SOMERSET, NS - The last wish of a long-time Somerset resident to have the final resting place of the community’s founder acknowledged for perpetuity has been fulfilled.
The “Spirit of Somerset” plaque was unveiled in the Pleasant Valley Cemetery on Nov. 4. It pays homage to the founder of the community, Matthew E. Fisher (1758 – 1814), and several families integral to Somerset’s history. Those surnames include Fisher, Best, Morse, Morton, Parker, Pierce, Steadman and Woodworth.
It was the last wish of the late Kenneth Morton, a long-time community resident and a descendant of Fisher’s, to have Somerset’s founder recognized.
Allison Fisher, the great, great grandson of Matthew E. Fisher, said it’s very nice to see Matthew honoured as the founding father of Somerset after 210 years.
“I’m very proud that my great, great grandfather was the founder of Somerset and named it Somerset after Somersetshire, England, where he came from,” Fisher said.
He is thankful to everyone who worked toward having the plaque erected and said the level of support was fantastic. Fisher was pleased to see so many people turn out for the unveiling and then filling the Somerset Community Hall for the reception that followed.
Fisher said he thinks it’s very important for communities to preserve and celebrate their heritage and it seems more and more are doing so these days.
Joan (Fisher) Butt, the great, great, great granddaughter of Matthew E. Fisher, said future generations would see the plaque and hopefully this will provoke a sense of interest in learning more about the community’s history and preserving it.
She said Fisher arrived in Habitant, now Canning, in the 1770’s. He and five brothers had set sail from England “to seek adventure in faraway lands” but sadly Matthew was the only one to survive a shipwreck. In the following years, he purchased several pieces of land from the Pineo’s and he married Mary Pineo in 1776. They went on to have several children.
Fisher sold his land in Habitant in 1808 and moved to West Cornwallis after purchasing a grant from William A. Chipman. Fisher was the first person of European descent to settle there. He built a log cabin and worked for more than a year to clear the land, founding the community of Somerset.
The home where Butt and her husband, Doug, live with her father – the house her father was born in - is part of Fisher’s original land purchase. They are “the only family living on an original piece of property cleared and founded by Matthew E. in the Hamlet of Somerset”, on 14 of the original 233 acres.
Harry Morse read the plaque aloud after he and Allison Fisher unveiled it at the cemetery. Morse said that as a child growing up in Somerset, the late Kenneth Morton would sometimes look after Morse and his brother while their parents were away.
Morton was historically minded and told him many stories about Fisher. Morton wanted to see Fisher recognized as the community’s founder and this also became a passion for Morse.
“This occasion is something that I have hoped for and wished would happen all my life,” Morse said.
Morton built a house on the Pleasant Valley Road, close to Fisher’s grave site. In 1972, he planted a spruce tree to mark the location. In 2014, at the age of 91, Morton swore an affidavit regarding the location of the grave.
Morse approached Brian Hirtle, Kings County councillor for the Somerset area, about having Fisher recognized. Hirtle was enthusiastic about the idea and approached the staff at the Kings County Museum, curator Bria Stokesbury and office manager Kate MacInnes-Adams, about it.
Hirtle said the museum staff was instrumental in procuring the plaque and he thanked the Pleasant Valley Cemetery committee for allowing the monument to be erected there.
Speaking at the reception, Kings-West MLA and Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Leo Glavine said it’s important to have Fisher and his foundational contributions to the community of Somerset recognized and brought back to life.
Glavine said the occasion would perhaps inspire members of other families recognized on the plaque to delve deeper into their own genealogy.