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Report 1902: A Quick Scamper Round Nova Scotia

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2010

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Page 7 of 16: Civilian Life in the Fortress

photo by Michael

Kitchen in a merchant’s house

There was a large seasonal fishing community with up to 5000 people living outside the Fortress in the area known as the Fauxbourg. Properties had their own wharf, fish flakes and huts for workers. Only resident fishing proprietors could hire migrant workers, who came across each year without their families. The itinerant fishermen lived in small basic huts and ate their meals in the taverns.

If the area was attacked the fishing community were expected to burn their properties to stop them from falling into enemy hands and take shelter within the Fortress.

Fishing was from shallops. Wealthier fishermen bought a schooner and collected cod from the outposts which was then sold to merchants in the town. The more successful fishermen became merchants and settled inside the Fortress, selling fishing gear and goods for credit. As their wealth increased so did the size of their house and number of servants or slaves. Many houses had a large warehouse attached.

People owning property along the quay often opened part of their house to paying guests, providing accommodation and food. A spruce bow over the door indicated a place serving alcoholic drinks.

In the Grandchamps House and Inn the owners lived in a small house next door to the inn which was their insurance against old age or death of the husband.

Women were not allowed to set up businesses themselves but could continue to run their husband’s business after his death. Wealthy widows often controlled the family business, holding it in trust to divide between the children. They were free to sign contracts, buy property and negotiate their children’s marriages. Females reached maturity at 25; males at 30.

Military wives were forced to remarry quickly or eke out a living on a small pension.

Widows of labourers took in washing or hired themselves or their children out as servants, who made up 15% of the population. Some children were contracted out as young as seven. Their parent or guardian entered into a contract with an employer setting out wages (if any) and terms of service. Most servants were single and lived with their employer.

Many wealthy people employed slaves who were shipped from the Antilles. They were regarded as a commodity and traded in Louisbourg. There were 216 slaves mainly working in domestic service. There were also a few native slaves. Status depended on the number of slaves kept.

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