Origins of Antigonish

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					Origins of Antigonish




  Catherine Thornton




    History 200.13

Professor Martha Walls

  November 18, 2008
                                             Origins of Antigonish



         Antigonish is a small town in the eastern province of Nova Scotia, Canada, located within

the county of the same name. The town of Antigonish is the Episcopal seat and is located

approximately in the centre of Antigonish County.1 The current town houses St. Francis Xavier

University, which educates about four thousand students per year and is a highly thought of

university in Canada. More importantly, Antigonish and the surrounding areas are essential sites

in the preservation of culture and languages from the original European inhabitants, as well as

those Native Americans who resided in North America before them. As an important historical

site, the origins of Antigonish are an important and essential part of understanding how Nova

Scotia developed.


         Pre-encounter North America was inhabited by the natives Europeans came to call

“Indians”, and when the European settlers came, there were various different accommodations

made between the two groups. Over time, however, due to the view that natives were inferior,

the native tribes were crowded into smaller and smaller plots of lands, and rights and freedom

were gradually taken away. Eastern Nova Scotia was no exception, to this, as the native Micmac

of the area had, “formerly occupied what is now Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and parts of

New Brunswick, Quebec, and South-Western Newfoundland.”2 The Micmac were the original

inhabitants of the Antigonish area, and they were described as “mild and peaceful in

temperament” by the first Jesuit missionaries during the encounter period.3 Indeed there were a




1
  A.A. Johnston, A History of the Catholic Church in Eastern Nova Scotia: Volume 1, Antigonish, St. Francis Xavier
University Press, 2.
2
  Johnston, A History, 3
3
  Johnston, A History, 3

                                                          1
vast number of amicable arrangements with the natives, and news and trades were exchanged

between Europeans and natives all across the country.4


         However, although there was much exchange going on between the new settlers and the

natives, the European settler population continued to grow and want more, while the natives

were allowed less and less, as everything they had once been free to own and do was gradually

taken away. By the time the first settlers came to Antigonish, the Micmac were wary of the

“pale-face enemy” and were very protective of the land they still had left.5 Although the settlers

and Hierlihy were instructed not to interfere with the Indian lands and pay careful attention to the

Indian claims6 they paid little attention. Despite the instructions given to them, “little attention

was paid to the rights of the Indians, for the whole countryside was taken up without reservation,

except for one cornfield on the riverbank.”7 No wonder, then, that the Indians were somewhat

insolent, and not exactly cordial upon the arrival and subsequent settlement of those who came to

Antigonish.8


         In 1792, a young captain by the name of Timothy Hierlihy set off from his home on

Prince Edward Island in pursuit of deserter fishermen, who had left their work and stolen a boat

to go to the mainland.9 Captain Hierlihy eventually caught up to the deserters, but on their way

down the coast of the mainland, they came across Antigonish Harbour, and formed the first idea




4
  Unknown, The Discovery of Antigonish, Antigonish, Antigonish Heritage Museum, 64
5
  Unknown, The Discovery, 65
6
  CJ MacGillivray, Timothy Hierlihy and His Times: the Story of the Founder of Antigonish, Halifax, 97
7
  MacGillivray, Timothy Hierlihy, 97-98
8
  MacGillivray, Timothy Hierlihy, 121
9
  Unknown, The Discovery, 64

                                                          2
for a town in that location.10 Through his and his father’s (Colonel Timothy Hierlihy) efforts,

they brought the idea forth, and established the town that came to be known as Antigonish.


        The town of Antigonish was established in the spring of 1794, as Colonel and Captain

Hierlihy brought one hundred and seventy four loyalist settlers to the location Captain Hierlihy

had discovered on his voyage down the coast. The British government had sent Hierlihy and his

followers to Antigonish following a grant given to them on October 4, 1784.11 These settlers

were mostly loyalists, as were the Hierlihy’s, who had come from the thirteen colonies during

the Revolutionary War. Colonel Hierlihy had owned good sized land holdings in the thirteen

colonies prior to migrating to Canada, and he was unwilling to start over completely from

scratch.12 He presented his case to the “authorities at Whitehall,” as part of a large contingent of

loyalist settlers who wanted compensation for their move to British North American territories,

as promised in exchange for their loyalty, which they had given freely during the war.13 In return,

the British government awarded Colonel Hierlihy and eighty eight others “a grant of 26,600

acres at Antigonish.”14


        Though the original settlers were loyalist followers of the Hierlihys’, soon enough, more

and more people flocked to Antigonish and the nearby locales, and religious divides soon

became an issue. Although the original settlers of Antigonish were mostly of Presbyterian faith15,

right around 1800, things began to change. Pictou, a county bordering Antigonish, was of heavily

