c/o 10 Edinburgh Drive, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island C1A 3E8
Club Web Site: http://www.angelfire.com/art/peina
Newsletter of the Prince Edward Island Numismatic Association [Vol 2 No 5] May-June 2001 _____________________________________________________________________________
Notice of Meeting
The next general meeting of the PEINA will be held on Monday evening, June 18, 2001, in the Library of Colonel Gray Senior High School. This will be our last meeting before the summer break. The meeting will begin at 7:30 pm.
Because of the time required for preparations
for the Spring Show, no newsletter was sent out in May and thus this issue,
number 5 for the year, is a combined May-June production.
On our June agenda
We'll keep the meeting as short as possible, with the focus on a final financial tally for the Spring Show.
We can also turn our attention to planning the September meeting we would like to have at the Farmers' Bank of Rustico.
We should also give thought to other activities for the autumn and winter months. Do we want to have a go at the CNA correspondence course? Do we want to invite some guest speakers to our meetings? Do we want to do a public display at the Charlottetown Mall, to show the public what we do and perhaps recruit new members? Do we want to tackle a project like setting up a display of P.E.I. coins in the Farmers' Bank?
One other possibility is to join with the Farmers' Bank of Rustico and other interested Island museums and related collecting organizations to organize a day-long "antiques roadshow" type of event.
There are no doubt many other things we
could consider, so please put on your thinking cap and pass on your ideas
to the Executive.
For the record, the winners of the draw
prizes at the Spring Show included Mr. Basil Hambly, the PEI coin wristwatch
donated by Gloria Houston; Garth Chalmers, the Confederation Bridge medal,
donated by Alan Bagnall; Jean Haslem, a 25 cent proof quarter donated by
the Royal Canadian Mint; Ken Christopher and Bill Giddings each won a silver
Maple Leaf coin, donated by the PEINA; Dave Doiron, a Royal Canadian Mint
polar bear medal, donated by the Royal Canadian Mint. In addition, a number
of younger visitors received a variety of numismatic prizes including coins
and tokens donated by PEINA members and The Coin Cabinet, Moncton, as well
as some special prizes from the Royal Canadian Mint. For one young collector
clutching an armload of treasures, including the Canadian Coin News and
the Collector's Guide 2001 kindly donated by Paul Fiocca of Trajan Publishing
Corporation, the R. C. Mint's totebag was a most welcome and appropriate
gift! To all the donors we express our sincere thanks and to the winners
we say congratulations!
Four displays were entered in the competition held at the Spring Show. The winning display was presented by Doug Shand, two eighteenth century coins salvaged from the wreck of the sailing ship the Auguste. The second and third prizes were won by Mark Holton, for a display of Wellington tokens and for a collection of "Odd & Curious Money", and fourth prize was won by Diane Muttart for a remarkable display of coin banks.
Thanks go to Tim Henderson for organizing and carrying out the judging.
The displays were enjoyed by many people, and we hope to see more such displays at future shows.
This club owns 10 display cases which are
available for loan to members wishing to prepare displays for coin shows.
The Other Winners
The APNA Spring Show is now history, and the general consensus seems to be that the show was a limited success. Visitor traffic was not as great as we had hoped, perhaps the result of a militaria show being held on the same day elsewhere in the city. However, the dealers I spoke to seem to have gone away happy, and collectors too were able to find a treasure or two or three to add to their collection.
The Friday evening reception was popular, and it was a great opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones.
The special show medal, by the way, was very well received and I heard many comments of "good design" and "well done". These comments must in reality go to the medal's designer, Ralph Bagnall. It was he who suggested the Farmers' Bank of Rustico as a possible subject and, when his idea was accepted by the club, took the idea and supervised the production in two versions, gold and "sandstone". I prefer the sandstone or brown design, but to date gold has been slightly more popular. 130 medals were produced, or 65 of each type, and as I write this, only a handful remain available for the remarkably low price of $15 each plus $2.50 packing and postage. The popularity of this medal brings great credit to the designer.
