From The Story of Dartmouth, by John P. Martin:

In January 1832, there appeared in the “Nova Scotian” seven stanzas of poetry written by “Albyn” at Ellenvale on the occasion of the death of John D. Hawthorn. The latter was a prominent merchant of this community, and a Justice of the Peace. He had been a promoter of the Aboiteau, across the Lawrencetown River near the present railway trestle, which resulted in the reclamation of a wide area of dykeland for hay.

The weather that season continued cold. Ice formed in the Coves and extended all over the harbor by mid-February, when the mercury sank to 12 below. Hundreds amused themselves skating across. Sailing ships could not enter the port owing to heavy drift ice, which for a time clogged the entrance.

As for the unemployed Canal workers, this was the winter of their discontent. Contractor Daniel Hoard had made an assignment and was now incarcerated in the debtors’ jail at Halifax. With the whole project at a standstill, poverty and distress prevailed among helpless families in “Canal Town”, which was only partly relieved by intermittent local charity.

The men appealed successively to Canal officers, to Government officials and finally to Lieutenant-Governor Maitland. Even rioting was threatened.

Some went so far as to set fire to the wooden gates at Lock number 6. This brought forth a proclamation from the Government, offering £50 reward for the culprits.

When the Legislature met that winter, the workmen had a long petition prepared explaining their position. They had not received their hire regularly since the summer of 1831. When later on, several left their jobs, they were persuaded to return by Mr. Dealey, a Company Inspector, who assured them that the pay would soon be forthcoming. They asked that any Government grants for the Canal be applied to their wages.

The petition was signed by:

Robert Hunter, John Turnbull, Robert Wilson, Robert Johnston, Michael Murphy, James Sinnott, Thos. McMillan, John Elliot, Wm. Elliot, James Elliot, Thomas Elliot, Hector Elliot, John Murphy, Nathaniel Russell, Jeremiah Donovan, John Shenston, Paul Shenston, James Colbert, Laurence Feeney, John O’Donnell, Wm. Beattie, Oliver Cumerford, Michael Lahey, Andrew Smith, John Bowes, John Evans, Wm. Carroll, Michael Carroll, David Goggin, John Loney, Pat Galaher, Tim Haley, Wm. Russell, James Russell, jr, John Fisher, Dan Nicholson, Thos. Dey, James Hailey, Luke Langley, Morris Power, Wm. Forren, Tom Sullivan, Morris Conden, Timothy Meagher, Alexander Grant, George Tully, James Fitzgerald, Patt Doyle, Thos. Meagher, Michael Dormady, John Beattie, James Young, James Young, sr, James Shortell, Michael Shortell, Tim Hayley, John Wilson, Patrick Devine, Patrick Shea, James Fenerty, Terry Sullivan, Michael Kennedy, Michael Kennedy 2nd, John Kennedy 2nd, Daniel Keating, Danl Sullivan 2nd, James Walsh, Thomas Shea, John Kennedy 3rd, John Kennedy 4th, Danl Sullivan 1st, Cornelius Kennedy, Thomas Sullivan, Andrew Forhin, Wm. Donohue, Pat Murphy, James Coleman, Thos Hogan, Michael Doweling, John Boyle, John Roatch, Donald Flinn and Walter Currie.

When member John Young read the complaint in the House that February afternoon, Charles R. Fairbanks, representative for Halifax, whose heart and soul was in the Canal project, rose to his feet at once to exculpate the Directors of the Company and lay the blame upon the Contractors.

The latter had been paid in regular installments until, forced by circumstances already described, Company funds had become depleted. This was partly due to the dishonest work of at least one Contractor. The men were in the employ of Contractors, and not of the Company, he said.” Payments to Daniel Hoard had been withheld, pending an adjustment.

Mr. Fairbanks warmly assailed members like John Homer of Barrington, who had called the Canal a “Slough of Despond”, not realizing that £50,000 in British capital was being spent in promoting the development of Nova Scotia. The speaker praised the undertaking as a great public work which would tap our immense natural resources through to Minas Basin, and make Halifax harbor the seaport of the Bay of Fundy.

In March, the House voted a sum of £100 to be used for the relief of the distressed workmen. As a matter of record, Governor Maitland had already paid over that amount.

The petition of the Steam Boat Company that year was not so fortunate. Their application for a grant was opposed by several members who contended that the boat stopped for days, weeks and sometimes months during 1831. Their charter was retained only by running an occasional trip.

Despite the explanations of Messrs. Fairbanks and DeBlois, and their pleas that the Directors were each out of pocket by some £500, the vote was defeated. (This was the first rejection of a ferry grant in ten years.)

Of more local interest was a petition from inhabitants of Cole Harbor, Lawrencetown and Preston Roads. Familiar names like Bissett, Kuhn, Tulloch and Wisdom are appended. Christian Katzman’s name is in large bold handwriting.

These people asked for assistance to make improvements “on that part of the road leading from the North and South ferries up over Creighton’s Hill”.

storyofdartmouth-32 old ferry
Old Ferry Road as it was in 1832, from Pleasant Street to Portland Street today. “Road from Lawrencetown and Preston” at the top being Portland Street (which split at Woodlawn to become the Preston Road on the left, Mount Edward Road, and the Lawrencetown Road on the right, Portland Street and then Cole Harbor Road), while the road to Creighton’s Ferry eventually ran back up the hill to continue on to Eastern Passage near what is now Newcastle Street.

