“Here Stays Good Yorkshire” — The Yorkshire Imprint on the Tantramar Part II

Looking back on the Yorkshire migration of the 1770s, two personal characteristics stand out: adaptability and resourcefulness. The new settlers recognized the economic potential of the fertile marshlands and immediately repaired damaged dykes and aboiteaux. Very quickly the marshes were restored to their former state of fertility. Not content with the status quo, they immediately began to reclaim additional land, and to improve existing farmland by crop rotation.

Beyond their stewardship of the land; an interest in animal husbandry was apparent, as they sought new breeds of livestock to improve their herds of cattle. Many were skilled carpenters and artisans; and soon the wooded uplands echoed to the sound of Yorkshire axes and saws as they went about obtaining lumber to build homes, barns, outbuildings and chapels.

Many families might be cited as examples of the Yorkshire heritage in agriculture; however for sheer longevity few can equal the Truemans of Point de Bute. For more than two centuries and eight successive generations, this family has farmed the same land. Recently, it was my privilege to interview Howard Trueman who told me with understandable pride: The farm has always been in the Trueman name, and the line of direct descent goes back to William Trueman, who came over from Yorkshire in 1775. At age 91, Howard is a true inheritor of the Yorkshireman’s kinship with the land.

Prospect Farm is considerably larger today than the parcel of land purchased on September 8, 1775 by his ancestor, William Trueman. It began with 80 acres of upland and 54 acres of Tantramar marshland. Today the Trueman farm, operated by Howard’s sons, George and Ronald, consists of more than 1,000 acres. He also drew my attention to some Yorkshire heirlooms including a clock brought out in 1775 by the founder of Prospect farm. It’s maker was Robert Henderson, of Scarborough. A more recent acquisition is a painting by Terence Moorehead, his son-in-law; depicting Helm House, ancestral home of the Trueman family in Helmsley, Bilsdale, Yorkshire.

The Yorkshire settlers brought with them more than an interest in the land. They were, for the most part, staunch Methodists and succeeded in establishing two early Methodist chapels; at Point de Bute (1788) and Middle Sackville (1790). The history of Chignecto Methodism has been well told by Dr. Peter Penner and Dr. Eldon Hay among others. Readers interested in more detail are encouraged to seek out their writings.

Some idea of the religious fervor displayed by the Yorkshire settlers is conveyed in a series of letters from Nathaniel Smith (1720–1791) to relatives back home. Writing in 1779 he compared Methodism to a spark of fire cast into the bushes, which for awhile smud’gd at the bottom, but at last broke into a flame.

Smith also reported: We have two or three meetings every week and three every Lord’s day. The settlers come ten, fifteen or more miles to meetings We now have seven or eight able exhorters [lay preachers] and one preacher, a son of Mr. Black from near Huddersfield, a sensible young man He preaches good old Methodist doctrine and the Lord owns his ministry. This was a reference to Rev. William Black (1760–1834) whose long career as an itinerant preacher earned him the title: founder of Methodism in the Maritime Provinces.

One of the most important Methodist/Yorkshire legacies was in the field of education. All religious denominations struggled to establish a native ministry; however, this could not happen without educational institutions. In 1839 a wealthy merchant, Charles Frederick Allison, proposed the founding of an academy under Methodist auspices in Sackville.

Later Allison confided: The Lord has put into my heart to give financial aid toward building a Methodist Academy. I know the impression is from the Lord as I am naturally fond of money. Over time the Academy was to evolve into Mount Allison University. It is worth noting that if the Yorkshire migration had not taken place; this institution would, in all probability, never have been founded. The University’s early link with Methodism is remembered in Centennial Hall, first opened in 1884, to mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of Rev. William Black’s ministry.

During the course of my interview with Howard Trueman he mentioned that three members of the family had followed careers in university administration. Dr. John Trueman served as principal of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College; while his son Dr. Albert W. Trueman was president, of the University of New Brunswick, and later the University of Manitoba. Lastly, Dr. George J. Trueman was, for an incredible 22 years from 1923 to 1945, the president of Mount Allison University. During Trueman’s final convocation he laid the cornerstone of the university residence that honors his name.

It’s a long way back to Will R. Bird’s fictional Asa Crabtree and his desire to take something from home to forever remind him that Here Stays Good Yorkshire. Because of their adaptability and resourcefulness the 21st century descendants of these eighteenth century pioneers can be proud of their heritage. Most assuredly, Good Yorkshire will always remain on the Tantramar.

In this Flashback, I have used the Trueman family as one example of this living legacy. It is significant that I might well have selected almost any other of the original Yorkshire families to tell a similar story. There will be much to celebrate in August 2000!