Footprints Around and About Bedford Basin

“East side of Bedford Basin: The winding shore above the narrows has many picturesque points and coves to recommend it to the lover of natural scenery. It has also historical associations, but not, perhaps, of such prominence as that of the western side. High hills, clad with pine and spruce, rise conspicuously above the sparkling waters, affording wide views of the city and harbor of Halifax.

Tuft’s Cove, which was named after Gerisham Tufts, who belonged to a family extensively known in the United States, was the first to obtain a grant of the land surrounding this cove. The impression prevailed that he belonged to New England and came to Halifax early in the settlement of the town. The land above the Tufts property was granted to Ezekiel Gilman. He was one of the two army majors, retired, that accompanied the first settlers to Halifax. Leonard Lochman, after whom Lockman street is named was the other. In Murdoch’s history of Nova Scotia the following tragedy, with which Gilman was connected, is thus related:

On Saturday, 10th Oct., 1749 (N.S.) the [Mi’kmaq] committed acts of hostility at a saw mill that had been erected in Chebucto bay. Six men without arms were sent out by Major Gilman to cut wood for the mill. Of these six, four were killed and one made prisoner by a party of [Mi’kmaq], who had lain in ambush. The sixth man made good his escape from them. The saw mill was near Dartmouth Cove. On the following day, Sunday, the governor and council met on board the Beaufort. They decided not to declare war against the [Mi’kmaq] as that would be in some sort to own them as a “free people” – that they ought to be looked upon as rebels to H.M. government, or as bandatti ruffians. War, however, was to be made on them; a reward offered for prisoners and for scalps; Major Gilman to raise another independent company of volunteers to scour all the country round the bay; a proclamation issued reciting the [indigenous] hostilities recently committed at Canso and Chebucto, and ordering all officers, civil and military, and all H.M. subjects to take and destroy the [Mi’kmaq], and offering ten guineas for each [indigenous person] living or dead, or his scalp, as was the custom of America. Major Gilman was now instructed to raise his company and get them hatchets, haversacks and snowshoes. Gilman went to Piscataqua to enlist his company of 100 men, engaging to return with them before December.

The Gilman lands were escheated, and re-granted in trust to Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin. Coffin was a son of an officer of the customs at Boston. He was born in that town on 16th May, 1750. He entered the Navy in 1773 under the patronage of Rear-Admiral Montague, the commander-in-chief on the North American station.”

“A steamboat on Bedford Basin for the first time: The first steam boat to make a trip on Bedford Basin – indeed, it could be said, the first ferry boat propelled by steam to appear on the harbor of old Chebucto – was the Sir Charles Ogle. She was built in the cove at Dartmouth by Mr. Lyle. It was in the closing days of 1829 that the steamer was completed – the machinery on board and in order. An attempt was made to launch her on the first day of the new year. She set off in fine style, but when about two-thirds in the water she stuck in the ways, and every exertion to complete the launch at that tide were unavailing. Her length of deck was 103 feet, width of beam 20 feet, width of deck over all 35 feet, 176 tons measurement, her engine was 30 horsepower.

It was understood that the fare would be four pence, and that the steamer would make four passages an hour. The team boat, which she displaced, frequently made but four trips a day, frequently less, and sometimes in winter would not cross at all. It was considered on all hands that an excellent exchange had been made. The steamboat had two commodious cabins. In the eyes of the inhabitants she brought Dartmouth as it were to the end of the steamboat wharf, and it was anticipated that the enterprise would have an admirable effect on the life and prosperity of the village. The hope was generally indulged in that the steamer would well repay the public-spirited gentlemen who had first given to Halifax one of the wonders of science. At full tide, near midnight, the steamer was got off, and in the words of an enthusiastic townsman, uttered at the time: “she now sits in water gracefully as a swan, an honor and an advantage to the community.” On the 12th of January teams and passengers crossed the harbor in the Sir Charles Ogle, and on the following day she circumnavigated George’s Island, to the satisfaction of numerous and most respectable passengers who had taken advantage of the trip.”

Mullane, George. “Footprints Around and About Bedford Basin : a district brimful of romantic associations: some interesting facts about its early history” [Nova Scotia] : publisher not identified, [19–]

Public Utility Regulation in Nova Scotia

“The Telephone Utility is one of the oldest and largest public utilities, and perhaps the one which comes into direct contact with the most people in their workaday lives. The telephone was invented in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell, a man well and favourably known in Nova Scotia, as during the last years of his life he made his home in Cape Breton, just outside of Baddeck. The first telephone in Halifax was installed in 1877, and the first actual commercial use of the service was at the Caledonia Mine, Cape Breton, also in the same year. At this time the receiver and transmitter were not separate, but the same instrument was used for both, being changed back and forth from ear to mouth. In 1878 the first long distance call in Nova Scotia was placed from Halifax to Truro. In 1879 the first switchboard to connect the different lines in Halifax became necessary. It was located in an office on Hollis Street. No directory was issued until 1880, and the first one carried the names of 77 subscribers. A submarine cable was laid across Halifax Harbour in 1881 to provide direct Halifax connections for Dartmouth users.”

“The Town of Dartmouth first had continuous 24 hour electric service when the cable was laid crossing the Halifax Harbour in June, 1916. Rates at this time were 12 1/2 c. net per kilowatt hour for general lighting service. In 1917 these rates were reduced by 20% or 25% where a contract was signed for five years. In 1927 the Board’s standard form of rate was adopted in Dartmouth, and for residence service was 3c. per hundred square feet of floor area, 7c. per kilowatt hour for the first block, 2 1/2 c. per kilowatt hour for all excess (same as in Halifax). The next rate change was in December 26th, 1929, when the cost of current for the first block was reduced from 7c. to 5c. per kilowatt hour and all excess remained as in Halifax, at 2 1/2 c. It is the duty of the Board to see that all reasonable extensions in the public utility service are made, and this has been done in many cases in the last few years by agreement with the Public utility, and sometimes after public hearing.”

Roper, J.S. “Public Utility Regulation in Nova Scotia” Dalhousie Review, Volume 17, Number 1, 1937

The Impeachment of the Judges of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, 1787-1793: Colonial Judges, Loyalist Lawyers, and the Colonial Assembly

In 1790, the Nova Scotia Assembly passed impeachment articles against two puisne judges, Isaac Deschamps and James Brenton, accusing them of illegal and corrupt acts. The charges stemmed from alleged incompetence, partiality, and dishonesty, including lying during an earlier inquiry. The trial before the Committee of the Privy Council in London resulted in the judges’ exoneration. Despite the failure, the impeachment attempt sheds light on colonial legal systems, judicial professionalization, and the relationship between judges and local power structures. In particular, it highlights the lack of separation of powers between the executive and judiciary in colonial governance.