As seen above, the road over that immense bank had been originally cut in zigzag fashion in order to lessen the difficulty of climbing up to the level near the present Mount Amelia residence. 

This section, known as “Shoulder of Mutton Hill” was noted for its “amazing steepness”, said the petition. Even in the best of weather, “travellers cannot load their waggons with more than one-half the usual load”. The road was cut into, after every rainstorm because the gutter became clogged with mud washing down the sharp slope.

The sentences quoted from the petition, indicate that the Lower Ferry wharf was also the landing place of much heavy merchandise destined for the eastern sections.

We should note here that the petition mentions the use of Old Ferry Road by teams from the “North” ferry, i. e. the Steam Boat terminus. From this fact, we assume that the present Portland Street was not yet cut in a westerly direction from the foot of Maynard Street. The route then from Cole Harbor districts evidently went down Old Ferry Road and turned westerly along Pleasant Street to the Steam Boat wharf.

As a result of the above petition, John Stayner and John Allen of Dartmouth were subsequently instructed to submit plans for altering “Shoulder of Mutton Hill”.

All the real estate of the late Hon. Michael Wallace was auctioned at Dartmouth that year. It included Medley’s Hotel, stable and garden, together with four lots in rear of the house. Also a corner lot opposite the Church, formerly owned by Adam Miller; a lot south of Skerry’s wharf with a water lot in rear; and another water lot at the end of North Street, 100 by 300 feet. Medley bought the Hotel.

The extensive possessions of John D. Hawthorn were also up for sale at auction. His Dartmouth property consisted of two dwellings, coach house, stable, bake house, a store on the wharf and other buildings. At Lawrencetown were his farm lands, horses, cows, sheep, waggons and a large scow.

Thomas Boggs advertised to let the house on Dartmouth Point formerly occupied by him, with coach house, stable, garden and field. Also his wharf in the Cove. Inquiries were to be left with Mr. Hugh Searl, at Dartmouth Hotel.

(From Prince Street to King Street, the railway now runs through the middle section of the original Boggs’ field. It used to be lined with hawsey and chestnut trees. At the intersection of the railway track with the east side of Prince Street, there once stood a fashionable house which was no doubt the Boggs’ residence; although another plan shows a building at the southwest corner of King and South Streets. Boggs’ plank-floored coach house, converted into a dwelling, still stands at the southeast corner of Prince and South Streets.)

Engineer Francis Hall, who was about to leave the Province, advertised his 10-roomed house, garden, stable, outhouses, with a water-lot in front, near the Ferry. Along with it went the whole of his household furniture, “a very superior horse, harness, saddlery, gig and sleigh”.

John Tapper, a blacksmith, who no doubt fashioned ironwork for the Canal, advertised his house for sale. Andrew Malcom, his one-time partner, offered five more in downtown Dartmouth—all heavily mortgaged. The latter’s account books showed long lists of uncollectible bills. Finally he was forced to make an assignment.

James Synott mortgaged to Donald McLennan for £300, three adjoining dwellings northeast corner of South and Water Streets. Also the “land and store on the north side of the old road leading from Dartmouth to Preston, said road now being obstructed and shut up by the waste-weir”. (Lower stretch of Crichton Avenue on east side.)

John Skerry purchased for £85, two seven-acre lots of Abbeville estate with buildings thereon, commencing at the northeast corner of School Street and Victoria Road. (Until new streets were laid out in that vicinity, the surrounding pastures and woods continued to be called Skerry’s fields.)

Alexander Lyle sold for £40 to Thomas Marvin, block-maker, the property which is now no. 6 Commercial Street.

A lot of land 50 yards from the northeast corner of Ochterloney and Dundas Streets “on which corner stands John Chamberlain’s dwelling”, in Block “A” which had been granted to Christ Church along with Block “G”, was sold in 1832 for £25 to Robert McNesly. The proceeds were used to discharge debts due on the new Parsonage.

James Stanford, the tanner, bought for £85 two of the lots on Ochterloney Street. It comprised a large area of lowland and stream near the present Maple Street.

The first record of the ferry being used for a fire-boat was logged in October of 1832, when the “Sir Charles Ogle” interrupted her schedule to transport the Dartmouth Firemen to fight a conflagration which was raging in the vicinity of Cunard’s buildings at the foot of Proctor Street in Halifax. The newspapers reported that the fire engine “worked on board the Steam Boat, assisted very materially in checking the spread of flames in the rear of the buildings”.

There was a very fashionable wedding out at Mount Edward that summer when widower S. G. W. Archibald, then Attorney General for Nova Scotia, was married to Mrs. Brinley, widow of William Birch Brinley. Rev. Mr. DesBrisay officiated. The same Minister performed the marriage at Dartmouth of Martha Vaughan to Francis Hoard.

Among Dartmouth baptisms were Henry, child of Sophia and Joseph Frame, farmer; Margaret and John, twin children of Maria and John Morton, laborer.

John Thomas Wilson, aged 11, (also on school register) was drowned while skating on the Canal just before Christmas.

A similar tragedy was reported the previous March, when Robert Mills, who missed the last boat at night, attempted to cross to Halifax on the ice opposite the Naval Yard, and was never seen afterwards. He left a widow and two sons.

Other deaths recorded were Michael Meagher, of Dartmouth, aged 39; and Francis Mizangeau aged 30 at Eastern Passage.

Notable deaths abroad in 1832 included Sir Walter Scott. When news reached here in November, it brought forth from “Albyn”, an elegy filling nearly three newspaper columns.