The brief biographical 'snap-shots' which follow are intended to provide context for several of the leading figures who appear frequently throughout the Easson and Easson-Hoyt documents. By referring to the Surname Index and clicking on the matching names there, you will be able to link the men and women described below directly to the documents in which they have a voice.
The sketches were developed mostly from information contained in W.A. Calnek and A.W. Savary, History of the County of Annapolis (Toronto, 1897) and A.W. Savary, Supplement to the History of the County of Annapolis (Toronto, 1913). Where the information has been taken from other sources instead, those sources have been identified below the individual entry.
Philip Berteaux was born in the town of St. Helier, Jersey. His father, Sir Walter, was a Huguenot who fled from France to the Island of Jersey after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. The Board of Ordnance, London, commissioned Philip Berteaux a 'Master Carpenter' and then sent him on service to Annapolis Royal prior to the Expulsion of the Acadians in 1755. Berteaux died in Annapolis Royal in 1794.
Likely William Bogdani (1699-1771), a prominent British civil servant, the son of Jacob and Elizabeth (Hemmings) Bogdani. Bogdani Sr. (1658-1724), known as 'the Hungarian,' emigrated to London in 1688 and became a prominent still-life and bird artist; Queen Anne was among his patrons. Bogdani Jr. studied under his father and for a time 'painted in his father's manner' before embarking on a successful career in government.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Antoine Castaing, son of Antoine and Isabau (Elizabeth) Castaing, was born in Bordeaux, France. He immigrated to Louisbourg, Ile Royale, about 1740 where he was a translator to the Louisbourg admiralty and had limited commercial dealings. He married Charlotte-Isabelle Chevalier of a shipping and trading family. M. and Mme. Castaing returned to Louisbourg four years after the capitulation of Louisbourg in 1745 and the subsequent deportation of its inhabitants. Antoine Castaing then developed a substantial and diversified business and purchased catches of fish and locally built schooners. He also chartered vessels to carry cargo to Bordeaux. This Louisbourg merchant also had business dealings with the French West Indies; he exported cod, staves, planks, shingles and bricks and imported rum, sugar, wine and rope. In addition, Castaign continued as a translator to the admiralty.
In 1752, Antoine Castaign married Willobe King, known as Olive Le Roy, of Rhode Island. Her sister also married a Louisbourg merchant, Jean-Jacques Brunet (Brunnet). After the second fall of Louisbourg in 1758, the Castaing family returned to Bordeaux. Castaign disappeared in 1779 while "in the mountains on a logging operation," which left his family dependent upon charity.
For more information, view the entry for Castaing in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
Joseph Cossins [Cousins] was an Annapolis Royal merchant who died in 1794 but his widow Henrietta survived him by sixteen years. Their only child, Henrietta, married John Cooper, the first Methodist missionary in Annapolis Royal. Although T. Watson Smith, History of the Methodist Church . . . of Eastern British America provides a favourable account of the Rev. John Cooper, W.A. Calnek gives a totally opposite description of the minister, stating in his History of the County of Annapolis that Mrs. Cooper left her cleric husband due to his ill treatment. After her mother's death in 1810, Henrietta Cooper moved to England but asked Pardon Sanders, executor of her father's estate, to manage her own personal estate. She subsequently returned to Annapolis Royal and died there in 1836.
John Henry Bastide, appointed chief engineer for Nova Scotia in 1740, arrived in Annapolis Royal (then the capital of the colony) a year later, with instructions to rebuild the existing fort and erect batteries. William Cowley, his assistant, accompanied by artificers and labourers from New England and Britain, arrived two years later in 1743. Cowley hosted a ball at Annapolis in celebration of Rear-Admiral Edward Hawke's naval victories off Spain, in October 1747. He died in 1754 and was replaced by George Dyson. Two years later, in 1749, Susannah Cowley, his widow and executrix, was seeking pay and rent owed her late husband.
John Davis was a tavern keeper in Annapolis Royal. He died in 1794.
James DeLancey (1746-1804) was born in Westchester County, New York, where he served as sheriff (1769-76) and an officer of the county militia in the years prior to the American Revolution. He was decidedly Tory (pro-British) in sentiment, and after the war began went to New York City, where he raised a force of horsemen who harassed the rebels. Together, DeLancey — the 'Outlaw of the Bronx' — and his 'Cowboy' were among the best-known and feared of the Loyalist units.
At the end of the Revolution, DeLancey's property was confiscated and he was forced to join fellow Loyalists travelling to Nova Scotia in 1783. With his wife, infant child and six slaves, he settled on a 640-acre land grant at Round Hill, Annapolis County. DeLancey served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly for Annapolis County (1790-93) and then as a member of H.M. Council (1794-1801).
