A fresh spring breeze laden with the fragrance of lilacs transports me back to a summer day many years before. Having been told the story of my ancestors’ arrival in Lake George, Yarmouth Co., Nova Scotia by my grandmother and my uncle, my sister and I decided to trek into the site of their former homestead on the NW shore of Lake George, a very large inland lake in Yarmouth Co., N.S., from which the village derives its name. We walked into the area via a forestry access road, and crossed marshy places and a stream on our way in. At long last we came to a picturesque area bordered by stonewalls laboriously built by my ancestors centuries before.
We discovered an ancient moss-covered foundation where the house once stood, bricks from the chimney scattered about. An ancient apple tree that still showed life grew near the foundation of the home. A small courtyard
apparently graced the front of the house, surrounded by fences and walls that kept marauding livestock out. Amid the sound of the screaming gulls in the lake below, we found the remains of the barn and outbuildings, a testament to the work these people endured to eke out an existence on this land, which was often unforgiving. A lilac bush, barely alive, still had shoots that showed life. I took a slip from this shrub, no doubt planted by my 3rd great grandmother many generations before. It is from this lowly shrub that my gorgeous lilac bush descends, and reminds me of the story told to me by my grandmother and uncle long ago, and now I will relate it to you.
Life in Hexham, Northumberland County, England was becoming more burdensome every day. Thomas Wynter and his family longed for the promise of life in a new country, land that would be theirs to enjoy for the rest of their lives. That day came, and, in the summer of 1832, they were crossing miles of ocean, destined for Nova Scotia, their new homeland. They were on a sailing vessel owned by a wealthy ship owner and landowner who had a large estate in Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia. Thomas was a skilled Northumberland farmer, thus he and his family were granted passage on the vessel in exchange for his expertise in establishing Northumberland cattle and sheep on the farm portion of the estate.
The voyage was not an easy one, as they had run into severe storms and extremely rough seas. Thomas was a Master Mariner as well, used to weathering storms and treacherous conditions at sea. On this voyage many of the crew were sick, along with his dear wife, Elizabeth, and their three young sons. She was extremely ill, as she had not been to sea before, and was not used to this type of hardship. “Thomas, why did you uproot us from our comfortable home? If this is a forerunner of life in our new homeland, maybe we should have stayed in England.” Her husband understood her plight and replied,
“Beth, I agree, this voyage is a terrible one, and I am sorry that it turned out this way for you and the boys, but we are going to a wonderful country. If you can just get over this hurdle, we will be in our new homeland soon, able to eventually purchase our own land to start a farm, and have our own sheep and cattle. It will be ours, with timber as far as the eye can see, fresh water, clean air, and you will be able to have a vegetable garden, lilac trees, apple trees, and flower gardens surrounding your new home.” She seemed to calm down after this, the thoughts of a brighter future beginning to override this terrible feeling of doom aboard this vessel. She loved her husband dearly. He was a good man. She would try to bear up under this torture that was making her so terribly ill. Her children, John, 12, William, 10, and Thomas, 8 were minding the voyage, but, being young, they had more resilience than their dear mother.