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Perez Coldwell and the Great Drowning Accident of 1852

On June 7, 1852, Perez Coldwell and George Benjamin took a small group of people to Cape Blomidon for a geological expedition.    In addition to the crewmen Perez Coldwell and George Benjamin, and the trip’s organizer Isaac Chipman, a professor at Acadia College, the group included five others, students and a visiting scholar, who were searching for rare rocks.  The day ended in tragedy, with seven lives lost.  The only survivor was the owner of the boat, George Benjamin, whose account of the incident was published in 1906 in Reminiscences of the Great Drowning Accident in 1852, written by George E. Day, a colleague of Isaac Chipman. 

According to George Benjamin, the group was returning home around 5 pm, when a strong headwind struck the sailboat as it made its way across the Minas Basin, near Kingsport.  The boat filled with water and capsized.  Benjamin clung to the boat until it floated close to Long Island on the Parrsboro shore, and from there he swam to shore.  People had become concerned when the boat did not return at the expected time, but assumed that the group had decided to spend the night at Blomidon due to the unfavourable conditions. Early the next morning, George Benjamin was found by members of the Acadia College community, who were searching for the missing men.

The loss of life was a terrible tragedy for tiny Acadia College.  At the memorial service, the College’s president delivered the sermon and expressed grief at the loss of “six precious souls from Acadia and a man from Gaspereau”.  It is said that Perez’s six brothers, upon hearing these words, stood up and walked out. 

Perez Coldwell’s body was never found, and no headstone was erected for him.  But the expression “a man from Gaspereau” entered the community’s lexicon.  Perez Coldwell and his twin sister Sarah (Sally) were born on February 29, 1808, the children of John Coldwell and Eliphal Bishop.  Their descendents live in the area to this day.  In August 2000, a dedication ceremony was held, and A Man from Gaspereau was honoured by his community.

Perez Coldwell, boatman and the brother of seven siblings including a twin sister, drowned in the Minas Basin on June 7, 1852, at age 44, while serving as crew on a sailing expedition with students and professors from Acadia College.  A commemorative plaque is located at the Gaspereau Cemetery.