Presbyterian majority, and so “Catholics were encouraged by the Church to move on to



10
   Unknown, The Discovery, 64.
11
   MacGillivray, Timothy Hierlihy, 92&95
12
   MacGillivray, Timothy Hierlihy, 129
13
   McGillivray, Timothy Hierlihy, 128
14
   Clara Dennis, More About Nova Scotia, Toronto, The Rynerson Press, 235.
15
   Dennis, More About Nova Scotia, 236

                                                       3
Antigonish County and Cape Breton, so as not to be unduly influenced” by the Presbyterians. 16

By 1801, however, “there were already over one thousand Catholics in and around Maragomish

and Antigonish,”17 as the original landscape had changed quite drastically in a relatively short

time.


        The main reason for this Catholic influx was the immigration of the Highland Scots, due

to Highland clearances and the opportunities rumoured to be offered abroad. Another group of

Catholics that came over in droves were the Irish, who were escaping the famine in and poverty

that ran rampant in their homeland. The Antigonish County parish, which is now known as St.

Joseph’s Parish, drew its first Catholic settlers “from the Highlands of Scotland and from Ireland,

during the period 1796 and 1829,”18 beginning the change in religious dynamic a scant two years

after the founding of the town of Antigonish. By the mid 1800’s, the majority of places of

worship in Antigonish county were Roman Catholic,19 a major adaptation from the town which

had held Presbyterianism as its original faith.


        The establishment of Antigonish was an important instant in the history of Nova Scotia,

and due to its cultural background, it remains an important landmark in Canada. Having been

featured on the well-known game show, Jeopardy, twice, and being widely known as having the

longest running Highland Games outside of Scotland, as well as being proclaimed, “the Highland

Heart of Nova Scotia”, the origins of Antigonish are an important piece of history to explore and

understand.




16
   Jamie MacDonald, Immigration, 3
17
   Johnston, A History, 197
18
   Charles Brewer, St. Joseph’s Parish, Antigonish County, Antigonish, 5
19
   A Nova Scotian, Descriptive Sketches of Nova Scotia: in Prose and Verse, Halifax, A&W Mackinlay, 134

                                                        4
         In our heritage moment, we portrayed the journey of Captain Hierlihy in his first

discovery of Antigonish Harbour and the subsequent idea of establishing a settlement there. The

story we presented via Captain Hierlihy was accurate, as he was chasing deserters along the coast

of the mainland,20 and he did encounter natives during his journey, and at the Antigonish

location.21 The casual language and attitudes used to portray the meeting between the native and

Captain Hierlihy were entirely for creative purposes, and the encounter itself was completely

imagined. We assumed that there had been such encounters, as Captain Hierlihy and his crew

had stopped at Native settlements along their way and asked for news of the deserters,22 but the

details and attitudes portrayed were assumed and imagined.


         In the second part of our moment, again, the basis is in fact, but the situation imagined. It

is known that Colonel Hierlihy appealed to the British government for compensation over losses

in the move to the British North American territories.23 He presented his case to the authorities at

Whitehall, and he was not alone, as “more than 2,000 former residents of the United States had

appealed to the home government for assistance” due to their losses upon uprooting and moving

out of the United States.24 The fiction came in the attitude of the British Governor towards

Colonel Hierlihy, and also in his wish to recompense him. However, it is true that Colonel

Hierlihy was recompensed for some of his losses, as he and his followers were awarded a large

land grant for the land of Antigonish in 1784.25


         The third section of the Heritage moment is another fictional scenario that shows that,

although Colonel Hierlihy acquired, and settled the land for the town of Antigonish, there were

