January 24, 2008
In his publication entitled Black Nova Scotians John N. Grant (1980:31) described how the Stag Hotel 1, an Inn located in Preston, was sometimes the terminus of Lt. Governor Joseph Howe’s carriage drives.” (p. 31.) Stag Hotel is a clever play on words as the proprietor was William Deer, an African Canadian.
This inn is referred to at length in Manette’s thesis (1990) where she describes and quotes Mrs. Deer. It is also in Brown’s Illustrated History of Canada (Brown 1987: 287) but no mention is made of the fact that the owners were black.
The book by John N. Grant entitled Black Nova Scotians was produced by Nova Scotia Communications and Information Centre and published by the Nova Scotia Museum as part of the Education Resource Service Program presenting the history of the Black Nova Scotians both as a people and as an important chapter in the history of Nova Scotia. It asserts the unique heritage of Black Nova Scotians. It traces the history from the arrival of the first Black Loyalists in 1793, the Refugees of the War of 1812 through the period of slavery examinging the role of education and religion. Grant underlines the fact that mainstream white educators overlooked the existence of black history.
The Stag Hotel, was popular with Halifax sportsmen for its hunting and fishing. On May 28, 1873, Joseph Howe — ex-premier and new Lieutenant-Governor of the province — visited it for sentimental reasons. But the long drive was too much for his failing health, and he died three days later (Brown 1987: 287).”We inserted this image of a mid-19th century oil painting by an anonymous artist into a Google generated map of Preston, Nova Scotia. This image was uploaded from my Flickr account and is geotagged to a spot near the Black Cultural Centre in Cherrybrook, Nova Scotia. I am not sure of the exact location of the Stag Hotel in Preston although I know it is ten miles east of Dartmouth.
The words on the sign were written by Colonel William Charnley. He described the Stag Hotel kept by William Dear:
“Outside the House looks somewhat queer, Only Look-in, and there’s no fear, But you’ll find Inside, the best of Cheer, Brandy, Whiskey, Hop, Spruce, Ginger Beer, Clean Beds and food for Horses here: Round about, both far and near, Are Streams for Trout, and Woods for Deer. To suit the Public taste, ’tis clear, Bill Dear will Labour, so will his dearest dear (Brown 1987: 287) .”
Grant also included an illustration of the sign and the inn in his Black Nova Scotians.
Grant’s (1980) helpful publication is a useful complement to Winks’ drier read. I have incorporated many of my notes from this book into my chronology. In 1783, after the American Revolution, 50,000 Loyalists came to Maritimes. 3,000 were Black. Many, both black and white were disillusioned. Life was so difficult that many whites Loyalists chose to go back to the United States. The Black Loyalists couldn’t. In Nova Scotia Black Loyalists who had been promised land were having great difficulty. Thomas Peters, a former sergeant with the Black Pioneers, went to England with a petition for land grants that had been denied Black Loyalists. Some of the most industrious Black Loyalists emigrated at that time to Sierre Leone from Nova Scotia. In 1796 543 Maroons arrived in Nova Scotia. Maroons had waged war with Britain for 140 years (1655 – 1796) in Jamaica. In Halifax the Maroons built Citadel Hill fortifications. Wentworth ordered special uniforms for them and named the officers but the Maroons had control of their own hierarchy. Money ran out and the Maroons became increasingly impatient with continual discomfort and hardships. The Maroons, as well, eventually agreed to go to Sierre Leone. They left in 1801. Only a few remained. Slavery did exist in Nova Scotia but by 1810 it was largely a dead issue. Although not completely abolished until the 1830′s the law would not assist slave-owners to catch runaway slaves. During the War of 1812-1814 Cochrane promised freedom to to Chesapeake Bay area slaves who crossed over to British lines. He had planned to recruit the newly freed slaves to the army. The Black troops `the Colonial Marines’ produced the desired effect on the side of the British. Many of them, 1500-2000 would later come to Nova Scotia. Their first winter was extremely difficult. The land given to them was not rich enough for agriculture but they had no other alternatives. The war economy of Nova Scotia was booming. But after the war was the slowdown. The 1815 smallpox epidemic added to the difficulties. In 1820s ome of the Colonial Marines were sent to Ireland Island in Bermuda and others emigrated to Trinidad. There were a few success stories among the Black community. Mr. Campbell, a successful businessman in the 1830′s owned the chief livery stable in Halifax. His farm and stock were comparable to Lieutenant Governor Sir James Kempt. However, most remained as unskilled labourers. Cross-reference to [ Halifax Robert Field]. There is a wonderful story of the role black ministers played re: education and social change as well as an 1850 illustration of Richard Preston. There is also a beautiful story of how he found his mother in Preston. In 1901 there were 5,984 black Nova Scotians (1% of the population). In the same year there were 17,432 black Canadians. In 1873 a Depression hit Canada. Canada continued to experience the financial bust until the Klondike gold strike in the 1890′s. The boom in the West did not help the Maritimes in general and was particularly devastating for the already vulnerable black Nova Scotians.Grant concludes by celebrating the lives of seven Black Nova Scotians including champion boxer: George Dixon, Dr. W. H. Golor college president, William Hall, VC (1826-1904) and B.A. Husbands, president of Halifax Coloured Citizens Improvement League.Webliography and Bibliography
Grant, John N. 1980. Black Nova Scotians. Halifax. Nova Scotia Museum.