Saturday began with a few hardy souls appearing early for breakfast. Meanwhile, club members began to prepare our table while dealers began to set up theirs. The club table featured two baskets, the first with Centennial medals for adult visitors and the second basket containing a mixed collection of coins, medals and tokens for younger visitors. An encouraging sight: at least two YNs were seen arriving at the bourse carrying their want lists, and a few dealers admitted "helping out" these young people with contributions of a missing coin or two. I wonder what seeds have been planted by this thoughtful gesture?
The noon meeting of the APNA went over well and a new executive is now in place. Doug Shand of the Sou'wester Coin Club is the new APNA president, the Vice-President is David Wolfe, the Treasurer is Randy Larsen and the Recording Secretary is Rick Chalmers. Terry Cochrane of Bridgewater (that's the numismatic capital of Lunenburg County, in case you didn't know) is promoted to past-president. Congratulations go to these numismatists and best wishes for a successful term.
At about 1:30 pm, four vehicles carrying 20 keen travellers left the Rodd Royalty Inn for the Farmers' Bank of Rustico. Judy MacDonald of the Friends of the Bank gave us a short talk on the background of this remarkable building and the Bank and also its equally remarkable founder, Father Georges-Antoine Belcourt.
The ground floor of the Museum houses a community history museum as well as the original Farmers' Bank office and safe, while the spacious second floor contains a large meeting rooms, classrooms and offices and a small kitchen. Yes, it would be a great place to have a club meeting.
One striking feature of the Bank is the huge wall mural in the reception area, directly opposite the front door: a colour reproduction of a Farmers Bank note, which must be about ten feet wide. That's a banknote!
Added to the pleasure of a drive in the P.E.I. countryside, the trip to the Bank was considered a great success.
The day concluded with a dinner at Rodd's and the guest speaker was Judy MacDonald telling us about the history, restoration and present use of the Farmers' Bank. Her presentation was enhanced by a small display of her "before", "during" and "after" photos of the work carried out on the Bank.
The weekend concluded Sunday morning, with a small turnout for the 8 a.m. breakfast and the slide show.
Conclusions? As mentioned earlier, the weekend received mixed reviews. Low traffic, even with a "no admission fee" policy, failed to attract the large crowds we were looking for. The Halifax Coin Club's May newsletter mentions having coin shows in shopping malls. One might add to that, dropping the banquet idea (and its high cost) for an off-the-menu or buffet dinner in a regular restaurant.
As always, suggestions as to how shows
can be improved are always welcome.
The next meeting of the PEINA is on Monday, June 18.
The Farmers' Bank of Rustico
[The following is the text of the address
presented by Judy MacDonald at the Banquet on Saturday, May 12, 2001, during
the APNA Spring Show]
The Restoration of the Farmers' Bank of Rustico
Judy K. MacDonald
The story of the Farmers' Bank of Rustico is not only a story of the first peoples' bank, but it is the story of a visionary, Reverend Georges-Antoine Belcourt, a parish priest who arrived in Rustico in late 1859 and took charge as pastor, and the Acadian people whose instinct for survival and need for self-determination affected the future of Acadians, as well as having a major influence on banking in North America.
The Examiner of Charlottetown, June 24, 1865, reported: "We hardly know what a great place Rustico has grown to be; a few years ago the people of Charlottetown were accustomed to regard it as a scattered settlement of poor, uninformed and too often despised Frenchmen. Now it has a National Library under the patronage of the Emperor of France; a reading room well supplied; a Bank whose credit is established on the soundest basis; and a band, far more numerous than anything we have in Charlottetown, with the most costly instruments, possessing all the latest improvements. These are a few of the institutions which we know Rustico to possess - that there are others of which we have no knowledge, is not at all unlikely."
Reverend Georges-Antoine Belcourt arrived in Rustico in late 1859 and took charge as pastor. He was a visionary, a man ahead of his time. He believed in helping his congregation with practical as well as spiritual matters. He was a skilled carpenter, mechanic and designer, and built almost everything from boats to buildings. The arrival of Father Belcourt infused into the community a new life and a new purpose.
A parishioner wrote: "He was energetic, frugal and hard working. He had a workshop and made many agricultural implements himself. They were not types of beauty nor refined taste; they were redolent of the Red River where he had taught the Indians how to make farm tools. One of his boasts was that while in the Red River, he made a cart without a nail or a piece of iron whatsoever."
