Community celebrates Betsey 250

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The thing about history is that if you poke around it long enough, something interesting is bound to turn up. And 250 years of history provides a lot of material to sift though.

It was the Betsey that not only brought the first British immigrants to the area as well as the first people of African heritage to the area.

The weekend’s Betsey 250 celebrations gave the community of Lyons Brook not only an excuse to socialize and become acquainted and to learn about traditional craft work, but also a chance to peer back through the years and discover something new.

“It was a huge success,” said Betsey 250 chair Lynn MacLean. “We probably had, I think it was close to 180 for breakfast in the morning. About 50 people came to the genealogy session and a fair number of people came to the craft demonstration. Folks were extremely pleased with the people who came and asked questions and to learn more about various crafts. The variety show, of course, we had standing room only.”

MacLean said that even as something as straightforward as a pancake breakfast — albeit, one staffed by volunteers in period costume — people lingered, giving it a feeling of a gathering or reunion.

“At the breakfast people came, and certainly enjoyed the meal, but they came and they visited,” she said. “They didn’t just eat and run out the door again, which I thought was wonderful. That’s that building of community that we talked about.”

During the craft demonstration, people witnessed yarn spinning and bobbin lace coming together, but the genealogy session turned up a few interesting points of trivia.

“I think people found out things like, ‘Oh, I do have an ancestor that connects to your ancestor’. There was some of that. And I think people were just fascinated at the work some of the families have done, and could really go back and tell stories about these individuals.”

She said one of these stories can connect Napoleon Bonaparte to Lyons Brook, that is, through his youngest brother Jerome who, for a spell, held the title of King of Westphalia.

“Patterson had a niece that was married to Jerome Bonaparte,” MacLean explained. “That marriage got annulled I believe, but that’s the kind of story that was told. You never know who’s related to who.”

In fact, Bonaparte and Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Patterson were married for nearly two years before Napoleon himself had the marriage annulled. Pope Pius VII, despite Napoleon’s attempts, wasn’t willing to do so.

The celebrations also saw the long awaited unveiling of the Lyons Brook community kiosk. It also came with speeches from Warden of Pictou County Robert Parker, Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane and Central Nova MP Sean Fraser, who had also offered his services as bagpiper for the event. “It was very kind of him to do that,” MacLean lauded.

Despite being the efforts of a small but dedicated team, the success of the event may be a hard thing to top, although there are no concrete plans just yet for another Betsey celebration on the scale of Betsey 250.

“We don’t know (yet),” said MacLean. “There’s been some conversation that there’s parts of what we did this weekend that could become an annual event, the Betsey pancake breakfast for instance, and maybe the Betsey church service. It was great to see some of the descendants from the Betsey there and do some reading… “There may be something next year but I think we’ll wait until 255 or 260 or something before we get too many big plans in place.”

MacLean said that everyone from the Lyons Brook Women’s Institute, the Kiosk Committee, to the community at large was very supportive of the Betsey 250 team’s efforts, and that support was prominently on display for all to see.

Ryland Duplessis, 9, of Lyons Brook serves Marie MacCrae at the pancake breakfast during the Betsey 250 festivities. (Cameron photo)

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