C. E. Knapp Spends the Evening of His Sixty-First Birthday at His Birthplace.
Mr. Editor- No place in the Maritime Provinces has a more remarkable history than the country around old Fort Beausejour now known as Fort Cumberland.
In 1696, Captain Church, whose name is still fragrant in Massachusetts, on account of his exploits against King Philip, the renowned Indian chief, was sent to Beaubassin to subdue the French and Indians. On his arrival the Acadians left their homes and fled to the woods. Church pursued them, and met Bourgeois, the person in charge of the community, returning to ask quarters for himself and his people, which was granted. Church proposed to Bourgeois that the French should join him in exterminating the Indians, the condition being that on their compliance, their houses and property should be spared. The French pleaded that this would oblige them to quit the country, for otherwise, as soon as the English left, the incensed Indians would fall on the former and exterminate them. Bourgeois produced a writing from Sir William Phipps, which gave the French inhabitants of Chignecto the assurance of protection as long as they remained loyal to King William, and Church thereupon gave orders that their persons and property should remain inviolate. Church became the guest of Bourgeois, while his officers and men were quartered by the other inhabitants. All went well until Church discovered a trade regulation of Frontenac, written in French and posted up in the porch of the church. As far as Church, who was as ignorant as he was brave, could tell, the regulation might as well have been Sanscrit. He thought it was some treasonable document, burnt the church and village and retired. Today the site of the church can be easily traced, and near it is a spring of very pure water, known as the Holy Well. After Church retired, the French returned, and rebuilt the village, and afterwards, as they affirmed, built Fort Beausejour for a protection against the Indians. In the spring of 1750, the French of Chignecto being again suspected of disloyalty, Colonel Lawrence was sent from Halifax to reduce them to obedience. He built Fort Lawrence on the south east side of the Missaquash. La Corne, the officer in command at Fort Beausejour, had a large force under him, and Lawrence dare not attack him, and nothing was accomplished until 1755 when Colonel Monckton was sent from Connecticut with orders to reduce Fort Beausejour. In the meantime the French had built higher up the river on what is now the Westmorland side, at Point de Bute, a breastwork and blockhouse. Monckton marched his men, most of them raw recruits from Connecticut and Massachusetts, up the Fort Lawrence ridge crossed the marsh and river under the fire of the French, stormed the breastwork and blockhouse, and drove out the French without losing a man. Monckton then divided his men into two companies, giving the command of one to Major Batt, who cross the Point De Bute ridge to the Aulac side, and of the other to Major Dickson, who led his men down on the side next to the Missaquash. The roads by which Batt and Dickson reached the fort can be easily traced today. The fort was inverted, trenches dug, and batteries thrown up, which can be yet distinctly seen. The work was short and decisive. The very first bomb-shell discharged from its only mortar placed in position, rolled down the stairway of the bomb-proof into the building and exploded under the breakfast table, killed four French officers, and one English man the latter, Lieutenant May, who a few days before had been taken prisoner by the French. On the twelfth day of June, 1768, the fort surrendered. The English found mounted on the bastions, and in perfect order twenty six cannon and an abundance of ammunition within the fort. The fort was repaired and renamed Fort Cumberland. The old fort was destined to stand another siege. The Cumberland rebellion in 1776 was led by Colonel Eddy, his next in command being Captain John Allan. Colonel Graham with his mere handful of men was shut up within the fort, which the rebels attempted to take by assault, but failed, their scaling ladders being too short. Major Dickson stole out of the fort under the cover of the night, accompanied by six men, embarked at Aulac in a small row boat, paddled down the bay up the Avon, and landing at Windsor marched through the woods to Halifax. At Halifax he procured reinforcements, embarked them in schooners, and favoured by fair winds, reached Beaubassin. By a strange coincidence as his vessels entered the Joggins, the Basin was lit up by the burning village around the fort, which had been set on fire by the rebels. Dickson disembarked his men, marched them immediately against the rebels, surprising the latter at Mount Whatley in the grey on the morning; capturing all but Eddy and Allan. The only rebel killed was Furlong who was shot as he was rising from his bed. The negro drummer beat to arms, and the soldiers admiring his bravery, contented themselves with riddling his drum with musket balls. Fort Cumberland was repaired during the last “American war,” and dismantled in 1830, when its armament was sent to Halifax, and its grim ruins, worthy of a visit, still frown over the waters of Chignecto.
In 1783 Fort Cumberland was the county seat of Westmorland, and had then about as many houses and inhabitants as now, and a large part of the business of Westmorland and Cumberland was done there. Its first inhabitants were the disbanded officers and soldiers, who had fought under Lawrence and Monckton; next came the immigrants from Yorkshire, who were followed by the Refugees, and lastly by the Loyalists. The Refugees brought with them their slaves, and many of the latter outlived their masters, and were sold at estate sales with other goods and chattels. Many of the names well known at old Fort Cumberland when William Cobbett afterwards a celebrated author, who wrote the “Reformation in England,” was a corporal in the Fort; when Brooks Watson, afterwards Lord Mayor of London, was carrying ale to the officers mess, and Boonycastle, afterwards Knighted, was working out his first problems in mathematics, have disappeared from the place. The Laws, the Allans, the Weatherheads, the Gays, the Palmers, and the Knapps have left while the Carters, the Kings, the Etters, and others of the old families remain, some of them living on the homesteads where their ancestors lived a century and a quarter ago.
We have made a very long prelude to Mr. Knapp’s last Tuesday’s lecture, and as it is about the least important part of the subject, perhaps it is just as well. The lecture, was preceded by a temperance hymn, sung by Misses Carter and Lawson, with accompaniment on the organ by Miss Lawson, and an opening prayer by the Rev. D. C. Lawson. When the lecturer on rising looked over the crowd of faces, he saw but few who were in ease when he made his appearance on this mundane stage, and with his traditional knowledge of the community, he must have felt something like a link between its present and its past. Mr. Knapp spoke for an hour, spicing his lecture slightly with politics, and made some suitable references to the mischief the rum traffic had done at Westmorland Point in the past. The lecture was followed by a speech from John Cahill Esq., a reading by Miss Lawson, and speeches from the Rev. D. C. Lawson and others, and the lecturer was pretty well thrown into the shade by those gentlemen.
The meeting broke up at half past ten, with God save the Queen. Mr. Knapp who we presume is an ardent annexationist joined heartily in the chorus.