Upon his arrival, one of Belcourt's first observations was the extreme poverty and destitution among the Acadian people. This was due to a lack of education as well as exploitation by the local merchants and landowners. The majority of Acadians were either farmers or fishermen who would bring all of their produce to local merchants and received in turn food, clothing, as well as items of equipment required to carry on fishing or to grow crops. Their produce was sold at high prices enabling the merchants to become wealthy. However, the great majority of the population were never able to improve their financial situation. Father Belcourt set about to change this.
Father Belcourt was a leader. He had laboured for many years as a missionary among the Indian tribes in the West. In Manitoba, he supported the Indians and the Metis incurring the hostility of the Hudson's Bay Company, whose abuses of the native population later led to the Riel rebellion. Next he served in the Red River country of Minnesota and North Dakota. He was first of all a missionary, bringing religion to the native people, preaching in their language, and spreading the word of God despite difficulties, even in the bitterest of winter weather. He built churches and schools.
Father Belcourt accompanied the Indians on their buffalo hunts and helped transport their pemmican to market. He was widely accomplished: a linguist, he wrote a Chippewa grammar and compiled a definitive Chippewa dictionary, and his writings on Indian customs and history have been reproduced in historical journals. Belcourt did all this under unimaginable conditions. Msgr. James R. Reardon, a native Islander who served the Archdiocese of St. Paul, Minnesota, wrote a biography of Father Belcourt. In this book Reardon describes Belcourt as "a willing and tireless worker but a poor team mate because he wanted his own way, regardless of the wishes of even his Superior." Not only did Father Belcourt challenge the Hudson's Bay Company, but he quarrelled with almost everyone: bishops, curates, government agents. It was probably his misunderstanding with the Bishop of Charlottetown that provoked his transfer out of Rustico.
This aggressiveness or strength of conviction was just what the Acadians needed. They required a vigorous, outgoing leader who not only would inspire them, but also give them confidence in their undertakings. Like the Indians of the West, the Acadians of Rustico accepted this man who ruled "like an Emperor in his woodland kingdom by grace of his personality as well by his office."
Father Belcourt started a school for boys in the parochial house at Rustico. Next he founded an "Institute", a kind of study club, and if you wanted to become a member you had to be temperate. Here, intelligent individuals could satisfy their curiosity for hearing lectures, taking part in discussions and having access to reference books of a useful kind, the books that were mentioned in the report from the Charlottetown Examiner. Belcourt was able to obtain these books through the patronage of the French crown in the form of an allowance to buy books. Today the surviving books of that library attest to the wide body of knowledge to which the members of the Institute had access.
Securing funds for projects small and great was always a problem for the Acadian farmers and fishermen of Rustico. It became Belcourt's ambition to establish a bank, based on models that had emerged in Europe. The idea that he had in mind was, for all practical purposes, just like the credit unions of today. [Cran,1992]
In 1863 a bill to incorporate the Farmers' Bank of Rustico went before the legislature and the Bank, not without delays [Croteau, 1978], came into being. Royal Assent for the act of incorporation was finally given at the Court of Windsor on April 7, 1864. This result had been expected, for a notice dated February 12, 1864, advised subscribers for shares to enter their stock at the office of the Secretary, Marinus J. Blanchard, at the Rustico lecture room within one month. A meeting of shareholders to elect Directors and formulate bylaws was called for May 30, also at the Rustico lecture room. After Royal Assent had been published, Jerome Doiron [1815-1890], a farmer, was chosen as first President of the Bank. Marinus Blanchard [1813-1878], a school teacher, took the position of Cashier while retaining that of Secretary. The first banknotes were dated November 2, 1864. The Bank was open only one afternoon a week, on Wednesdays. Notes for discount were to be submitted to the Cashier before one o'clock.
The Farmers' Bank of Rustico enjoyed a very prosperous first year. Profits for the year ending February 15, 1866, permitted the payment of a generous dividend of twelve per cent. The business of the Bank had already outgrown its capital, and at a meeting of the Directors and shareholders on February 21, 1866, it was resolved to issue an additional 3000 shares, for a total of 4200 shares for a capital of 4200. The new shares were to be offered in lots of five, at a premium of one shilling per share, or five per cent, on April 4. Payment was due in four monthly instalments, beginning on the day of adjudication. Under section 41 of the charter, the premium collected on sales of additional stock was to be distributed, after deducting expenses, to holders of both old and new stock. The new share was never completely taken up. The original capital stock of 1200 shares of 1 each had increased to 1402 shares by April 3, 1866, and to 2528 by July 4, 1867. A peak of 2734 shares was reached by 1871, and slight decreases were recorded from time to time in later years.