DeLancey was involved in a famous debate over the legality of slavery in Nova Scotia, when his slave Jack escaped to Halifax, where he found employment with William Woodin. DeLancey sued Woodin in the Supreme Court for payment of Jack's wages. Attorney General Richard John Uniacke argued that Jack was a free man because Nova Scotia did not have a law to make him otherwise. The court awarded DeLancey £70 in damages, but Uniacke appealed and the charge of trespass which DeLancey brought against Woodin was dismissed. The court did not order that Jack be returned. DeLancey died in Round Hill on 2 May 1804, after several years of declining health.
For more information, view the entry for Deschamps in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
Josiah Dodge (b. ca. 1718) was a native of Massachusetts and served in the expedition against Louisbourg in 1758. The following year he assisted in the survey of Granville Township, then returned to Massachusetts, but came back to Nova Scotia in 1761 with his family and the machinery for a grist mill. When the first Granville Township grant was voided on a legality and a new one had to be issued, Dodge was appointed to carry out the details.
Robert Fletcher was probably born in London, England, but immigrated to Nova Scotia in 1766, accompanied by a new printing press and an extensive stock of books and stationery, with which he set up shop in Halifax. The first issue of his newspaper, the Nova-Scotia Gazette, appeared on 15 August 1766. Later that year, he printed the Journal and votes of the House of Assembly for the province of Nova Scotia; and in 1767, The perpetual acts of the General Assemblies of his majesty's province of Nova Scotia.
Fletcher published his last issue of the Nova-Scotia Gazette on 30 August 1770, sold his press to John Boyle of Boston, and thereafter devoted his interests exclusively to his bookstore, one of the first in Canada. Fletcher's business also included general merchandise, but he experienced frequent financial crises — he went into bankruptcy in 1782, although he still kept a store until about 1785, after which date he disappears from the records. Fletcher was church warden for St. Paul's Anglican Church in 1775, and he also acted as an agent for absentee landowners.
For more information, view the entry for Fletcher in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
Michael Francklin (1733-82), merchant, office-holder, colonial administrator and Indian agent; born in Poole, England, and immigrated to Halifax in 1752. Backed by Joshua Mauger, Francklin started in business as a tavern-owner, but quickly branched out into the retail trade, commercial shipping and government supply contracts. His mercantile wealth and political influence grew steadily, no doubt helped by his marriage in 1762 into one of Boston's great families; after Mauger returned to England in 1760, Francklin quickly replaced him as Halifax's leading merchant. His status in the colony was acknowledged in 1766 when he was appointed lieutenant governor, again thanks to Mauger's patronage; he remained in office for a decade as one of the most controversial administrators in the history of eighteenth-century Nova Scotia.
Francklin's fair-mindedness and ability to speak French meant that he was respected by the Acadians, especially for the support he gave to their re-settlement in Nova Scotia during the 1760s. He was also on good terms with the Mi'kmaq and Malecite peoples, a knowledge which dated from 1754 when he was captured by the Mi'kmaq and taken to the Gaspé; during the three months he spent with them, he learned their language and developed a respect for their culture, which uniquely fitted him for his appointment as superintendent of Indian Affairs in 1777. His influence and good communications with the Acadian and Mi'kmaq communities contributed much towards maintaining the peace in Nova Scotia during the American Revolution.
For more information, view the entry for Francklin in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
Benjamin Hallowell was a Boston merchant, and a member of an important Massachusetts family with strong pro-British sympathies. He was appointed Comptroller of the Port of Boston in March 1764, and Commissioner of Customs in 1770. He was not popular with the patriot cause, and during the Stamp Act riots his newly-built house was badly damaged and part of his furniture destroyed. In March 1776, when the British vacated Boston, Hallowell and his family of six were among the small group of prominent citizens who accompanied the British army to Halifax.
Hallowell had been granted a huge tract of land at Manchester (Guysborough County, NS) in 1765 for speculative purposes, and later received additional grants elsewhere in Nova Scotia and Upper Canada, where he eventually settled; he died at York (Toronto) in 1799, aged 75.
Little is known of John Handfield's life before he was commissioned an ensign in Philipps' Regiment (40th Regiment of Foot) in 1719/20 and came out to Annapolis Royal; he was promoted to lieutenant in 1731 and to captain in 1740. In 1736 he was named to H.M. Council at Annapolis, and for thirteen years regularly attended Council meetings, where he contributed to discussions and served on committees.
