“Tracking the Fossil Footprints”

Appendices: Tracking the Fossil Footprints and Letters of Science from Doctor E. F. Harding in Windsor, Nova Scotia: 1842-1855

By Tim Fedak

Scientia Canadensis
Volume 43, Number 1, 2021
URI: https://id.erudit.org/iderudit/1078926ar
DOI: https://doi.org/10.7202/1078926ar

Click here to download the PDF of the following appendices: Dr Harding Footprints and Letters – appendices


Appendix 1

Transcription of a handwritten letter (July 28, 1845) from Dr. E. F. Harding to J. W. Dawson. Illegible words are noted with “…”, and the margin spacing is maintained in the transcription to aid in comparison with the originals.  McGill University Archives, MG1022_Acc2211-169_07-28-1845.

Note: The folding and order of sequence of the pages in the letter was complicated, as Dr. Harding stated (bottom page 2) “As I find I have turned over two leaves at once, I may as well employ some of the vacant space in scribbling a little more.”


Monday 28th July 1845

My dear Sir,

Although near midnight, I cannot linger on so good an opportunity of writing and sending a parcel to you as offer[ed] by Mr Thomas Randal [sic. Randall] who leaves this at early dawn for the Albion Mines. When I went to Mr. Brass’ the next morning after parting with you, I was very sorry to find that you had just gone as I anticipated much pleasure and profit from visiting with you our localities interesting to a geologist.

I did not receive your friendly letter and parcel for some time after they were sent. And I have taken the first days I could snatch from practice to visit the places alluded to in the letter.  My first visit was to Snides Mill, but it coming on to rain I could not make as diligent search as I should other wise have done __

As you ascend the brook on the Western side is a large bed of freestone, stratified and enclosing one layer of shale

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I am not aware of any rocks on the Avon like those of Snides Mill or the Half way river. I know not the Western as well as the Eastern bank: but limestones such as you saw here and gypsum prevail with various kinds of marl. There appears to me a great similarity between the minerals of Snides Mill and those at the Half way river, so as to correlate them both. I should not doubt coal bearing measures. As far as I have had opportunity of observing, 2 or 3 miles to the southern on the old road, sandstones, quartous grindstone and slates prevail _ but this is only from memory for I have not seen them since they were objects of geological interest to me_ fossil plants are found in them.  As I find I have turned over two leaves at once, I may as well employ some of the vacant space in scribbling a little more

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A little higher up nearly opposite is the freestone which contains fossil vegetable remains I wish as I have sent specimens: about 1 or 2 hundred feet further up the stream on the same side occurs this shale and slate containing lepidodendron specimens of which are sent, intermingled with freestone and a quartzite rock. From the talus of …. shale at the foot of the mound I could not see the lowermost rocks but I suppose the lower layers to be … …

… which is the prevailing rock lower down the brook __ I could not find any fish scales although I should think it quite possible that they may be there from the colour of the shale and and of some micaceous sandstone ^(what may be called slate) similar in appearance to what I afterwards found at Half-way river, specimens of which I send containing fish scales __ Yesterday I visited the half way river, not knowing from your letter

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whether you meant the Bridge at Mount Denson at the mouth of the River or another about a mile higher up to the south where the fresh road now goes I thought it best to begin below and ascend the River__ The first rocks which make their appearance are coarse sandstones of every shade of colour from white to deep brown, but periodically grey. They are stratified and dip to the North East__ I found no fossils except 2 or 3 casts of pieces of tree too indistinct to ascertain their genera. In following the river up, a creek branches off to the East which I also followed up for some distance, finding the bottom of the creek and the hills on each side made up of course sand-stones__ When I arrived above the bridge it was near night and I could not make as full examination as I could wish. The face of the … … is strewn with which freestone of an excellent quality.  The Eastern banks, to the southward of the Bridge is made up of layers slate of lighter or

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deeper shades of colour, with now and then an .. mixture of a layer of (which slightly effervesces with acid) what may be called limestone ^ about … and interlaced with seams of .. … ..  The bed of the river is strewn with masses of this, and with large blocks of freestone, with ripple marked slabs __ On the ripple marked or perhaps s some instances fucoid slab, sometimes occur fish scales, but then are most abund-ant in the micaceous slate.  I found no shells unless you concede one of the specimens sent is such, I have a larger on which has much the appearance of the internal and middle half of a mussel.  As Mr. Logan found shells at the Bluff similar to the …. specimens, I should think it highly probably, if loose, that they were brought down from Windsor by the ice cakes which sometimes carry away considerable rocks __ but I shall make myself more sure about this when I have time to visit the … locality One of the fossil plants appears to me almost if not quite carbonized__

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One of the slabs from the Halfway River contains impressions which look to me very like the back bone of a fish, with the lateral smaller bones coming off; but having nothing to compare it with and having never seen any specimens of the kind, & it being too large to send to you, I must remain in   ignorance of its name for the present. The specimen marked Halfway River No 1. Contains a shagreen like impression new to me. Is it the skin of a fish? I have another specimen longer and wider, from these sides of which come out two processes which look like teeth ^,

