quarantine station at the port of Halifax. That Act empowered the Governor to expend $30,000.00 for the purchase of a site and the erection of a hospital, the City of Halifax having agreed to bear one-third of the expenses of the site and the building. Persons within the city having infectious diseases were to be eligible for treatment in and subject to removal to this station. All vessels over 100 tons burden entering the port were made liable to a fee of one cent per ton towards the expenses of maintaining such quarantine station and hospital. Mail steamers were required to pay this fee once a year. Vessels sent into quarantine with infectious diseases were held responsible for all expenses on account of crew or passengers aboard suffering from such diseases.

On the 7th day of May, 1866, an Act to provide against the introduction of diseases amongst horses and cattle was passed. The Governor-in-Council was given the power to make regulations respecting the introduction of such diseases in horses, cattle, sheep and swine and for the destruction of the animals should these diseases be introduced.

In the same year the mayor and all aldermen in the City of Halifax were made “Health Wardens” with power to expend money in sums found necessary to cleanse, purify and keep clean all sewers, drains, yards and places, or to carry into effect all sanitary orders of the Board of Health or health wardens in the interests of the public health.

Legislative authority in the year 1875 more clearly defined the duties of the city medical officer and the office of surgeon to the city prison was abolished. The following duties were imposed upon the city medical officer:

  • 1. “To perform services heretofore performed by the City Medical Offcer and prison surgeon”.
  • 2. “Act as medical advisor to the Board of Health, the City Council and the Health Inspectors,”
  • 3. ‘Visit City Policemen and other city offcials absent from duty on the plea of ill health and report to proper authority”.
  • 4. “To attend policemen, firemen or other city officials gratuitously, also persons brought to the police station”.
  • 5. “Vaccinate free of charge such persons as the Board of Health may determine”.
  • 6. ‘Visit and report upon cases of contagious disease brought to his notice”.
  • 7. “Generally to perform all such duties as may be reasonably required or prescribed by the Board of Health or City Council”.

In 1832 a Central Board of Health was established for the province. The President was the Honourable Henry H. Cogswell. Vice-Presidents were Doctors Allan and Johnston. Members were the Attorney-General; the Solicitor- General James Foreman, Esq., Doctors Shoreland, Hume, Sterling and Gregor and William Cogswell, Esq. The last named was the Secretary of the Board. This Central Board was given power to make and enforce regulations, to prevent spread of disease and to regulate the observance of quarantine. At the same time, local Boards were established in various places throughout the province, each having the same authority as the Central Board and each required to report its proceedings to the Central authority. At this time, Boards were named at Digby, Arichat, Lunenburg, Liverpool, Yarmouth, Windsor and Annapolis. There was some indication also that County Boards for Pictou, Hants, Kings, Cumberland and Antigonish were established.

A quarantine hospital was opened in Halifax and Dr. James C. Hume was appointed Health Officer with a “salary of twenty pounds a month while employed, with reasonable allowances for expenses.”

In 1851 all previous legislation relating to public health was consolidated. The Central Board apparently ceased to exist about this time and enforcements of quarantine and the administration of public health were vested in the Governor-in-Council, who had authority to “make quarantine orders applicable to vessels, goods, persons and things being within the province or expected hither from abroad ; to make sanitary orders to cover any special conditions that might arise; to appoint persons at the several ports of the province to act as health officers therefor; to establish at any place a Board of Health for carrying such sanitary orders into effect ; and to prescribe the duties of health officers and Boards of Health”. Health inspectors were to be appointed at general or special court sessions and in Halifax and other parts of the province health wardens were appointed.

The legislation of 1851 remained almost without change until 1873. At this time, some change was made with reference to executive officials and the requirements added that a yellow flag should be displayed on the premises where small-pox or “malignant cholera” prevailed. After 1884 the appointment of health wardens was made by the municipal councils instead of by the courts. In 1893 a Central Board of Health was established as a central organization.”

CAMPBELL, P. S., and H. L. SCAMMELL. “The Development of Public Health in Nova Scotia.” Canadian Public Health Journal, vol. 30, no. 5, 1939, pp. 226–238. JSTOR, Accessed 27 Jan. 2021.

The treatment of Halifax’s poor house dead during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

“By 1799, only three hospitals continued to function in the city: the hospital for the Maroons at Dartmouth, the naval hospital, and the poor house hospital.”