In the early 1750s Handfield became commandant of the Annapolis garrison, and in 1751 was appointed a Justice of the Peace. In the years leading up to the Acadian Deportation, he was responsible for restraining the clandestine trade that flourished regionally with the French and Mi'kmaq. This was a difficult task, given his family connections — his brother-in-law, Joseph Winniett, was a prime suspect in the trade, and his wife's sister-in-law, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts and cousins were all expelled in the events of 1755.
Handfield was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1758 and participated in the capture of Louisbourg that year. He retired from the regiment in 1760, moved to Boston, and died there about 1763.
For more information, view the entry for Handfield in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
Jonathan Leonard was born in Lyme, Connecticut but married Sarah Dodge in 1764 after he arrived in Nova Scotia. He may have served in the expedition against Louisbourg in 1758. Leonard owned 1000 acres of excellent land in Granville Township, but sold this property when the Loyalists arrived, moving instead to the Paradise area where he built one of the first sawmills in the township. He received his commissions of First Lieutenant, Annapolis County Militia, in 1773, and Captain, Annapolis County Militia, in 1782. Various sources state he died in 1802, 1811 or 1812.
Phineas Lovett (1711-1824) was born in Mendon, Massachusetts, the son of Major Daniel and Abigail Lovett. He immigrated to Nova Scotia about 1760 and lived in Round Hill, marrying twice — to Hannah Merriam and to Beulah Morse. Lovett was a farmer and erected a gristmill and sawmill. He also served in the militia and was the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Annapolis County, 1770-74.
Joshua Mauger (1725-88), sea-captain, businessman and politician, was a native of Jersey in the Channel Islands; he came to Halifax in 1749 from Louisbourg, where he had been victualler to the Royal Navy stationed there after the seige of 1745. He quickly established himself in the new capital of the colony as an entrepreneur, and there was little that he was not involved in before leaving Nova Scotia for England in 1760.
Mauger's success was founded upon the import-export trade, using his own vessels on voyages along the coast of Nova Scotia, down to New England and the West Indies, up to the French at Louisbourg, and across to England. Everything he touched turned to the proverbial gold, especially his near-monopoly over distilling, selling and trading rum in the colony. Building on his early accomplishments, Mauger quickly diversified into shipbuilding, lumbering, the timber trade, land speculation, land development, and even privateering during the Seven Years' War. He seemed always to be running one step ahead of the law, but his power, wealth and influence were such that during the few short years he spent in Nova Scotia, he controlled much of the commercial world around him.
For more information, view the entry for Mauger in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
Henry Munro was born in Ross-shire, Scotland, but came to North America ca. 1759 as a 1st Lieutenant in Montgomery's Highlanders, raised in Argyleshire for service against the French in America. Munro received a grant of 2000 acres in Annapolis County in 1765 and was very involved in community affairs; he was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of Militia in 1764, Justice of the Peace in 1765, Commissioner of Sewers in 1772, and Dedimus potestatem in 1775. He also represented Granville Township in the House of Assembly, 1765-68. Munro married Sarah, daughter of Thomas Hooper (of Massachusetts and Annapolis) in 1767; and died in Granville on 6 January 1781.
Joseph Patten (1710-87) was a native of Billerica, Massachusetts, and before moving to Nova Scotia ca. 1762 he was a Justice of the Peace in Lincoln County, Maine. Patten was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Granville Township in 1763, and Dedimus Potestatem in 1775. He represented Annapolis Township in the House of Assembly, 1770-74.
W.A. Calnek, in his History of the County of Annapolis, notes that Patten was a prominent magistrate in Annapolis County and heavily involved in the 'Shaw embroglio' [sic]. This was the name given to events which followed Colonel William Shaw's calling out of the local militia to perform garrison duty at Annapolis and Granville in 1776, upon receipt of the news that American rebels had attacked Fort Cumberland. It was later alleged that Shaw drew pay for his men during these activities, but then neglected to disburse any money to them.
Depositions were sworn before Patten and others, with no clear resolution; the matter was forwarded to a Committee of the House of Assembly in Halifax, which decided instead that Shaw had been overpaid by the government, and ordered him to make a small refund. Calnek called Patten a 'demagogue' and suggested that he was the instigator and promoter of the entire incident — because of his animus against Colonel Shaw, who had replaced him [Patten] as the MLA for Annapolis County in 1775.
Christopher Prince (1731-99), the son of Job and Abigail Prince, was born in Massachusetts and married twice — first to Mary Foster in Boston, 1756, and then to Ann Payson. Prince was the junior partner of Prince Brothers, Boston, but emigrated with other New England Planters to Nova Scotia ca. 1760. He held a number of offices and occupations in Annapolis County — merchant, farmer, Justice of the Peace, Colonel in the Militia, and Member of the Legislative Assembly representing Granville Township, 1772-95. He resided in Digby, Granville and Wilmot.
