CREELMAN, SAMUEL, farmer, teacher, businessman, jp, politician, and office holder; b. 19 Nov. 1808 in Upper Stewiacke Township, N.S., son of William Creelman, a farmer, and Hannah Tupper; m. 11 Feb. 1834 Elizabeth Elliott Ellis; they had no children; d. 5 June 1891 at his farm, Round Bank, in Upper Stewiacke.
Samuel Creelman’s paternal grandfather, who emigrated from Londonderry (Northern Ireland) with his parents in 1761, was one of the original grantees of the township of Upper Stewiacke in 1784 and passed on intervale farms to his male heirs, including Samuel’s father. Samuel received a common-school education in Stewiacke and laboured on his father’s farm until he was of age. A contemporary biography states that he studied for one winter under his cousin James Ross*. He was a teacher for three or four years and then engaged in trade in Stewiacke for a short time. After his marriage in 1834, Samuel took a portion of his father’s farm and devoted himself to agricultural pursuits. In 1865 he received a land grant in Upper Stewiacke from the province and by 1871 had become a successful and prominent farmer, boasting a 660-acre mixed farm. The following year Samuel and his wife settled on a nearby farm called Round Bank.
Creelman was also a businessman, making frequent investments in land and mortgages. The lines of credit extending from such deals, as well as Creelman’s prominent position in the community, earned him the title of Squire. In 1869 he became the principal proprietor and shareholder of the Mulgrave woollen factory at Newton Mills, and in the 1880s he was a large shareholder in the Hopewell Woollen Mills Company.
Although Creelman was a hard-working farmer and businessman, he was also considered a “gentleman,” primarily by virtue of his public career. In 1843 he had become a jp and a trustee of Truro Academy. He sat as an mha for Colchester County from 1847 to 1851 and for Truro Township between 1851 and 1855. He was financial secretary of the province from 1851 to 1856. Four years later he was appointed to the Legislative Council, but he resigned upon his appointment as Nova Scotia’s first gold commissioner in 1862, in the wake of the colony’s gold fever. (He was succeeded as commissioner the following year by Peter Stevens Hamilton.) Creelman was on the Executive Council for a few months in 1867 and was reappointed that year to the Legislative Council, where he served until his death. Between 1878 and 1882 he was commissioner of mines and public works.
Samuel Creelman was initially a Liberal and had campaigned for responsible government with Joseph Howe* and his associates in the 1840s. However, he fully supported confederation, departing from Howe on this issue. After confederation, he became a Liberal-Conservative, and he was the recognized leader of the opposition in the Legislative Council until Simon Hugh Holmes*’s Liberal-Conservatives came to power in 1878, when he joined the government. Creelman’s primary concerns were progressive, notably railways and education. He supported the consolidation of Nova Scotia’s railways and in 1882 was sent to England as a governmental delegate to work out an arrangement with a London syndicate. However, he was recalled and replaced by the new Liberal government that year, and the scheme was eventually abandoned.
Although Creelman had been a teacher for only a few years, he never lost his concern for education, particularly for teachers. He publicly supported teachers’ institutes, in 1854 introduced a bill in the assembly for the creation of a provincial normal school, and was instrumental in its establishment in Truro [see Alexander Forrester*]. He was a member of the Stewiacke Literary Society, founded in 1839, and the Nova Scotia Historical Society. His public concern for education was reflected in his private life, by the possession of a personal library and the posthumous provision of funds for his grandnephew, John Ernest, to pursue “literary studies” toward a “learned profession.”
As a young man, Creelman had been converted to total abstinence and had helped to form a local temperance society in 1830. He was elected the grand worthy patriarch of the grand division of the Sons of Temperance in 1868 and admitted into the national division in 1871. He was also involved with the Nova Scotia Temperance Alliance, formed during a provincial temperance convention in 1869, and later with the Dominion Alliance for the Total Suppression of the Liquor Traffic. Furthermore, he signed and presented temperance petitions to the assembly, and he supported a prohibitory bill, which was carried in the assembly in 1859 but rejected by the Legislative Council the same year.