“It appears from the archival records that the manufacturing of coffins proved to be a significant source of revenue for the institution, supplying coffins for the use of the town, the Cholera Hospital, the Richmond and Melville Island Hospitals, Dartmouth Hospital, Waterloo Hospital, the Bank Head Hospital, as well as the City Home. In the account books recorded on October 21, 1827, the sum of £15.s5 was received by the poorhouse for 61 coffins supplied to the Bank Head Hospital. In August 1834, 101 large coffins and 15 small coffins were made and sold to the town of Halifax and the cholera hospital bringing in a revenue of £32.s6.d6. Another £13.s0.d0 was received in December 1847 for 26 coffins supplied to the Richmond and Melville Island Hospitals.

Interestingly, though inmates were employed to manufacture coffins for the town and local hospitals, they were also fabricating their own final resting place. In 1827 when the smallpox epidemic spread through the poor house killing 116 men, 67 women, and 64 children, 247 coffins were made for the dead of the institution. Such bleak work was not an uncommon task for inmates.”

Simpson, Cynthia. “The treatment of Halifax’s poor house dead during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries” A Thesis Submitted to Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts, Atlantic Canada Studies, August 2011

Seth Coleman


From the Reports of the London Vaccine Institution, we have a contribution from July 28th, 1823 about Dartmouthian and Quaker Seth Coleman and how he tended to the people of Preston (and Dartmouth at large) who had smallpox.

In 1814, when the “medical gentleman of the town of Halifax were not to be induced to cross the harbour”, Seth Coleman stepped in and saved the lives of at least 423 people, including 285 black refugees and 59 Mi’kmaw.

Coleman relayed that his feelings were “often hurt at the expressions of people who are ignorant of (the refugees’) situations.”

An experience corroborated in ‘The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832’ by Alan Taylor and ‘The Blacks in Canada: A History’ By Robin William Winks.


natalday race 1908

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

A major change in educational arrangements was made by an Act of the Legislature in 1908 when all districts outside the boundaries of Dartmouth were separated from the Town, as far as school accommodation was concerned. Ever since incorporation in 1873, Dartmouth had provided for the education of pupils living in the vicinity of Tufts’ Cove, of Cole Harbor Road and of Woodside. Residents of these places then paid school taxes to the Town, and general taxes to the County. The new Act authorized the organization of the Woodside-Tufts’ Cove School Section, having its own Board of Trustees. The County subsequently purchased from the Town of Dartmouth the two school buildings in these areas. The price paid was $7,435.

Dartmouth councilors unsuccessfully opposed this bill in the Legislature because they held out hopes of bringing Woodside into the Town in future years and because Dartmouth had then just begun to receive a substantial school tax from the Sugar refinery after a long period of exemption. It was said at the time that difficulty arose from the circumstance that Dartmouth assessors were assessing property in the County by the same yardstick as they used in the Town. The result was that Dartmouth assessment values for school rates in the County sections were nearly twice as high as the values levied by the County assessors. The sugar refinery naturally sought the cheaper governing body.

Down at the ferry, some sweeping changes were made in commutation tickets. For instance, the family ticket of $3 per month was abolished completely. It was pointed out that some families comprised ten or twelve persons who were thus crossing at a ridiculously low rate, while adult transients paid a straight five-cent fare. The rate of 67 cents per month for women, and of 84 cents per month for male minors, went up to $1.00 each. For adult males, the price remained at $1.50. The rate of 34 cents a month for domestic servants, a relic of the past, was also abolished. In that year, Charles A. Hunter succeeded Henry Watt as Ferry Superintendent. He had been on the boats some 10 years.

One of Captain Hunter’s first assignments was the transporting of nearly 8,000 passengers who crossed over on the boats for the Natal Day celebrations on July 30th. Many came in the morning to witness the finish of the first modified Marathon race from Halifax to Dartmouth via Bedford and Burnside. Hans Holmer won.

Enthusiasm for boat racing was at its height during the rowing season of 1908, for it was the year of the Olympic games. The 4-oared shell crews of St. Mary’s, North West Arm and North Star Clubs held contests in June, and finished so closely together every time, that all three were sent to the Canadian trials in St. Catherine’s, Ontario. At that place, the final winners were the Argonaut four of Toronto.

At Dartmouth on Natal Day, the North Stars easily capture the senior shell contest. At the Lorne Club regatta they broke a oar, and were out of the race. At Springfield Mass., on August 14th St. Mary’s crew won the straightaway championship of America On August 22nd, the North Stars defeated St. Mary’s and three other crews at the Arm regatta. Finally on Labor Day, the North Stars again won the Maritime Championship, and set a new record of nine minutes for the 1 ½ mile course. One length behind then came the second North Star entry of Curren brothers, Faulkner and Keddy. St. Mary’s, Lornes and Arm crews followed in order.

