Accounts by Travelers

Accounts by Travelers Who Used the Route

Several first person accounts by travelers who used the Road to Cumberland in the eighteenth century have survived. These documents are not always easy to read because they are written in the language of 1700,s. First person accounts are, however, valuable records and if one perseveres when the language seems strange, interesting historical insights can be gleaned from the documents. This section will give excerpts from two such pieces of writing.

The first item is a letter written in 1791 by the Rev. Hugh Graham of Cornwallis to the Rev. Andrew Brown, D.D. who wishes to visit Cumberland. Hugh Graham has traveled the Road to Cumberland in the past and he wishes to tell Brown about what to expect while traveling along the road and at the same time a few road related stories. One of Rev. Graham’s stories involves a disturbing encounter between solders and a group of Acadians. Graham’s letter requires perseverance but the rewards make it worthwhile.

The second item is taken from the diary of Henry Alline, a self-taught evangelical preacher from Horton Township. In 1781 Alline crosses the Minas Basin and uses the Road to Cumberland to reach several communities north of Amherst. Henry Alline encounters privateers at Partridge Island.

A 1791 letter from the Rev. Hugh Graham

The Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management has a web page displaying material from the Andrew Brown Collection. This material, titled Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, Vol. II (1881); pp. 129-160, contains several transcribed letters written to The Rev. Andrew Brown, D.D.  One of these letters, dated 1791, contains detailed information on the “Road to Cumberland”. The letter is from the Rev. Hugh Graham of Cornwallis and was written partially to give instructions to the Rev. Brown who was planning a trip to Cumberland. Rev. Graham’s letter starts on page 135 but it is not until five pages later, on page 140, that a description of the “Road to Cumberland” begins.

Rev. Hugh Graham’s description of the “Road to Cumberland” is given below. In his description Rev. Graham digresses twice to tell a story. These informative stories have been removed and placed at the end of this section on Rev. Hugh Graham.

“I understand that you purpose visiting Cumberland this summer, the scene of Watson’s youthful years-for he was only between 10 and 12 years of age when he came under Capt, Huston’s patronage and lived just about so many in his family. As I have a transient view of that part of the Province, I shall take the liberty of just mentioning a few objects that will naturally engage your attention, excite your enquiries, and more especially as you asked some time ago the notice of my Cumberland tour.

After leaving Partridge Island 17 miles in the rear, for I presume you will travel by land, you will mount what is properly called the Boar’s Back, a narrow ridge of land 7 miles in length, and in a few places more than 20 rods in breadth. It stands between a continued narrow swamp on the south-west side, and between swamps, lakes and a river on the north-east side. It is of no great height. It seems to be an entire bed of gravel, and serves as an excellent road. In this instance, as in many others, the hand of nature hath saved man a hard task. Quitting the Boar’s Back you will soon reach the head of the river of Herbert Bear. This takes its rise in the lakes on the north-east side of the Boar’s Back. It begins to flow by the upper hump and runs about due west. The tide also makes up to the head of the river, so that the Boar may alternately drink salt water and fresh in the course of every day…………… (digresses to tell a story: Story One)……………………………………..

Excuse this digression. My zeal to be of some service to you makes me write several things which, upon reflection, I am apt to think can be of little or no service. At the head of Bear River you will find one solitary house of entertainment. It may afford some pleasure after you have rode 8 miles without having seen the habitation of man, and when you take into the view that you must ride 10 miles before you come to another. Here you ride along a continued strait of marsh land, about a mile beyond the first house you now pass, occupied by a Lieut. McKecachran, from Isla, lives, Mr. Glenie, brother to Capt. Glenie, late of the artillery department. The captain studied divinity in Edinburgh Hall, and is said to be a gentleman of very shining abilities. Perhaps you know the character. At the rate L1500 he bought that large tract of land lying in 12 miles square on both sides of Bear River, and extending from the head of ye river to the foregoing place. His brother has the charge and management of his improvements. You will find him a sensible, frank, and open-hearted farmer, who will be exceedingly glad to entertain you at his house, and will make you very happy. Below his house, more than a mile, there is a French settlement called Men eu die (Meneudie). In this village there is between 20 and 30 houses and a chapel. There you will find a fragment of the stile and manners of other times, after this you will cross the river in a log canoe, or rather in Glenie’s boat upon which you enter the township of Amherst………( digresses to tell another story:Story Two)…………………………… After leaving Amherst the remains of Fort Lawrence by the roadside will attract your attention for a short space. From that you will pass on to Fort Cumberland”.