Manette, J. A. 1990. Revelation, Revolution, or Both: Black Art as Cultural Politics. Toronto.
Brown, Robert Craig, Ed. 1987. The Illustrated History of Canada. Toronto. Lester & Orpen Dennys Limited.
CC Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen and Melanie G. H. 2008. “Popular 19th Century African Canadian-owned Stag Hotel and NS Premier Joseph Howe.” >> Google Docs.Uploaded by ocean.flynn on 23 Jan 08, 12.32PM MST.
November 16, 2006
In the 1998 Anna Packwood’s family and friends came from across continents to celebrate her 100th birthday. This was the culmination of research on the Positive Presence of Absence: a history of the African Canadian community through works in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. I can honestly say that of the ten years working at the NGC, this impromptu gathering — which almost did not happen because of security concerns over the large numbers and the last-minute arrangements — this was the high point of a decade of work there. The National Gallery of Canada now presents six images in their African Canadian section which the portrait bust of Tommy Simmons on their educational web site entitled Cybermuse.
One of the catalysts for my research in the early 1990s was a conversation with Fritz Benjamin, a Haitian-Canadian who was working at that time as a security guard. He asked me who Tommy Simmons was, the man portrayed in the larger than life bronze bust prominently displayed in the water court. I didn’t know but once I started looking there were more questions about more works of art. After sharing my interests with Mairuth Sarsfield, author of No Crystal Stairs and her sister Lucille Vaughan-Cuevas they became my mentors. Lucille in particular spent hours with me clarifying histories. I eventually met other members of the Montreal community and wove various fragments together so I could present this walking tour to friends, then to fellow graduate students and finally to the public. It was a personal project that the Gallery promoted from 1995-1997 when they advertised it and offered it as a contract tour.
The image is my first experiment in using Adobe Photoshop to create transparent .png images. I needed to learn .png for my new Google Earth community.
The Adobe Photoshop layers include Anna Packwood on the lower left, with a bronze of her daughter, Lucille Vaughan, an activist, educator and librarian. Beside them is Dr. Carrie Best, pioneer Nova Scotia journalist, activist and author. To the right of the water court is Jennifer Hodge Sarsfield, Anna Packwood’s granddaughter ,a pioneer in Canadian film narratology and beside her is the cover of Mairuth Sarsfield’s book entitled No Crystal Stairs, which was on the short list for Canada Reads filmmaker. A photograph taken in that part of Montreal Mairuth called ‘burgundy city’ shows Mairuth, Susan and Lucille, Anna Packwoods, daughters in the 1940? The collage of the family and friends from across the States, Canada and the Caribbean wasn’t large enough to include them all.
I wrote this in a May 3, 1998 thank you note to NGC Education Division Director, Mary Ellen Herbert, CC: Judith Parker, Mairuth Sarsfield.
After the luncheon celebration with Anne Packwood, about fifty of the invited guests came to the NGC. It was larger than anticipated but it was a huge success. Among the guests were Dr. Carrie Best, OC., Lucille Vaughan-Cuevas, Dominique Sarsfield, numerous friends of Anne Packwood from many different parts of Canada from Edmonton, Dartmouth, and of course, Montreal. There were guests from the United States and from Bermuda. The group included four or five elderly people in wheelchairs, a baby in a carriage, children of all ages. After a warm greeting under the Water Court we went to the Seminar Room. I showed about a dozen slides of the Picasso exhibition and a few of Orson Wheeler’s sculptures: Tommy Simmons and Lucille Vaughan-Cuevas. The group applauded warmly when they saw the bust of Lucille. Then we went to the Water Court to see Tommy Simmons. The discussion there is something I wish I had on tape. Many at first did not recognize the model by name or by the sculpted bust. But as we talked more and more people remembered something about him. One woman had babysat his children. Another played on teams that competed with his. Another told me of a Wheeler sculpture of an African Canadian model once owned by David? States. An artist from Detroit was excited by what could be done in galleries and plans on following up when she gets home. I invited Lucille to speak about her experience as Wheeler’s model for the 1950′s bust. It was captivating listening to her describe Wheeler’s special qualities as educator and artist. She had been particularly touched by his openness to Black history at that time. This experience was a highlight for me in my years at the NGC.
In the 1920’s awareness of black culture spread from Harlem in New York across the continent and the ocean. During this Renaissance African American arts and literature reached new pinnacles of celebrity. Marcus Garvey, Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong inspired Canadians. Visual artists in Canada attempted to reverse negative stereotypes of black subjects. This sculpture of Tommy Simmons, which celebrates both his blackness and his individuality, gave the emerging artist Orson Wheeler a sense of accomplishment. Simmons was a Montreal sleeping car porter for forty-three years. Work conditions were difficult. The transcontinental trips meant days away from home. Severe employment limitations were placed on black workers. Many, including those with higher education, even doctors and lawyers, were obliged to become porters. Sleeping car porters became the economic elite and catalysts of change in African Canadian communities. Tommy Simmons was a dedicated coach of winning teams. His integrated baseball teams which included girls of African, French and Italian descent, were unprecedented in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Because he was bilingual he entered tournaments in French and English communities from Chicoutimi, Québec to St. John, N.B. [Interviews with Carl Simmons and B. Jones, 1995]
November 16, 2006
See also MySwicki (in process)
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