In studying the history of a village, town, or county, it is those individuals who had an impact on the life of their time who receive the recognition, and rightfully so.
Successful entrepreneurs like the Jeans, Levescontes, Janvrins, Denyses, and Robins; prominent politicians like Senator William Miller and MLAs Laurence Kavanagh, and Edmund Power Flynn; persons outstanding in medicine, law, the arts, sports; the early ship builders and sailors. these made our history and deserve their place in it.
But what of the little people and the little things that provided a context for the big things and people to make their mark? There are innumerable colourful individuals and events, and here are a few of them.
Joseph Martel, was born at Port Toulouse, France about 1736, son of Jean-Baptiste Martel and Marie-Joseph Pouget. He married Jeanne (Jeannette) Samson, daughter of Michel Samson and Jeanne Testard around 1755.
Taken away by boat to France along with his father and mother-in-law three years after the Deportation of the Acadians, Joseph decided to return with them to Acadia in 1764. Unfortunately, the Neptune, the ship on which they made the return journey, sank off Newfoundland taking the lives of his wife’s parents, her brothers, Fabien and Louis, his own children, Madeline and Louis, and his sisters-in-law Marie-Joseph and Judith.
It was not until 1767 that Joseph made his way back to Cape Breton. He and Jeanne settled at L’Ardoise and later at Rocky Bay. It is from him that the Martells of Pondville are descended.
The story of the giant turtle was recounted to Marshall Bourinot by Daniel H. Campbell, the principal of Arichat Academy and later the Municipal Clerk and Treasurer of Richmond County in the 1920s and 30s.
In the heyday of sailing ships, the schooner Cavalier, under the command of Captain Bob Proper of Manchester, Guysborough County, was painted a bright green colour, and was always recognizable in the busy port of Arichat.
In 1902, the Cavalier was engaged in fishing on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland when a battle of epic proportions was played out. The result was the landing of a 900-pound turtle.
Upon offloading their catch at Gloucester, Massachusetts, the captain and crew of the Cavalier were faced with the problem of what to do with the monster they had captured.
At that time in our history, a position on a fishing schooner was much sought after. One fortunate young man, Havelock Tremain, the son of an Arichat lawyer, secured a place as a crewman on the Cavalier. A clever fellow, young Tremain suggested to Captain Proper that perhaps the Gloucester Museum of the Sea might be interested in acquiring the 900-pound turtle as an exhibit. The museum agreed and Tremain was retained temporarily to narrate the story of the encounter with the giant reptile. Unfortunately, the turtle died after a few days, but not wanting to disappoint visitors, Tremain devised a compressed air contraption to open and close the turtle’s mouth thus giving it the semblance of life.
When Tremain’s term of employment with the museum ended, he was offered a permanent position, an offer he accepted. He remained with the museum for the rest of his life.