Saturday, June 14, 2014

Yarmouth: A Nice Breeze Off the Water

I left Halifax in a morning of bright sunshine that belied how irritated I was the night before.  The weather was spectacular when I was in Peggy's Cove, but it had clouded up by the time I got to Mahone Bay, and the temperature had dropped significantly by the time I'd gotten to Lunenburg.  As a result of the sprinkling rain that turned into actual rain by the time I got to my Jeep, I didn't see as much of Lunenburg as I wanted.  Oh, well, enough reason to return to Nova Scotia, I guess.  So I drove back home to the Scamp in a fairly significant rain, one that was enough to make me want to be off the road--and hoping and praying that this rain had missed Halifax (it hadn't), because I'd left the windows open in the Scamp so the furballs could breathe. It had gotten a bit stuffy in there when I'd gone into the city the day before.

Nope.  And that is how I came to become well acquainted with the laundry room at my KOA when I'd rather be tucked in with my electric blanket.  Oh, well. Live and learn.  I got nice, warm sheets for the night.  But I seriously hate making the camper bed.  It is a pain in the ass of the worst sort.  Oh, well.

When I got to Yarmouth and the 103 ended, I stopped at a PetroCanada to take care of poor Galway, who'd done a kitty hat trick over the course of the drive (#1 before we left the campground, #2 and #3 along the way) and I figured that as long as I was stopped, I might as well ask directions, make sure I was on the right track to Ellenwood Lake Provincial Park.  I was not.  But the thing about asking for directions is I learned that the bridge was out, so I'd have to take a detour (I had a flashback of my moose-bear detour in Ontario...), but as the three lovely workers argued among themselves the best way to get me there, what happened next was truly spectacular:  the manager on duty let the young man off fifteen minutes early, so he could lead me out there, since he lives close.  So that's what happened.  Welcome to Yarmouth.  I got my own personal escort to within 2 km of the park.  Just wow.

Of course, when I got there (it was about 2:00), I learned that Ellenwood Lake does not have any serviced sites.  Nope, no electricity.  Not an option for me.  So I took my scrambled brain back towards Yarmouth and asked for directions again to Camper's Haven, which was in my Good Sam book.  Yes, they had room, yes, they had sites with electricity. Hot diggity.  Then we got into the fine print.  There's wifi, but only up at the entrance, not in the sites (not true, exactly, I can get it in my site, but not consistently).  I had my pick of the W/E sites, but none of them were even in the same solar system as the idea of "level." The first one the woman put me in was actually on the incline of the hill.  None of my other options were a heck of a lot better.  I eventually picked the best of the lot and made do, but the rain of the day before made the grass sites (which hadn't been mowed recently) pretty spongy.  The bathrooms are close to my campsite, but they're really dated, the doors to the stalls don't really close, and one of the toilet tank's covers is plywood.  The sign over the sinks says that the water in the bathroom is not tested for domestic use, so use the campsite water for drinking--and I don't even know what that means. Is the water in the bathrooms not safe to use to brush your teeth? In any case, were this not my only option in this area, I'm not sure I'd stay here. But it has been a good home base.

That night, after I'd gotten set up, I went to check out the two cemeteries in town, which were really close to my campground.  I put my crock pot curry together, made sure it wouldn't burn down the camper, and then headed out.  The first was the Catholic cemetery and I know that the Babin(e)s were Catholic until my grandparents got married and Grandpa converted to Lutheranism, so it seemed a natural place to start, considering I had no idea if I'd find any of them there.  Well, I didn't.  Then I went to the Yarmouth Mountain Cemetery and I didn't care if I found any of my people there or not. It was one of the best cemeteries I'd ever been to, the way it was laid out on the hill, the shading, the light through the trees, the unusual gravestones--but even though I didn't make it through a quarter of the cemetery, I knew I'd not find any Babin(e)s there. There were no French names there at all; they were all English.

Yesterday, I had a lovely, lazy morning with my tea and oatmeal, partially because I was not feeling 100% (I would find out last night, when the rain and wind moved in that I was justified in my headache) and partially because I had no reason to rush.  I went to the Yarmouth County Museum and archives and spent an hour there finding that they had nothing on my family.  Even a "no" is an answer.  But they were lovely and kind in there and it was not a waste of time.  Archives make me very happy.  So then I drove around Yarmouth's waterfront, took some pictures, and headed back to the campsite to take a nap and hopefully sleep off my headache.

