The following charming account was written by a donor about an item she donated to Randall House in 2017. We thank her for her generosity and also for the wonderful information that she has given us about this family heirloom.
After an exhausting plane trip from my home in Oregon, USA, due to multiple weather delays, I arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia on November 9, 2017 with my great-grandmother’s bean crock carefully tucked into my backpack. Did I sail through customs? No such luck. Faced with lengthy interrogation by five officials in five separate rooms, I wondered what was possibly illegal about bringing my bean
crock into Canada. In the end, they let me go. My cousin, Ron Buckley, picked me up and we headed to Wolfville so I could donate the crock to the Randall House Museum.
Why did I give away a family heirloom?
The crock belonged to my great-grandmother, Blanche Schofield (1885-1960) whom I knew when I was very young. After she died, the crock was passed down through the women of the family until it was left to me. Sitting in a bookshelf, it was a reminder of my Nova Scotia heritage. At one point however, after careful consideration, I felt the crock needed to be back where it originated. It’s as if it symbolized the resilience and fortitude of women in that area who lived in the late 1800s through the early 1900s. Thus, in her honor, I decided to donate the item to the museum.
Brief Life Story: Nova Scotia
In 1907, after teaching at the Black River school for five years, Blanche Schofield, from Black River, married James Schofield from Forest Hills. (Blanche’s father Thomas L. Schofield and James’s grandfather James E. Schofield were brothers.)
They purchased a small home from James’s father Ernest J. Schofield. The dirt cellar served well for storage of vegetables, fruit, and pickled fish, pork, and cabbage. Out back they kept a horse, cows, chickens, and pigs. There was also a blacksmith shop run by Blanche’s brother Dave. There was no phone, plumbing, or electricity. Heat was by wood fire (L. Schofield 3-5). They used a horse-drawn wagon to get around.
Blanche and Jim had four sons and a daughter: Llew, Win, Brent, Jay, and Ruth. It was more than a mile from the Schofield homestead at the top of South Mountain to the school in the village below, so Blanche’s sons (and nephew Arthur Buckley who lived with them) used bobsleds in the winter to ride to school. “After school, they would hitch them [the bobsleds] to any team of horses that was going up the mountain to work in the woods during the winter (R. Schofield Smith PC).” While raising her own children, she also served as a midwife assistant.
Blanche’s husband, Jim, hunted moose from 1910-1922 over what was called “the barrens.” When out hunting moose, his son Llew would drive the horse and wagon to wait for the meat. The moose was quartered and hung from tree branches. It was then salted and put in barrels to cure. The meat was rinsed with water before it was cooked. (B. Smith PC)
Both sides of Blanche Schofield’s families descended from Abner Schofield and his father Arthur Schofield, who came to the Gaspereau Valley in 1761 as a “New England Planter.”
In 1922 Blanche and Jim emigrated to Weston, MA in the “Boston states.” Blanche was a talented cook and “was capable of feeding quality food to many people at one time (J. Schofield 24).” During the Depression in the 1930s, when road projects were going on near their home, “Blanche would cook three meals a day [for the workers] for about $.25 a meal. When the men got thirsty, her son Brent would get water from a nearby stream. He’d fill up the buckets, one after the other, and walk up and down the lines with a dipper giving them drinks.” In the meantime, her son Jay would wash the used dishes. (J. Schofield 25)
On the weekends, the family would travel to Haymarket Square in Boston to buy food to feed the workers the following week. Knowing the prices would drop as the day wore on, they waited until 10:00 p.m. to make purchases. The cold food was stored at home in two small iceboxes.
In addition to the construction workers, Blanche also fed several employees from the local college and took in several boarders. She also insisted on reaching out to hoboes. “People would come to the door and Blanch would make them big sandwiches using her homemade bread (R. Schofield Smith PC).” No doubt the crock was well-used for beans with molasses.
Devoted to family, Blanche often wrote to her four sons who were drafted into the U.S. Army to fight in World War II. (Her husband, Jim, had fought for Canada in World War I.)
This is just a snapshot of the amazing life of a compassionate, hard-working woman. She was gracious, always had a smile on her face, and was well-loved by her extended family.
“Blanche was known for her step dancing and that she could do a particular step called the shuffle step. Not many people could do that (Buckley 1).”
As I’m about to board a plane at Halifax with a couple of novels in my backpack in place of the crock, I think of this wonderful woman I’m proud to call my great-grandmother. May joy and peace surround her many descendants.
Rebecca Locklear, donor November 13, 2017
Buckley, Ron. “Ancestors of Blanche Edna Schofield.”
Schofield, Jay E. and Llewllyn T. Schofield. A Family of New England Planters Returns, 1985. (This is a first-hand account of life on South Mountain in the early 20th century with a particular emphasis on schools, indentured children, gardening/food, and men working at various occupations.)
Smith, Bill: Personal correspondence.
Smith, Ruth Schofield: Personal correspondence. PC=Personal correspondence