Rev. Hugh Graham’s digression Story One

“The tide also makes up to the head of the river, so that the Boar may alternately drink salt water and fresh in the course of every day; a branch of this river called Napana was the scene of one of those barbarous outrages which created a distant likeness between Scotia junior and Scotia senior. A party of rangers of a regiment chiefly employed in scouring the country of the deluded French who had unfortunately fallen under the bann of British policy, came upon 4 Frenchmen who had all possible caution, ventured out from their skulking retreats to pick some of the straggling cattle or hidden treasure, The solitary few, the pitiable four, had just sat down weary and faint on the banks of the desert stream in order to refresh themselves with some food and rest, when the party of Rangers surprised and apprehended them, and as there was a bounty on Indian scalps, a blot, too, on England’s escutcheon, the soldiers soon made the supplicating signal, the officer’s turned their backs, and the French were instantly shot and scalped. A party of the Rangers brought in one day 25 scalps, pretending that they were Indian’s, and the commanding officer at the fort, then Col. Wilmot, afterwards Governor Wilmot (a poor tool) gave orders that the bounty should be paid them. Capt. Huston who had at that time the charge of the military chest, objected such proceedings both in the letter and spirit of them. The Colonel told him, that according to law the French were all out of the French; that the bounty on Indian scalps was according to Law, and, that tho’ the Law might in some instances be strained a little, yet there was a necessity for winking at such things.Upon account Huston, in obedience to orders, paid down L250, telling them that the curse of God should ever attend such guilty deeds. A considerable large body of the French were one time surprised by a party of the Rangers on Peticodiac River; upon the first alarm most of them threw themselves into the river and swam across, and by ways the greater part of them made out to elude the clutches of these bloody hounds, tho’ some of them were shot by the merciless soldiery in the river. It was observed that these Rangers, almost without exception, closed their days in wretchedness, and particularly a Capt. Danks, who even rode to the extreme of his commission in every barbarous proceeding. In the Cumberland insurrection (late war) he was suspected of being Jack on both sides of the bush; left that place, Cumberland, in a small jigger bound for Windsor, was taken ill on the passage, thrown down into the hold among the ballast, was taken out at Windsor, is half dead, and had little better than the burial of a dog. He lived under a general dislike and died without any to regret his death. Excuse this digression. My zeal to be of some service to you makes me write several things which, upon reflection, I am apt to think can be of little or no service.”

Rev. Hugh Graham’s digression Story Two

The 2nd house on your way is occupied by one emphatically called Forrest, the rich man. It will not be amiss to give him a call. He is a curiosity. He is the unpolished rustic; has, however, a large share of natural sense blended with a very gross vein of drollery. He is one of a small congregation of Irish Pbns. who will gladly and gratefully attend on your salutory instructions on the sacred day when the call is Let us go up to the House of the Lord. There is among them a Mr. McGowan, an elder, a worthy and agreeable man. They have built a decent little meeting-house, have made several attempts to get a minister, and after repeated disappointments, it is said one will be sent them from Scotland this summer — one of Mr. McGregor’s class. But if he does come I fear it will be too late to do much good, or to live with any manner of comfort in that place. There are not now above a dozen of professed Pbn. families in the whole settlement. After leaving Amherst the remains of Fort Lawrence by the roadside will attract your attention for a short space. From that you will pass on to Fort Cumberland.”

