AN INTRODUCTION TO THE SACKVILLE FULTZES
Robert Paton Harvey
To a great-great grand daughter of the Fultz family in Nova Scotia, the original homestead in Sackville, Halifax County, was but a memory savoured in old age. It was "that old cellar…in what used to be the field," and completing the treasured childhood recollection was the fact that "my mother was born in that house"…[and] along the line fence were currant bushes." . Such a personal reminiscence provides the ideal opening for a consideration of a family who took part in the founding of a Nova Scotian village two centuries ago, whose heritage now is providing a community focus to those responsible for shaping that settlement's on-going history.
The family Fultz (also spelt Fols, Foltz or Voltz) is German in origin, but the exact story of their roots, both European and North American, is somewhat obscure. One Johann Andreas Fultz is recorded among the passengers on board the vessel Speedwell, which reached the newly-founded town of Halifax in 1751. It is generally believed that his disembarkation marks the genesis of the family in Nova Scotia. Johann Andreas Fultz, however, is quickly lost sight of in the official records; he does not appear to have taken part with his fellow Foreign Protestants in the founding of Lunenburg in 1753, nor does he appear in the lists of early Halifax settlers. He, or at least someone with the name Johann Fultz does, however, surface among the civilian population of Louisbourg at the time of its fall in 1758.
Four of those "59 souls" who are recorded as "German Protestants" among the Louisbourg French were members of a Fultz family consisting of Johann (John), his wife Elizabeth, and two sons, Lorenz (Lawrence) and Antony (Anthony). Likely they lived along the Mira River near Rouille in the "village des Allemands." These deserters from Nova Scotia evidently believed that they would be more at home under the French Roman Catholic rule on Isle Royale than in a Nova Scotia which was being given not only a British, but also a Protestant foundation, after the founding of Halifax in 1749. Writing of this strange discovery at Louisbourg, one commentator has remarked, by way of explanation, that while most of the "foreign Protestants became loyal British citizens…several Germans, who had registered as Protestant emigrants, were actually Roman Catholic…most of [whom] grew discontented and deserted to the French Isle Royale." Having left their homeland to better themselves, and having assumed the guise of Protestants, in order to conform to one of the immigration requirements, these new arrivals were no doubt unhappy to see their Catholicism barely tolerated in the new world.
It is certain that the Johann Fultz found at Louisbourg was the father of Anthony, who was born on the French-held island in 1757 and who would later bring up a large and interesting family in Sackville. Anthony records as much, in an 1809 petition requesting land from the Crown. The question remains, however, as to whether or not his father was the same Johann Andreas Fultz who arrived on the Speedwell, presumably without any family. Commenting on this dilemma, Dr. Winthrop P. Bell, the authority on the subject if Foreign Protestants, states only that the identification of the Fultz found at Louisbourg in 1758 with the man who came in the Speedwell in 1751 is "not certain [but] very probable." For the present, researchers will have to accept this as the most plausible conclusion.
The German origins of the family provide yet another mystery to prick the curiosity of the historian-as-detective. The Speedwell's passenger list records the origin of Johann Andreas Fultz as Saxony, a large area now falling within East Germany - a rather general designation, perhaps meant to confuse, as we already know that a prospective emigrant Fultz had withheld the true nature of his religion until his arrival in the new world.
Family papers, which have been handed down with care for more than two centuries, are much more precise about the family's European origins. Yet they, too, while suggesting answers to some question, open up new and different queries. For example, an extract from a matrimonial register reveals that Johann Fultz was a resident, in 1750, of the village Haslach, in the Bruscia Valley of the Argentinensis district. He is listed as being a carpenter by trade. His mother, Mary Magdeline Grober, was still alive, while his late father's name was Peter. The other partner in this marriage, which was solemnized on 6 February 1750, was Ephrosina Scharen. Her birthplace and the community in which she grew up with her parents, Anthony Scharen and Elizabeth Schaphalta, was Margdorf in the Episcopacy of Constance. Ephrosina had been born on 27 October 1714 and would, therefore, be some five years older than Johann Andreas Fultz of the Speedwell, who gave his age a thirty-two in 1751.