20
   Unknown, The Discovery, 64
21
   Unknown, The Discovery, 65
22
   Unknown, The Discovery, 64
23
   MacGillivray, Timothy Hierlihy, 129
24
   MacGillivray, Timothy Hierlihy, 128
25
   MacGillivray, Timothy Hierlihy, 95

                                                   5
people there before him26 and it wasn’t an entirely innocent process of open land being made into

a nice settlement for loyalists. There were Micmac natives who lived on the land in and around

Antigonish, and originally they were protective of their people and settlements.27 We made the

assumption that the Natives were acquiescent enough to let the settlers of Antigonish live in

relative peace, but also touched upon the fact that they would not have been happy about more

white settlers on their land. The mention of merely a corn-patch left of Indian lands was taken

directly from mention of the settlers taking up the entire countryside of Antigonish save “for one

cornfield on the riverbank.”28 The attitudes of smugness and rueful acceptance from Colonel

Hierlihy and the Native American were for dramatic effect, to inject a little bit of humour into

the presentation. However, the fact that the Antigonish settlement only lost three men to disease

in its early years as a settlement was a fact, and a testament to the fact that the town flourished,

and the people were healthy and happy enough, as evidenced by accounts women living to have

lots of children, and even one of a one hundred and three year old great grandmother who had

countless grand, and great-grand-children.29


        In the heritage moment, Colonel Hierlihy mentions that Antigonish will be a “fine, god-

fearing Christian town (free of Catholics!), and indeed it was for its first couple years. When first

established, the loyalists were of Protestant denomination, and we assumed they were not overly-

kindly disposed towards the Catholics. However, within five years of the establishment of

Antigonish, this status changed, as Catholics began migrating in from Scotland and Ireland.30

During the last few years of the 18th century, and the first half of the 19th century, Catholics


26
   Unknown, The Discovery, 65
27
   Unknown, The Discovery, 65
28
   MacGillivray, Timothy Hierlihy, 98
29
   Dennis, More About Nova Scotia, 234
30
   Johnston, A History, 5

                                                  6
migrated in from Scotland (especially the highlands) and Ireland, and their numbers swelled.

Though Antigonish began as a loyalist town with no Catholics, that position quickly changed,

and it eventually became part of a community of Highland Scots, along with the firm

establishment of their Catholic faith.31


           The founding of Antigonish, known as “one of the prettiest towns on the astern section of

Nova Scotia,”32 was a joint effort between the two Hierlihys, which was accomplished with the

okay of the British Government and the acquiescence, however unwillingly, of the former

Micmac residents of the area. Due to its importance as a cultural niche and Canadian historical

site of various backgrounds, Antigonish is an integral landmark to Eastern Canadian History.

Through fictional scenarios presenting the basic facts of the founding of the town of Antigonish,

the idea that Antigonish did not just spring up as a Highland town, but was formulated as an idea,

and consequently acted upon by loyalists in accordance with the British government, was firmly

portrayed. That the town was subject to change over the next two centuries is no surprise, but

through the heritage moment, the name of Hierlihy and the original sighting of Antigonish

should stay firmly notched in the viewers’ minds.




31
     Brewer, St. Joseph’s, 5
32
     Nova Scotian, Descriptive Sketches, 134

                                                   7
                                        Bibliography


Brewer, Charles. St. Joseph’s Parish, Antigonish County. Antigonish: 1976.


Dennis, Clara. More About Nova Scotia. Toronto: The Rynerson Press, 1937.


Johnston, Angus Anthony. A History of the Catholic Church in Eastern Nova Scotia: Volume I.

       Antigonish: St. Francis Xavier University Press, 1960.


MacDonald, Jamie. “Emigration.” Gael Stream, Immigration: 1-3.


MacGillivray, CJ. Timothy Hierlihy and His Times: the Story of the Founder of Antigonish, N.S.

       Halifax: 1935.


Nova Scotian, A. Descriptive Sketches of Nova Scotia: in Prose and Verse. Halifax: A & W

       Mackinlay, 1864.


Unknown. The Discovery of Antigonish. Antigonish: Antigonish Heritage Museum Manuscript.




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