ABEL THE IMMIGRANT

The earliest evidence we have that places Abel Beals in Nova Scotia is found in the Annapolis Township Records.  They show that he was one of the Tax Assessors for the township in 1779 and that he lived near Lawrencetown.  He would have been 24 years of age which seems to be rather young for such a responsibility.  However, there would have been very few people living in the area at that time.  The other assessor was Phineas Lovett of Round Hill and the amount assessed for the year was 52 pounds, 13 shillings and 6 pence. 

The next piece of evidence is a real estate transaction which took place on November 1, 1780 when Abel bought two pieces of land from his brother-in-law, Zara Kent.  One piece was "wood lot No. 38" and the other was 10 acres in the "cow & calf marsh".  It is interesting to note that neither of these lots were near Lawrencetown. 

A "History of the Lawrencetown Methodist Church" indicates Abel "lived across the river from Lunn's Mills", that "he was the first Beals in the area" and "became of considerable prominence during his lifetime".  Lunn's Mills was named after John Lunn who came from Halifax and purchased the "mill lot" from Philip Marchington in 1760.  He operated a mill just west of the south end of the present bridge over the Annapolis River.  The lot was eventually bought for the Methodist Church by the Trustees one of whom was Abel Beals.  The name Lunn's Mills was changed to Lawrencetown in 1822.  The phrase "across the river" is confusing when trying to pinpoint where Abel lived.  The south side of the river was in Annapolis Township while the north side, from Paridise to the Kings County line, was at that time known as Wilmot Township.  While the mill was in Annapolis Township the village of Lunn's Mills was in Wilmot Township.  Since Abel was a tax assessor for Annapolis Township we can safely assume he lived on the south side of the river and "across the river" from the village of Lunn's Mills rather than "across the river" from the mill itself.  But where "across the river" did Abel live? The Lawrencetown Lane which runs from the river to what is now highway 201 probably existed then.  Highway 201 was the old "French" road used by the Acadians to travel from Annapolis to Grand Pre.  Edward Whitman owned the land (3000 acres) from the Lawrencetown Lane to the "church lot" which is now the location of the Whitman Cemetery.  In 1788 Abel bought 800 acres from Phinias Lovett Sr. which bordered on and was east of the church lot.

So we see that Abel Beals has arrived in Nova Scotia and is living in Annapolis County.  But when did he arrive? Since we don't know we will have to guess.  It is perhaps safe to assume he was not younger than 18 which would be 1773 at the earliest.  Considering the facts outlined above the latest date of arrival would be 1779.  Therefore, if we were to say that Abel emigrated from Massachusetts in 1776 at the age of 21 we would not be too far wrong. 

A much more interesting question is: why did Abel go to Nova Scotia? We don't know the answer to this one either but its fun to speculate.  In doing so there are two areas to consider: what were the conditions at home which might have influenced him to leave and were there any inducements in Nova Scotia which may have beckoned him. 

The Seven Years' War between England and France, in which the American Colonies were involved, began the year Abel was born, 1755.  When it was over in 1763, England, the "mother" country was in a bad way financially and tried to recover some of the cost of the war by levying taxes on her colonial subjects.  But said colonial subjects objected to the idea of being taxed without having representation in the British Parliment.  During the next ten years laws relating to trade and taxes were passed by Britain and resisted by the colonies.  The seeds of revolution were being sown and the spark which helped to set it off was the famous Boston Tea Party in December, 1773.  The situation continued to deteriorate and by October, 1774 Massachusetts was virtually independent with only the Boston area under the control of the British Governor.  The first shot of the War of Independence was fired in Concord, north of Boston, on April 19, 1775.  On this date Abel was approaching his twentieth birthday and this was the environment in which he had spent those first twenty years. 

It would be easy to come to the conclusion that Abel left because he simply did not like what was happening in his homeland.  Or perhaps he somehow became directly involved in the political manouvers and needed to escape.  Since his family had lived in Hingham, which is only 15 miles south east of Boston, for over 130 years, their sympathy most likely was for the colonial side.  Anyone who was a loyalist kept their head down and their mouth shut.  If he did not he suffered at the hands of his neighbor.  Perhaps Abel's loyalty choice made it impossible for him to stay.  Abel's father was a soldier with the rank of Corporal probably in the colonial malitia and it was not unknown for members of a family to take opposite sides in the conflict. 

On the other hand maybe the buildup to war and the fighting itself was not the reason he left.  He was the oldest son and by 1776 there were seven other children in the family, including three brothers, which meant he had little chance of inheriting anything from his father.  The area was becoming quite populated by that time and land was hard to obtain.  But there was lots of land in Nova Scotia. 

The most compelling reason for Abel to go to Nova Scotia was no doubt the fact that his uncle and aunt were already there.  His father's sister, Rachel, had married Isaac Kent in 1739.  They had gone to Nova Scotia in 1760 and obtained a grant of land at Round Hill a few miles up the Annapolis River from the town of Annapolis.  In 1776 his Aunt Rachel and Uncle Isaac would have both been 57 years old.  They had had thirteen children but only eight were living at that time.  No doubt Abel lived with the family for a period of time and got to know his cousin, Abigail, who became his wife.  In 1776 she was about twenty-four. 

This is a straight forward scenario but in the absence of fact we can invisage other circumstances.  Perhaps Abel left Massachusetts with full intentions of marrying his cousin Abigail.  Maybe she had "gone back" to visit her mothers relatives and was attracted to Abel then.  For that matter they could have been married in Massachusetts and went to Nova Scotia together.  This last speculation is rather unlikely however since there is no record of the marriage in Massachusetts where there seems to have been close attention paid to keeping track of such events.  Calnek, in his "History of the County of Annapolis" says that "he married here".  Anyway the "straight forward scenario" sounds the most plausible dosn't it.  Besides there was an abundance of land available in Nova Scotia and at that time it was simply a matter of asking the government for a grant. 

Regardless of the fact that we don't know why Abel immigranted to Nova Scotia, we are glad he did.  We also appreciate his thoughtfullness in adding an "s" to his name because this has greatly facilitated the search for his descendants.  There is an old saying which claims in the olden days people changed the spelling of their names so that the devil couldn't find them. 





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Copyright © 2005 by Donald W. Beals, author.