A Victorian Social at the Randall House Museum in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

IMG_7885-001Recently, Man The Capstan attended a Victorian garden social event at the Randall House Museum in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. This was held in conjunction with their summer exhibit called “Dear Dottie”. Costumes were encouraged by the museum, and this happily offered us an opportunity to get into our Victorian duds and do some strollin’. It was a particularly special event for us because a number of the members of the Man Capstan Crew are descended from Dottie and her family.

SLR_4_6252-004In 2005 a collection of approximately 500 letters addressed to Dottie Stewart, were discovered in an old trunk in the attic of a Heritage home that had once belonged to the Stewart family of Grand Pre, Nova Scotia. The sheer amount of these letters reveal a wonderfully detailed picture of what life was like for the Stewart family, their friends and their relatives, in this rural farming community during the late 1800s. Spanning a period of almost 15 years of Dottie’s life prior to her marriage, they are indeed a special find, not only for her descendants, but for the entire community.

The Stewarts were predominantly farmers and orchardists, a fact that is often mentioned in the letters sent to Dottie. Among other things, they grew and harvested apples, as did many farmers living in the Annapolis Valley during that time period, and, as many still do to this day. The ancestors and descendants of this family farmed the same lands for a period of almost 250 years, and even today members of the family can be found in the area.SLR_4_5960-002

The letters have been transcribed by volunteers from the Wolfville Historical Society, and were used as a primary source for “Dear Dottie”. This exhibit focuses not only on the Dottie letters and her family, but also on the history and goings’ on of the community during that time. It sheds light upon their joys and  sorrows, their struggles, hardships and good times. It also divulges some of the very personal experiences of those who corresponded with Dottie.  You can view this exhibit until the 15th of September, at which time the Randall House Museum closes down for the season.

Recently the Dottie Letters have also been used as a resource for seven short educational videos called Discovering Voices, by the NS Dept of Education. Some of these episodes were filmed at the Randall House.scan0003-008

The Randall House is a lovely old house and well worth a visit if you are in town. It is owned and operated by the Wolfville Historical Society and curated and managed by Alexandra Hernould. The following is a brief history of the house that I have taken from the
Wolfville Historical Society Website.

“This property, like all the other land in Horton Township, was granted to the New England settlers known as Planters, who arrived from Connecticut in the 1760s after the expulsion of the Acadians.  A house on the property  is mentioned in the deeds as early as 1769 but it is likely that the large and imposing eight room residence with full attic and cellar was built at least a generation later by more established settlers.  Aaron Cleveland, a cooper, lived here with his family from 1809 to 1812, during which time he took out a large mortgage, and it is possible that he was the builder.  The house, which overlooked the harbour, the wharves and the bustling commercial centre of Upper Horton or Mud Creek, was strategically situated to be at the hub of village life.SLR_4_6267-002

The term “the Randall House” was first used  in 1812 when Charles Randall, carpenter,  coachmaker and member of another Connecticut Planter family, purchased it from Cleveland.  His wife Sarah Denison died shortly after the birth of their only child, Charles Denison Randall, and for a time father and son lived here alone.  They later moved to a smaller house on the property and rented the Randall House.  Among their tenants was the Rev. John Pryor, principal of Horton Academy and one of the founders of Acadia University, who is described as “a cultivated, courtly man”.  He and his family lived in the house and may also have used it as temporary classroom space for the Academy.  From 1835 to 1845 Mrs. Henry Best, widow of a Halifax naval officer, operated a seminary for young ladies in the building.

IMG_7896-001Charles D. Randall bought the house from his father in 1844, and moved there following his marriage to Nancy Bill, the daughter of a prosperous farmer and  member of the Legislative Assembly.  Members of the Randall family continued to live in the family home until 1927 when Eardley and Anna left the Randall House for the last time.  Eardley’s initials can still  be seen carved into the wall of the attic staircase.

The Charles Patriquin family purchased the house in 1927, restored it and installed its first bathroom.  The Patriquins are still remembered for their warm-hearted interest in young people:  there was a dress-up box for local children from which they could create Hallowe’en costumes, while Charles taught them how to care for wounded birds and animals.  He also looked after the ducks who spent the summer in the Duck Pond (the old harbour) and grew a productive garden nearby.  It was the Patriquins who expressed the wish that the house should remain unchanged in the community as a reminder of past times.