The judges received staunch support from the executive, revealing the limited control the elected branch had over judicial appointments and dismissals. One of the impeachment articles, focusing on a criminal case involving Christian Bartling, criticized Judge Brenton’s handling of the bail process and re-committal following the failure to secure an indictment. However, the criticisms were largely unfounded, with the Privy Council finding no fault in Brenton’s actions. The Bartling case, marked by political tensions and racial prejudice, exemplified the complexities of colonial justice and the influence of local politics on legal proceedings. Despite attempts to discredit the judges, the impeachment proceedings failed to tarnish their reputations or undermine their authority.

“Isaac Deschamps and James Brenton, puisne judges of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court [NSSC], had, charged the colonial Assembly in April 1790, committed “divers illegal, partial, and corrupt acts” such as to justify “Impeachment” for “High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”‘ These words come from the preamble to a list of seven “articles of impeachment” passed by the Nova Scotia Assembly on 5-7 April 1790. The seven articles, distilled from thirteen draft articles which had been introduced on 10 March, listed ten cases in which the judges were alleged to have acted incompetently or partially, or both, and also included accusations that they had lied to the Lieutenant-Governor’s Council of Twelve when it had conducted an inquiry into some of the allegations two and a half years earlier. The “trial” of the judges on these articles of impeachment took place before the Committee of the Privy Council for Trade and Plantations in London, and resulted in their complete exoneration. This was one of only two occasions on which pre-confederation Canadian colonial assemblies passed “impeachment” articles against superior court judges, and both failed. Judges were removed, but by executive power, for they did not hold their commissions on “good behavior” and, thus, enjoy independence. The best known Canadian examples of executive removal are Robert Thorpe and John Willis in Upper Canada, but three other British North American judges were removed by colonial executives-Caesar Colclough and Thomas Tremlett in Prince Edward Island, and Richard Gibbons in Cape Breton.’

The Nova Scotia Assembly’s failure matters much less than the attempt; the long, drawn out saga of the efforts to censure and remove the NSSC judges is of interest to historians of colonial legal systems. It represents a chapter in the history of judicial professionalization, for much of the rhetoric aimed at the judges, especially Deschamps, concerned their basic competence. The event also reveals the role played by colonial judges within local power structures. The modern notion of a separation of powers between executive and judiciary was no part of the British system of colonial governance, with judges expected to be firm supporters, indeed active members, of government and receive in turn the backing of the executive. Hence, the Nova Scotia judges received unqualified support from the Lieutenant-Governor and his Council. Conversely, the failed impeachment shows that the elected branch of the constitution had as little control over the dismissal of judges as it did over their appointment. While the impeachment crisis is a significant event in Canadian legal history, and while that is the focus of the article, the events of the late 1780s and early 1790s also contribute to our understanding of the province’s general history, in particular of the transformations that took place after the American revolution.”

Article 2: R v Bartling (and R v Small)

Article 2 principally concerned R v Bartling, one of only two criminal cases among the allegations, the other being R v Small, which was used not so much as a ground of complaint but as a contrast to the Bartling case. Bartling and Small were the two cases from 1789 that, I suggest above, provided part of the catalyst for a successful re-raising of the judges’ question early in 1790, at a time when Parr believed the crisis was long over.

Christian Bartling was a very early settler in Halifax/Dartmouth and, by the 1780s, a substantial landowner on the Dartmouth side of the harbour. In May 1789 he got into boundary disputes with Jonathan Foster, Nathaniel Macy, and Barnabas Swain, all recent arrivals and all members of a group-some 40 families-of Nantucket Quaker whalers who had moved to the area in 1785. Although encouraged and indeed subsidized by Parr and his Council, the move was controversial both in London and Halifax in part because a considerable amount of land had been expropriated for them from absentee proprietors and in part because this particular economic development project was seen as aiding Americans and evading the imperial Navigation Acts.”‘ Bartling, apparently convinced that Swain et al were trespassing, defended his turf with a shotgun, and a considerable amount of shot ended up in Swain. He lost an eye to the assault.

Bartling was remanded for trial by a JP, and an application for release through a writ of habeas corpus in mid-June was denied. He went to trial a month or so later in Trinity Term. Although, as was common, the indictment was prosecuted by Attorney-General Blowers, the grand jury rejected it. When the judges were told this Brenton asked Blowers if he had another charge to prefer, but he did not. In Bartling’s lawyer Martin Wilkins’ words, he “turned his Back upon the Court and remarked that he washed his hands Clear of it and their Honors must decide for themselves.” Solicitor-General Uniacke, also in court, then declared “with some degree of heat” that “he would prefer Bills to.. .Grand Jury after Grand Jury, against Bartling so long as there was a Grand Jury in the Country, until a Bill was found… or until the Prisoner had a Public Trial.” Brenton remanded Bartling, although his further confinement lasted only one day; he was discharged when the court met the following morning. According to lawyer Daniel Wood, Deschamps gave no reasons but told Bartling “that in consideration of his long confinement and Large family they would then release him, without his giving Security, notwithstanding the Grand Jury had tho[ugh]t proper to acquit him, his Crimes appeared to be very enormous, and hoped the indulgence they then gave him would have some good effect upon him.”‘

The second article of impeachment criticized two aspects of Brenton’s handling of this case; Deschamps was not involved in the charges. It complained that Bartling had not been given bail when habeas corpus was applied for, as he should have been for committing a trespass. It was here that a contrast was drawn to R v Small. 4′ William Small was one of a group of black men and women who became involved in an altercation with three young, and drunk, white men returning home from a night of carousing in late November 1788. The whites had assaulted a fiddle player, George Warner, and Warner ran for refuge to Small’s house. When the whites tried to follow Warner in, Small came out armed with a spade. In the melee William Lloyd was struck with the spade and he died almost two months later. A coroner’s jury found that Lloyd had died from the blow inflicted by Small and he was arrested. A week later Small was bailed, by Brenton, with the sureties being William Brenton, the judge’s half-brother, and loyalist merchant Samuel Hart. Article 2 made the contrast between the two cases: Brenton had refused bail to Bartling but he had earlier “bailed a certain William Small, a [black] man, positively charged by, and committed on the Coroner’s Inquest, for [a]… felonious murder.”