John Ritchie (1745/46 - 1790) emigrated from Scotland to Boston in 1770 to join his uncle, Andrew Ritchie, already involved there in a mercantile business. John subsequently moved to Annapolis Royal, where his first son was born and his first wife died, both in 1775. Fearing the spread of rebellion to southwestern Nova Scotia, Ritchie became vocal in his new community, calling for government assistance in defending that part of the province. He subsequently joined the local militia and was commissioned a captain in 1779. In 1781, two rebel vessels entered the Annapolis Basin and surprised and captured the town; Ritchie was one of two leading citizens taken hostage but later exchanged for a rebel prisoner in Halifax.
Ritchie was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Annapolis County in 1779; a judge of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas in 1786; and was elected to the House of Assembly in 1783. In 1775 or 1776, he married Alicia Maria, daughter of Francis Barclay Le Cain (Le Quesne), former ordnance master at Fort Anne. His business affairs worsened in his last years, and after his death at age 45 in 1790, Ritchie's widow and four children, ages 5-15, were left nearly destitute.
For more information, view the entry for Ritchie in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
Dr. William Skene was probably born in Scotland and came to Annapolis Royal, possibly as early as 1710. He was appointed to the Council in 1720 and was made a naval officer in 1725. He married Anne Adams, daughter of John Adams of Annapolis. Dr. Skene was appointed 'surgeon in his Majesty's Garrison at Annapolis Royal' in May 1746 and died on 20 October 1756.
Stephen Sneden Thorne (1795-1874) was born in Granville and was apprenticed at an early age to mercantile pursuits in the office and warehouse of his maternal uncle, Stephen Sneden. He married Mehitable Hall in 1818 and shortly thereafter became the business partner of Timothy Ruggles, an uncle by marriage, until the latter's death in 1831. Thorne then moved to Bridgetown, where he became a successful businessman 'with strict integrity and unimpeachable character' in his business dealings. Thorne represented Granville in the House of Assembly, 1836-57.
The 1836 election, Thorne's first, was spread over several days and was marked by much bitterness on both sides. W.A. Calnek commented in his History of the County of Annapolis that 'no one of to-day  can easily imagine the bustle and confusion, and noise, and tumult that characterized election struggles in "the good old times," with their "open houses," their drinking habits, the coaxing, wheedling and threatening used to sway the electors, their quarrels and fisticuffs.' Thorne served as Chairman of the Board of Works, 1857-61, and Collector of Customs at Bridgetown from 1863 until his death there on 30 December 1874.
Alfred Whitman (1797-1861) was born in Rosette (Round Hill, Annapolis County) and as a young man was employed as clerk and bookkeeper by Phineas Lovett, who had a large West India business. He acquired a general knowledge of trade-related matters and later became a farmer and merchant. Whitman represented Annapolis Township in the House of Assembly, 1843-57; he then became of member of the Legislative Council from 1857 until his death in Annapolis Royal, 1861.
William Winniett (ca. 1685-1741) may have been born in France of Huguenot parents. He accompanied Francis Nicholson from London in the expedition against Port-Royal in 1710, serving as a volunteer in Walton's New Hampshire regiment, and remaining as a lieutenant in the garrison at Annapolis. In 1711 he resigned his commission in order to become a merchant-trader along the Bay of Fundy and with the British army outpost at Canso. He sold provisions — mostly imported from Boston — procured wood for Fort Anne, and was perhaps involved in the fisheries during the 1720s.
Winniett was frequently suspected of supporting the Acadians and the Mi'kmaq, mostly because he had strong links with the former through marriage and the latter through trade. He was nevertheless appointed to H.M. Council at Annapolis in 1729; but was suspended in 1734 due to infrequent attendance and insolent behavior. Since there were few British citizens who could be called upon locally for council duty, however, his suspension was disallowed by the British home government in London.
Winniett drowned in Boston Harbour in 1741, leaving his wife, Marie-Madeleine (Maisonnat) and thirteen children. The sons remained locally prominent and the daughters married into the garrison (Alexander Cosby, John Handfield and Edward How), thus ensuring that the Winniett name was long remembered in southwestern Nova Scotia.
For more information, view the entries for William Winniett and Marie-Madeleine Maisonnat in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
Nova Scotia Archives — https://archives.novascotia.ca/easson/biographies/
Crown copyright © 2023, Province of Nova Scotia.