The first available return of the Bank to the colonial government, dated April 3, 1866, shows notes in circulation had exceeded twice the capital of the Bank by about $5,034. While this situation did not exactly violate the charter, the Directors were held personally liable for the excess. The circulation on that occasion was $14,132; it never showed any large increase thereafter and, with the issue of additional shares probably did not surpass twice the capital again. It is notable that the value of the Bank building was never listed among the assets in the returns made by the Bank, which leads to the conclusion that the structure was the property of the community and not the Bank.
The first return shows that the Bank had been accepting deposits, on which interest was allowed. As of April 3, 1866, deposits totalled about $1,809. Among the assets were $8,399 in gold and silver, $283 in the notes of other banks, and $12,068 due on loans. The specie reserve, exceeding forty per cent of total assets, was remarkable high. This may have resulted from an extremely cautious initial approach to banking, but is probably a reflection of the limited time the Bank had been in operation, preventing it from putting a greater proportion of assets into income earning loans. Fifteen months later, loans had increased by about seventy-five per cent while gold and silver in the vault had declined to $3,439 or 13.6% of all assets. This specie reserve apparently did not fluctuate very markedly, either in absolute or percentage terms, until after 1875 at least.
The business of the Bank consisted mainly of lending money to farmers for terms of six, nine or twelve months. It did not buy or sell bills of exchange.
Over the years from 1867 to 1875 the Bank paid a ten per cent dividend out of its profits. Only trifling sums were carried forward from year to year, and no attempt was made to establish a reserve or rest fund. [Graham et. al., 1998]
By all accounts the Bank was a success [Croteau, 1978] and led a useful life for thirty years. The Bank was chartered in 1864 and provided short-term low interest loans to the community. The steady availability of cheap credit for thirty years enabled the predominantly Acadian community to attain economic independence. However, after Prince Edward Island entered Confederation in 1873 the death knell of the Bank was sounded. The Bank Act of 1871 clearly favoured a large national system. In spite of this, the Farmers' Bank of Rustico was able to function until 1894 when the Bank's charter, which had been renewed with severe restrictions in 1891, expired. Croteau points out that, with the expiration of the charter, and the death of the severely depressed Cashier, a local school teacher named Adrien Doiron, the Bank simply faded away. Its records, stored in a local farmhouse, were destroyed in a fire a few years later.
However, apart from the service which the Farmers' Bank provided to the Acadian people -- and this was considerable -- its historical significance is that of a precursor of the Desjardins cooperative credit societies, or Caisse Populaires, of Quebec. Desjardins saw that the Canadian commercial banking structure was unsuited to the development of a peoples' bank. Desjardins circumvented the constitutional difficulties by changing the form and structure but not the ideology of the peoples' bank. He took the Caisse Populaire from Quebec to the United States where it became known as the credit union. From the United States, in the 1930s, the credit union came back, first to the Maritime provinces, and then spread all over English-speaking Canada. This was Father Belcourt's dream and the contribution of the Acadian people.
The building in Rustico is not only an important monument in Prince Edward Island architecture but also a symbol of Acadian survival. John T. Croteau, in the Dalhousie Review [Vol 36, No 2, Summer 1956) said most succinctly that: "The Farmers' Bank of Rustico was organized among a group of Acadian farmers, was chartered by the colonial legislature of Prince Edward Island, and operated from 1864 to 1894. It was by far the smallest bank, measured by share capital, ever to operate in Canada, and was the precursor of the North American credit union movement through its influence upon the pioneer credit union organizer, Alphonse Desjardins of Quebec."
In recognition of its historical significance, the Farmers' Bank was designated in 1970 as a National Historical and Architectural Site. In its recommendation to commemorate the Farmers' Bank, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board emphasized that the commemoration included the whole building and not just the Bank which was housed on the ground floor. In March 1971, the federal government agreed to provide the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of the Diocese of Charlottetown, the owner of the building, with a contribution of $7,000 toward its preservation.
