From The Story of Dartmouth, by Dr. John P. Martin:
The trade of the country was at a low ebb in 1834. Shippers of lumber and timber to Great Britain were subject to heavy losses. Merchants claimed that the distress was largely due to the paper currency which was discounted at 7 or 8%.
The Halifax Chamber of Commerce also called attention to the amount of smuggling which must have been practised along the coast. Only small quantities of tea and flour were being shipped to the interior parts of the Province, because people were obtaining American goods cheaper and without duty. Dartmouth was not entirely innocent in this respect, for the Customs’ report of 1833 showed that a number of cigars and time-pieces were seized on our side of the harbor during that year.
Letters to the newspapers complained about high-salaried officials wresting the earnings of the poor. One writer published a list of Government expenses which included £1,800 paid as interest to England on money borrowed “to finish” the Canal. Beggars daily went the rounds hammering door knockers and telling deplorable tales. Some had long petitions.
Towards the end of August in 1834, the alarming disease of Asiatic Cholera, long feared in this seaport, broke out at Halifax. The first cases appeared among the militia, then spread among the poor on the upper streets and finally extended its ravages throughout all classes of persons.
The pestilence lasted for six weeks. Over 1,000 cases and about 600 deaths were recorded. Nothing like it had ever been experienced in cholera-stricken centres. Halifax people who were walking the streets in the morning, were often dead by nightfall.
Everybody who had the means or opportunity, fled to the country. Dartmouth was the resort of multitudes. The “Sir C. Ogle” transported the Rifles Regiment to Bedford, while the remaining Regiments encamped upon Halifax Common.
The flagship of the Admiral, which had cholera on board, anchored in the Basin and landed the sick on Stevens’ Island. The Sisters of Mercy went among the dying like ministering angels. The Rev. Fitzgerald Uniacke of St. George’s Church, along with his wife, were also indefatigable in their attentions to the sufferers there. At Halifax Rev. John Loughnan of St. Mary’s Cathedral went day and night among the afflicted, consoling them with the last sacraments of the church.
Dalhousie College (City Hall) was converted into a hospital.
Huge tar pots burned day and night in Grand Parade and in thickly settled streets of Halifax. Business was abandoned, only drugstores and Doctors being active.
The silence of the long nights was broken only by the rattle of waggon wheels carting the sick from their homes, or the dead to be buried in the Poor House grounds.
Coastal vessels and country people with fresh produce avoided Halifax. At Mount Thom a barricade of trees was placed across the road to prevent the Halifax stagecoach from entering Pictou.
Lieutenant-Governor Sir Colin Campbell proclaimed Wednesday, September 17th, to be observed as a day of fast and humiliation. Supplications were offered in places of worship.
Their prayers were answered. Within a short time, the deadly malady showed signs of waning. Fewer and fewer cases occurred. By the end of September many people had returned to town. Streets and shops resumed their accustomed activity. On October 8th, the hospital at Dalhousie was discontinued. Lieutenant-Governor Campbell proclaimed Thursday, December 18th, to be observed “as a public day of General Thanksgiving to acknowledge the goodness of Almighty God in removing the grievous disease”.
The newspapers do not mention it, but the cholera must have prevailed in Dartmouth. Only a small fraction of the number of deaths was published at the time, but among them are noted some Dartmouth names.