History of Henry V. Blaxland

Samuel Arnold
John Blaxland
Thomas Blaxland
Henry V. Blaxland
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My greatgrand father Henry's story


Henry was known locally as Harry and he jumped ship in Halifax Harbour in 1856 or shortly after from a British Navy man of war and then swam ashore on the Dartmouth side. He then made his way to the Clam Harbour area where he settled and lived for the rest of his life. He is supposed to have served in the Crimea War (1854-1856) at Sebastapol, so this would make his arrival shortly after this. Listed in 1861 census as Benjamin. Henry married a Catherine Robson, and his first child was born about 1860 so his arrival must have been shortly before this. He and Catherine had 9
children, 5 boys and 4 girls that were raised in Clam Harbour.
He was a very short man and very strong for his size. He could carry a 200 pound barrel of flour on his back from the wharf up the hill to his house quite a distance away. He settled in Clam Harbour in a house he built himself, after clearing the land. Where he obtained the land is not known. He also built a stone wall around the house which was still there a few years ago. He was a general handy man as well as a superb fisherman. Henry is buried in the Clam Harbour Cemetery and his headstone does not mention where he was born or when, but, his grandson, Arthur always claimed he
was born in Faversham, Kent Co., England. His age at death was 63 making him born about 1834. His wife Catherine is not mentioned on the headstone but it is assumed she is also buried there.
Arthur, his grandson also claimed he swam ashore with a sword, which is known to have existed, and a cross, which is supposed to have been in the house which he built. Family legend claims that he was related to the Blaxlands that
went to Australia and that he had a brother that was a sheep farmer in Australia, but this is unlikely as he was at least one generation if not two younger than those that went to Australia.
He seemed to have prospered in Clam Harbour because he later sold a piece of land with the buildings to his son in law, Thomas Eldershaw, for 208 pounds or dollars and still had 100 acres left. Now, in those days, 200 pounds or
dollars would have bought quite a large piece of land. This was in the late 1800's.

Headstone in Clam Harbour Cemetery: Im memory of Henry V. Blaxland died
December 8, 1897 age 63 years. (no mention of his wife Catherine).
Listed in Acadian Recorder of 16 Dec 1897- Died at Clam Harbour, 8 Dec, Henry
Blaxland age 63 years. Leaving widow, 6 sons and 4 daughters. Also Halifax
Herald of 17 Dec and Nova Scotian of 25 Dec.


Since the first chapetr was written we have found out some more information about Henry or "Harry" as he was known, and these bits of information may not necessarily agree with with, what, has become a family tradition.
First of all, he was not a very tall man about 5 foot 6 inches but quite stocky. He had brown hair and blue-grey eyes. In later life he grew a very large beard which was typical of the ages.
He joined the Royal Navy at about the age of 19 years. He served on board a couple of the Royal Navy ships until he was transferred to the HMS Brilliant. His previous ship the HMS Hawke was put in storage at Sheerness, Kent Co., and he was assigned to the HMS Brilliant, which was laying in harbour at Portsmouth. He was a seaman and after sailing for Nova Scotia he was promoted to blacksmith helper.
After arriving in Halifax in August 1856 and spending a month there he asked and received a release from the Royal Navy, this was possible now that there were no wars being fought. He took his release in September 1856. It is not known when he arrived in Clam Harbour but I suspect it was shortly after this.
With his background as a seaman and blacksmith, and his father being a stonemason it is no wonder that Henry prospered in Clam Harbour. Being the son of a stonemason would account for him being able to build as low stone wall around his house, and as a blacksmith's helper would enable him to make hinges etc. for his neighbors. As far as being a superb fisherman, the fact that he lived near the coast in England and his ancestry were sailors would account for it.

Article printed in the Dartmouth Newspaper in the 1950's or 1960's.


We visited Wallace Russell recently and saw him set up the skelton of a new boat in his work shop at Clam harbour.
"A man is never so busy that he can't set a spell," he said, a merry twinkle in his eye. "Would you like to hear about Harry Blaxland and how he happened to settle in these parts?"
"The Blaxlands in this area had their beginning many, many, years ago in the person of an Englishamn by the name of Harry. This man fought in the battle of Sebastopol and sailed all around the world in the British Navy – the only real fleet at the time.
"Times were really rough for the sailors aboard ship in those days. There were none of the fancy do-dads found in the fleet today, no 'personal-rights'. The Caprain spoke to his crew through the whine and howl of the cat-o-nine-tails. Harry Blaxland had become fed up on the whole thing"
So, when his ship berthed in Halifax on summer day his mind was made up. Waiting fordarkness he slipped quietly over the side of his ship and swam to what is now Dartmouth, his cutlass held in his teeth. Because of the season his experience in the thickly wooded country was not too harrowing. He steered his course in an easterly direction, laying low in daylight, lest an irate captain should be moved to send searchers out when he was reported missing. He found a trail marked by Indians and fed on blueberries that were plentiful in new growth where a fire had been. He slept ine night in a cave-like windfall that smelled of bear.
He came at last to a small settlement that smacked of fish and fishermen, He saw flats where large and juicy clams stuck their snouts up to feed at low tide. He met a few pioneers who needed odd jobs dine and could pay for them. No one asked him any questions and Harry could turn his hand to anything. He was in turn a welder, blacksmith, fisherman – anything. The hinges he made are still in use on Wallace Russel's old barn. Over a hundred years old and still solid.
"Things made in those days – especially made by Harry – did not rust and fall apart if you spit on them. They were made to last and here is proof." said Wallace.
Although Harry Blaxland was a small man, he had strength beyond what anyone at Clam Harbour had hitherto seen. He could pick up a barrel of flour and carry it about on his shoulder – even up a hill to a house he had purchased. To this house he brought his bride, Catherine Robson. She was a large woman compared to her slight husband and she bore him seven healthy children. His family branched out through the years to produce fine, upstanding, citizens who still live in the same area.
What made Harry Blaxland different from other fisherfolk and sailors was that he could go true to any fishing shoal in the thickest fog without a compass. As a consequence he caught more fish than his neighbors who were obliged to stay home during foggy days along the coast.
Wallace Russell still remembers – although only eleven years old at the time – (he is now eighty) when the tales were in full circulation of how the landed fisherfolk would gather in fog so thick they could not see the end of their noses to discuss their neighbor, Harry, who was out at sea somewhere hauling in the fish. The story went from one generation to another that this gift of blind navigation was instrumental in causing Harry to finally desert the British Flag. It was told that the crude compass failed to function in a dense fog beyond the mouth of Halifax Harbour. Word of Harry's unusual ability had reached the captail whom Harry loathed. When he refused to guide the ship he received a whipping that did not stop smarting until he swam the cooling waters of the harbour on his escape journey.

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