Henry Alline: The traveling preacher from Horton Township

Henry Alline, 1748 – 1784 and his parents were New England Planters who settled in Horton Township in 1760. From 1776 until his death in 1784 Henry Alline was an independent and self-taught evangelical preacher who traveled to various parts of Nova Scotia giving sermons in barns and people’s homes. His published diary contains brief notes that provide a small but significant amount of information on the “Road to Cumberland” and on Partridge Island. They confirm, for example, that some travelers did cross over the mouth of the River Hebert to Amherst Point. As well, Henry Alline’s diary confirms that enemy privateers did visit Partridge Island during the American Revolution. Excerpts relevant to this paper will now be presented.

On August 7, 1781 Henry Alline was in Windsor waiting for a vessel to take him to Partridge Island. His diary entry reads:

“The vessel that I had been waiting for to go to the county of Cumberland was now in. I went on board her, and the same day we sailed, after I had bid my friends a farewell, promising to return to them as soon as possible. We lay in the Basin of Minas all that night. About midnight there was a terrible thunderstorm, but the Lord was kind to me, blessed be his name for it”.

The next day he wrote:

“On Sabbath Day I got to Partridge Island and preached there about seven in the morning to what people were there. They were about 20 in number, and seemed to give great attention to the word preached, and my own soul was blessed. And great, yea great was God’s goodness to me. O that I could love him with all my soul”!

On Aug.9 1781 Henry Alline must have left Partridge Island alone on horseback and followed the “Road to Cumberland” because his diary entry states that “ I rode through the woods about 50 miles to where it was inhabited. I was in a strange place, where I never had been before: but O the Lord remembered his poor unworthy servant, and gave me many blessed moments when riding alone”.

Presumably Alline arrived somewhere between the present-day communities of River Hebert and Minudie because after preaching on the 10th of August he wrote in his diary the next day “I crossed the River to Amherst Point, and preached there in the evening”.

After reaching Amherst Point Henry Alline traveled to various settlements in the Amherst, Sackville, and Petit Codiack River regions of 1781 Cumberland County; New Brunswick would not be established until August 16, 1784. After preaching at these communities Alline returned to the Amherst area and on Sept. 20, 1781 he wrote in his diary “Road about 10 miles and crossed the river”. His diary entry for the next day reads; “I then rode to Partridge Island”.

Henry Alline was still in Partridge Island on the morning of Sept. 22, 1781 and his diary entry for that day is very significant for Partridge Island history. The diary reads:

“Sept. 22, 1781: This morning about break of day I was called out of my bed, and carried onboard a privateer, but not out of any ill will to me, only they found, there was such a man there with a horse, and they, intending to take some vessels from out of the basin, were afraid that I should carry back intelligence to Cumberland before they had got ready to sail from that harbour. When I came on board, the captain told me I should suffer no injury, but have whatever I wanted, and be put ashore again as soon as they had taken three prizes. Let them that wish well to their soils flee from privateers as they would from the jaws of hell, for methinks a privateer may be called a floating hell”.

Alline ‘s experience onboard the privateer must not have been too traumatic because on Sept. 23, 1781 he wrote “I enjoyed this day some happy moments at my pen and likewise in my private walks about the island. I much acknowledge, the kindness of God to me is great”.

The next day Henry Alline left Partridge Island. His entry states “I was this day in an open boat put across the basin to Horton, and left my horse behind me on Partridge Island, the ferry boat not being there”.

The Road to Cumberland has many stories that have long ago passed out of memory and were never recorded for posterity. Some, like the two given above, have been preserved and hopefully more will surface in the future.


Acadian Heartland:
Records of the Deportation and Le Grand Drangement, 1714-1768

Article: The Acadian French in Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, Vol. II (1881); pp. 129-160
Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, Vol. II (1881); pp. 129-160
   Papers relating to the Acadian French ~ Andrew Brown Collection

Amos. C. L. 1978

The postglacial evolution of the Minas Basin, Nova Scotia-a sedimentological interpretation: Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, v.48, no. 3, p. 965 – 981