African-Nova Scotians – Death in the Poor House in Bridgetown

The Poor House, or County Home as some call it, in Bridgetown, Annapolis Valley, was the only poor house in the province that segregated paupers by colour. The rest of the houses did not allow the sexes to mix but did not care about the African-Nova Scotians and the First Nations mixing in with the white people.

There was a fair amount of African-Nova Scotian people in the area of Annapolis Royal and Bridgetown because of the arrival of the Loyalists in 1783. Many of the Loyalist were permitted to bring their African slaves with them while many other Africans were fugitive slaves who ran away from their rebel masters and were referred to as “Free Negroes”. Others were members of the regiment of the Black Pioneers. Thomas Peters was one of the Black Pioneers and leaders of Brinley Town, the black settlement outside of the new town Digby in 1784.

This is the original Annapolis County Poor House; the county received more funding and built a wooden poor house in front of this one. This brick building became the poor house for the Black paupers of the area and the wooden building was for the white paupers. Eventually this building became known as the County Home and then was referred to as a Hospital.

The African Nova Scotians who did not go in the exodus to Sierra Leone in 1792, who stayed here, struggled for equal rights, for respect, for work, for equal pay. Their descendants struggled and continue to struggle to this day, for the same thing; respect and work.

The angle of this photo shows the poor house for the white paupers in front and the older, brick building for the African-Nova Scotian paupers in the back. 

The poor house on Church Road outside of Bridgetown buried their poor in unmarked graves and segregation was not a problem when burying the paupers. Like most poor houses, the Bridgetown Poor House did not record it’s dead until approximately 100 years ago. Recently, I was given a list of the known African Nova Scotians who are buried in the pottersfield of the Bridgetown poor house. The following list is just the ones we know of; the children break your heart.

Derby Bailey
d. 18 October 1912
40 years of age

Katherine Pomp
d. 4 February 1908
94 years of age

Margaret Simms
d. 19 October 1910
86 years of age

Lucy Mitchell*
d. 20 October
88 years of age

Thomas Francis
d. 28 November 1910
34 years of age

Benjamin Francis
d. 22 Jan 1911
6 weeks old, at Ward 11

Alice Stephenson
d. 28 May 1913
2 years of age

Edward Owens
d. 11 September 1913
2 mos.

Joshua Sims
d. 24 February 1914
63 years of age

James Johnson
d. 28 April 1914
83 years of age

Thomas Jackson
d. 4 Aug. 1914
3 years of age

Silas Jackson
d. 2 Dec. 1914
2 months of age

Paddy Mitchell
d. 13 Dec. 1914
85 years of age

Ruby Evelyn E. Jackson
d. 28 May 1915
1 month, 27 days of age

Cyril Jackson
d. 27 Dec. 1915
2 weeks, 1 day of age

Letitia Camps
d. 20 Jan 1917
60 years old of age

Emma Godfrey**
d. 26 April 1919
90 years of age

Henry Cuff
d. 2 June 1919
73 years of age

Alexander Jackson
d. 7 August 1920
94 years of age

Mary Parker
d. 20 August 1921
80 years of age

Margaret Johnson
d. 23 November 1921
86 years of Age

Henry Sims
d. 30 November 1922
77 years, 6 mos, 27 days

Fred Jarvis
d. 16 Dec. 1922
1 year of age

Mary Stephenson
d. 11 March 1925
42 years of age

Lavinia Cuff
d. 25 Dec. 1926
88 years of age

Jennie B. Owens
d. 31 December 1927
24 years of age

Albert Mitchell
d. 15 August. 1928
56 years of age

Elsie Owens
d. 12 March 1930
6 mos.

James Owens
d. 17 Aug. 1930
1 yr. 6 mos. 15 days

William Bailey
d. 12 Aug 1932
aged 80 years

Dorothy Owen
d. 10 Jan 1934 at Ward 11
3 mos. 28 days

Ethel Elizabeth Simms
d. 23 March 1934
13 days

Eleazar Marsman
d. 18 Sept. 1934
age 69

Irving Crosby
d. 28 July 1935
age 83

James Henry Owens
d. 12 Nov. 1936
age 87

Naamon Owens
d. 15 July 1938 Ward 11
aged 44 years

Harold Stevenson
d. 21 May 1940 Ward 11
4 mos. 29 days

Percy Jackson
d. 5 May, 1941 in Inglewood
59 years of age

John Henry Jackson
d. 9 December 1941 in Bridgetown
aged 69 yr 2 mos

Lillian Golden May Bell
d. 9 Nov 1944 in Boston
73 years of age
Buried at the county home

Curtis Bailey
d. 8 Sept 1950
65 years of age

*The well known African-Nova Scotia poet, Maxine Tynes, whom I had the great privilege of meeting in the late 1980s, wrote a poem about Lucy Mitchell.

Screenshot (124)
A hand drawn cartoon of Lucy Mitchell, known around Bridgetown as ‘Crazy Luce’. Elizabeth Ruggles Coward writes about Lucy in her book History of Bridgetown; Maxine Tynes wrote a poem about Lucy. 

**Likely a descendant of the amazing Rose Fortune.


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