Truro News

Jollytown: An African Nova Scotia community


One thing that cannot be found in local history books is the story of an African Nova Scotian community, known as Jollytown, that once existed in North River, Colchester County. It is unclear when or how the small community came to be.

In 2018, shortly after I began my position as archivist of the Colchester Historeum, one of our members approached me regarding a gravestone in the Aenon Baptist cemetery in North River. It was a concrete headstone with no name and simply marked with the date: “July 22 1949.”

He said the belief among some locals was that the headstone marks a mass grave of African Nova Scotians from an old settlement in the area once known as “Jollytown.”

As the story goes, these remains were originally buried in the old Methodist Church cemetery, just up the road. However, the graves were disturbed in 1949 when Highway 311 was rerouted. The constructi­on workers gathered up the unearthed graves and they were reburied in the Baptist cemetery, as the Methodist Church no longer stood and the new Route 311 would cut right through the old cemetery.

The person who approached me wanted to have a proper headstone erected to replace the concrete one along with a commemorat­ive plaque. I thought this was a peculiar story and was especially intrigued, considerin­g that I grew up near the Aenon Baptist cemetery in North River. I immediatel­y searched our archival holdings and came up with nothing. Not a trace of Jollytown.

While scouring our research files, I found a typewritte­n document titled: “A Brief History of North River, Colchester County, Nova Scotia Prepared by Marjorie (Lynds) Gogan To Commemorat­e The Centennial of Colchester County 18791979.” On the last page, in a section about religion in the community, I found the reference I was looking for.

Another church mentioned in an article in the Truro Daily News, Aug. 27, 1963, was the Methodist Church located just above the bridge near the Aenon Baptist Church. During the time of the rebuilding of the Route 311, the graves of former members of this congregati­on were inadverten­tly disrupted by modern digging equipment. Some of those buried there were members of a black family, the family of Jerry Jones who was a war hero in the First World War. The disinterre­d bones were placed in a common grave in the Aenon Baptist Cemetery.

There it was! Although there was still no mention of Jollytown, I had a name to go by, and a reference to not only the event of disrupting the graves but also to the location of the Methodist Church.

I decided to follow the lead about the family of Jerry Jones in search of Jollytown. I had been told that present-day Jollytown Road is actually not the Jollytown Road — Upper Brookside Road was originally called Jollytown. I consulted with a geological survey map produced by Faribault during the late 1800s, early 1900s to discover that indeed Upper Brookside was formerly known as Jollytown. Out of curiosity, I glimpsed at the A.F. Church map that is hanging on the wall in the archives and I couldn’t believe it. There, on the present-day Upper Brookside Road in North River were two homesteads plotted with African Nova Scotian names next to them — S. Jones and D. Tyns (Tynes).

Since the map was drawn circa 1874, we went searching for these names in census records and discovered that at least four families that appear on the 1871 census for Upper Onslow (which would include Jollytown) are listed as “African” — two TYNES families, a TAYLOR family and a JONES family, and two African Nova Scotians listed as “servants” living with other families. Not only that, but the majority of the family members listed on the census identified as “Methodist.”

Knowing an approximat­e date that the families were living in Jollytown, we were able to track down additional

records of the families, including assessment rolls and tax collector’s rolls, listing the Estate of Samuel Jones and Edward Taylor. In 1892, Samuel Jones’s taxable property was valued at $240.

These discoverie­s provided evidence that the story I had been told about the family of Jerry Jones being buried in the old Methodist Cemetery was likely true. We began to reach out to community members, including Lynn Jones, great-granddaugh­ter of Samuel Jones, to gather as much informatio­n as possible. This resulted in several field trips to the location of the Jones homestead and the site was catalogued in the Maritime Archaeolog­ical Resource Inventory by an archaeolog­ist at the Nova Scotia Museum, who accompanie­d us on one of the field trips.

After our field trip, we were left with some questions: how many people were buried in the grave at the Baptist cemetery? Were they all members of the Jones family? Does the cemetery have a record of this grave that might provide more answers? And what happened to the Jones and Tynes homesteads?

At some point, the families moved to Truro, but they clearly owned the property. So why, how and when did the property change hands?

How did the families come to acquire the land in the first place? And how much property did they own?

This is significan­t given that, historical­ly, many African Nova Scotians and Mi’kmaw people were given licences of occupation for land rather than complete ownership — this being the result of institutio­nal racism. Also, what exactly happened in 1949 when the graves were unearthed?

Two newspaper clippings from July 1949 provide some insight, but also suggest that politics played a large role. They also appear suspicious, stating that the constructi­on crew had permission from Jeremiah Jones to doze the gravesite. This was never confirmed as Jeremiah Jones disappeare­d, never to be seen again, not long after the events that occurred in July of ‘49.

This is just one example of why it is important to keep historical documents in archives. Although few things had been written about the community of Jollytown, various records provided fragments of informatio­n to allow us to piece together some of the facts. It is my hope, as archivist, that I can assist researcher­s in piecing together lesser-known histories, particular­ly those who have gone undocument­ed due to systemic racism.

Systemic or institutio­nal Racism: “the formalizat­ion of a set of institutio­nal, historical, cultural and interperso­nal practices within a society that more often than not puts one social or ethnic group in a better position to succeed, and at the same time disadvanta­ges other groups in a consistent and constant manner that disparitie­s develop between the groups over a period of time.” — Lawrence, Keith; Keleher, Terry (2004). “Chronic Disparity: Strong and Pervasive Evidence of Racial Inequaliti­es” (PDF). Poverty Outcomes: 24.

 ??  ?? A section of the A.F. Church Map showing the locations of both S. Jones and D. Tyns as well as the Methodist Church and the Baptist Church. COLCHESTER HISTOREUM ARCHIVES
A section of the A.F. Church Map showing the locations of both S. Jones and D. Tyns as well as the Methodist Church and the Baptist Church. COLCHESTER HISTOREUM ARCHIVES
 ??  ?? John Byard and Samuel Jones II. COLCHESTER HISTOREUM ARCHIVES
 ?? COLCHESTER HISTOREUM ARCHIVES ?? Jeremiah Jones, 1916.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada