Rebecca Ells family
How does a small, family farm grow into a multi-million dollar business?
Perhaps the key word is "perseverance." Juggling work and family is always a challenge. Despite the death of a child, and a husband who was away working in Western Canada, this mother helped to keep her family's farm running; a farm that grew to become the foundation of a large business that later operated out of Port Williams and New Minas.
In 1884, Rebecca and Cyrus Ells moved to a farm on Belcher Street with their first son, Manning. Their second son, William, was born soon after, but he was killed in an accident at the school yard in 1893. Cyrus left the farm six years later and went on an expedition to work in the Klondike as a lumberman, staying in the Yukon to mine gold. He returned to the farm in Port Williams in 1911. During the twelve years that Cyrus was away, Rebecca helped run the farm on Belcher Street with her son Manning, and the assistance of her father Samuel Kinsman and brother-in-law Robert Rand. Even after her husband and son went into business, she continued to assist on the farm.
In 1911, Manning and his father became partners of the firm Cyrus & Manning Ells, in the apple and strawberry growing and exporting business. They became one of the largest growers and shippers of strawberries in the Annapolis Valley. Later, they expanded the business and went into poultry farming and egg production. Their business was eventually sold to A.C.A. Cooperative of New Minas.
The Archival Records
The seven diaries and one account book kept by Rebecca Ells, and a farm journal kept by Manning Ells, highlight farming life at the turn of the twentieth century. Rebecca’s diary reflects that she sold eggs, poultry, strawberries, cream, butter and other farm produce at the market. She cleaned granaries and tended to the livestock. Rebecca also ran the household, tended to the gardens, and handled all the farm transactions.
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