In November 1990, the National Historic Sites and Monuments Board, with the encouragement of P.E.I.'s representative on the Board, Reverend Professor Francis Bolger, reaffirmed its historical and architectural significance and recommended that "As the long term survival of the Farmers' Bank, at Rustico, a National Historic Site which was the precursor of the cooperative movement in Canada, appears uncertain, the program should as a priority enter into discussions with other interested parties with a view to providing assistance through the national cost-sharing program, to address the structural problems which the building is currently experiencing and mitigate further deterioration."
Beginning with a conservation report in 1991, the Friends of the Farmers' Bank of Rustico undertook the restoration project which took nine years. The Farmers' Bank reopened its doors on June 29, 2000.
The building is a beautiful Island sandstone structure and the design source is to be found in the tradition of British Georgian architecture with its classically articulated details and simple proportions. In the absence of a known architect, one cannot but wonder if Father Belcourt himself was the designer of the Farmers' Bank. He appears to be a man of may talents and great ingenuity. If we examine the decorative details of the Farmers' Bank carefully we see idiosyncrasies of a purely local nature that no known Island architect practised, details which do not appear on buildings surviving on P.E.I. from the time of the Bank. Taken together, these observations could point to Belcourt.
The Farmers' Bank is 40 feet 4 inches wide and 60 feet 6 inches long and is constructed of local sandstone. No documentation known to us identifies the source of this stone, but oral tradition, as recorded by Jean Doiron, says the "According to our older parishioners, there were many stone quarries in the vicinity seventy-five or eighty years ago as well as professional and amateur stonecutters. Many of these parishioners believe the stone came from a quarry in Hope River. It was cut and trimmed on the spot and moved with a cart of sleigh. Transportation would be easier in the winter as there would be much less lifting to do. It would then be brought to some river or bay shore to be hauled on the ice to avoid going up and down hills; much easier work also for the horses which were not always too well fed."
There is also another oral tradition, surviving in Rustico to this day, that parishioners coming to Mass on Sunday would bring a dressed stone to be used in the construction of the Bank. A more probable form of helping with the erection of the Bank is the following: "It is reported that Father Belcourt would demand a certain amount of volunteer work from every parishioner and would impose it when needed. Apparently, each family was to supply a certain number of days or the equivalent in money or building supplies." [Doiron, 44]
It must be remembered that the structure that exists today is in reality a multi-purpose building which was to house a variety of functions. The Bank itself occupied a relatively small area on the ground floor which can still be seen today. The rest of the space was devoted to waiting rooms for men and women, an assembly room on the second floor and a space for the library and other learning aids that Belcourt had assembled for the use of the members of his Institute. In letters to his friend and correspondent, Rameau de Saint-Pere, dated May 12, 1867, Belcourt says "the building will be 60 by 40, twenty-three feet in height; it will have a slate roof and be fireproof. We would have liked to see him set up his business near us. [He is speaking here of Israel Landry, who had been approached to become editor of the Moniteur Acadien.) We have offered him the third floor of the building which will soon be finished, the second floor being reserved for the Institut Catholique while the first floor will have two waiting rooms, one for the men and one for the ladies and an office of convenient size for the Bank." [Doiron, 42]
This building, now restored, is now open to all. We hope you will have the opportunity soon to visit or revisit this remarkable artifact of our cultural, economic and numismatic history.
Coin of the Month
Canadian Coin News carried a story in their May 15/28 issue about a circulating 10 cent coin coming soon from the Royal Canadian Mint, to mark the United Nations' International Year of Volunteers. This is the first time for a change in the "dime" since artist Alex Colville's mackerel design appeared in Canada's 1967 Centennial celebrations. CCN says the coin may be out by May, but I have yet to see one or hear of any being found in change. Keep your eyes open!
This is the first new design in common
circulating coins since the attractive quarters appeared in 1999 and 2000,
and for those who like variety of designs in our pockets, this new ten
cent coin is welcome news indeed.
