Situated on one of the oldest streetscapes in Canada, the Bailey House, built around 1770, has a rich and colourful history. It is one of several 18th century buildings that line the water front of lower St. George Street. It is a fine example of Georgian Period, timber-frame construction with many original features and materials.
The Bailey House has been witness to many changes in Annapolis Royal from it’s hey day as a shipping and ship building hub to its present day attraction as a tourism and historical centre. The waterfront on lower St. George Street was once filled with shipping, trading, and mercantile activities, and sported a large hotel next door, a blacksmith shop, and several large wharves that served as ship building and shipping facilities. Many large sailing ships were built, docked, and sailed from right across the street where our waterfront gardens are now located. It was once possible to buy passage from these wharves to New Brunswick, Boston, New York and England.
The Bailey House was built in about 1770 by John Easson, a Scotsman who had a long association with the town of Annapolis Royal, having arrived in 1737. He was a master carpenter employed by the Board of Ordinance.
His original house was among the casualties of the July 1, 1744 attack on the town by a large Mi’kmaw force under Abbé Jean-Louis le Loutre, missionary zealot to the Shubenacadie Mi’Kmaq. After twenty years of peace, French-English hostilities had resumed with the War of the Austrian Succession (1744-1748) or King George’s War, as the North American theatre was called. Although these war years were among the most turbulent in Annapolis Royal’s history, there was a positive note for Easson who was granted lands and mills on the Allain’s River at Lequille. A decade later, another war, the Seven Year’s War, which ultimately saw the French removed as a colonial power on the North American continent in 1763, again impacted on the life of John Easson. In 1757 he and six soldiers were captured by an Aboriginal war party while cutting firewood near Fort Anne. He was turned over to the French and taken to Quebec until the British victory at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in the autumn of 1759.
He returned to Annapolis Royal and held his positions at the fort until the Board of Ordinance was terminated in July 1769.
Easson later, in 1770, built this house on lower St. George Street and lived in it until 1783 when he sold it to Joseph Totten.
In 1783 when Joseph Totten, a refugee Loyalist, fled from Westchester, New York with his wife, six children and four slaves, he arrived in Annapolis Royal and bought this house a storehouse and 110 perches of land from John Easson for 500 pounds.
Very prominent in Annapolis society, the Tottens hosted a ball in this house, in honour of Prince Edward, later Duke of Kent and father of Queen Victoria who visited in the 1790’s.
Joseph Totten was the maternal grandfather of Annapolis Royal born, Sir William Robert Wolseley Winniett (1793-1850). He became Governor of the Cape Coast Colony in Africa and died in Accra (now Ghana).
In 1819, merchant James Robertson purchased the property from Joseph Totten’s estate and sold the house later in 1837 to Elizabeth Bailey, the widow of Thomas Henry Bailey, Barrack Master at the fort and son of Loyalist Reverend Jacob Bailey.
Mrs. Bailey and her three daughters kept the house as an aristocratic boarding house in the early to late 1800’s. Marm Bailey was noted for her moose muffle soup. It was a savoury broth concocted using the moose’ nose.
The house is immortalized as Marm Bailey’s in the writings of Thomas Chandler Haliburton, and most notably in The Clockmaker. He is arguably Nova Scotia’s most famous man of letters and one of North America’s early humourists.
Born in Windsor, Nova Scotia to an upper class family, he attended University of King’s College in Windsor and became a lawyer and later opened a practice in Annapolis Royal. While in England, he met Louisa Neville whom he married in 1816 and brought her back to Nova Scotia. She later died in 1840.
Haliburton became a noted local business man and a judge, but his great fame came from his writing. He wrote a diverse number of books on history, politics, and farm improvement. He rose to world wide fame with his Clockmaker serial that first appeared in the Novascotian and was later published in book form throughout the Empire. The books recounted the humorous adventures of the character Sam Slick and became extremely popular light reading.
Haliburton retired from law and moved to England 1856. In that same year he married Sarah Harriet Owen Williams. In 1859, Haliburton was elected the Member of Parliament for Launceston as a member of the Tory minority and did not stand for re-election in 1865.
Haliburton received an honorary degree from Oxford for service to literature and continued writing until his death in 1865 at his home in Isleworth. Some of his works include: A General Description of Nova Scotia – 1823; An Historical and Statistical Account of Nova Scotia – 1829; The Clockmaker – 1836; The Clockmaker, 2nd Series – 1838; The Bubbles of Canada – 1839; A Reply to the Report of the Earl of Durham – 1839; The Clockmaker, 3rd Series – 1840; The Old Judge, Or Life in a Colony – 1849; The English in America – 1851; and Rule and Misrule in English America – 1851.
Helped along by Haliburton’s prose, this house at 150 St. George Street became known as Marm Bailey’s and later the Bailey House. It is fitting that this bed and breakfast, in this lovely historic building be named the Bailey House Bed and Breakfast.