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Retrieval Number: 7001/123
An account of the expenditure of 45 pounds for the purchase of seed potatoes for the destitute and other inhabitants of the Parish of Sackville, Charles F. Allison, May 13, 1846.
Mount Allison University Archives, Parks Canada, Webster Manuscript Collection.
May be reproduced only with permission of Parks Canada through the Mount Allison University Archives

An account of the expenditure of 45 pounds for the purchase of seed potatoes.

If men like Thompson Trueman can be considered comfortably prosperous as shown by their accumulation of capital, it is evident that many others in the community were struggling to make ends meet. This document points to an initiative to provide needy families with seed potatoes on the assumption that they might grow food to alleviate their economic marginality. We gain no insight into what the threshold for being deemed “destitute” might be, and indeed the title refers to “other inhabitants” seeming to suggest that some on the list had a relative, if not an absolute need for this assistance. The number of bushels provided to each household varied presumably in proportion to the number of people to be fed, and perhaps the absolute scale of their need. Thus some families received 6 bushels and other 3. It is of interest that the name attached to the initiative was Charles F. Allison, the Town of Sackville’s leading merchant. By 1846 Allison, a devout Methodist, was already well known for his philanthropy, having provided the land and an endowment for the creation of the Wesleyan Academy, the forerunner of Mount Allison University. The true genesis of this initiative detailed in this document is not clear, however. There are hints that it derived from concerns raised by Commissioners of the Parish of Sackville, and was therefore a reflection perhaps that the community had a collective approach to social welfare issues. In a broader context this was a period when the Irish Potato famine was elevating consciousness over famine and the depths of human suffering both in the British Isles and in British North America. Indeed by 1846 large numbers of refugees from the Irish famine were beginning to make their way to North America. The names on this list however, appear to consist largely of well established local surnames and do not appear to represent newcomers for whom charity is being sought and distributed.

 

 

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