Episode 7

Envelope 1878

  1. Carribo / Cariboo / Caribou
  2. The first map of Caribou Harbour
  3. A. F. Church, Pictou County's first cartographer
  1. Chapter Reference

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Carribo / Cariboo / Caribou

Alexander George MacDonald was 18 years old when he received this letter postmarked Charlottetown, PEI January 21, 1878. It took only two days for the letter to arrive. Addressed to ‘Little Entrance Carribo’’, the area was also referred to as Cariboo or Caribou.

The three penny stamp is from the series called “Small Queen Period” 1870-1897, when stamps became smaller to save printing costs. It had been only since 1875 that stamps began to signify prepayment. Formerly, mail delivery was C.O.D. There was regular mail delivery between Caribou, NS and Wood Islands, PEI. Deliveries were made in winter by men hauling open boats over the ice.

The first map of the area from 1867 shows that J.P. McDonald, J. McDonald and William McDonald owned the land in the area of the Little Entrance. A century later this area would become Caribou Munroe Island Provincial Park.

This photograph shows the house at the Little Entrance where the envelope was found. Outside are 8 men, 6 women, a girl, a young boy, a baby, 2 horses and a dog. The portrait was quite elaborately posed with the mother holding the baby seated on a chair and everyone, including the dog, acknowledging the camera. Is this a portrait of the extended McDonald family? Are they celebrating the newly built house and, perhaps, confirming their claim on the land as settlers? A tree has been planted in front of the house, a symbol of promise. Today the house still stands and in front of it is a towering chestnut tree sixty feet high.

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The first map of Caribou Harbour



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A. F. Church, Pictou County's first cartographer

The government of Nova Scotia became interested in map-making in 1862 and contracted Jacob Chace, a mapmaker from Portland Maine for a series of 18 county maps. Civil engineer, Ambrose Finson Church took over the contract in 1865 and relocated to Bedford N.S. for the duration of the work. Fraught with money woes and time delays eventually spanning 23 years, his map making constitutes the major legacy of Church’s working life. His was the earliest complete map record of Pictou County. The final map of the Nova Scotia series was completed in 1888.

Born in 1836 in Hartland Maine, Church died in Rio de Janeiro in 1920.

The Pictou county map which includes Caribou Harbour, was the second in the series to be completed and cost $1,000. On November 14, 1867, the newspaper “Morning Chronicle,” reported publication of the map of Pictou County, “…got up in the same splendid style 45 inches” x 55 inches”, at a scale of one mile to the inch, with plans of New Glasgow, Hopewell, Pictou, Durham, Albion Mines and River John, as well as directories of settlements and an inset of Nova Scotia and adjacent provinces.”

Little is known about Church’s methods of map making. It is said that he visited schools along the way and asked children for the names and details of residents.

His grandson described Ambrose F. Church as, "... a bearded, short, rather stout sort of man who always wore a beaver hat, He was a respected resident of Nova Scotia for many years though he retained his United States citizenship.  Church was a very quiet man who kept much to himself and who was somewhat eccentric.  He is said to never have emptied the teapot until it was too full of leaves to take water. It is said about him that he used to eat half a pound of nuts after meals, that he used to put flypaper on his head in the house and that he sometimes slept with a revolver under his pillow. He is also said to have carried a sextant in a wheelbarrow while surveying.”

The detailed topographical maps indicated landowners and identified houses, wharves, businesses, fish houses, lobster factories and roads. Landowners along the Caribou Harbour shore in 1865 included W. McDonald, J. McDonald, J.P McDonald, J. Leslie, A. Sutherland, Mrs. Harris, J. McKenzie, and A. Logan. East of the harbour, lived T. McKay, D. McFarland, D. McKenzie.

 Complied from an article written by C. Bruce Ferguson, former provincial archivist, and published in the Cape Breton Magazine #50, p79, 1989.

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