The Privy Council made short work of the bail complaint, not even adverting to the contrast with Small. The evidence before the Assembly had made a lot of the fact that Brenton waited a day to hear the habeas corpus application, and the committee simply, and rightly, held that a Judge was not required to hear the application “the moment it is presented to him,” as “[i]t may be often material to enquire for what… crime” a person had committed “before he is brought up in order to be prepared in some sort to judge how it would be either legal or proper to Bail him.” When Brenton did hear the application, he was prepared to grant bail, but no sureties could be found, always a requirement for bail. In the Assembly the prosecution had alleged that Bartling had lost his sureties by the delay, but the evidence also showed, and the committee accepted this, that the reason he could find no sureties was that the men willing to do so were only prepared to stand bail for his appearance in court, not to be answerable for his keeping the peace, because Bartling “was apt to be in liquor.” The committee also adverted to evidence from Halifax sheriff James Clarke that he had summonsed possible sureties to court but they had refused to come.

The committee also noted that the statement in Article 2 that Bartling had been arrested for trespass was inaccurate, that he had been arrested for a felony, a serious assault leading to a wounding. As the indictment put it, Bartling had inflicted “several grievous wounds” and “the sight of one of [Swain’s] eyes” had been “ruined and destroyed.”‘ The committee made nothing more of this mis-statement in the charge, perhaps because if Brenton could have been criticized for anything in this stage of the proceedings it was that he was prepared to bail Bartling at all. The Marian bail laws were in force in Nova Scotia and they made remand the default option in the vast majority of felonies. It was extremely rare for anybody charged with a felony to receive bail-only ten of the more than 700 defendants who appeared in the NSSC at Halifax between 1754 and 1803 were bailed.'” Evidence given before the Assembly suggested that it was known that Parr favoured remand, and thus Brenton had somehow been improperly influenced by the Lieutenant-Governor. But since Brenton granted bail that complaint amounted to naught and did not find its way into the article of impeachment.

All in all the Assembly’s complaint about the bail process was worthless; ironically, as noted, they would have had a stronger case if they had attacked Brenton for not remanding Bartling. There was not even any validity to the contrast with the Small case-the latter was a highly exceptional but nonetheless explicable exercise of discretion, and, given contemporary attitudes towards blacks, criticisms of Brenton were surely a product of racism as much as anything else.

The second principal cause for complaint over the Bartling case was the re-committal following the failure to get an indictment. Certainly it was an unusual proceeding-normally a defendant not indicted or found not guilty was immediately released from custody. Yet there were other cases in which defendants were recommitted and another indictment drawn up, and in this instance Solicitor-General Uniacke declared that he would do so. Questioning of witnesses before the Assembly tried to elucidate testimony to the effect that Brenton remanded Bartling before Uniacke made his declaration, but witnesses were either contradictory or unsure on the point. The committee asserted that a recommittal pending another indictment was “the common practice at the Old Bailey,” and criticized the grand jury’s decision in any event. It was clearly a felony and there seemed to be enough evidence to proceed to trial. The committee could have made more of this point. A marginal note in the proceedings states that if the English “Black Act” was in force in the colony it certainly was a felony. What it did not say was that it was not just a felony, but a capital offence, and it seems surprising that the committee did not pursue this question further, for malicious shooting at somebody was indeed a capital offence in the colony. That they did not do so is perhaps attributable to the problem raised above: Brenton was very much at fault for bailing a person accused of so serious a crime.

It seems likely that the Bartling case became something of a cause celebre because of its political overtones. Neither the loyalists who supported Bartling out of resentment at the American whalers nor the elements in government and the city who sided with the whalers behaved particularly creditably. The JP who initially took down the parties’ depositions, loyalist James Gautier, does not appear to have committed Bartling or issued recognizances to prosecute, as he should have done. It was only later that another JP, William Folger, one of the whalers, did so. Parr, a supporter of the whalers, might well have had an opinion, along with many other people in the city, but as we have seen that opinion cannot have influenced Brenton. The fact that the contrast with Small included the statement that he was “a [black] man” suggests that racism played a role; the contrast of Bartling’s treatment with somebody else’s would not have mattered had not that other person been a black resident.

As already noted, the really questionable decision was the grand jury’s turning back of the indictment. Attorney-General Blowers probably should have had another indictment to put forward, but seems from the evidence given above to have been too peeved, and perhaps surprised, to bother. Solicitor-General Uniacke had to intervene on the spur of the moment; he was a vigorous supporter of the whalers’ move to Dartmouth and obviously wished the law to be used against those who resisted their integration into the community. Initially exasperated at a form of “grand jury nullification,” we can only suppose that he thought better of the politics of preferring another indictment on reflection. But the principal point for our purposes is that the Assembly’s criticisms of Brenton in this case were misplaced. It was a case riven with politics and prejudice, which may have inflamed local passions on all sides, but not one which showed the court in the bad light the Assembly tried to cast on it.

Jim Phillips, “The Impeachment of the Judges of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, 1787-1793: Colonial Judges, Loyalist Lawyers, and the Colonial Assembly” (2011) 34:2 Dal LJ 265.

Franchise granted for (landowning) women

1886 dartmouth v queen

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

“The first move towards procuring women’s suffrage in Nova Scotia was taken by the Town of Dartmouth in 1886 when they got an Act through the Provincial Legislature extending to female ratepayers the right to vote at municipal elections.

It was effective the following year. Our 1873 Act of Incorporation stated that the privilege of voting was granted to “every male ratepayer.” In other words, widows, and spinsters owning property within the Town had no voice in the election of the Town Council. Evidently, it was then an unheard of thing for women to be associated with polling booths.

In thus extending the franchise to females, Dartmouth led all other Nova Scotia towns and even the capital City of Halifax.”

Dartmouth Annual Report, 1886:

Sinclair Williams

Dartmouth Police

“Youth and seniors from the East Preston community have been working with a Halifax based video company, Pink Dog Productions to produce a video honoring one of East Preston’s local cultural heroes Mr. Sinclair Williams who was the first African Nova Scotian police officer for the (City of Dartmouth).”

Dartmouth Police
Dartmouth Police: “We serve”


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


“Woodside” was the name of a beautiful rural estate, commanding a full view of the harbor, which was laid out about 1830 for Hon. John E. Fairbanks. The description of these highly ornamental grounds occupies a whole page in Mrs. Lawson’s History of Dartmouth. His private duck-pond was across the main road in that filled-in oval running westerly from the present base-ball park. The old Fairbanks dwelling is still used as a recreation hall. All that residential section of South Woodside commenced developing when the “Company” houses were constructed in 1886. The first sugar refinery, composed largely of brick, was erected in 1884, and destroyed by fire in 1912. The present building occupies much of the old site. There has been no sugar refined at this plant since June 1942. The stoppage was caused by world conditions during the war.

