Glen Matheson may have stood out among his peers, researching local history at the age of 15, but he found it as fascinating then as he does today.
The Colchester Historical Society recently presented Matheson with a Heritage Award for his efforts in researching, preserving and promoting the history of the Earltown area and its residents, and for maintaining a “Heritage Tidbits from Earltown, Nova Scotia” blog.
“I started looking into the history of the area 45 years ago,” he recalled. “When I first started there was a very small segment of the population interested in it. It was a hobby of retired people.
“When I went to university in Halifax I had access to the archives there, so I would dabble away at it. I was always fascinated by what led people to come to those areas that were kind of back in the hills.”
He found that more than 90 per cent of the early settlers came from Sutherlandshire, in Scotland.
“Around 1820 to 1822 many people were evicted from their ancestral lands. There was a shift in agriculture and economics and the Countess of Sutherland was told she had to clear people out to make room for sheep farming. They wanted people to relocate and go into things like fishing and coal mining, but these were farmers.”
In 1813, two settlers, Angus Sutherland and Donald MacIntosh, arrived in Earltown. They were originally from Scotland, but had come to Scotsburn with their families as children. Sutherland was called the “Prince” because of his resemblance to Bonnie Prince Charlie.
During the next 20 years they were followed to the area by several dozen families from Sutherlandshire, and formed a community of Gaelic-speaking Presbyterians with a peak population of more than 1,200.
“Because entire communities were relocating they kept a lot of customs and family connections – more than in a place that a was melting pot,” said Matheson. “For a number of years, the Pipers’ Picnic in Earltown, was very much an extended family-type event.”
Matheson leads cemetery tours, filled with stories from the past, during the summer. These take place mainly at cemeteries where settlers were buried. He also provides information for people who contact him through the blog’s website
“I enjoy meeting people and showing them around,” he added. “I don’t do this for recognition, but it’s nice to have recognition for the role of some of these communities.”
Matheson’s blog can be found online at https://earltown.com/