"I am 3/4ths Canadian, and one 4th New Englander - I had ancestors on both sides in the Revolutionary war." - Elizabeth Bishop

Friday, June 15, 2012

Nova Scotia Connections: A Day in the Life of Great Village: A Living from the Land, Part 2

Dr. John Leander Peppard was born in Fredericton, N.B., in 1840, the second son of John and Sarah Peppard. After receiving his training at Dartmouth Medical College and Harvard University in the 1860s, he practiced briefly in Boston, then came to Nova Scotia, his father’s homeland, and practiced at Acadia Mines before settling in Great Village. He lived and practiced medicine in Great Village the rest of his life, becoming a much beloved member of the community.(1) Like his successor, Dr. T.R. Johnson, Dr. Peppard was an extremely active man both inside and outside his practice, participating in organizations such as the Reform Club and the Temperance Society. Having eight children of his own, he had a special interest in young people and education, and offered constant support to the Great Village School. Many villagers still remember his fine oratorical skills, and he was frequently called upon to give speeches at important gatherings. He was one of the first villagers to have a telephone installed in his house in 1985, extending his handsome voice even farther.

While his doctoring was highly respected and praised, what villagers remember most about his life is his devotion to Derry Farm, a property he bought in the early 1880s and developed lovingly until his sudden death. On September 17, 1894, the Truro Daily News described the prosperous extent and prospect of Dr. Peppard’s homestead:

“Derry Farm There are many very striking localities in Great Village as sites for handsome residences and there are many fine first class buildings in the little town, but for natural beauty of situation we doubt if anything equals Derry Farm – the splendid property owned by Dr. J.L. Peppard.

Ten years ago the Doctor purchased a large strip of land on the road leading from the Village to Acadia Mines from Mr. Wm. McKim, and realizing the beautiful site he had, built there on one of the finest residences in the county. The house is a large two storey building exceedingly showy in appearance, finished throughout in handsome native woods, and with all the equipment and conveniences of every first class dwelling. The view from the top of the house is grand and the eye can scan with ease and clearness Economy Point on one side of the Bay and the distant shores of Walton, Noel and Maitland on the other, while the pretty town of Great Village, nestling at the feet of Derry Farm, with its silver streak of the river as it glides through the rich marshes to the murky waters of the Bay in the distance, presents a lovely view. The panorama is enchanting on every side as away in the distance, in another direction, rises Mount Pleasant with its sloping sides of cultivated fields and pasture lands and then thick forest trees, till they seem to touch the clouds as your vision carries you up the lofty spurs of the Cobequids.

Derry Farm consists of some 150 acres and over twenty-five of this area are in good cultivation. Besides the ordinary products of the farm hay, grains, roots and vegetables of all kinds, the Doctor has, here in the midst of his busy practice, found time to give some attention to fruit raising. He has between three and four hundred fruit trees apple, plum, cherry and pear and the most of them are thriving well. The plum trees are doing extra well and many of them are laden with rich, ripe, luscious fruit. This year the cherry trees yielded but a small crop, and the pears, though some of them are of the easily raised Bartlett variety, are also indifferent. Many of the trees are but nurslings and no large returns could be expected; they, with very few exceptions, look remarkably healthy, clean and shapely and the Doctor has great expectations from his fine orchard on which he has bestowed so much time and money.

Derry Farm is one of the pretty outlooks of Great Village, and the view will well repay the trouble of a ten minutes walk from the Elmonte hotel to this fine property, and those interested in fruit raising there is the sight of two or three acres of young trees that in a short time will form one of the finest orchards in Colchester Co.”

Dr. Peppard was a prominent and benevolent personage in Great Village, which made his sudden tragic death in 1907 a tremendous loss, a loss which many Villagers still think and talk about, especially when they drive past Derry Farm on their way to Londonderry Station. The story goes: It was a pleasant afternoon in late September. Dr. Peppard and his cousin Samuel Lindsay of Londonderry were harvesting oats and, becoming thirsty, took a break from their labour. Dr. Peppard when into his surgery to prepare a refreshing drink and by mistake took a bottle of strychnine from the shelf and poured it into the jug. Both men died from the effects. The beautiful orchards blossom every year but it seems to most villagers that their yields have not been as bountiful since Dr. Peppard’s loving attention ended. Will Bulmer remembers his friend Dr. Peppard as well as anyone in the village as he and his girls pass by the property on their way to the train. He thinks of Dr. Peppard’s sudden, too early death, just like Gertie’s William, only thirty-nine, setting off so much of her trouble.

Dr. Peppard’s strange, sad story fades from memory a bit more with each passing year. The war is filling villagers’ minds with the death stories of so many young men. The war has brought a new urgency to farming all across Canada. With fewer lads to do the planting and harvesting the older fellows are back vigorously at the ploughs and threshers.

