Fonds 2020.044 - McConnell family fonds

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McConnell family fonds

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10 cm of textual materials

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Biographical history

The McConnells were a merchant and seafaring family from Port Hilford, Guysborough County, Nova Scotia. James McConnell (1813-1859) married Priscilla Rood (1816-1888) and they had four children: Lydia (1838-1923); Martha (1840-1920); William (1843-1919); and James (1845-1926).

William and James were sea captains, master mariners, and general and fish merchants who would bring schooners to the coast of Labrador and western Newfoundland in the summer months to sell goods and supplies to fisher families engaged in the Labrador fishery. It is probable that their father was also engaged in the Labrador fishery, as he is described as dying in 1859 on the coast of Labrador. According to oral tradition and contemporary newspaper accounts, Capt. William McConnell was charged with recruiting a group of Inuit to travel with him on the "Evelina" to be exhibited at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. The McConnells also held business interests in Port Hilford, and were Baptist in faith.

Capt. James McConnell had a long career in municipal politics for the District of St. Mary's, serving as a councilor between 1896 and 1908, as Warden for the Municipality between 1908-1911, and again as councilor between 1920-1926. He also raised foxes, introducing black fox farming to the province.

Capt. William McConnell's son, James (1873-1957), was a merchant in Forest Hill and Country Harbour Mines areas of Guysborough County in the late 19th century. According to W. Malcolm's "Goldfields of Nova Scotia," there was a McConnell Gold Mining Co., managed by J. McConnell, in the Forest Hills gold Mining district. By 1901, James had moved to Sydney, Cape Breton, where he formed the firm Wood & McConnell. His brother, Freeman (1876-1940), eventually joined him in Sydney, and may have worked as a clerk for the firm. According to the 1921 Census of Canada, James McConnell is listed as a wholesale grocer, living at 131 George St. He went on to serve as the eighth mayor of the city of Sydney from 1924 to 1931. Upon his death, he bequeathed a large sum of money to the town to establish the McConnell Memorial Library.

Custodial history

Records were in the possession of Sherbrooke Village Restoration before transfer to the St. Mary's Genealogy Research Centre at Sherbrooke Village in 2020. Earlier custodial history is unknown.

Scope and content

Fonds consist of account books from various McConnell family business enterprises, including brothers William and James McConnell's merchant and seafaring activities along the Labrador coast (7 books, ca. 1880s and 1890s), and James McConnell's (1873-1957) merchant activities in Forest Hill Mines, Guysborough Co. N.S. (8 books, ca. 1896-1899).

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General note

Digital object: Page from accounts ledger belonging to Captains William and James McConnell, July 1883, kept while sailing along the Labrador coast selling supplies to fishing families. Acc. # 2020.044. McConnell family fonds, Ser. 1, # 1.2.

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