^curved and the parts sticking out of the stone, looking not unlike talons of a bird and the whole things looks to be a skull jaw bone – probably you will know what it is at once. I was very much obliged to you for your very kind attention in the matter of the specimens of shells also.  As I am only just beginning enquiries of this kind, everything is new to me. I have

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sent a few shells such as I have picked up and shall in future be glad to exchange any that I may pick up for such as you can readily spare. If you were also to give me a list of shells as you know to belong to NScotia, it would be of service to me by enabling me to concentrate my enquiries to a smaller No. of shells_  I have also sent you a few of the fossil shells such as I can readily put my hands upon and shall be very happy in future if I find anything new to communicate with you_

And now, my dear Sir, I hope you will excuse this very hurried letter and believe me very sincerely yours

E F Harding



Appendix 2

Transcription of a handwritten letter (August 10, 1847) from Dr. E. F. Harding to J. W. Dawson. Illegible words are noted with “…”, and the margin spacing is maintained in the transcription to aid in comparison with the originals.  McGill University Archives, MG1022_Acc2211-171_08-10-1847.

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… 10th August 1847

My dear Sir

I thank you for the letter and the very interesting specimens of Flustrada received by Mr Forbes__  I will make you up a box of our fossils and plaster which will serve you for exchanges and send it to the care of any person in Halifax you may mention, as I may never have a direct opportunity of sending a box of much weight from here direct_  At present I send you by Mr. Rev? G. DeWolf who has provided to take charge of them a few specimens of Gypsum to fill up__ I cannot at present send you any better specimens of Orthoceras than the part of one sent and the impression of another as I suppose__ I found one on the face of a rock this spring perhaps 8 inches long, a part was fully distinct with  chambers & syphuncle, the remainder was gone, but the impression on the stone was very similar to the past named specimen I have sent__. I could not break it from the stone without in a great measure

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destroying it. I have the remains of it & two or 3 specimens more, perhaps better than these sent but have unfortunately mislaid them__  I send you the only specimen I have yet seen of Cyrtoceras, if it be that, which I can do very well as I have the impression present in the stone from which it is taken. There seems to be no appearance of syphuncle (sic) or chambers, but perhaps as in the Orthoceras they are not in the terminating extremity__  I have sent a few specimens of a species of Cypraea inhabiting a neighbouring pond – and some native Copper from Cape D’Or You were so kind so as to send me a list of native shells and many specimens of them I have, as, Buccinum …. & Turritella . Purpura Lafeallis [sic? Purpura lapillus] Littorina paliata  & Rudis, Natica  Heros Paludina, Helix alternata, & … species …, Pecten magellanicus, Modiola .. & plicatula, Astarte castanea, Venus Mercenaria, … … Petricula, Pholadiformis, Mya arenaria, Spirobis ^….. __  Any of the others of which you may happen to have abundant specimens

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I should be pleased to procure__ With kind regards to Mrs Dawson I remain very truly yours

E F Harding

With regard to plaster, do you only want the selenite, or other specimens also, of different colours and species?


Appendix 3

Transcription of a handwritten letter (April 16, 1855) from Dr. E. F. Harding to J. W. Dawson. Illegible words are noted with “…”, and the margin spacing is maintained in the transcription to aid in comparison with the originals.  McGill University Archives, MG1022_Acc2211-177_04-16-1855.

Note: The illness that the Harding’s suffered in the winter of 1854 was likely typhoid fever (Pers. Comm. Allan Marble, 2019).


Windsor 16th April, 1855

My dear Sir,

You may send me twenty copies of your forthcoming work on the Geology of Nova Scotia for subscribers; and if you think proper to forward me a few copies more on sale it is likely I could disperse of them during the summer. With your full knowledge of the subject I am very glad that you have undertaken to supply a desideration in our Literature long called for by scientific foreigners visiting our Province, and very much needed by our own Community which was beginning to awaken to the value of our coal fields and minerals and who ought to know that respected speculations in them might be connected with some acquaintance with Geology__ I hear them repeat that you have a fair chance of being called to the Professional Chair of Natural History in the University of Edinburgh, with mingled regret and pleasure. Regret, that we should lose your valuable services in this your native Province, and the opportunity of seeing you occasionally; pleasure because

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such an appointment would give free scope for the extent of your talents, give you the most … opportunities for the successful pursuit of the various departments of Natural History, bring you with contextual intercourse written…level scientific minds and indeed, with you to reflect much greater honour on your native Country than a continued residence in it  could effect.

I am now, I humbly report, slowly recovering from a long and severe illness__  Last Autumn Mrs. Harding and one of my daughters were the subjects of fever, one in … & the other at Home_  This gave me, of course great anxiety and fatigue and in the beginning of October I was also seized with Fever. In a few weeks, I was convalescing, when sever… and their complaints set in which have kept me until lately very miserable & weak. But I am now beginning to do a little and hope that as the fine weather sets in I may recover a measure of health and strength_ God has most mercifully spared

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our lives and my wife and daughter are now as well apparently as before their illness.

With kind regards to Mrs. Dawson I remain, dear Sir, very sincerely yours,

E F Harding

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