CNA Quebec City
This year the Canadian Numismatic Association
holds its annual convention in Quebec City. Details have already appeared
in the CNA Journal and Canadian Coin News, but in case you missed this
information you will find elsewhere in this newsletter information on the
convention. Note, too, that while hotel rooms in downtown Quebec City are
indeed expensive, this being a world class historic site, there are inexpensive
rooms available in Laval University residences. A city bus runs on a regular
schedule from the university to the conference centre, a matter of 15 or
20 minutes. From personal experience I know that finding a place to park
in the conference area can be expensive, so the university option is certainly
While on the subject of coin occasions,
don't overlook the APNA fall show that will be taking place this year in
October in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The site will be Rodd's Grand Hotel,
and we'll have more information for you as soon as we have it from the
organizers. Already a number of collectors are making plans to attend,
to take in the bourse as well as the fall colours of our sister province.
On The Web
I've heard it said that finding coin sites
on the web can be a chore once you get past the usual places that pop up
on the regular search engines. Numismatic surfers may therefore want to
try out www.alltheweb.com and its extensive set of filters. It will take
some experimenting, but yours truly has found a number of places of interest
using alltheweb.com's facility. See the following for one such site.
Matthew Boulton and James Watt were two leaders in the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and early 19th centuries. Boulton worked in metal, while Watt developed an improved steam engine that could be adapted to manufacturing purposes. In 1787 Boulton won a contract to strike coins for the East India Company's territory of Bencoolen on the island of Sumatra. Encouraged by this success, the Boulton, Watt & Son company began to actively develop minting equipment and a variety of mass production techniques now taken for granted to produce coins. Such features as uniform size (the closed collar die), an ejection system for struck coins, raised rims, incuse legends, edge lettering (to discourage "clipping") and many other new ideas were applied to coin manufacturing.
A website with the Boulton and Watt story can be found at www.geocities.com/mboulton1797/timelinetocoins.html. It's worth a visit, and not only to admire the coins you'll see reproduced in colour. Lots of interesting facts about Boulton & Watt are presented, including the fact that copper blanks for many American coins came from Boulton's mint, named the Soho Mint after the Birmingham suburb in which it was located. The Soho mint was later acquired by Ralph Heaton, who continued in the private mint business for many years and who made, among other things, the 1871 P.E.I. tree cent. Also of interest, to a few collectors at least, is the fact that one famous order from Boulton & Watt was for the Madras Presidency of the East India Company. Packed into tightly sealed barrels for their long journey to the Far East, the coins in the ship the "Admiral Gardner" had barely left harbour when the vessel came to grief off the Goodwin Sands and sank with its entire cargo. Coins salvaged from this wreck occasionally appear today on the London market.
For more on the Matthew Boulton story,
the book by Dr Richard Doty is worth reading. According to the website,
the title is The Soho Mint and the Industrialization of Money. To
judge by the many web pages I have enjoyed, the book is worth tracking
down and reading.
The Wreck of the Auguste, 1761
[The following is adapted from the text
by Doug Shand of the Sou'Wester Coin Club. His display highlighting two
silver coins from this wreck earned the first place prize at the APNA Spring
With defeat of the French army in 1759 at the Plains of Abraham, the British began the arduous task of sending home to France their prisoners of war.
On September 27, 1761, one year after the surrender of Montreal, Governor Murray made ready the exile of a number of French officials. He placed at their disposal the full rigged ship Auguste, under the command of English master Joseph Knowles. Included in the French group was St Luc de La Corne, a seasoned fifty-year-old merchant, soldier and fur trader. By the time of his deportation he was considered one of the richest men in Canada.
The Auguste was to go unarmed, fly the white flag, and carry only charts of the French coast. On October 12th the ship was loaded and ready for sea. After much hardship and delay, due in part to bad weather, the ship did not clear the mouth of the St. Lawrence until October 28. On November 4 while moving down the Gulf a nor'west gale sprang up and heavy seas battered the Auguste and its passengers and crew. On November 15, after several more storms and their failure to navigate safe passage out into the Atlantic, the Auguste struck on the northeastern side of Cape Breton Island near an inlet known as Aspy Bay. Of the 121 passengers and crew on board, only seven made it to shore. This included Captain Knowles, St Luc, two soldiers, two servants, and one discharged soldier.
