Sunday, April 20, 2014

Weaving stories about Communion Tokens crossing the Atlantic

Happy Easter!
     One of my favorite activities in collecting is discovering stories. Of course, no story rivals the one that is celebrated today.
     I believe that one of the motivations for collecting objects is to make sense of the world by weaving stories. As collectors we arrange objects into sets to do this. Some folks collect CTs from a particular shire, others focus on dates and various themes in history. I fancy myself to be a type collector, so a story I like to discover concerns the range of decisions that parishes made when CTs were made.
     But, the CTs I most treasure are the ones with stand-alone stories. Of course, they all have stories -- you just have to discover them. The CTs I got directly from church hoards, or from the church yard, are among my favorites. They were used, stored away or buried, and then found -- this is a common story with many parallels in life. More dramatic is the story told by the Covenanter CT profiled last week. So too, the engraved silver piece from South Carolina boasts of a story-line interwoven with the American Civil War.
Two CTs from Johnshaven. The oval one was used in
Antigonish (Nova Scotia) sometime after 1818.
     One story I like concerns the CTs that came over from Scotland to Canada. This is a story of new beginnings.
     As it turns out, several Scottish ministers came to Canada with a bag of tokens. One example of a bag of tokens being brought over involves the pieces from Johnshaven in Kincardine.
     Burzinski lists two pieces from this parish: BZ3462 -- a rectangle  that is attributed to Rev. David Harper (1769-1789), and BZ3463 an oval dated 1808 that is attributed to Rev. Thomas Trotter. The latter is from the APC, so it represents a different congregation.
     The oval piece is listed in the Charlton catalogue for Canadian CTs as NS-200B. So, here we have a token that is both Scottish and Canadian.
     Rev. Trotter emigrated to Nova Scotia in 1818 and settled in the frontier settlement of Antigonish -- a small community located on the northwest side of the island. The placename has been translated by some to mean "where three rivers fall into the harbor." Sounds idyllic, but I am sure that life on the frontier was hard. New beginnings tend to be a challenge.
     According to Charlton, Rev. Trotter started his tenure with a meager congregation of less than twenty Scottish pioneers. His bag of tokens consisted primarily of the ovals from ten years before. It is possible that other tokens were in the bag too. The Charlton guidebook shows a small rectangular piece with rounded corners marked with a large C that might have been in the bag as well, as they were also used at Antigonish.
     These are not the only instances of Scottish CTs being listed in the Canadian catalogue. Other Scottish CTs used in Canada include a bag of Dalry squares dated 1788 and a few 17th century pieces from Tongland -- both are listed in Charlton as CW-278A and CW-278B. They were used in Lanark, Ontario, sometime after 1823.
     Along these same lines, CT dies made in Scotland were brought over too. The Glasgow-style squares of Truro were made from dies carried over from Scotland (NS-304). I'll save this story for another time.
     I purchased my Johnshaven pieces from a Canadian dealer. I wonder if they were in the bag that was carried across the Atlantic by Rev. Trotter? Or did mine come over recently? I want to believe that it was the former scenario. Either way, it is an interesting story and provides a nice link between the two collecting domains: SCTs and CCTs.
     What stories are you telling with your CTs?

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