From The Story of Dartmouth, by John P. Martin:
From 1863 onward, lists of inhabitants in large settlements are available in Nova Scotia directories. For instance, we learn that among Dartmouth residents of 1863 were the two political giants, Hon. Joseph Howe and Hon. J. W. Johnston. Hon. Michael Tobin of the Legislative Council was living at “Brookhouse” in Woodlawn. Mrs. John Esson, whose late husband had won the 1859 election for Halifax East, was still residing at “Balmoral” at the extremity of Esson Road. Colonel Robert Bligh Sinclair, Adjutant General of the Militia of Nova Scotia, was then occupying “The Grove” which he had acquired in 1856.
Mrs. Sinclair’s father, Colonel George Pelzant Dawson, evidently did not remain many years hereabouts, but he has left his name and that of his son-in-law on three adjacent streets on his former property at “Fairfield”. These two men are said to have been the first to appreciate and popularize the advantage of Cow Bay beach (Silver Sands) as a summer resort.
We learned the above from a history of that district written in the Dartmouth newspaper of 1901 by H. W. Hewitt. His interesting and informative stories, many of which were probably gathered from old folks during Mr. Hewitt’s term of teaching at Eastern Passage, are extremely valuable for their records of people and experiences in the pioneer days. Here is the 1901 Cow Bay story:
The history of Cow Bay as a summer resort began about 35 years ago. Some of the first to go to Cow Bay for pleasure were Colonel Dawson and his son-in-law Colonel Sinclair. They used to have rooms in the house of Daniel Moser senior. Colonel Barnaby also rented rooms a few years afterwards. From that time, more and more persons began to come regularly to Cow Bay, so I will say nothing of any others except the two first mentioned.
Colonel Dawson was a very tall and corpulent man. He served for a short time in the Crimean War. He was very wealthy, and on his return from the Crimea he left England and came to Dartmouth. He bought a property near the Ropeworks, and laid out streets, etc. One of these streets is named after himself.
Colonel Sinclair of the 42nd Regiment, known commonly as the Black Watch Regiment, did not care to leave his wife, so when the war broke out he sold his commission and came to Dartmouth to avoid the censure which this act would entail. His father-in-law bought him the property once occupied by Rev. Mr. Morris as the Church of England Rectory. After Sinclair’s departure about 35 years ago, the place was made an Inebriates’ Heme. A dissipated young Englishman, known only as Lord Newton, the son of a wealthy nobleman, married a lady below himself in social standing. His father sent him to Dartmouth. One night he became intoxicated and was the cause of an accident which resulted in his death by fire.
But to come back to Colonel Dawson and Sinclair. Colonel Dawson took a fancy to Cow Bay. He thought that the island in Cow Bay Lake, being completely surrounded by water, belonged to nobody. He camped on the island, and thought it his own. He had a folding canvas canoe and a sailboat which he used frequently on the lake and outside the beach. He used to put an awning over the boat and sleep in her.
To make a long story short, both Dawson and Sinclair left Dartmouth and Cow Bay about 35 years ago, and their property passed into other hands. “Jock” Patterson, whom Colonel Sinclair had brought with him as servant, remained. All have heard of Jock Patterson, the Piper, veteran of the Crimean War and of the North West Rebellion in Canada.
Another impression of Mrs. Sinclair is gathered from a letter in a Halifax newspaper of 1861 wherein a writer stated that a certain Dartmouth woman had gone to the fish market at Halifax to obtain the family supply of fish. That the man at the market had carried the fish to the ferry gates, at which point the lady requested the ferry officer to put the fish on board the boat. “He not only refused but stood quietly by, watching a lady lugging her not very touchable commodity”. The writer suggested that such ungallant action deserved severe retribution.
A few days later, Captain James Graham wrote that he was the officer at the gate, and that the lady was Mrs. Sinclair. He indignantly declared that carrying fish was not within his line of duty, and that no other family in Dartmouth received as many favors on the ferry as did the Sinclairs.
The circumstances that influenced Hon. Joseph Howe to remove from Halifax to Dartmouth in 1863, are set forth in a letter written in October of that year to his sister in Digby, inviting her to visit his new home lately leased from Colonel Dawson at “Fairfield”. The complete letter is in the N. S. Archives Report for 1953. Here is the part dealing with Dartmouth:
You may remember a pretty place just below Albro’s on the Dartmouth side, that Bob Story had many years ago. At his death it was purchased by Martin Black who made it his summer residence for many years. When Martin died it fell into the hands of an eccentric Yorkshireman (Mrs. Colonel Sinclair’s Father and Pater also to some gay girls, the Misses Dawson, that you may have heard about) who fitted it up in very nice style for his own family. When just ready the ladies determined to go to England. This happened just when I was looking out for a place a little out of town, and balancing between the suburbs of the City and Windsor. He offered it at a moderate rent and I have taken it for three years. For £50 sterling I get a House with kitchen, Dairy, Cellars and all manner of conveniences on the ground floor with covered veranda for the Servants looking out on the Harbour. Over this we have Dining and Drawing Rooms, a Library, Bed Room and any number of Pantries and closets. Upstairs there are four bedrooms with nice views of the harbour. A verandah, covered in like a Hotbed runs along the whole front of the place, where we live half the time, and get the Music of the Bands from the Ships and from the Wellington Barracks for nothing. Here I sit with my Book and my cigar when evening comes without the noise of wheels or newsboys horns, or gossiping idlers to disturb me. It is the old North West Arm over again with a livelier outlook by night and day. . . .
More of our flourishing industries in 1863 were Mott’s Factory, Moyes’ Boiler Works, Greig’s Foundry, Symonds’ Foundry, Turner’s Tannery, Allen’s Tannery, Elliott’s Tannery, Albro’s Nail Factory, Dooley’s Gristmill, S. A. White’s Gristmill, Chebucto Marine Railway, Adams’ Machine Shop, Mumford’s Foundry, Laidlaw’s Ice, Falconer’s Distillery, Glendenning Brothers syrups and cordials, Duncan and Robert Waddell’s ballast boats, Young’s Shipyard.