The Auguste had been tossed and driven all over the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the master's charts were of no help in confirming their whereabouts. They thought they might be on Isle Royale, as Cape Breton was then known, possibly near the fortress of Louisbourg. On November 17th after taking care of the dead the best they could the survivors gathered up what supplies they had. La Corne, who was experienced in wilderness travel, took command at Captain Knowles' urging. After nine days they came to Ingonish and found only abandoned homes. Here two of the company, a soldier and a servant who were too weak and exhausted to continue, stayed behind while the others set out on November 26, promising to send back help. They reached St. Ann's Bay on December 3, nearly exhausted, sick, and short of provisions. Two natives happened upon them and assisted them in reaching St. Peter's. Help was then sent back for the two at Ingonish.
At St. Peter's they rested three days, while La Corne wrote to the Governor at Louisbourg on December 11 telling of the shipwreck. Captain Knowles, the remaining soldier, and the disbanded soldier along with two Acadian guides took the letter with them to Louisbourg. La Corne himself had decided to return overland to Montreal, taking with him the remaining servant and two young Acadian guides. He told the Captain that he desired above all things to be near his family and that he was too afraid of the sea to sail again. He now faced another ten weeks of incredibly hard showshoeing over hundreds of miles. On February 24 he miraculously arrived in Montreal, from where he had departed four months earlier!
After the Treaty of Paris was signed, La
Corne was allowed to remain in Canada. In 1784 La Corne died at the age
of 73 at his home in Montreal. His fortune however was to rest at the bottom
of Aspy Bay for nearly another 200 years before the discovery of it and
the Auguste would be made in 1977.
Aspy Bay is relatively shallow, with a sand bottom, and severe east-northeast winds transform it into a destructive churning mix of sand and water. From La Corne's diary we are told that she ship broke up in just a few hours after it went aground. The subsequent action of the waves in Aspy Bay meant that virtually nothing remained for archaeologists and divers to find. Even the fragments which did survive were soon buried under the ever-shifting sands of the bay floor.
Because of the importance of the passengers and the vividness of La Corne's account of the catastrophe, the Auguste is one of Canada's most famous shipwrecks. Over the years, dozens of divers and amateur archaeologists searched for the wreck but found only sand. The, in 1977, the sands shifted, exposing a few ship fragments and some artifacts. The next summer the sand began to move back over the site, covering it to a depth of several metres.
In the meantime, the site was explored by Cape Breton divers led by Robert MacKinnon and Ed Barrington, along with marine archaeologists from the Canada Parks Service. Of the thousands of pieces of wood, metal and rope which make up a sailing ship, almost nothing remained. The divers found only a few pieces of armament, equipment and rigging. In general, metal objects had survived but everything else had vanished.
During the 1977 and 1978 field season, coins of various descriptions were discovered. These coins represented approximately 31% of the total number of artifacts recovered. All the coins retrieved from the site were of the milled (machine struck) variety. With a total of 753 specimens recovered, the coins from France represented the largest group excavated. 24 were of gold, 586 were struck from silver, 126 (with 16 additional fragments) were composed of billon and 18 coins were of copper.
A total of 455 Spanish coins were recovered, representing issues from four colonial mints. All were struck in silver, with 99% being of the 8 reale variety. The largest number, 402, were minted in Mexico City. The Peruvian mint of Lima accounted for the second largest amount, 44 in all. The Guatemala mint and the Santiago mint in Chile accounted for 3 and 1 coin respectively. Five coins were left with mints undetermined.
With a total of 22 specimens recovered,
the coins from Great Britain represent the third largest group in the collection.
Six were of gold and the remaining 16 were made of copper. No British silver
was recovered. Portuguese and Dutch coinage was represented by 5 coins,
which made up the remainder. All of the coins recovered from the Auguste
date between the years 1677 and 1759.
This monthly magazine which comes with
the Globe and Mail newspaper prints in April an interesting look at the
numismatic scene by writer Rob Carrick. At the risk of being accused of
ignoring copyright, I thought a greater good might be served by distributing
to members the text of Rob Carrick's review. Interesting: are we a "nerdy"
bunch? That's open to debate. But there is no debating the statement made
by a collector a few tears ago, about putting together a really fine collection.
'Buy only the best', he is reported to have said, 'and buy them thirty
Reminder: next meeting, Monday June 18, at Colonel Gray at 7:30 p.m..