The Township of Argyle was established in 1771, and at that time was in Queens County, which included all of present day Queens, Shelburne, and Yarmouth Counties. In 1784, with the arrival of 8000 Loyalists at Shelburne, NS, a new county was formed called Shelburne County, which included all of present day Shelburne and Yarmouth Counties. In 1836 Yarmouth County was formed. The boundaries of these counties have remained the same since that time. Argyle Township existed within these three different counties with its boundaries only being altered once in 1832.
From its establishment in 1771 until 1879, the Township of Argyle was administered by a form of township government referred to as "The Court of General Sessions." This court, consisting of the Justices of the Peace for the county, usually sat twice a year to carry out the business of local government. One session was usually held in the Township of Yarmouth and one in the Township of Argyle. Additional or special sessions were held as required. The Court of General Sessions dealt with the laying out, construction, and repair of roads; local petty crimes; preliminary cases of a more serious nature; and the appointments of a whole range of local officials such as: tax assessors, tax collectors, surveyors of highways, overseers of the poor, etc.
Beginning in the 1850's a number of townships around Nova Scotia began to opt for municipal incorporation, which introduced a more democratic system whereby the citizens elected their local officials. This form of government was adopted, for instance, by Yarmouth Township in 1855.
The citizens of Argyle Township voted on the question of municipal incorporation in 1855 as well, but the vote was 423 against and 43 in favor. It was not until 1879 that Argyle Township voted in favour of municipal incorporation, and their first municipal elections took place on 18 November 1879. The first council meeting for the Municipality of the District of Argyle took place in 1880.
The meetings of the Courts of General Session, and later the Municipal Council for Argyle usually took place at the Argyle Township Court House in Tusket, NS. The records generated by these two bodies were probably held in the homes of the Clerks for many years, for it was not until 1945 that an official Municipal Office as such was established in the Court House. It seems that many records were subsequently deposited at the Municipal Office.
The Municipal Offices were located in the Court House until 1976, when they moved to more modern premises nearby. The majority of the records not needed to conduct their daily business were simply left behind at the Court House. When the Court House was restored, in 1981 and 1982, these records remained in the building. It was this important body of local records which resulted in the establishment of the Argyle Township Court House Archives (ATCHA). We are a municipal archives, and part of our mandate is the collection, appraisal, preservation, arrangement, and description of the records generated by the Municipality of the District of Argyle, on an ongoing basis.
The Argyle Township Books, which are the early records of birth, marriage, and death, are the oldest original records held by ATCHA. The events recorded therein date from the 1760's and extend to the mid 1820's. The Township Books also included "cattle marks" for the citizens of Argyle.
The first minutes of the Courts of General Session begin in 1789. The original minute book and grand jury book are held by the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, and ATCHA holds a microfilm copy. The originals of all the subsequent minute and grand jury books, starting in 1856, are held by ATCHA.
In 1981 and 1982, when the restoration of the Argyle Township Court House and Gaol took place, a series of Canada Employment Grants were obtained, through which workers were employed to put many of the old records in order. Although the work carried out was adequate for the time, the workers were not given any formal archival training, and consequently the finding aids produced do not meet current archival standards. The records were divided into somewhat logical record groups or "series", and item lists were produced. These groups or series of records were given call numbers (TMS numbers), as was each individual document. The majority of the records handled in this manner covered the period 1856-1926. The item lists do work, and it is possible to retrieve a wide range of material using them.
Also included in the TMS lists are a number of groups of records deposited at ATCHA, but generated by a body other than the Municipality of the District of Argyle. These groups of records often form fonds of their own, and will be targeted for future re-description projects.
One of the most important such body of records is the Town of Wedgeport Records collection. The community of Tusket Wedge, originally included in the Municipality of Argyle, received official incorporation as the "Town of Wedgeport" on 23 July 1910. The Town of Wedgeport continued until 20 December 1947, when they dissolved as an official body, and rejoined the Municipality of Argyle. The town records are currently found under the call number, "TMS 34".
A list of our TMS numbers and samplings from the item lists are found below.
Municipal records for the Municipality of the District of Argyle for the period 1926-1986 have already been arranged and described, and a finding aid is available (see link below). A similar finding aid exists for the School Board records for the District of Argyle for the period 1860-1982 (see link below).Top