In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A visit to the McNutt cellar, part one

From the government wharf it's only a few minutes' walk along a path toward the east before you arrive at the cellar of an old house.
Its floor is crowded with trees and other growth. You can see an enormous boulder in the lower right of the next photo. That's the central hearth foundation.
The cellar's size and depth mark it as once having been the foundation of the island's most substantial house. This is what remains of the McNutts' presence on the island.
This house was built on 250 acres granted to Benjamin McNutt c. 1765. The DesBarres map of Port Campbell, executed in 1765, gives us good evidence of the McNutt presence on the island by that date. The McNutt lands are shaded light blue, and structures are noted. Benjamin built a house, cleared land, and established a farm here. He died in 1798, probably in his house on the island. He bequeathed his property to Martin McNutt, a relative and a local cooper.
Benjamin was the brother of Alexander McNutt (1725-1811), an Irish land agent active in Nova Scotia between 1761 and 1796. After their forcible deportation of the Acadians, which began in 1755, the British government needed new settlers for Nova Scotia. Alexander McNutt proposed large settlements of Ulster Irish here. Among his plans was a utopian community at Port Roseway Harbour (now Shelburne Harbour), to be called New Jerusalem.

McNutt's grand plans ended in failure. But as a part of his plan for Port Roseway, his brother Benjamin received this property on what was then called Roseneath Island. As Alexander's province-wide dreams faded, he came here to live.

During the American Revolution, American privateers attacked settlements on Nova Scotia's southwest coast. In 1778 a company of these privateers landed on the island and ransacked the McNutt house. Alexander McNutt travelled to Boston to complain to the Massachusetts Bay Council about the attack. In his complaint he described the loss of his sword, pistol and firelocks, scarlet and blue cloth, drawing box, books, silver spoons, silver buckles, gold lace and diamond rings. So we know he was living on the island at the time of the privateers' attack.

Tomorrow's post will talk about what happened to the house in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and how we know what we know about it (and how we wish we knew more).

Detail of the DesBarres map of Port Campbell now Shelburne, 1765, courtesy of NSARM.

No comments: