Thomas Raddall Selected Correspondence: An Electronic Edition

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Copyright 2000. Dalhousie University.

PRINT SOURCE: Thomas Raddall Fonds, Correspondence. From Thomas Raddall to Douglas M. Fisher, 25 January 1954. MS-2-202 41.14.

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In his response to a query from sport historian and journalist, Douglas M. Fisher, about the early history of hockey in Nova Scotia, T. H. Raddall cites exact references from nineteenth century works by Thomas Chandler Haliburton and Silas T. Rand. Raddall continues with a precis of a sport column and subsequent letters to the editor published in the newspaper, The Halifax Herald, in 1943. Raddall extensively quotes Mi'kmaq Joe Cope, who relates the story of his father watching hockey being played on the Ship Harbor Lake Reserve in the 1840s.

January 25th,1954

Lakehead Technical Institute,
Port Arthur, Ontario.

Dear Mr. Fisher,
     In my research for the Halifax book I came across several
references to hockey played on the ice in the latter 18th and early 19th
centuries. These references were in letters and newspapers, but I did not
make exact note of the sources because the point did not seem of historical
value, and I invariably came across them in looking for something else.
However I can give you one accurate reference. Thomas Chandler Haliburton
("Sam Slick") in "The Attache: Second Series", published in London, New
York, Philadelphia and Boston in 1844. In reminiscing about his youth in
Nova Scotia, and the games of his school-days (i.e. about 1810 -- Haliburton
was born in 1796) he writes of "the school room and the noisy, larkin'
happy holidays, and you boys let out, racin', yelpin', hollerin' and whoopin'
like mad with pleasure; and the playground and the game at bass in the fields,
or hurly on the long pond on the ice."

     Tradition in Halifax is that the first white settlers
found the Micmac Indians playing a form of hurley on the ice, and that officers
of the British garrison later adopted it. Certainly the Micmacs had such a
game. Silas T. Rand, in "Legends of the Micmacs" (Longmans, Green & Co.,
New York and London, 1894) records amongst other ancient Indian games, the
ball game, "tooadijik". He goes on to say (page 181) "Another kind is called
wolchamaadijik; this is played with hurleys, the ball being knocked along
the ground." On page 200 he mentions it again, with an alternative spelling,
--"Another game was Alchamadijik (hurley)." Remember that here he is speaking
of Indians in their aboriginal state, when there were few open spaces in the
forest where the ground was hard enough for such a game. When winter froze
the lakes and rivers the obvious place for it was on the ice.
     In 1943 there was an interesting discussion of the origin
of ice hockey in the sport columns of the Halifax Herald and Mail.1 (I'm sorry
I can't give date and month, my only note is a pencilled 1943 on the clipping.)
Frank Power, of Halifax, whose father James W. Power long conducted a sports
column in these papers, contributed a long article under the title "Halifax
Prominent In Early Stage Of Game", quoting largely from his father's notes.2
(James W. Power wrote sports for the Herald and Mail from about 1880 to 1937.)
     James Power had known personally Colonel B.A.Weston,3 and he noted, "Colonel
Byron Arthur Weston tells me he played hockey in the Sixties, and that they
had games with the Micmac Indians who resided near the lake. 'They played with
a block of wood for a puck,' said Col.Weston, 'and stones marking the place
to score goals.'" [sic] Colonel Weston believes the Indians played the game on
the Dartmouth Lakes long before the Sixties. The hockey sticks, which differed
slightly from those in use today, were made by the Indians; and it may not
be generally known that for many years sticks manufactured by these Indians
have been shipped from here to the Upper Provinces and the United States."
     This drew a letter from Joe Cope,4 an intelligent old Indian of the
Micmac reserve at Millbrook, near Truro, N.S. It ran as follows:-


     "Re the somewhat lengthy Pow Wow over the origin of the Hockey Game in the
Herald of the 26th and where it began, I believe the honor and credit belongs
wholly to the Micmac Indians of this country, for long before the pale faces
strayed to this country the Micmacs were playing two ball games, a field and
ice game, which were identical in every way. Each had two goals which the
Indians called forts and were defended by the owners. I do not believe any
white man living today ever saw an Indian field game played because it was
suppressed by the priests about 100 years ago on account of the somewhat
cruel nature; a good second to a prize fight.
     "My father, who died in 1913 at the age of 93, saw ...Indians of the
old Ship Harbor Lake Reserve playing a skateless hockey game before the
Reserve was abandoned about 100 years ago. When the Micmacs left the Ship
Harbor Lake Reserve they came to Dartmouth, and camped on what was then known
as Buston's Hill. Father said they played their old games in Maynard and
Oak Hill Lakes long before they moved up to the Dartmouth Lakes. I was born
in a birchbark wigwam near the old Red Bridge on April 24th 1859, so I am
no longer a papoose. The old Indian field game should be studied and revived
by some sports enthusiasts for a change. It is a 20 man game -- 10 on each
side. I well remember Col. B.A.Weston and other old players."

     All this is sketchy, I know, but it throws some light on the descent
of the game from Indians to whites in the region about Halifax. None of the
earlier references I struck gave any description of the game. They merely
mentioned games of hurley played on frozen lakes or streams. An objective
research of early Halifax letters and newspapers might disclose more.5


1. THR is likely referring to an article by Frank Power, "Halifax Prominent in Early Stage of Game", Halifax Herald 26 Mar. 1943: 5.

2. Frank O. Power (died in 1963), chief clerk of the National Harbours Board, was also a theatre critic and sports columnist, specializing in horse racing, a family tradition. James W. Power (1864-1940), sportsman, writer, and historian, was a distinguished Halifax newspaperman for over half a century, and the first daily sports writer in the Maritimes.

3. Colonel Byron A. Weston, soldier, barrister, businessman, and public figure, was born in Maine in 1850, immigrated to Nova Scotia in 1859, and became a naturalized Canadian in 1875. As an officer, he served in the Fenian Raid and the Northwest Rebellion. After several terms as alderman, Weston was mayor of Dartmouth from 1886 to 1888.

4. Joseph C. (Joe) Cope, prospector, photographer and respected Mi'kmaq elder, was born at Red Bridge Cove, Second Lake, Dartmouth in 1859 and died at Shubenacadie in 1951.

5. See The Puck Stops Here; the Origin of Canada's Great Winter Game, by Garth Vaughan (Fredericton: Goose Lane and Four East, 1996).