Along the railway track nearly to the boundary of the Nova Scotia Hospital, the hollowed-out bank indicates the situation of the old pottery works, and mill for the manufacture of chocolate and cocoa started in the 1830’s by Henry Y. Mott. If is said that the Mott family were among the first to make chocolates in what is now Canada. The Mott homestead was built on the present location of the new brick building just south of the main Nova Scotia Hospital. About 1909, the Grant family moved the house where it now stands next south of St. Alban’s Church.

The first record of another new hotel in Dartmouth is noted in newspapers of 1830 when on January 9 there is an account of a distinguished party in town. The report says:

Rear Admiral Sir Charles Ogle, the Lord Bishop of Nova Scotia, and Hon. Michael Wallace, the Treasurer of the Province, visited the Canal yesterday, and afterwards dined together at Medley’s Hotel in Dartmouth, where a sumptuous fare was provided in handsome style for them.

Medley’s Hotel was at the present Central Apartments on 59 Queen Street, owned at that time by Hon. Mr. Wallace. It outlasted all the other local inns of the 19th century.

In April 1830, a Boarding and Day School was opened in a large wooden house at the northeast corner of Commercial and Portland Streets. The announcement reads:

Mrs. Pratt, from London, most respectfully announces to the inhabitants of Halifax and Dartmouth, that she intends opening a Boarding and Day Seminary for young ladies, at the house of Mr. Lowe, opposite the Steam Boat wharf.

In May, word came from Charles R. Fairbanks in London that he had been successful in obtaining a loan of £20,000 from the British Government. In addition, £27,000 worth of shares of Canal stock had been purchased by private subscription.

It is of interest to record here that Dartmouth received considerably publicity as a result of Mr. Fairbanks’ visit. Famous men in the House of Lords who debated the Shubenacadie Canal Bill, included Lord Durham and the Duke of Wellington. The former was firmly opposed to the measure, while the latter seemed to be favorable to the loan.

The newspapers about this time had many more items concerning Dartmouth, than ever before. The Canal cottages were no doubt along Ochterloney Street for the convenience of workmen at the new Circular Dam and the new Locks near the Starr Works, as the following newspaper item suggests:

DARTMOUTH—Several new houses have been erected this spring. Others are being repaired and enlarged. A few rods above the Church, a new village has arisen almost spontaneously in the wilderness. The Dartmouth Canal Locks are progressing rapidly, and on a working day a visitor may see in miniature, some of the wonders of art which we hear of from other countries.

The poetry of “Albyn” continued to appear in Joseph Howe’s newspaper. Early in 1830, he wrote a 15-verse rhapsody, entitled SPRING’S WAKE. We quote two verses:

Birds from the East and West Know their appointed time, Thrice welcome, ev’ry aerial guest, Come to repair its ruined nest, Or sport on beds of thyme. The field-fare, in a flock, Have spread their pilgrim wings The ravens round Cole-Harbor croak, And geese that come ‘like clouds of smoke’, There stay their travellings. SPRING’S WAKE

The first casualty on the “Sir Charles Ogle” occurred in April. A young man in the employ, descended into the boiler for the purpose of cleaning it out, without first ascertaining if the fixed air had escaped. The result was instantly fatal.

Trouble soon developed on the Steam Boat, for in July she ceased running for a time. This is inferred from a complaint in the papers by a Halifax resident who went down to the Halifax dock with a group intent on a trip in the Steam Boat. After trying for two days, they had to “cross in one of Findlay’s barges”. At Dartmouth they found 14 or 15 teams laden with produce which had been detained on that side for several days, and at their own expense.

Meantime Joseph Findlay at the Old Ferry Inn, was taking every opportunity to encourage travelers to use his route. His card of July 1830, announced:

Joseph Findlay begs leave to return his sincere acknowledgements to the public, for the many marks of their kindness shewn him since he commenced his establishment at the Lower Ferry, Dartmouth, and likewise informs them that he has erected a convenient BATHING HOUSE near his wharf, where the water is pure. Adults can be accommodated at 3d each and children half price. Tea and Refreshments as usual.

There was no regatta on the harbor that summer. Other matters engaged public attention. On Sunday, August 1, a barque arrived at Saint John, N.B., with Dublin newspapers announcing the death of George IV. Halifax got the news on Wednesday night’s stage-coach from Annapolis.

The Legislature was consequently dissolved, and the Province plunged into the heat of a general election, for this was the year of the famous “Brandy Dispute”.

The brilliant S. G. W. Archibald, of Truro, led the poll in Halifax County, which then extended to Pictou. He subsequently became Speaker of the new House. Our fellow townsman and late member, Lawrence Hartshorne, was not re-elected.

Of particular interest at that time was the circumstance that of the two European Sovereigns who had just ascended Thrones, at least one, and probably both, had trod the soil of Dartmouth. They were King Louis Phillippe of France, and William IV of England.

The former visited Preston, and the latter was on this station in command of H. M. S. “Pegasus” forty-odd years previously. It will be recalled that the fort at Eastern Battery was re-named after Prince William when he became the Duke of Clarence.

Proof that Dartmouth was used as the main route of no. 2 Highway is shown by an occurrence in August of 1830. The Eastern Stage Coach, due on a Saturday evening, did not get to Dartmouth until Sunday morning, owing to accidents on the road. Davidson, the driver, complained afterward, that they had reached here just as the 8 o’clock ferry was docking. Despite his pleas to Captain Hunter that he carried English mail for H.M.S. “Pallas”, which was on the eve of sailing, the driver and his passengers were compelled to wait for nearly an hour while the Steam Boat crew went off to breakfast.

All the lands of the late Jonathan Tremain were advertised to be sold at auction that summer. Included was his country seat, already mentioned. His 12-acre field, containing a house, a garden and a wharf on the waterfront, was purchased by Joseph Hamilton of Halifax. Hence the Hamilton fields.

An old plan of the field shows that there was a proposed thoroughfare called “King William Street”, which was to extend from Canal Street to Maitland. It was to run parallel with Portland Street, about half way to the shore.

The northwest section of this field [, where now stands the Dartmouth Medical Centre, was acquired by William Foster, son of Edward Foster. The Foster deed of 1830, described the property as being “120 feet on Canal Street and 138 feet on the road to Creighton’s Ferry”. Foster’s corner was a landmark of last century. For many years they operated a tobacco factory at this spot, manufacturing plug tobacco.