This morning, the wind and rain moved in and it was more wind than rain, thank goodness.  I took it easy again and then headed to Tusket to their archives, to see what I would find.  The archivist at the Yarmouth County Archives suggested them--and later I would find out why it was a good suggestion and why the county had two separate archives:  the county can basically be divided into Yarmouth and Argyle, and Yarmouth is English and Argyle is French.  And since my people are French...

I walked into the archives, housed in an old church, and a very nice young man helped me.  My goal with this whole thing was to start with the most recent generation and work my way back, to find the primary sources I needed to be satisfied with the information I had.  So, we started with my great-grandfather, William Henry Babine, born in Glenwood in 1889.  He immigrated to Maine, married my great-grandmother in Massachusetts in 1922, and then they moved to Long Beach, CA.  I won't bore you with the things that make my genealogist's heart go pitty pat, but I'm ridiculously glad for how anal the Catholic Church is about its records.  Seriously.  It was hard to find anything on William Henry Babin (the E comes and goes with various census records), but then my young archivist (never did find out his name) wondered if he went by Bill or even Guillaume, since he was French--and magically, there he was, baptized Henri Guillaume Babine.  I can't wait to ask my grandfather about that, since Grandpa is William Henry Babine, Jr.  But I also found church records for other various ancestors and family members, and I got some questions I had answered.  

The actual archivist was wonderful and I wish I could have talked to him all day.  Turns out he's an English person, not a historian, and I told him that many of the archivists I know have English backgrounds, not history, something I think is very interesting.  I told him that I'm more in search of stories and explanations, rather than just names and dates, and the main thing I really want to know is how the Babin family escaped the deportation.  And what he told me is that they actually, probably, didn't.  He said the main families of this area--and the Babins are one of them--spent about ten years just before deportation to after down in Massachusetts and it was a lot easier for them to get back. The families who were deported to Louisiana or France never made it back.  That ticked something in my brain, another avenue of research, because my great-grandmother was from Massachusetts (Irish, though).  Very interesting.

I figured that since all these Babin records were coming from Ste. Anne de Ruisseau parish that they'd be buried in the cemetery.  The archivist, Peter, told me not to get my hopes up.  Yes, they're probably buried there, but the Acadians liked their wooden crosses as grave markers.  Which did not hold up well over time.  There are some 18th century graves behind the church, but not many; across the road is the cemetery that starts about 1880 or so.  Best that Peter gave me the heads up, because I wandered those old stones looking for names I recognized, but while I found some Babins, some Surettes, some LeBlancs, none of them were mine.  Whole empty spaces in that cemetery must have been marked by wooden crosses at one time.  I know there were graves there, because I could see the disruptions in the soil, but those would have been all that remained of those I'd come to find.

So, I found them, but I didn't.  

And I was strangely okay with that.

Ste. Anne de Ruisseau

After I left the churchyard, I drove back through Yarmouth to see the lighthouse at Cape Forchu (which was a lovely, intense spot).  I stopped at a monument to the sailors of the area, and I noticed that the tide was on its way out (and I wondered if they were on the opposite tidal schedule of the Bay of Fundy), but I made my way along the shore and concentrated on finding a stone that Cora would like (and also one for Henry, but that boy is so excited about everything, that it wouldn't be difficult, but he's also only 16 months old...).  In this age of technology, I took photographs of the lupins along the road, because before I left, Cora had me read her the story of Miss Rumphius and now that's what I think of when I see lupins, which I'd never seen before I came here.  And Cora is in a great stone collecting phase, which if she's lucky (and I'm lucky), she'll never outgrow.  I still choose stones as souvenirs when I visit new places, because I believe very strongly that you can never know who you are or where you are unless you know what is underneath your feet.  I'm bringing her amethyst from Ontario, this stone which is currently unidentified (I need to Google some possibilities), and I have this dream of her putting them into the memory box I gave her when I found out Kristi was pregnant with her and pulling them out in odd moments, to remember things that she's never done, places she's never visited, stories she's never heard, but moments that are part of her life in some small way anyway.  

This stone today? I picked it especially for her, because I thought she'd like the color and the shape, and because it's from the place in Nova Scotia that her ancestors come from.  These are the waters they fished, the wind in their sails that would bring them home.


  1. Hi Karen~another great post we enjoyed reading! Again- beautiful photos & fun to read about your adventures at the places you visit. And that town with the tea room & book\coffee shop- wow! My kind of place too! Safe travels from Kim & Jeff in MN.

  2. This is also something I'm discovering as I get older, to buy souvenirs that don't catch dust. Books, tea I can drink, those sorts of things. I went wine tasting today and I'm bringing home wine that I can share with friends and family in my living room. But then, I also went fossil hunting today and I'm bringing home rocks too. :)