It’s fair to say that the story of Kings County farmers from the 1870's will never make the big screen. Blockbusters – especially ones based on historical fact – focus on the larger players. But we feel that one of the hidden histories in our museum is a story well worth the telling.
On a shelf in the archives is a leather-bound ledger; the record book of The Kings County Famers’ League of 1875. The opening page proclaims that; Pursuant to arrangements, a Meeting of the Farmers of Kings County was held at the County Court House on Thursday, April 15th, 1875 to take the necessary steps to organise a Farmers’ League.
Now, a League of Farmers may not sound like a blockbuster story, but imagine the setting: it is 16 years since the arrival of the railway, and just 8 short years since Confederation; both of which would have a profound effect on the business of agriculture. Union with the rest of Canada – and a railway that provided access to this vast area – meant new markets for Maritime farmers; but this open market demanded the highest quality and the best prices. The League’s list of objectives show how determined Kings County farmers were to ensure they could meet the needs:
- To promote a better system of Agriculture by a more extended intercourse and a closer union of Farmers
- To enrich our farms and to increase our production by every available means
- To make a united effort for the increase in emigration of farm labourers
- To advance our influence in Legislative measures
- To improve our condition by buying less and producing more
- To improve our farm stock
- To elevate our position socially and intellectually and to encourage an agricultural journal that will take a lively interest in our pursuits
Lofty visions for a lofty goal.
The pages of the record book continue with meeting minutes that detail how these men went about their mission:
To elevate our position socially and intellectually, guest speakers were brought in to share new ideas from other farming areas;
To advance [their] influence in Legislative measures, appeals to government and other agencies were drafted;
To improve [their] farm stock they established buying schemes to obtain the best breeds at the best prices, and even developed a trading system where members could swap livestock with one another if it was felt the particular breed of animal might be better suited to another area of Kings County.
In their effort to promote a better system of Agriculture by a more extended intercourse, members were required to present on a particular farming topic at the sessions. One such round table explored the question of field drainage in detail. A LOT of detail. Four pages of ledger notes were required to capture the cautions and recommendations provided by the various members.
Though the ledger now sits quietly on a shelf, the story within its pages shows that the Kings County League of Farmers would never be content to do the same. Their story is one of action (and the occasional adventure) as they strove to define their place in the new national story.
A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, indeed.
A small selection from the epic discussion on drainage!