There was also for sale a 50-acre Tremain lot bordering Dartmouth Common on what is now the upper side of Victoria Road extending from about Brightwood Avenue to Boland Road. A plan of the area shows that School Street divides the property which has one lone house standing near the present southeast corner of Slayter Street and Gladstone Avenue. The description says that the land was “partly improved, but mostly studded with a growth of spruce, birch, beech and oak trees”.

The plan divides the land on the southern side of School Street into four oblong-shaped lots of about five acres each, while four others on the opposite side contain about seven acres. The whole of the estate, which comprised a great part of the present golf greens, was called “Abbeville” probably after Mrs. Tremain whose Christian name was Abigail.

A name that was prominent in real estate holdings in Dartmouth for over a century was that of Allan McDonald. There were three generations of them. The first Allan carried on a tobacco and cigar manufactory along with a stock of general merchandise including liquors, at 48 Bedford Row in Halifax. The building which now stands at no. 78 is perhaps the same one.

Allan McDonald’s name first appears on property deeds in 1830, when he bought 50 acres of land from John Elliott at Russell’s Lake; and eight additional acres from Nathaniel Russell. Hence McDonald’s Lake. Older maps name it Morris’ Lake. In course of time a flour mill and snuff mill were erected there.

The newly elected Provincial Legislature convened in November. They heard more ferry complaints. A petition, signed by several Dartmouthians was sent in by Peter Donaldson, asking permission to run a competitive ferry from his wharf on the shore below the present no. 11 Commercial Street.

The petitioners stated that the fare was now four pence instead of 3p as formerly charged on Skerry’s boats. Furthermore the Magistrates had recently made a regulation forbidding any landings within a certain distance of the Steam Boat wharf. As a consequence, passengers on Findlay’s boats from Halifax, had to be landed in the Cove. The petition was refused.

Deaths in 1830 included Thomas Barrons, a Canal workman, killed by falling 20 feet from the top of Lock no. 6, (the Channel). In September, James Purvis and Patrick Riley were drowned from one of Findlay’s small ferries while crossing from Halifax to Dartmouth in a violent wind and rain.

Dr. James Boggs died at Halifax in his 91st year. At Lake Loon, Mary Ann Morris, daughter of Hon. Charles Morris, died aged 20; and at Preston, Miss Eleanor Simpson, aged 42. At Warren’s Hotel, Dartmouth, died Jeane, wife of Capt. Richard Gethen, 96th Regt., leaving a young family.

Marriages that year included a fashionable one at Mount Edward by the Rev. M. B. DesBrisay, of Frances Mary Brinley, daughter of the late W. B. Brinley, Esq., to William Lawson, junior. Other nuptials performed by the same Minister were those of Sarah Rogers, daughter of John Rogers, to Thomas Medley; and Mary Ann Marvin to Joseph Robinson.

Rev. James Morrison officiated at the weddings of Mrs. Jane Bell to John Meagher; Elizabeth Green to George Irvin; and Jane Albro to James Hall, Esq. The last named was a brother to Engineer Francis Hall, the husband of Mary Albro.

The first Roman Catholic marriage was recorded in October 1830, when Captain Michael Dormandy was united to Mrs. Mary Shortell, by Rev. James Dunphy of the new St. Peter’s Church.

Baptisms that year were Rebecca, child of Rose and Wm. Walker, schoolmaster; Ann, child of Dorothy and Thos. Marvin, shipbuilder; Edward, child of Eliza and Chas. Allen, shipbuilder.

Many rural members of the Legislature remained in Halifax for Christmas in 1830, for the House sat through the holidays to finish up business, and finally prorogued in mid-January of 1831. A bonus of £250 yearly until 1834 was voted the Eastern Stage Coach. The Steam Boat got a grant of £190.

The Company’s petition stated that they now had a valuable steamboat and enlarged wharf accommodation. The year’s expenses had exceeded £4,000, making the total outlay to date over £12,000. From this investment, shareholders had never received a shilling of dividends. Appended to the petition were lengthy sheets filled with signatures, or symbols, of Company supporters both in Halifax and Dartmouth.

Despite all this backing, the ferry service was unsatisfactory because the “Sir Charles Ogle” gave considerable trouble, and sometimes had to cease running. Salt water, which was used in her boiler, kept clogging the tubes. Frequently fires had to be drawn, in order to clean out the crusting of salt. During three weeks in the early winter of 1831, she was laid up for ten days. Teams arriving with country produce, were put to the necessity either of selling their supplies at a loss in Dartmouth, or of driving around the Basin to Halifax market.


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

In 1920 we had the coldest winter for years. There were 21 days of good sleighing, and 11 days of sub-zero weather in January with the mercury down to 17 below near the month-end. In February the harbor froze over for the first time since 1898. The ferries kept a lane open, and the tug “Ragus” bucked her way daily from the Sugar Refinery to the Imperial Oil wharf at Halifax. On a Sunday afternoon, a number of us skated from Mill Cove to McNab’s Island, without experiencing any difficulty except in hopping over the ice-pans in the channel of the “Ragus” off Woodside.

Robert Lynch, who had been eight years in the Town Council, opposed Dr. Simpson in the Mayoralty election and got 525 votes to the Doctor’s 617. A motor-driven ladder truck was purchased and the first Town Engineer appointed in the person of H. E. R. Barnes. The Dartmouth Housing Commission was organized with J. J. O’Toole as Chairman. Other members were James A. Redmond, Albion B. Smith, George Mitchell and Ralph W. Elliot.

The Dartmouth Amateur Athletic Association was organized in March with a membership of nearly 400, and secured a 21-year lease of the Chebucto Grounds. Leo Graham was the first President. About that time an 8-page newspaper called “The Independent” was started by Arthur Johnston, son of A. C. Johnston. The Halifax Institute of Engineers now reported that an overhead bridge across the harbor was impracticable, and suggested a low-level drawbridge to accommodate rail and other traffic. The cost was $2,000,000. “The Independent” thought this decision a fortunate one, stating that if people had to wait for a $10,000,000 overhead bridge, “they would be still waiting when the new millennium dawned”. The Ferry Commission in February passed a resolution recording, “its hearty appreciation of the efforts of the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Committee, with the hope that their efforts would be crowned with success”.

Ex-Councillor John Ritchie died that spring, as also did James W. Tufts a member of the Dartmouth Park Commission continuously since 1891. Another prominent citizen to pass away was ex-Mayor Edward F. Williams. He had served as Chief Magistrate for a total of eight years, having previously sat six terms as a Councillor.

