The Three Bells of Ireland
Amos Seaman’s Legacy in Minudie
Beginning in 1672, Acadians from Port Royal established farms in the area that came to be known as Minudie. In 1823, Amos Peck Seaman became a tenant on the Minudie estate, which was granted to Joseph Frederic Wallet DesBarres years earlier. From these beginnings Seaman began his industrious career.
Minudie grew and thrived largely as a result of Seaman’s successful businesses. Beginning in 1848, Seaman commissioned a school and two churches for the town, located all in a row on the Barronsfield Road. To top off these buildings, Seaman had three bronze bells brought over from Ireland – the Bells of Ireland. Due to their different sizes, each bell had its own tone, so the residents were able to distinguish which one was ringing.
One of the Bells of Ireland was installed in Minudie’s schoolhouse, which Seaman had built in 1847 for the benefit of his family and community. The school is a wooden structure, plainly built but with a large bell tower at the entrance. It is one of the oldest surviving one-room schoolhouses in Nova Scotia. Before the school was built, the town’s children were educated by the parish priest on Sundays and feast days. The school closed in 1962 but in 1973, reopened as the Amos Seaman School Museum. The museum displays various farming tools, documents, and photographs depicting the Seaman era. The school showcases the original desks, slates, pot belly stove, original chalkboard, cloakroom in the entrance, and a section of an aboiteau built by the Acadians prior to 1755.
A second Bell of Ireland is in the bell tower of St. Denis Catholic Church on the west side of the schoolhouse. Originally, there were two Catholic chapels in the Minudie area. In 1755, during the expulsion of the Acadians, the first chapel along with many houses were burned by British soldiers. St. Anne’s Chapel was built on the same foundation after the Acadians returned to the area in 1768. In 1848, Seaman donated four acres of land next to the school to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax for the construction of St. Denis Church – a newer and larger church to accommodate the growing population. The old chapel was taken over by a nearby farm and used for storage. The carpenter who built St. Denis Church in 1848 was Hilaire Arsenault. The church’s Bell of Ireland was christened “Mary Conceived Immaculate” and rung for the first mass on December 25, 1849. As well as people from Minudie, others came from Lower Cove and Upper Cove to attend numerous weddings, baptisms, Sunday mass, and funerals at St. Denis. Today, the church is open to the public during the summer, and each year on the second Sunday in August, there is a Blessing of the Crops mass. There is also an Acadian cemetery next to the church.
The third Bell of Ireland tops the King Seaman Universalist Church on the east side of the schoolhouse. When Seaman was in Boston on business in the early 1840s, he attended a Universalist service led by Rev. Nathaniel Gunnison. He was inspired by the message in the service and became a member of the Universalist faith. Religion was an important part of Amos Seaman’s life, and he was a teacher in the Sunday School in Minudie. In June 1847, Rev. Nathaniel Gunnison came to Minudie and conducted a divine service in Seaman’s house, a tradition that was repeated for seven years thereafter. Seaman, conscious of a need for a church, had the Universalist church built sometime between 1848 and 1863 (precise date unknown). The church is plain, built with hand hewn pews and wood floors. There is a well-used organ at the front of the church and at the back, a portrait of Reverend Hosea Ballou, a noted theologian from Boston and the so-called Father of American Universalism. As was Seaman's wish, after his death, the church was used as a place of worship for different denominations. From 1997 to the present day, annual church services have been held at the church in the summer. The church is open to the public during the summer with guided tours by summer students or volunteers.
Today, Minudie’s three historic buildings help preserve and promote Amos Seaman’s legacy and Minudie’s Acadian roots.