The Bowers’s farm is another of the village’s efficient, bustling operations. Will Bowers is keen about the science and business of agriculture, having taken courses at the Agricultural Colleges in Guelph, Ont., and Truro.(2) He bought in farm, Elmcroft, in the 1890s and has expanded rapidly, bringing it to its current high standard. He raises mostly hogs, but also has a herd of beef cattle, including prize Shorthorn bulls, which he breeds. Mr. Bowers also cultivates crops of various kinds, so his operation is regarded as one of the best mixed farms in the area. He is a firm believer in diversity, his philosophy, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” All this activity is business, but his most intense passion, like many of the other farmers in the village, is horses, and he is one of the regulars at the tracks around the county. He also travels the province in search of the best stock for this pursuit. His wife is Kate, the daughter of Rev. T.D. Blackadar.(3) She has one of the loveliest voices in the district, some say like an angel’s. She also oversees a growing family of six sons and a daughter. The oldest, Wallace,(4) has enlisted in the 193rd Battalion with his many friends and they are now at Aldershot training. He gets home regularly and always rolls up his sleeves to help out on this busy farm.(5)

 The Bowers's Elmcroft

Another highly progressive farmer in Great Village is Mr. Amos Geddes. He owns and operates another large mixed farm, one of the largest on the shore. Born in Highland Village, son of Mr. and Mrs. David Geddes, Amos has lived his whole life in Colchester Co. This summer his principal plan is to build a new house on his property. His intention is to make it one of the finest residences around, equipped with all the modern conveniences, including an up-to-date private water supply. He has engaged Mr. L.B. Gray, Architect, of Truro, to design it, and the contract to build it has gone to Mr. MacCurdy of Truro. The site has been prepared (he will have a commanding view of the marshes which stretch out to Cobequid Bay, and of the Cobequid Mountains to the East) and the men are poised to start the foundation. The work will take most of the summer. Mr. and Mrs. Geddes are expecting a busy summer besides. Their son Lloyd will be home from Dalhousie University. Mr. Geddes’s sister, Mrs. George Clinton Batchelder, has already arrived for a summer’s stay. She came along to keep house for her brother as later on Mrs. Geddes and her mother, Mrs. H.H. Fulton of Debert, are planning a trip to Alberta to visit Mrs. Geddes’s sister, Mrs. Allie Morrison of Nanton, who is in poor health. Most village folks suspect that Mrs. Batchelder, Truena, is helping Mr. Geddes with his grand new house. Truena Geddes is a lively and expressive woman, who made her way to New York City and a successful business career. There she married a wealthy manufacturer, and as the folks around here say, was set for life. She is Great Village’s first and to date only millionairess. But even money is not immunity from sadness, and Truena was widowed a few years ago. Some say Willie Spencer is particularly interested in Truena’s visit, as they were old sweethearts way back when.(6) Truena loves motoring and many of her old friends are regular passengers on trips along the shore, in both directions. Today it is Broderick’s Hotel in Five Islands, with Eleanor Spencer and Beletta Urquhart. For Amos, it is a full day of chores and supervising the work on the house. He’s glad for the fine weather, as it means the foundation work can proceed apace.

 The Geddes House


1. Dr. J.L. Peppard married three times: Arabella Morse Symonds (three children: Alice, Sarah, Ernest); Clara Amelia Balcom (three children: John, Arthur, Helen); and Sophia Peppard (two children: Matthew, Albert).

2. “The Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC) is the third oldest centre for agricultural education and research in Canada.” Though officially opened under this name in 1905, the NSAC was an amalgamation of “three earlier developments: the establishment of a School of Agriculture at the Provincial Normal School in Truro in 1885, the acquisition of the Provincial Government Farm at Bible Hill in1889 and the establishment of the School of Horticulture in Wolfville in 1894” (Ells, p. 7).

3. William’s wife Kate Blackadar died in 1922 and he married Grace Bulmer, Elizabeth Bishop’s aunt, in 1923. It was to “Elmcroft” that Bishop returned in the 1940s, when she came back to Great Village after a sixteen year hiatus.

4. Wallace Bowers was one of the Great Village boys killed during World War I.

5. Great Village remains a farming region and the tradition of specializing continues. The Bowers family is now a fifth generation farm. It grows crops for food processing plants in the area. It and several other local farms also specialize in strawberries (Great Village was known for its strawberries even at the turn of the 20th century). Today the crop is not only the berries but also the plants themselves, which are grown, harvested and shipped to Florida. The other booming fruit crop in the area is blueberries. Deforested hills in the Cobequid Mountains above Great Village, as well as large areas along the Fundy shore, have been planted with blueberries. This crop is one of the fastest growing agricultural industries in the province. Oxford, N.S., not far from Great Village, claims to be the blueberry capitol of the world.

6. On October 29, 1918, Truena Batchelder and William Edward Spencer were married. Mr. and Mrs. Spencer spent their life together travelling the world, but they also made significant contributions to Great Village, and returned regularly during the summer months. Mrs. Spencer built two beautiful residences and generously supported many institutions and societies. One of her good deeds was providing the financing for the aboiteau, which protected acres of marshland for the farmers.

1 comment:

  1. Fabulous read, amazing all this history and actual facts! Quite an eye opener! Tell us more please.