Locating these Latinized place names, which gave such precise origins to the Fultz family, has defeated more than one family researcher. However, thanks to the hard work and skillful intuition, some light has recently been shed on the information given in this document. Ephrosina Scharen's birthplace can be traced fairly readily to somewhere just north of Lake Constance, which now forms part of the German-Swiss border. Argentinensis most likely refers to the city of Strasbourg, which is now in eastern France, near the Rhine River, in the Alsace-Lorraine district. Some twenty miles west of the city today is found a Bruche River, with an appropriate valley by the same name; nearby are not one, but two Haslach villages. In one of these, Nieder-Haslach is the church of St. Florent, which provides yet another tantalizing clue to solving the family mystery, since Johann and Ephrosina Fultz, according to family papers, had a son named Florent baptized prior to emigration. Thus, the Fultz family had, in reality, its origins in an area of Europe far removed from the duchy of Saxony, which Johann claimed to be his homeland.
These entries, however, by no means provide a conclusive solution to the family mystery. Once in Nova Scotia, Elizabeth appears as Johann's wife, and there is no mention of any son named Florent; indeed, Johann Andreas Fultz is listed on the Speedwell's passenger list as bringing no dependents. The most plausible scenario is that Elizabeth was his second wife, Ephrosina having died soon after the birth of Florent. Furthermore, Elizabeth presumably cannot be Ephrosina by a different name, either, as she would have been too old to have borne Johann the children he fathered in Nova Scotia as late as 1778. Did Florent die too? It remains an unanswered question. The parish register extract from which most of the above has been deduced was dated 30 April 1775, four years after the Johann Fultz from the Speedwell stepped ashore in Halifax. Was it requested and sent to Louisbourg as documentation to legitimize Johann Fultz's arrival at the French fortress? Was it required to facilitate his second marriage? Did Ephrosina finally emigrate to join her husband, bringing with her proof of their marriage, only to die shortly after her arrival? One must be content with the knowledge that, although the details unraveled so far are contradictory, the existence of the documents among the family papers reveals far more about these immigrants than does the passenger list of the Speedwell. Also, the careful preservation of these documents by the family suggests that the Johann Fultz found at Louisbourg and the Johann Fultz of Haslach must be indeed one and the same individual, regardless of confusion over his wives.
From Alsace to Sackville was a long migration. An ocean, the Seven Years' War and several geographic dislocations separated the Fultz family from their homeland, and finally brought them to settle in a small valley which, in their time, was a day's journey northwest of Halifax. Sackville had a military founding in 1749, just two months after the initial settlement of Halifax. Prior to that time, the area had been well-known to the Indians and Acadians alike, who passed along the river valley on their way to and from the coast. From the shores of Bedford Basin, where European fishermen dried their catches, ran an Acadian path overland to Minas Basin. This track probably dated from the 1600s and was certainly well-known in 1711, when the French had surveyed the area, looking for a replacement location for the Port Royal, which they had lost to the British the preceding year. The valley was thus a strategic focal point in any military defence of the colony.
Therefore, as attention was being paid to securing the new town of Halifax on the great harbour of Chebucto, Governor Edward Cornwallis directed that "another company I shall send to the head of the bay [Bedford Basin] where the road to Minas begins." In September 1749, a small barracks and palisade were constructed, under the watchful eye of Captain John Gorham, by a party of about fifty of his famous Rangers. Fort Sackville, named in honor of Lionel Cranfield Sackville, then Duke of Dorset and Lord President of Council, stood on high ground near the mouth of the Sackville River, guarding both the river and the path to Minas. It thus formed a strategic point in the line of communication and defence linking Halifax with the Acadian communities of the Annapolis Valley.