Creelman’s concerns must be placed in the context of the Victorian desire for progress and social reform. However, ultimately, he saw his public and private activities as vehicles for the propagation and glorification of the gospel. One of his primary objectives as a politician and an educator was to legislate intoxicating beverages out of existence, believing as he did that temperance was ultimately “appointed by the Wise Ruler of all events to be instrumental in hastening the glory of his Kingdom.”
Despite his public endeavours, Creelman was, according to a contemporary, “plain, outspoken, yet unpretentious and conscientious,” qualities which were probably attributable to his staunch Presbyterianism. He and his wife were admitted to the Presbyterian church in Upper Stewiacke in 1836, and he and his father were ordained as elders in 1851. For several years he was also a sabbath-school teacher. He was very active in the Maritime synod of the church and on several occasions was a delegate to the General Assembly. The importance of the church in his life was revealed by a posthumous donation of the residue of his estate to its foreign mission committee and board of French evangelization. Creelman was described in tributes of the time as “a thorough Christian” in all things and an influence in “every Christian enterprise.” He was a prominent member and officer in the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Sunday School Convention of the Maritime Provinces, and the Nova Scotia Bible Society.
Samuel Creelman’s involvement in political, social, and religious causes has been noted as the primary reason for his reputation as Stewiacke’s most illustrious son. He was impressive as an activist, in the words of a contemporary biography “doing as well as knowing what is right.” But despite the prominence of his public life, it must not be abstracted from his everyday agrarian pursuits. In this sense, Creelman is notable for his success in blending the life-styles of a farmer and a gentleman in a society in which the two did not always converge. His career also illustrates the ideal of Christian stewardship, which was the underlying inspiration for his personal life and his public contributions to Nova Scotian society.
Colchester County Court of Probate (Truro, N.S.), Estate papers, no.1245; Wills, vol.D: ff.336–38 (mfm at PANS). Colchester County Registry of Deeds (Truro), Deeds, vols.16–104 (mfm. at PANS). NA, RG 31, C1, 1871, 1881, 1891, Stewiacke (Upper) (mfm. at PANS). PANS, Cemeteries, Colchester County, Stewiacke (mfm.); Churches, Upper Stewiacke, Presbyterian/United, reg. of elders and communicants of Springside Presbyterian Church: 2, 30; program of anniversary service, 1953 (mfm.); MG 1, 909B (typescript); MG 4, 146; MG 10, 19, no. 65; MG 100, 51, no.125; 78, no.15; 128, no.2; RG 3, 1, nos.86, 128; RG 5, P, 6, no.40; 59, no.157. N.S., House of Assembly, Journal and proc., 1848, 1854–55, 1882; Legislative Council, Journal and proc., 1882. Nova Scotia Bible Soc., Report (Halifax), 1857–60, 1871–73, 1875–77. N.S. Hist. Soc., Coll., 2 (1879–80): 9. Presbyterian Church in Canada, Acts and proc., 1884–85; Synod of the Maritime Provinces, Minutes (Halifax), 1875–76, 1878, 1880–81, 1883–84. Presbyterian Church of the Lower Provinces of British North America, Minutes of the synod (Halifax), 1859–60, 1862–63, 1866–67, 1873. Sons of Temperance, Grand Division of Nova Scotia, Journal of the proc. (Halifax), 1867–72; National Division of North America, Journal of the proc. (Philadelphia), 1871. Young Men’s Christian Assoc. of Halifax, Annual report, 1880–84. Young Men’s Christian Assoc. of the Maritime Provinces, Proc. of the annual convention (Halifax), 1869–73, 1875–79. Acadian Recorder, 8 June 1891. Alliance Journal and Temperance Advocate (Halifax), 21 Feb. 1878 (copy at PANS). Novascotian, 25 Feb. 1861, 17 June 1867. Belcher’s farmer’s almanack, 1843, 1847–72, 1878–83, 1888, 1891. Canadian biog. dict. CPC, 1883, 1885. Cyclopædia of Canadian biog. (Rose and Charlesworth), vol.2. Legislative Assembly of N.S. (Elliott). Stewiacke . . . (Truro, 1902; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1973). E. J. Dick, “From temperance to prohibition in 19th century Nova Scotia,” Dalhousie Rev., 61 (1981–82): 530–52. G. R. Evans, “Early gold mining in Nova Scotia,” N.S. Hist. Soc., Coll., 25 (1942): 17–47.