On summer evenings an amateur baseball league attracted crowds to the Chebucto Grounds, which was then unfenced. I: autumn there would be four or five tug-of-war tournaments held in the wooden rink. Athletic organizations then active in Dartmouth included the D.B.C.A., Banooks, Centrals, North Stars, St. Peter’s, Mount Amelias, Dartmouth Harriers, and Woodside Club.

Supervisor of Schools Ernest W. Robinson terminated his Dartmouth engagement in June, and was succeeded by William C Stapleton. Like his predecessors he taught the Grade IX class until one o’clock. After dinner he had numerous other duties.

During the year 1908, the water and sewerage system to the north-end was practically completed. A new stone-crusher operated by water-power was set up on the Walker property, just north of Findlay’s Pond on the location of the present Tourist Bureau. A granite curb and the first piece of concrete sidewalk were laid a’ Sterns’ corner. In the matter of health, there was another mild smallpox scare when some 40 slight cases were quarantined. In addition, about 28 houses were placarded for diphtheria.

Here are 60 Halifax and Dartmouth runners at the DBCA Hall ready for the Williams Cup race around Woodlawn on Thanksgiving Day 1908. The tall man with the beaver hat at the door, is Mayor Notting. On his right is Stephen Myatt, and then James Tobin. Left of the Mayor are G.P. Monohan, H.R. Walker, H.W. Hewitt, Ross Day. A hand is on Harry Young’s shoulder. Down from him is Aldred Rodgers dressed in white, and with arms folded. He won the race. At Rodger’s right is James Martin, then A.C Pettipas, then the third next runner wearing sash is Harry Smith. At Rodgers’ left is J.J. Myatt, then Albert Downey who was second. D.R. Patterson is kneeling second from left. James Renner in bowler hat, is at extreme left. Crowds of spectators were lined along Ochterloney Street.


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

In February 1902 the last of the old-style “Town meetings” was held. The question discussed that night was the purchase of Daniel Donovan’s pasture-land which drained into Lake Lamont. On a show of hands, the proposal was rejected by a vote of 42 to 27. Within the next few weeks, legislation was obtained providing that in future all such matters must be decided by a plebiscite.

An act to consolidate the Acts relating to the town of Dartmouth — 1902, c56, §169: “Before any of said debentures are issued the expenditure shall be approved by a vote of the majority of the ratepayers assessed on real estate, taken under the provisions of this Act respecting extraordinary expenditure. (1899, c.61, §3.)”

In 1902 a frightful epidemic of smallpox struck at Dartmouth. The dreadful disease raged from February until the end of June. It began in Halifax. Twenty-three cases broke out in various parts of the Town, and one death resulted. Watchmen in sentry-boxes maintained a 24-hour vigil outside each yellow-flagged house. Dr. Joseph Doyle of Halifax, whose services were engaged, devoted full time to the task. He had his own quarters, and kept himself isolated from people even to the extent of walking in the middle of the street as he made daily and nightly rounds to his patients. The cost to the Town of this outbreak totaled about $200 every week.

In April, night-watchman William Webber was drowned at Stairs’ wharf. Arthur Trider then joined the force as Policeman No. 3.

The Boer War ended in June. At Halifax the occasion was celebrated by a torchlight procession. At Dartmouth there were a few bonfires on hilltops, and lighted candles illuminating house-windows.

About this time the proposal to build a bridge across the harbor was being promoted by the Dartmouth Board of Trade. During the previous months they also had been agitating for the construction of the Musquodoboit Railway, or the Eastern Railway.

What gave impetus to the bridge project was the circumstance that the Halifax and Southwestern Railway was then undergoing construction, and the idea was to provide a continuous line of communication along the south shore of the Province from Yarmouth to Guysboro, crossing Halifax Harbor by a bridge. Besides rail traffic, there was to be a lane for vehicles. The Halifax Board of Trade strongly endorsed the plan.

The Dartmouth Board were informed that the cost of an iron bridge with stone abutements would be about $300,000.

Natal Day was revived in 1902, and planned for Thursday, August 7th, but rain forced a postponement until September 9th.

King Edward VII was crowned that summer. There were only a few elderly people still surviving who had lived through the last coronation of a British Sovereign. One of them was Mrs. Thomas Mott, southeast corner of Ochterloney and Dundas Streets, who related to a “Dartmouth Patriot” reporter how Dartmouth looked when Queen Victoria was crowned in 1838.

At that time Dartmouth was but a small village surrounded by a forest. What is now Austenville was mostly forest owned by James Austen, Crown Land Surveyor. There never was any good reason for the name “Slabtown”. It originated from the first houses having been covered with slabs instead of clapboards.