The Acadian path was soon cleared to form a rough road leading to Minas, emerging at Piziquid, now Windsor. The original route, part of which survives today in the community as the Old Sackville Road, was sighted in the English fashion, from hilltop to hilltop - a construction method which provided beautiful vistas, but proved to be grueling for travellers. In the heyday of the stagecoach, the road was altered to avoid the hills and hence, by the 1830s, the way through Sackville took the low ground, to the regret of some like Joe Howe who, commenting on the Sackville valley in the course of his rambles, noted that
When you think of the pleasant views you might have had from the tops of the hills, you are inclined to regret the alteration - but so it is, utility and uniformity will triumph over nature and the picturesque must suffer from the change.
A community of farmers and lumbermen gradually developed in the area, finding the close proximity to Halifax invaluable for marketing their products. Settlement was initially along the Sackville and Little Sackville rivers; these waterways, now generally disregarded and too often looked upon as nuisances, were vital to the early settlers, since besides fish and transportation, they provided energy for early mills and industries of many types. The first land grants were made in the 1750s and one of the largest, consisting of some eight thousand acres, went to Colonel Joseph Scott. Near the fort, before 1770, he built what is now the oldest house in the area, a graceful, gambrel-roofed structure called Fort Sackville House. Settlement was slow, however, and an early observer coming from Windsor revealed that Sackville and its fort had prospered little in their first decade:
We marched Early this Morning Bad Traveling we marched over Large Boggs High Hills Rocky & uneven Ground but the Soyl appears to be Good itt abounds with Burch and Hemlock we Travel 12 miles & come to a Small Fort Situated att the Hed of a Fine Large Bason called Halifax Bason the Fort is called Fort Sackville it Contains Near an Acre of Ground it is Built with Pickquits it is 4 squared But one Canon & a Few Swivel Guns No Blockhouse & In my opinion may be Easely Taken.
It was at this time that Johann Fultz came to the "High Hills Rocky & uneven Ground." His grant of five hundred acres was registered on 17 December 1773, although it had been received earlier that year. The grant was to a long narrow lot which ran from Windsor Road to Beaver Pond in present-day Windsor Junction. Nine years later, in consideration of "love, goodwill and affection," he deeded one hundred acres of this land to his son Anthony. In this manner, and through later grants and purchases, Johann's children and grandchildren would spread out through the valley and along the main road.
At his death in 1801, Johann Fultz left a will bequeathing his land and his worldly goods to his youngest son - clues to his life and his living of it. Attesting to his simple life, the first Fultz left such items as a cart, a pair of wheels, two chairs, one harrow, axes, shovels and "likewise all my working tools." From this and later legal documents, we gain a feeling for the man and his family. He and they were, for the most part, simple hard-working people, who could do things with their hands. While they often listed themselves as farmers, they were, in truth, craftsmen, tradesmen and artisans. There were blacksmiths, wheelwrights and ironworkers in the family, while others were carriage-makers, carpenters and cabinet-makers. They carried on a number of livelihoods and contributed much to their community's life.
Two items of personal property no mentioned in Johann's will, but well-known to all his children and grandchildren who had passed through the old family home on the Windsor Road, had already been given to the elder Fultz's oldest surviving son, Anthony. These were a large grandfather clock and a very small but precious item which sat proudly on top of the clock - a crucifix, carved from bone, in a tin case with a glass front. We can imagine the generations of Fultz children who eyed the latter with wonder, and the countless times the well-loved family story of "the old crucifix" was told by mothers and grandmothers to impromptu assemblies of family children.
As the story goes, the crucifix was carved by an Acadian who, with others, had attempted to avoid expulsion in 1755 by hiding out in the local woods, until being rounded up by the British. Awaiting deportation, they had been held in a building known as the "old red house," which apparently was opposite the Fultz property. Johann's wife took pity on the Catholic Acadian prisoners, particularly since they shared with her family a common religious bond and, as well, had suffered as a result of their adherence to the Church of Rome. From time to time, Frau Fultz could be seen bustling across the road, carrying generous samples of her cooking to the unfortunate French prisoners. In gratitude, one of the incarcerated Acadians fashioned the treasured crucifix from bones picked up around the prison yard, and presented it to his benefactress. The existence of the "old red house" is unknown in Sackville today, but Acadians were indeed interned in the Halifax area and eventually offered land in 1764 - all of which may point to the Fultz family being in the Sackville district a decade or more before the formal granting of land to them in 1773.
