The header in this interview doesn't agree with the very first sentence,
Mr. Jost spoke.
SYDNEY RECORD, June 27th, 1927
"NOVA SCOTIA, IN THE LONG RUN, BETTER OFF IF SHE HAD STAYED OUT OF
CONFEDERATION," SAYS L.E. JOST, 79, VETERAN SYDNEY BUSINESS MAN OUT OF
KNOWLEDGE OF THE WHOLE 60 YEARS OF CANADIAN HISTORY.
"I think that Nova Scotia, in the long run, is better off than she would
have been had she remained outside Confederation," said Lewis E. Jost,
79, one of Sydney's oldest residents, when interviewed recently by The
Record on his recollections of Confederation and the period immediately
preceding and following the momentous year 1867.
Mr. Jost's opinion is particularly valuable because it is that of a man
who speaks with his faculties undimmed by the passage of 60 years during
most of which he has been engaged in business operation that have given
him a first hand opportunity to study the economic and other results of
Not only mentally alert, but physically very active for a man of his
years. As a matter of fact the interviewer found him engaged, with W.P.
BROWN, another veteran of about the same years, shingling a portion of
the roof of his dwelling, 15 feet above ground, without the aid of
"Of course," said Mr. Jost with a smile when asked whether the union has
been a good or bad thing for Nova Scotia, "I may be a prejudiced witness
for I came of a Confederate family, and always voted Confederate
Mr. Jost was born in Sydney in 1848, but when about nine months old was
taken by his family to Halifax, where re resided for many years. There
was no railway in eastern Nova Scotia then, and they travelled by sea in
"My earliest distinct recollection of any important event concerns the
close of the Crimean War," said Mr. Jost. "I remember seeing the flags
and hearing the cheering and the firing of guns from the forts. It must
have been several months after the actual close of hostilities owing to
the slow communications in those days, and I would be then between eight
and nine years of age."
Mr. Jost says he never took a very active part in politics and
consequently his recollections are more mercantile than political.
"The Civil War stands out quite distinctly in my recollection," he said.
"I lived at halifax then and the harbour was full of blockade runners
and the hotels swarmed with agents of the North and South plotting and
counter plotting for running war supplies in through the Union fleet and
bringing out raw cotton. Before the war we could get factory cotton for
5, 6, and 7 cents a yard, but owing to the blockade prices rose to 25
cents and more. Fortunes were made and lost in much the same way that
the rum-runners operate at the present time."
OLD TIME PROSPERITY.
"Much of the immediate pre Confederation prosperity we hear about was
doubtless due to this war time boom, just as Nova Scotia ports boomed
during the Great War - which by the way, I consider the greatest curse
this country ever endured. It has upset everything.
"As to the normal trade of Nova Scotia, there is no doubt at all that
before the union the ship owners and allied traders were very
prosperous. It is true that the Nova Scotia vessels appeared on every
sea, and that Halifax enjoyed a very lucrative trade with the West
Indies and the world. I know it was a current belief that every Nova
Scotia skipper carried in his cabin a big bag of gold sovereigns the
result of canny trading between his own country and foreign shores. It
is also true that Halifax and Nova Scotia ship owners have been hard hit
since Confederation, but to my mind it is very difficult to say with any
reasonable assurance how much of this is due to Confederation and how
much to unavoidable loses caused by the coming of fast iron and steel
steamers to replace the windjammer of 60 years ago. So much for the ship
owners. I doubt if the general run of the people in 1867 were nearly so
prosperous as the ship owning merchants of Halifax.
"I have given the matter quite a lot of thought at one time and another,
and considering the federal monies expended in various services, the
extension of railways through the province and other improvements and
public works, I believe on the whole that Nova Scotia in the long run is
better off than she would have been if she had stayed out of
"To my mind the exodus to the United States in the last 40 years has
been the most serious thing this province has had to contend with.
Thousands of splendid young people have left us. Many of my own people
have gone to New England and have done well there. I have no doubt that
if I had gone there and worked as hard as I have had to work here to
acquire a modest independence I would have been much better off in some
ways than I am today. But I have no regrets for that. My only regret is
that we have not been able to hold all our young people; and I think the
best energies of the province should now be devoted to keeping your
young people in the province and provide them with the means of making a
living at home. If that can be done we need not worry ourselves about
immigration from outside." [[JMD -- His sentiments quoted so long ago
are still the sentiments of Nova Scotians today and still our most
precious commodity "our sons and daughters" are leaving for
opportunities that they can't get at home.]]
LIVING WAS CHEAPER.
Mr. Jost says that living in Nova Scotia was much cheaper in early
Confederation days than it is now, but wages were proportionately low.
"When I first went to work in a store in Halifax my salary was the
princely sum of $100 a year and I had to 'find myself', as the saying
was, which meant that I lived at home. We had to work till 9 o'clock
every night of the week except Saturday, when the place stayed open
until 11 o'clock or later, according to the state of business. At
certain seasons of the year when large orders were being shipped out, we
worked until midnight every night.
"When I had saved $1000, I went into business for myself, with another
young man. We had our shop on Granville Street. I remained in Halifax
until 1894 when I returned to Sydney and entered business here."
Between the time when he went to Halifax as a child and his return here
to go into business he spent about two years in Sydney working for his
uncle, who conducted a store here. Mr. Jost pointed out a number of
interesting landmarks in the street near his home, which at one time was
in the centre of the retail business of the town of Sydney. The
Ingrahams were the first to venture up town, and when they built on the
corner of Prince and Charlotte streets, where Nathanson's book store now
stands, people considered that they were moving out into the country.
Others followed, and gradually business all moved out into Ward 2 and
Ward 1 became almost purely residential, some of the old stores being
turned into dwellings.
"I built this house by day's work at a total cost of about $1,600," he
said. "The same type of dwelling, built as solidly, would today cost at
least $5,000 and maybe more. I was offered $6,000 for it during the
steel boom in 1901-2, but did not part with it because I always like to
live where I could over look the harbour."
To be continued in Part II: SYDNEY RECORD INTERVIEW WITH L.E. JOST,