Footpaths ran here and there among the tall trees, and Toddy Brook wound its way down through the woods from Mount Thom. Children considered it a wonderful trip through the forest of Mount Thom. Picnics were also held in the thick woods near the brook where John White now lives.

In that year, some $2,000 was spent renovating the Town Hall which gave us the present Council Chamber and an enlarged Town Clerk’s Office. A workshop was built in the rear of the Fire Engine House. At Dartmouth Park, a bandstand was erected. E. J. Butcher purchased from George Sterns the drugstore on Ochterloney Street which the latter had previously acquired from Parker Mott. At the suggestion of Albert Hutchinson, ice-dealer, the name Prince Albert Road was now being applied to that part of Canal Street from the lower bridge to the Town limits. The street name was changed at this time to commemorate the coronation of the late Prince Albert’s son, who is now King Edward VII.


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

In the winter of 1882 the dreaded smallpox made its appearance in the home of ex-Councillor Maurice Downey. One of his sons and a maid named Catherine O’Neil unexpectedly contracted the disease. Both died.

Despite the fact that the Federal Government was now extending railway tracks from North Street to Cornwallis Street, and buying up Halifax waterfront property for a grain elevator and piers at Deep Water, Dartmouth people persisted in their efforts to obtain railway connection. At an expense of $101.24 they sent Warden John Y. Payzant and Councillor Benjamin Russell to Ottawa for another attempt. Upon their return these delegates reported that there was no prospect whatever of any government assistance in the matter.

Backward weather that April recalled to old residents the hard winter of 1816-1817 when Bedford Basin froze so solidly that the ice was passable for heavy sleighs until the 15th of that month. Traffic over the Eastern Passage continued until the 25th, they said.

Other items in newspapers of 1882 record the destruction by fire in April of Mumford’s Machine Shop, north of the “Barracks”. About the same time a monster whale made its appearance near Dartmouth ferry wharf. Some 20 feet of the mammal showed above water.

Early in 1882 a number of local artisans, mostly shipwrights, left here for Honolulu to work at building a marine railway. They were engaged for a year by Horace Crandall, who formerly lived in Dartmouth at 37 King Street. The men were Edward Whebby (diver), James Durant, Allan McDonald, Dougald Walsh, Matthew Brennan, Joseph Williams, Alfred Kuhn, Harry Pheener, George Black, John Debaie. Wages were $50 a month and $1 a day for board.

James G. Foster resigned as Town Magistrate and was succeeded by Benjamin Russell. Salary $400. There was a noticeable improvement evident in the order and peace of the town, which condition was attributed to the fact that there were only nine tavern licenses issued in 1882 compared with a high of 19 in the year 1879. The number of court cases tried in 1882 was 99, compared with 234 cases in 1878.

John P. Mott petitioned the Council to grade the sidewalk fronting his “Hazelhurst,, property on Eastern Passage Road where he intended to lay a plank sidewalk.

Contractor John T. Walker built a four-room addition to Central School that year at a cost of $1,200. He also constructed the Peter Douglass’ house on Windmill Road, and Christ Church rectory in the shelter of the cliff on Wentworth Street.

A granite street-crossing was laid from Jennett’s crockery-ware store on Portland Street to the Post Office corner directly opposite. School teacher C. E. McKenzie resigned his position, and was succeeded by Harris S. Congdon of Port Williams. The school enrolment was now 745. Dartmouth Agricultural Society held their second annual Exhibition at the Reform Club Hall in September. John E. Leadley advertised for sale the stock and plant of Dartmouth Foundry in Mill Cove, known as Leadley and Cobb’s.


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

A packet-boat from England which arrived on Saturday, May 21, 1814, brought the most welcome news in 20 years to Governor Nicholas D’Anseville still in exile at Woodlawn. Napoleon had abdicated; and the Bourbon King Louis XVIII was being restored!

Mrs. Lawson, in her History of Dartmouth, says that the enthusiasm and excitement of the old Governor knew no bounds. Dressing himself in the old royalist uniform with the white hat of the Bourbons, he abandoned his customary dignity, and marched up and down the road during one whole afternoon, shouting “Vive La France”.

In the autumn of 1814, smallpox broke out in an alarming manner in the village of Dartmouth. Dr. Samuel Head, prominent Halifax auctioneer, recommended Seth Coleman as a man competent to render the inhabitants medical aid, because “He has long been in the habit of assisting people of Dartmouth, and has thereby acquiring considerable knowledge of diseases occurring among them”.

On orders from Lieut. Governor Sir John Sherbrooke, Mr. Coleman subsequently vaccinated over 400 poor persons in Dartmouth and Preston, with great success.

See also:

Seth Coleman