In the early nineteenth century, the family nucleus was to shift slightly along the Windsor Road, coming to focus on one of the most important intersections in all of colonial Nova Scotia - the crossroad where the main road from Halifax divided into the branch into Windsor Road and, via the Cobequid Road, the fork to Truro and beyond. Even today, Fultz Corner, as it is yet known in the community, is not far from the meeting-place of the modern highways to Windsor and Truro. Perhaps it was with a plan in mind that the first acquisition of land was made in that spot in 1812, for during the next fifty years, the Fultz family would, through purchase, gain ownership of all land at this strategic intersection.
In 1812, Anthony Fultz acquired a parcel of land abutting the crossroad and consisting of about one hundred and fifty acres, purchased from the Reverend Benjamin Gerrish Gray. The latter, who owned considerable property in and around Halifax, had first come to Sackville in 1797 as King's chaplain to the Jamaican Maroons, who had been settled there on a thousand acre farm called Boydville. He returned there in 1807 as the first rector of the Church of England parish of St. John the Evangelist.
As early as 1814, William Fultz, son of Anthony Fultz and grandson of Johann, was operating the famous Fultz's Twelve Mile House, which apparently was on the crossroad property, facing the Cobequid Road at a short distance from the route to Windsor. While it was one of the many inns along the road, none was more renowned in Sackville, nor of such long memory. Senior residents of the community today can recall where the old foundation rested in later years. Part of the lane which provided a short cut to the Windsor Road is still in use but, for the most part, all trace of the once-proud edifice is now gone. It was a two-and-a-half story wooden building, of which the most memorable feature was a commodious ball-room forty feet long and twenty feet wide. This room in the nineteenth century was the site of many gay and spirited occasions, since the inn seemed to be a good distance from Halifax for sleighing parties in winter, or a brief summer vacation. As well, there was the regular stagecoach traffic which began in 1816 and the endless stream of travellers thus passing to and from the capital. Farmers bringing their produce to the Halifax markets also supplied a steady flow of customers and helped to guarantee the success of the inn.
One of the earliest references to the Twelve Mile House by a patron appears in the journals of the Earl of Dalhousie, lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia from 1816 to 1820. He made no fewer than five references to the inn. Sometimes he stopped just for a meal; on other occasions he stayed for several days. On one outing, his wife passed by as part of a party of thirteen sleighs, in the course of a thirty mile ride. On his final visit to the Fultz's, near his departure from the colony, he did some shooting and found a woodcock's nest with four eggs. He was intrigued with the specimen and recorded that "I have got one to add to my little collection of stuffed birds which I have been endeavoured to gather for the museum of the College at Edinburgh." Is there yet a Sackville woodcock in Scotland?
Regular stage coach service on the so-called "Great Roads" began in 1816 with Isaiah Smith's line to Windsor and Ezra Witter's to Pictou. The coaches were, in reality, mail carriers with room for passengers. The Windsor line was the busiest. Later, at the end of the 1820s, larger companies such as the Western Stage Coach Company and the Eastern Stage Coach Company came into service, using four-in-hand coaches which reduced travel time. The larger coaches had two seats facing each other inside and could accommodate from six to eight travelers. Sometimes they sported a roof seat behind the coachman, and this was the favourite spot for the young newspaperman Joe Howe, as he enjoyed the views of his beloved Nova Scotia.
The Western Stage left Halifax at 5:00 a.m. and made Fultz's Twelve Mile House at about 6:30 a.m., stopping only to pick up passengers. The Eastern Stage left Halifax an hour later and stopped at Fultz's for breakfast and passengers at about 8:00 a.m. At least one traveler felt the breakfast at Fultz's worthy of note:
There is not much to be seen till you reach an excellent Inn, kept by one Fultz - about a dozen miles from town. Here everything was so trig, and we were served by such a little charmer, with so winning an air, that I (my appetite sharpened with my morning's ride) devoured and masticated with the zeal of an epicure. Fowls and potatoes, hot rolls, excellent tea with glorious cream, I proved myself for once a valiant soldier, and showed that I could pay my part at a trencher, as well as before and entrenchment.
