As a historian one of the most crucial resources that exists is an archive. Have you ever been to an archive? Do you know what an archive is?
An Archive is a collection of historical documents or records providing information about a place, institution, or a group of people. These documents are referred to as primary source documents, as they have been accumulated over the course of an individual or organizations lifetime. In Archives they keep documents in fonds, which are folders or boxes that hold all the information of an individual or an organization.
For my research I have become a frequent visitor at the Charlotte County Archives in St. Andrews. The Charlotte County Archives is located on Frederick Street in St. Andrews, and the collection holds more than 90 000 documents regarding the history of Charlotte County. The building itself is even historic, as the archives are located in the Old Charlotte County Gaol which was constructed in 1832, and was used as a jail until 1979.
To learn more about the Charlotte County Archive click here.
To date – I have already read a lot of material in the Charlotte County Archives, but today I want to talk about the first set of documents I looked at, Fond 504, the Van Horne fond, and a few of my favourite pieces I have studied from that Fond.
- Public Auction Brochure: In 1977, between March 10th and 13th, a public auction took place selling off all the items in Covenhoven (The name of Van Horne’s summer house), in total there were 725 items up for auction. Not all items were original to Covenhoven, but there were numerous items from Van Horne’s collection that were sold off. On the third day of the auction, the province stepped in and purchased the remainder of the collection. The list of objects up for auction was fascinating as there was such a variety, from ceramics to books to soda bottles to snow shoes to a Steinway piano. One of my favourite items listed was a painting by John Hammond. Hammond was a Saint John artist who started Saint John’s first art school, the Owen’s Art Institute in 1884, which is now located at Mount Allison University.
- Deed for the Island. The next interesting item in the fonds was the official Crown Grant and Deed of the island. This document was drawn up by Palmer, O’Connell, Leger, Turnbull and Turnbull law office, and shows the passing of the island from King George III to Samuel Osborne on August 26, 1785, to the Andrews family and then slowly piece by piece of the island to Van Horne. It even shows the moment where Van Horne left the island to his eldest child, his daughter Adeline Van Horne. In 1907 Van Horne transferred the deed of his land on Minister’s Island to his daughter Adeline Van Horne for the cost of $1.00. Following Adeline’s death, she left the Island to the San Zenon Company Limited on February 6th, 1936, which then passed to the Van Horne Club, to the Great Northern Land & Cattle Company, to Norman E. Langdon, and the final passing of the land on this document is the Harbour Farm Association Incorporated on March 28th, 1973.
- Telegraph Journal Article. On January 3rd, 1981, the Telegraph Journal published and article titled “Was it Sir Williams Ghost that Sneezed that Night,” this article is not an academic source per say, but it is a story that is trying to prove that Covenhoven is haunted by Van Horne’s ghost! The article is a story of a couple that spent the night in Covenhoven on their own in the 1970s when Norman E. Langdon owned the island, as they were a friend of his. They claimed that nobody else was on the island while they were staying there, but in the middle of the night they heard loud footsteps and eventually a loud sneeze, which they attributed to being to a ghost. In particular – since Van Horne was known to hardly sleep through the night as he was also working away on projects or trying to educate himself on new topics. The concept I liked the most about this article, is imagining what would it would be like to stay overnight in Covenhoven for a weekend, having the entire home to yourself. It would be a pretty neat experience!
If you are interested in looking at primary source documents and learning about a particular subject, whether it be family history, history of location or just a topic you have an interest in, I definitely recommend exploring an archive, looking at historical documents first hand is always such a neat experience.