The Poor House, or County Home as some call it, in Bridgetown in the Annapolis Valley, was the only poor house in the province that segregated its residents based on the colour of their skins. Other poor houses did not allow the sexes to mix but allowed African-Nova Scotians and Mi’kmaq to under one roof with white people.
There were a fair amount of African-Nova Scotians in the area of Annapolis Royal and Bridgetown going back to the arrival of the Loyalists in 1783.
Many of the white Loyalist brought enslaved Africans, while others were fugitive slaves who ran away from their rebel masters and were referred to as “Free Negroes.”
Others were members of the regiment of the Black Pioneers. Thomas Peters was one of the Black Pioneers and a leader of Brinley Town, the Black settlement outside of the new town of Digby in 1784.
Those African Nova Scotians who did not join the exodus to Sierra Leone in 1792 fought for equal rights, for respect, for work, and for equal pay. Their descendants continue to struggle to this day for these very same things.
The poor house on Church Road outside of Bridgetown buried its poor in unmarked graves. Segregation was not an issue when it came to burials, Like most poor houses, the Bridgetown Poor House did not record its dead until approximately 100 years ago.
Recently, I was given a list of the known African Nova Scotians who are buried in the potters field of the Bridgetown poor house. The following list is just the ones we know of. Reading the children’s names breaks my heart.
Derby Bailey, d. 18 October 1912, 40 years of age
Katherine Pomp, d. 4 February 1908, 94 years of age
Margaret Simms, d. 19 October 1910, 86 years of age
Lucy Mitchell, d. 20 October, 88 years of age
Thomas Francis, d. 28 November 1910, 34 years of age
Benjamin Francis, d. 22 Jan 1911, 6 weeks old, at Ward 11
Alice Stephenson, d. 28 May 1913, 2 years of age
Edward Owens, d. 11 September 1913, 2 mos.
Joshua Sims, d. 24 February 1914, 63 years of age
James Johnson, d. 28 April 1914, 83 years of age
Thomas Jackson, d. 4 Aug. 1914, 3 years of age
Silas Jackson, d. 2 Dec. 1914, 2 months of age
Paddy Mitchell, d. 13 Dec. 1914, 85 years of age
Ruby Evelyn E. Jackson, d. 28 May 1915, 1 month, 27 days of age
Cyril Jackson, d. 27 Dec. 1915, 2 weeks, 1 day of age
Letitia Camps, d. 20 Jan 1917, 60 years old of age
Emma Godfrey, d. 26 April 1919, 90 years of age
Henry Cuff, d. 2 June 1919, 73 years of age
Alexander Jackson, d. 7 August 1920, 94 years of age
Mary Parker, d. 20 August 1921, 80 years of age
Margaret Johnson, d. 23 November 1921, 86 years of Age
Henry Sims, d. 30 November 1922, 77 years, 6 mos, 27 days
Fred Jarvis, d. 16 Dec. 1922, 1 year of age
Mary Stephenson, d. 11 March 1925, 42 years of age
Lavinia Cuff, d. 25 Dec. 1926, 88 years of age
Jennie B. Owens, d. 31 December 1927, 24 years of age
Albert Mitchell, d. 15 August. 1928, 56 years of age
Elsie Owens, d. 12 March 1930, 6 mos.
James Owens, d. 17 Aug. 1930, 1 yr. 6 mos. 15 days
William Bailey, d. 12 Aug 1932, aged 80 years
Dorothy Owen, d. 10 Jan 1934 at Ward 11, 3 mos. 28 days
Ethel Elizabeth Simms, d. 23 March 1934, 13 days
Eleazar Marsman, d. 18 Sept. 1934, age 69
Irving Crosby, d. 28 July 1935, age 83
James Henry Owens, d. 12 Nov. 1936, age 87
Naamon Owens, d. 15 July 1938 Ward 11, aged 44 years
Harold Stevenson, d. 21 May 1940 Ward 11, 4 mos. 29 days
Percy Jackson, d. 5 May, 1941 in Inglewood, 59 years of age
John Henry Jackson, d. 9 December 1941 in Bridgetown, aged 69 yr 2 mos
Lillian Golden May Bell, d. 9 Nov 1944 in Boston, 73 years of age, Buried at the county home
Curtis Bailey, d. 8 Sept 1950, 65 years of age
Brenda Thompson is the author of the recently released A wholesome Horror, Poor Houses in Nova Scotia. ISBN 978-0-9868733-5-5. Available at a few selected bookstores, public libraries, through the author, and through the publisher. (Also online, through Amazon and Chapters, but hopefully you will find a better way)
- How dare you! Brenda Thompson on welfare activism in the (19) eighties
- Book review: A wholesome Horror, Poor Houses in Nova Scotia
- Book review: North to Bondage: Loyalist slavery in the Maritimes
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