We can believe that Fultz was a household word to the farming families as well, who passed the inn on their way to the market in Halifax. One farmer from Newport, Hants County, used "Fultz's" in a letter, as if it were a reference point known to all:
I was going to Halifax the 4th day of March and near to Mr. Foolts the wagon wheel run over my leg and broke it above my nea and below it and smash my nee all to pieces. I was carried to Mr. Fultz and sent to Hallifax for Doctor Hume.
The inn flourished to mid-century, but then fell into disuse and became a private residence until, neglected and in a state of ruin, it burned on the night of 14 December 1890. An anonymous poem told of its decline and fall:
But the railroad came and the travellers found/
That the steam was the quicker way/
So the Twelve Mile house, for years/
Was fast falling into decay/…
The brave old house stood fast/
But now 'tis gone - a link from the chain/
That binds the present to the past/…
William Fultz, the innkeeper, had bought the corner lands from his father in 1818 and later, William's brother Anthony purchased the land stretching from across the Windsor Road to the Sackville River. The other corner property across the Cobequid Road from the inn was purchased in 1856 by William's son, William Beresford Fultz. On January 1858, Bennett Daniel Fultz bought this last property from his cousin and soon built on it a small twenty-by-twenty foot house. It is this home, greatly altered and somewhat enlarged, that has become a heritage and community focus for Sackville today. In this dwelling, he and his wife, Mary Robinson, would raise their family of eight children. Fultz Corner was complete.
The Fultz family and their place in Sackville's history are both in many ways typified by the evolution of this corner, and by the corresponding growth of Bennett and Mary's family. Bennett Fultz and his brother George operated a carriage shop on the property. Another brother, Connolly, a cabinet-maker, came to live close by. His house, though now moved some distance from the Cobequid Road still stands. In it, in the early years of this century, his daughter Florence, known as Flossie, conducted a school around the dining room table, and there are still those in Sackville who received their first elementary education at "the corner." For a time, Bennett's father Anthony operated as a wheelwright across the Windsor Road and his home, now altered, stands as the first house on the Old Sackville Road. For many years the Bennett Fultz family also operated a post office in a corner of Mary's kitchen. Sons Francis and Thomas both followed their father Bennett into the carpenter's trade. Son Herman, on the corner diagonally across from his parents' home, carried on his trade as a blacksmith. In his shop he raised the craft to an art, and examples of his ironwork decorate Halifax churches, cemeteries, and at one time, could even be found in the old Green Lantern Restaurant; as well, he is credited with creating some iron gates for Dalhousie University. His work can still be found among the simple household articles retained by some of Sackville's older families. Regrettably, the remains of his shop, which in later years served as a storage shed, were torn down within the last few years, almost without notice.
"The corner" meant only one thing to Sackville folk in years gone by: it was the centre of activity and social life. Today it is slowly making a comeback in the hearts and minds of residents. The province of Nova Scotia had acquired the former Bennett Daniel Fultz property by the late 1970s, and in 1979 tenders were called to have the now empty house removed; much of the property had already been carved away as the old roads were widened and the corner enlarged. The house, in its very visible location, was a landmark to all, although few knew much about its story. Around the nucleus of the fledging Sackville Heritage Society, public interest was generated to a sufficient level that before the end of the year, six Sackville associations had united to form the Fultz Corner Restoration Society. With the cooperation of provincial politicians, a lease was arranged with the government and the work of refurbishing the house and upgrading the property, consisting of nearly three acres, began.
A small collection of photographs and artifacts was assembled, and in July and August of 1981 a community museum operated, receiving some eleven hundred guests. The work continues and more and more events of a community nature take place, once more, at "the corner". Here in the home of a pioneering Sackville family gather the new pioneers to mix with the established families sharing a heritage and building a sense of belonging. In this way, a link from the chain that binds the present to the past is being reforged.