Tea Meetings at Shag Harbour

As far back as I can remember, the ladies of the Baptist and the Methodist sewing Circles used to hold an annual bazaar and tea meeting in the hall. This would usually be in January and last for two evenings. In this way the two churches were chiefly financed. If there were any grudges from Atwoods Brook to Upper Woods Harbour, they were brought to be settled at these tea meetings. If there was any liquor to be had, it would appear then; there was often a fight walk over the tea table, amidst the cakes and other food. There were no local constables who were any good. The chief dependence seemed to be to have two ministers there, and both Baptist and Methodist ministers spent the evenings at each tea meeting. The Methodist ministers were usually elderly men, and not much value in a scrimmage, but Mr. Miller, the Baptist one, was a husky 240 pounder, who could easily pick up a 196lb. barrel of flour and toss it into his truck, as I have often seen him do.


The trouble makers were not many, but they gave anxious moments to the women who had worked all year to make materials for this sale.


When the Division was raising funds to enlarge the Hall, a tea meeting was one of the means. They knew that any trouble makers would be sure to show up at the sale, and it was decided that the time had come to stop such doings, and that if the churches would not, the Division would. So a committee was appointed with instructions and full power to act, assured they would have the moral and financial support necessary.


The night of the sale, the trouble started, but eight men of the committee surrounded the disturbers and handcuffed them after arresting them in the name of the law. They had the official constables there, then they bundled the arrests into a sleigh with a span of horses and drove them 10 miles to the Township Jail at Barrington, where they were locked up until two days later, when their case came on. I was one of the witnesses – the first time I was ever in court. The defendants were fined $50 each and costs, which ran to over $100 each.


When the court was over, there were great threats as to what would happen at the next tea meeting at Shag Harbour, but of course nothing happened. This action by the Division ended all such trouble; they had their lesson and future sales were held in peace.


These tea meetings bring other recollections of Solomon, elsewhere mentioned. The Division usually granted the request of the ladies to let them have the old Division room, before enlargement, for a tea room. This meant that a cook stove would be installed for a day or two, and the question arose one year after they had purchased a new organ, whether the neighbouring heat would affect the organ or not, when Solomon got up and winking his small eyes said, “I’ll gurryentee, yes gentlemen I’m willing to gurryentee that that organ will play just as well after that stove is there an’ taken out as she did before.”


Solomon was usually the official announcer for the next evening sale, and near the close of the first evening sale, he would get the attention of the crowd and announce “Gentlemen, this here sale will be continued tomorrow night, teas at ‘duced prices.”


One evening at a public basket sale by the Division, Willie Swim from Clark’s Harbour, a new boyfriend of Jessie Nickerson, bought her basket, no doubt having advance information. Solomon, wishing to help a stranger, went over and asked him whose basket he had got. Willie held up the name in the basket and Solomon, who could not read, said he had left his glasses at home and asked Willie to read it, which he did – Jessie Nickerson. Solomon, pointing with his first finger, which by an accident was bent to a right angle, pointed in the indefinite direction which such a finger would give, and said “That’s Jessie Nickerson, wight over yender.” Jessie, until she married Willie and went away, never got over the sign of the crooked finger, and “that’s Jessie Nickerson, wight over yender.”



This excerpt taken from records of the late E. R. Nickerson, of Shag Harbour.

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