We got our first piece of permanent road on this side of the harbor in 1920 when Cavicchi and Pagano paved the stretch from the town limits to Horton’s Brook at Imperoyal. It was one of the first sections of permanent-surfacing completed by the Highway Department in the whole Province, and was commenced a few months before the local election. Considerable credit for this undertaking should go to Hon. Robert Finn, a former Dartmouthian, who was always alert to the interests of his constituents in eastern Halifax County

The work of rehabilitating explosion-damaged houses was just about finished up that summer. The stone Downey house on Coleman Street, built by Joseph Moore in early Canal days, was so badly shaken that it had to be demolished. More new residences went up in the north-end, also in Austenville, in Hawthorne-Sinclair Street sections, on Elliot Street, on upper Portland Street, in the Charles Harvey subdivision at Prince Arthur’s Park and on Rodney Road.

Falconer’s field was subdivided by Engineer J. Lorne Allan, and streets there were named for ex-Mayor Williams and Dr. M. S. Dickson. Sewerage and water pipes were extended to new houses on Elmwood Avenue, which had just been cut through the former Torrens field. At Manor Hill, where Andrew Shiels once wrote poetry the Eastmount subdivision of S. A. Heisler was selling lots as low a $100. Streets were named for military leaders in World War I.

The yearly report of the Housing Commission showed that 21 dwellings in Dartmouth were erected with their loans, on as many vacant lots. The Canadian Bank of Commerce opened a branch at the northeast corner of Portland and King Streets. Laurie Bell was now operating a small garage on the location of the present Police Station. The new Grace Methodist Church was completed and dedicated on Sunday, November 14th. South of the Church on King Street, Dartmouth’s second fire-engine house was torn down. This was an ordinary-sized shed in which were stored the watering cart and the antique fire-engine, pumped by hand. A valuable tourist attraction was lost when this relic was later sold for junk.

The school enrolment that year was 1,628. Grover C. Beazley joined the teaching staff to assist Principal Stapleton and Miss Findlay at Park High School where a class in Grade 10 was established in 1920. The Manual Training branch was abolished, and the work room converted into a shooting gallery for the cadet corps.

Ferry receipts fell and expenditures increased during 1920, for the second year in succession the Commission suffered a deficit. That year they went behind nearly $18,000.

The first electric street lights of Dartmouth were strung diagonally so that the light was suspended in the middle of intersections. In a wind-storm, the saucer-shaped disc rocked, swayed and almost turned turtle.

Central School served the Town for half a century until rendered uninhabitable by the 1917 Explosion, although the roof still remained tight. After that, the BBCA converted two upstairs rooms into a gymnasium for basketball and used it up to the time that the old landmark was demolished about the year 1922.

Henry Y. Mott, grandson of his namesake, who had left here in the 1870s for St. John’s, Nfld., occasionally contributed reminiscent letters to the Dartmouth newspaper. About this time another one appeared giving a list of members of the “Cabbage Club” which flourished in his youth, and included names like Charles and Harry Harvey, Edwin George and W. H. Sterns, Dr. Fred Van Buskirk, Charles Young, John Brown, Albert Wisdom, Fred Hardenbrook, W. C. Mott, W. H. Stevens, Alpin Bowes, Fred Bowes and others.

One of their popular events was the sleigh drive out to Griffin’s Inn on Preston Road, whither they were conveyed in teams supplied by W. H. Isnor, W. H. Greene or John Myers. “I saw Henry Isnor two or three years ago”, wrote Mr. Mott, “and found the patriarchial John Myers, white whiskered and bearing the marks of time, but in spirit as vivacious as a colt and possessing the old time fondness for his horses”.

The writer then commented on the changes in and about Dartmouth, noting that there was little left of many familiar scenes of his boyhood except the memory. “What Dartmouth boy of 50 years ago”, concluded Mr. Mott, “does not remember Mrs. Roberts’ taffy shop near the bridge (NW corner Victoria Road and Portland) and with what joy the treasured cent was expended. Then there was Mrs. Morrissey whose spruce beer, cakes and other juvenile attractions were sold in a little shop opposite the present palatial store of L. Sterns and Son. Could the old blacksmith forge of my friend John D. Murphy speak, what tales of deviltry and mischief would be revealed, of tricks played upon the citizens of Preston on market days, and indeed upon many other unfortunates who came under the spell of those who had not quenched the fiery vengeance of youth”.


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

During 1919, shipload after shipload of defence forces were brought back to the port of Halifax to be discharged. The work of repatriation went on for months. In Dartmouth, a local Housing Commission was set up for the purpose of aiding returned men in the financing of new homes. Stocks of building material, hitherto limited in quantity, were now made available for all kinds of construction work.

Several new contracting firms established themselves in town, bringing artisans and craftsmen to assist in the rehabilitation of the devastated northend and other sections of Dartmouth. The population was increasing and rents were rising. New houses were started along the Park lots of Windmill Road, and also farther north. The Ropeworks built six dwellings on Jamieson Street. A whole block went up on Park Avenue east of King Street, and on Victoria Road in the former Barss fields.

Hawthorne Street, Prince Albert Road, Sinclair Street and Erskine Street also saw considerable development. The Cleveland apartments were built on Myrtle Street. Damaged Methodist Church was pulled down, and the cornerstone laid of the present edifice. The crushed-in blacksmith shop on Portland Street where the well-known John D. Murphy had shod thousands of horses over the years, even up to Explosion Day, was finally removed.

On the site, James J. O’Toole erected the fireproof White Lantern building. Diagonally opposite, Samuel Thomson put up the two-storey structure now occupied by Jacobson Brothers. Gerald Foot moved his garage to a small shack near the location of his present showrooms. L. M. Bell and Carl Dares opened a vulcanizing shop on lower Victoria Road. (From such small beginnings, came in later years, the Bell Bus system.)

In March 1919 the Dartmouth Curling Club was organized, and later the Dartmouth Citizens’ Band was formed. A baseball league schedule was carried out that summer, and bleachers erected at the Chebucto Grounds. Later the whole field was fenced.

All this time only two school buildings were in use, but by September the new Park School was ready. Victoria School was again made habitable and two extra classrooms added. All senior grade students were transferred from Greenvale to Park School.

