From The Story of Dartmouth, by John P. Martin:
In the spring of 1892 the water-works project was carried on more extensively with trenches being dug concurrently in sections both without and within the Town limits. During that year and the next, main streets of downtown Dartmouth presented an extraordinary appearance with long stretches of yawning ditches topped by ridges of reddish clay and slate-ish stone which narrowed the thoroughfares into one-lane arteries.
Gutters were strewn with long links of heavy iron pipe, while here and there the sidewalk was obstructed with breast-high piles of birch-brush used in blasting operations. The periodic sounds of the coarse blasting-horn halted teamsters in their tracks and warned pedestrians to scamper for shelter and await the thudding boom of the explosion which sometimes sent sprays of stone against window-panes nearby. On muggy days the atmosphere was laden with pungent fumes of spent powder mingled with the smell of dampish earth which seemed to cling to the clothing of the sweating navies as they scrambled out of the deep trenches sharp on the bang of the noonday gun from Halifax Citadel.
Meanwhile Halifax and Dartmouth plumbers were busily engaged fitting up residences along the route of the pipes with modern water and sewerage facilities. Tests on the main line were made at intervals along Lake Road and within the Town proper. Finally on October 20th, water was let into the pipe at the upper part of Ochterloney, and the precious liquid gushed forth from a hydrant at the corner of Pine Street. The first tumblerful from this outlet was passed to Dr. Norman F. Cunningham, who upon sampling the same, pronounced it “good and wholesome brew.”
The first building to receive the service was the Town Hall where the water was turned on on November 2nd. By the end of 1892 some 125 houses and shops had been connected with the new system, and at least 125 water-buckets thrown into discard.
One can imagine with what feelings of relief and delight, young people of my generation welcomed this wonderful improvement. No more would we be obliged of a morning to jostle for our turn at the old town-pump amid the milling crowd of boys and girls striving to fill their buckets before school time.
Others were not so jubilant. Truckmen, for instance, who eked out their incomes by hauling puncheons of pond-water for the use of large families on wash-days, were now no longer deluged with orders on Monday mornings. The new arrangement also spelled doom for itinerant water-carriers like Frank Wilson and Saul Bauld, who were soon forced into liquidation.
In addition to a water system, the year 1892 is to be noted for another important advancement in the public utilities of Dartmouth. This was the installation of electric lights. Promoted by Dr. A. C. Cogswell, the Dartmouth Electric Light Company set up a generating plant at Ochterloney and Maple Streets, and strung wires on their poles throughout parts of the Town to provide for some 60 incandescent lights, besides arranging to service several shops and houses.
Up to that time the only street lights to which we were accustomed came from the small kerosene lamps whose rays were weak enough at their best, but often rendered worthless when high winds sputtered the flame and blackened the lamp-shade. Then on Thursday July 14th, about 9 o’clock in the evening, we were surprised and dazzled by the sudden illumination of streets from a series of electric lights at corners which brightened-up whole town blocks. To us youngsters, this was the eighth wonder of the world.
The contract with the Company was to run for five years at a cost of $20 per light per annum. George Foston and his wagon equipped with an oil barrel, small ladder and a supply of lamp-wicks, who had been making rounds as town lamplighter for nearly twenty years, ceased his operations.
By 1892 most of the work on St. Peter’s brick church was completed, and on the first Sunday of February the basement section was open for divine service. (For the next nine years, the upper portion remained as a vast empty shell.)
In a three-mile skating race at Dartmouth Rink that winter “Sandy” Patterson, who could cut around corners with ease, had no trouble defeating Charles Gordon the well-known speedster of Montreal. Ice-sports and carnivals were held frequently, but only an occasional hockey match of importance because the Chebucto team had not much competition either in Halifax or Dartmouth.
Zera Semon, the magician, (and no doubt his little son Larry) appeared for a week at Reform Club Hall. The nightly program of entertainment given there by the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company also drew large crowds, and so enthused some of our local lassies that they made a futile attempt to run away from home and travel with the troupe. A tight-rope walker named Langwell gave an exhibition on a rope stretched high across Portland Street from the old Post Office to Brown’s corner.
Houses erected during 1892 included one in the vacant Esson field at the corner of King and Boggs Street built by John T. Walker for H. S. Creighton. The place was equipped with the most modern plumbing and hot-water heating. Mr. Creighton’s meticulous diary gives the total cost of the residence as amounting to $5,082.47. Alexander Hutchinson, plasterer, built a two-storey house at Ochterloney and Pine Streets. The high steeple of St. James’ Church was taken down by John A. Chisholm. Prescott Johnson purchased the house adjoining the Manse from Wm. McV. Smith, harness maker.
Luther Sterns died that year leaving a $40,000 estate. He owned the field bounded by Tulip, Maple, Rose and Pine Streets. Another industrialist James W. Turner, the tanner, also passed away. He was worth $100,000. “Jock” Patterson the piper, who came here with the 42nd Highlanders after the Crimean War, died in September. At 63 years of age he participated in the Riel Rebellion of 1885. His descendants are legion.
The year 1891-1892 marked my debut at Greenvale School in the Primer Class of Miss Emma Hume. A few of us young hopefuls of that vintage had been shuttled through Miss Hamilton’s crowded kindergarten owing to our ability to read some simple words on the beginners’ chart. My knowledge of these was gained mostly from an acquaintance with large-lettered phrases blackened on the six-foot bulletin board of the Halifax “Daily Echo” which was placed against a lamp-post at our corner in the late afternoon, and which stood inside the shop confronting us every succeeding day. Besides that there were copies of the three evening papers left from the day’s sales, strewn on the kitchen table after supper when we youngsters gathered around the single kerosene oil-lamp to do school lessons or clip out newspaper pictures.
At Greenvale School a high board fence extended from the southeast angle of the building towards the Canal stream, establishing a dividing line between the two play-yards and the two outhouses, which were built back to back. The lower level of the school had separate playrooms for girls and boys where during the recess periods noisy groups of grown-ups shouted, chased and dodged one another around the upright beams or across the creaking floor in an atmosphere that was literally clouded with indoor dust.
The school year constituted 212 days, divided into two terms. The winter term ran from November 1st to April 30th. The summer term extended from May 1st to the end of October with a six weeks’ break for vacation beginning on the second Monday of July. In 1891 schools closed for the summer on Friday, July 10th.
The most popular single holiday of early summer was the Natal Day of Halifax on June 21st. The Lieutenant-Governor always proclaimed it a public holiday in the Halifax area to commemorate the settlement of the City in 1749. Dominion Day was not recognized very much hereabouts, and schoolhouses in Dartmouth and in Halifax were kept open on July 1st as they had been, with few exceptions, both before and after 1867.
At Halifax, the Citadel flagstaffs, and some shipping in the harbor would be gaily bedecked with flags or bunting. The chartered Banks, the Dominion Government offices (not the Provincial) and some business places kept the holiday, but definitely a large number of wholesale and retail firms, ordinary shops, and the Liberal newspapers did not then observe Dominion Day, nor ever had. This, in spite of the fact that the City itself had given a majority vote for Confederation in the Dominion election of 1867. Almost every July 1st, the “Acadian Recorder” used to refer contemptuously to the day when Nova Scotians were “sold down the river”.
By 1892, however, much of the old antagonism to Confederation was beginning to weaken. Younger men were growing up and succeeding their ancestors in the business world. In June of 1892, a large group of Halifax merchants petitioned the Mayor to declare a holiday on Dominion Day. The answer was that there had already been a holiday on June 21st, and another one was due on Labor Day, then held about mid-July.