1864

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

When the Free School Act came into operation in 1864, townsfolk voted £1,250 for a new school building, and elected Dominick Farrell, George Wilson and Nathaniel Russell as the first Public School Trustees for our section. Money for the construction of the building and the maintenance of the system was to be raised by general assessment. No longer would pupils pay tuition fees.

The year 1864 is also the date that the Starr Manufacturing Company commenced making on an extensive scale, the newly patented spring skates. At “Fairfield” that spring Joseph Howe prepared the material for his remarkable oration delivered at Halifax in April on the occasion of the tercentenary of William Shakespeare. A fellow-townsman Frederick Passow, read several appropriate selections from the works of the great playwright. Later that year, Mr. Howe delivered a shorter lecture at the Mechanics’ Institute. The proceeds were in aid of a brass-band which had been recently organized in Dartmouth.

The American Civil War which was raging at this time, brought to the port occasional visits from blockade runners. Some of them anchored on our side of the harbor where they were usually surrounded by small craft from Halifax and Dartmouth, a few of which carried on the usual bumboat trade. One of these warships was the “Tallahassee” whose midnight escape from the wharf at “Woodside” is related elsewhere.

The only shipbuilding record of 1864 is that of the 96-foot brigantine “Maggie”, but newspapers do not state from which yard she was launched. Ebenezer Moseley, former Halifax designer and shipbuilder who had been at LaHave for the previous 11 years, returned to settle in Dartmouth that summer,. He remained a resident of our town until his death nearly 40 years later.

In the summer of 1864 the “Dartmouth News and Halifax County Advocate” begun publication. The copy at the Archive dated July 27th was probably our first newspaper.

At the foot of Queen Street, a contractor named James Cameron of Wallace, N. S., was building for the Steam Boat Company, another one-laned paddle-wheeled ferryboat. It was the fourth such boat and the last of its type to be constructed. Her name “Chebucto” was the choice of Lawrence Hartshorne, veteran Secretary of the Company. The “MicMac”, which was generally used for excursions, carried a distinguished party that August when she transported the history-making Confederation delegates on a picnic to Prince’s Lodge. It will be remembered that after the Charlottetown conference, most of the party came to Halifax. On another occasion they were taken overland to the new gold-diggings at Waverley.

That name had now been bestowed upon the rapidly expanding mining settlement which had recently mushroomed into existence. In those pre-dynamite days the precious yellow-streaked quartz was being gouged out of “them thar hills” in such paying quantities that it attracted hundreds of workmen to Waverley, where they lived in hastily-constructed shacks or company bunkhouses. Among them were scores of skilled hard-rock miners imported from Germany and Cornwall. The latter seem to have left a reputation. Long after the turn of the century, old residents of the place were still talking about “the fighting Cornishmen” of the golden age of Waverley.* Barrooms flourished. So did gambling.

The first Waverley regatta was held on Lake William that July, The best report of this can be found in the “Atlantic Weekly” of August 1899 wherein appear some reminiscences of the 1864 races by an old oarsman of that time. The account recalled that thousands went to Waverley for the celebration, and the road from Dartmouth was dense with waggons and pedestrians.

All of the rowing races created considerable excitement; heavy bets were made on every contest, and free fights were common. The gig race over a 4-mile course with a turn was won by the Dartmouth crew of Michael Corbett, George W. Young, Morris Ryan and Edward Whebby. The Waverley crew consisting of C. Peak, R. Blois, C. Blois and J. Otto finished second; and a Halifax crew (no names given) were third. The double-wherry race from Porto Bello to the Bridge at Waverley was won by Michael Devan and John Young of Dartmouth. (See photo 4-oared crew Evening Mail, Mar. 9, 1929.)

The wealth then being produced at Waverley, Montague and a dozen other gold-mining centres to the eastward, had a favorable effect upon the economic life of Dartmouth. Edmund M. Walker established himself in the grocery business that year. Luther Sterns, the drygoods merchant, prospered to the extent that he erected a three-storey brick structure which was the last word in modernity. It was the first building of its kind in Dartmouth.

Laidlaw’s Corner was at the northwest angle of No. 2 and No. 18 Highways. The barrel-quartz formation is on the eastern side of the road. These slopes, together with shafts at the German Mines and at American Hill were re-opened during the depression years of the 1930s. Gold was obtained but not in sufficient quantity.