That summer, Dartmouth got its first motor fire-engine, and discarded the “Lady Dufferin”. Two permanent firemen were engaged to be on day and evening duty at the Engine House, where they stood ready to respond to silent alarms with the Motor Chemical Engine. This put an end to the 97-year old practice of ringing the fire-bell, and summoning the entire volunteer department for every type of blaze. Now it was to be rung only for general alarms.

After a five-year lapse, the Natal Day celebration was revived with a full program, interrupted by an evening rain. About the same time, beginnings were made towards the establishment of a Memorial Hospital. At a monster Fair held on the Common Field in September, $4,500 was realized. An open air rink was operated that winter on the swampy area of Starr property at the foot of Pine Street. This was conducted by young men of the town.


halifax explosion map

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

In 1917 the United States entered the Great War, and the Dominion Government passed a Conscription Bill. Christ Church celebrated its 100th anniversary and erected a monument to her war dead on the Church grounds. Canon C.W. Vernon published a Centenary Book of Anglican parishes hereabouts. Alexander McKay late Supervisor of Halifax Schools died at Dartmouth in April.

In June the Auto Bus Company commenced a service to Woodside, Austenville and the North End. Among the promoters were G.G. Thomson, R.K. Elliott and P.H. Creighton. Hitherto everybody had hiked or pedaled, even to Imperoyal. Gerald Foot opened a small garage on Dundas Street, sold Chevrolet cars and operated taxi-cab. Sarsfield division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians was formed in Dartmouth, and a branch of the Canadian Club was organized. Daylight Time was voted down that year.

Owing to lack of funds, the Reading Room which had served the public since 1889, was permanently closed that spring. The MacKeari Shipbuilding Company acquired land at Tufts’ Cove north of the [Mi’kmaq] reservation. A tern schooner 135 feet long was launched at Williams’ shipyard. All classes of steamers and other vessels swung at anchorage in the harbor, some of then hazardously near the path of the Dartmouth ferries. The “Olympic” came and went from Pier Two, carrying troops over and invalided men homeward, with the regularity of a transatlantic ferry. Scores of ships from North American ports, laden with supplies of war and food for Europe, used to assemble in Bedford Basin and then steam overseas in an armed convoy. This war-time arrangement spelled doom for hundreds in the City and in surrounding area because it brought death, devastation and long years of suffering into their lives. As the memories of the great Halifax Explosion are slowly fading, and the survivors gradually disappearing, the tragic story is here related in considerable detail.

On the morning of Thursday, December 6th, 1917, a munitions: ship named the “Mont Blanc” steamed up from the harbor mouth where she had anchored overnight. Her murderous cargo consisted of deadly TNT, tons of picric acid and a deck load of benzine drums. About the same time, the Norwegian steamer “Imo” chartered for Belgian relief purposes, came out of Bedford Basin.

At the Narrows, these two vessels came into collision. The cause was never (fully) known. There was neither fog nor haze. A lemon-colored sun was arching its way up the far southeastern sky and the wind was so weak that it had not yet cleared away the nightly hangover from smoky chimney-tops. It was to be the last day of fine weather for more than a week. And sad to relate, it was to be the last day of all days for some 1600 unsuspecting men women and children hereabouts.

The effect of the collision was to burst the benzol tins which then sprayed other chemicals to set the French ship on fire. Realizing their perilous position the Captain, crew and Pilot hastily abandoned ship, rowed frantically to the Dartmouth shore and scurried far up Jamieson Street. All the while they kept gesticulating and shouting out wild warnings in French, which were not interpreted by the unmoved residents of that section who were watching the spectacle of the burning ship from the street, or through the windows of their comfortable kitchens, little dreaming that the steamer carried deadly munitions.

“Ground Zero”

At 9.05 a.m., a tremendous blast rent the air. Seconds later came a terrific concussion which shook the very foundations within an area of two and one-half square miles. Hundreds met instant death when houses were flattened, or large structures like the Richmond Refinery, the Ropeworks and Gland’s Brewery crashed into a mass of rubble. Showers of metal, water and oil fell like rain all over north Halifax, Tufts’ Cove and north Dartmouth.

To add to the terror, stoves were overturned and fires broke out, burning to death helpless victims pinned under the debris. The shrieks and moans of the blinded and bleeding were pitiful. Most of the “Mont Blanc” was blown to bits. A half-ton anchor on the forward deck was tossed up over the heights of Richmond to land on Edmonds’ grounds at the Northwest Arm, well over two miles away. A large cannon on her £tern deck described an arc through the air to the eastward almost in line with the present Courtney Road, to land on the south-western slope of Pine Hill not far from Big Albro Lake. The distance is almost two miles.

Mi’kmaq at Tuft’s Cove

The [Mi’kmaq] encampment at Tufts’ Cove was completely wiped out and never again restored. The number of persons killed outright on the Dartmouth side of the harbor was estimated at 40, but for the next fortnight there was an average of three or four deaths daily, no doubt due to explosion injuries or to pneumonia following shock and exposure. Many of these casualties resulted from a 10 o’clock alarm of a second explosion at the Wellington Barracks munitions magazine where fires were raging. The warning forced north enders to remove their sick and injured to open spaces like Victoria Park and Notting Park where they remained helpless and shivering. Downtown people fled to the Common Field and to Silver’s Hill.

In the remaining parts of Dartmouth and in the suburbs, structures of every description suffered in proportion to their proximity to the devastated north-end. The Rolling Mills, near the lower Canal, went down like a house of cards. Chunks of glass went whizzing from store windows, or smaller particles swept like horizontal hail through shops, offices and homes, so that hardly one in ten escaped being riddled In some part of the body. Nearly a score of persons lost their eyes. Some lost both.

Every possible vehicle was requisitioned to convey the victims to temporary hospitals set up at Greenvale School, at the Dr. Parker house at “Beechwood”, the Scarfe house at “Edgemere”, at Imperoyal and at the N. S. Hospital. The Imperoyal authorities also turned over several shacks which provide shelter for over 200 homeless. It was estimated that about 162 houses had been rendered uninhabitable in Dartmouth.

In order to give young people and newcomers an idea of the intensity of this disaster, we append a few excerpts from an account of the explosion written afterward for the Windsor Tribune by Mrs. A.C. Pettipas, whose residence stood (and still stands) at the southeast corner of Windmill Road and Dawson Street:

About 8.35 a.m., I had occasion to go into the bedroom which overlooked the harbor and noticed that something strange was happening. Two large steamers were almost together. One had swung round at right angles to the other and was drifting stern first into Pier 8 at Richmond. Tiny flames were leaping up from her stern section. At intervals of about three seconds occurred nine minor explosions, each successive one becoming more threatening. Then there was an alarming explosion. A great ball of black smoke rose some 500 feet, and out of this came lurid cardinal flames.