IMG_7890-001Photographs of the Society’s original museum, the T.A.S. DeWolf house, now hang in the front hall with a framed square of the pictorial wallpaper-all that remains of Prince Edward’s gift.  The Randall House is arranged and furnished as an early Wolfville residence and most of the furniture and artifacts have been donated by local people.  A temporary exhibit room in the back parlour features changing displays which relate to the town and surrounding communities.”

The Wolfville Historical Society is always looking for new members and volunteers.

Don’t forget to click on the pictures to see their full sizes.267352_620477654640513_1444852717_n-001

A Visit To The Gaspereau Vineyards

We took a tour one sun-shiny day in late last fall, through the historical Gaspereau Valley which is situated in the heart of the Annapolis Valley. It is such a pretty place to visit, with peaceful scenery, hills, vales, farms and for us, a feeling of heritage. Certain members of the Man The Capstan crew can trace family lineage to this area as far back as the time of the New England Planters who came to Nova Scotia during the 1760s.

Nestled snuggly amidst these beautiful rolling hills and farmlands is the Gaspereau Vineyards Winery.  Located just 3 km from downtown Wolfville, the home of the Acadia University, it is an easy 1 hour drive from Halifax and is located near some great restaurants, gift shops, inns and markets. These vineyards were once an apple orchard. Planted in 1996, the 35 acres of vineyards grow on the south-facing slope in the ideal soil and climatic conditions of this beautiful valley. There are ten wineries in Nova Scotia which represents an ever growing industry in the province. Nova Scotia is well able to produce the excellent grapes that are required to create some outstanding wines.

The Gaspereau Vineyards produces a number of red and white wines, available in dry, off dry, and semi dry, as well as ice and maple wine. Man the Capstan was here for a wine tasting tour and looking forward to sampling some wonderful award winning wines. The staff was expecting us upon our arrival, as Katherine had made prior arrangements for this visit, and we were greeted warmly and enthusiastically.

We admired the winery boutique with it’s shelves of shining bottles filled with wine, books, souvenirs and other such local goodies and niceties, before sideling up to the tasting counter for our samples.

We tried them all…and I have to say that we loved them all. Each wine was unique in bouquet and flavour, and as each was presented to us we were hard pressed to name a favourite among them.

I am not such a connoisseur but certainly I know a good wine when I taste it, and I personally loved the Vitis with it’s dark burgundy tones, berry in the nose, and the hint of chocolate on the tongue. The wonderful Reserve Port, which we enjoyed with dark chocolate, and the Maple dessert Wine which is such a special treat.

What really surprised me though was the Rose. I am not a fan of Rose wines generally but I loved this refreshing and fruity offering. We all agreed that the wines offered at this winery were exceptional! We filled a case with a variety of them and I came away with two of the Rose, which I saved for our Turkey dinner on Christmas Day. It complimented this meal wonderfully well and was  a great hit at the table!

Gaspereau Vineyards is well worth the visit. The winery boutique is lovely. The complimentary wine sampling and tours are offered in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere and the staff are great!

The winery boutique is open 7 days a week.

April-May 10am-5pm

June-Sept 9am-6pm

Oct-Dec 10am-5pm

From downtown Wolfville (Highway #1), turn up Gaspereau Avenue (Beside the Police Station and across from Tim Horton’s). Drive 3km – Gaspereau Vineyards is located on the right.

Travelling Highway 101, take Exit 11 (Old Orchard Inn) and follow the signs. Gaspereau Vineyards is 7 km from the highway.

Wine List:

2004/06 Vitis
2007 Castel (Dry)
2007 Lucie Kuhlmann (Dry)
2008 Lucie Kuhlmann Barrel Select (Dry)
2008 Pinot Noir (Dry)
Reserve Port (Medium)
Maple Wine (Sweet)
2009 L’Acadie Blanc (Dry)
2009 Muscat (Dry)
2009 Seyval Blanc (Medium)

2009 Rose (Medium)

2009 Crescendo (Medium)
2008 Vidal Ortega Icewine (Sweet)
2008 Chardonnay (Dry)