I raised the window to call to two women who were talking excitedly on the street corner. This act probably saved my life and certainly my eyes. As I leaned out to call, a blinding sheet of fire shot about a mile into the air and covered the whole sky. Then a violent concussion rent the air and threw me with a terrific force across the room. I struck the wall, and fell, coming into contact with the foot of the bed as I did so. There I lay, half under the bed, while the floor sagged down in the shape of a hammock. The chimneys crashed through the roof completely wrecking the bathroom. The house swayed and rocked. Doors and window sashes were ripped asunder. Splinters of glass shot through the room and buried themselves an inch deep in the plaster which by now was falling on me in whitened masses…

One could count fully 40 seconds while the deafening and fiendish noises filled the air. I was perfectly conscious and fully realized what had happened. I was certain that nothing could be left of the ship after such an explosion. I thought of my husband who was in Halifax, and of my mother who lived farther north on Hester Street. Then came a calm. I could not realize that I had been spared. I was deaf, there was a great roaring sensation in my head, and I felt stunned. Staggering to my feet, I found that the hall stove had been tipped back against the wall with the fire still burning brightly. It was badly battered with one leg smashed, but I propped it up with a brick and ran out to the kitchen. It was a shambles, but fortunately the kitchen fire had gone out.

I snatched my raincoat and hat and was on the street within a few minutes. Water was dripping from the teetering roofs of houses as if there had been a deluge of rain, although it was a perfectly fine day. (I was told later that a tidal wave had swept to Windmill Road. Some who were eye-witnesses along the waterfront, say that they saw the bottom of the harbor but I cannot vouch for the truth of this statement.) My feelings on reaching the street baffle all description. Across from our house lay a heap of ruins which but a few minutes before had been the new Emmanuel Church. I tried to run, thinking that my mother would be alone and if not killed, at least severely injured.

(See more photos, primarily from the Windmill Road section here)

Along Windmill Road, every house was in a pitiable state of destruction, and at every doorway or window appeared faces of dazed and bleeding victims. I had not gone far north, when a heavy shower of black hail fell, great lumps of ice, coated in black soot. Smoke clouded the air like an overhanging pall making it almost as dark as night. Lumps of twisted metal, probably from the “Mont Blanc”, were falling all round, making it dangerous to be in the open.

Emmanuel Church

A woman in the street thrust a baby into my arms. The child was covered with blood and may have been dead. She begged me in God’s name to hurry it to a doctor. Just then a team came along and I got the driver to take the child downtown for medical assistance. As I passed Crathorne’s demolished mill, I saw more evidence of the great extent of the disaster. Women and children covered with blood and soot, unrecognizable even to their own families, were rushing hither and thither in a panic while their homes nearby were a mass of flames.

Reaching Hester Street, I learned from my little brother who had survived the Victoria School crash on Wyse Road, that my mother had gone to Halifax early that morning. Her house was almost a total ruin but strangely enough the kitchen stove was on all-fours and the fire was still smoldering. Stepping outside the door, I encountered a four-year old child who was barefooted and in its nightdress covered with blood and soot. His mother had been killed. With the child was a deformed boy who lived in the same house with his cousin. The latter had also been killed. The deformed boy had a gaping hole in his neck from which blood flowed freely. Mothers unironed clothes were still on the kitchen table, and with strips of these I hurriedly bound up the wounds of the two children.

Then a neighbor woman appeared with her daughter whose arms had been cut by flying glass. The mother had been ill in bed, and saved herself by covering up with bedclothes. The mother was dazed and unable to think, but I promised to take her daughter with the others to my home on Dawson Street until medical assistance arrived. I hardly know how I managed my way back, with the child in my arms and the boy and girl following behind. Heaps of rubble and glass strewed the streets, and houses were everywhere on fire. Dead and wounded lay on the sidewalks and sometimes in the middle of the street where they had fallen from loss of blood. Firemen were running from one fire to another. I struggled on, occasionally resting on a doorstep or a piece of fallen timber. Here and there we passed rescue crews from HMCS “Niobe” who were carrying dead and wounded to emergency shelters in the south end of Dartmouth and suburbs.

Tufts Cove School

Here is a mild sample of what structures looked like all over the north end after the 1917 Explosion. Some houses were completely flattened or had the roofs and sides blown out. Then they caught fire. This was Tufts’ Cove School at the Town limits on Windmill Road. As classes did not commence until 9.30 a.m., in winter, pupils were not in the building at the time. (The writer continues with an account of getting her patients comfortably settled, and then the warning of a second explosion at the Halifax magazine. This fresh panic sent nearly everybody fleeing to Victoria Park or to open spaces on the Common, but it did not move Mrs. Pettipas. She then describes the sight of houses afire on the Richmond slopes, and the safe arrival of her mother and husband from Halifax. The latter was cut in a number of places, but “mother didn’t have a scratch”.)

Among the eye-casualties on Explosion Day, the saddest case was at Tufts’ Cove where Mrs. William Dumaresq and her little daughter Vera, were both totally blinded by flying glass when their house at the foot of Indian Road was flattened, killing two other children. The husband was among those killed at the nearby Brewery. At Tufts’ Cove also, a little boy named Fraser lost an eye. Near the Basin shore at Burnside, Miss Mae Barry, daughter of Andrew Barry, lost the sight of an eye but saved the organ. At the Consumers’ Cordage Co., Manager Leo Graham and George (Sandy) Ferguson each lost an eye. At 31 Pelzant Street, Mrs. Owen Sawler lost an eye. (Almost 40 years afterwards, Mrs. Sawler told me that powdered glass was still working out through her forehead.)

In the downtown area, Miss Flora Heffeman, stenographer at Simmonds’ Hardware, lost an eye from a shattered electric-light-shade. Clifford Prescott, in the same office, lost his eye when windows blew to pieces. Flying glass on the 9 o’clock ferryboat from Dartmouth caused an eye-loss for Miss Flora Murphy of Preston Road. At 17 Dahlia Street, Mrs. Douglas Mills lost an eye when suddenly showered with glass and debris while at work in her kitchen. A boy named Russell Urquhart lost his right eye from bookcase glass at Hawthorne School. In her home at the corner of Portland and James Streets, Mrs. Charles A. MacLean lost the vision in one eye, but saved the organ. At 298 Portland Street, Mrs. Walter C. Bishop was pinned by the metal end of a diving window-blind-roller which necessitated removal of the eye. And so far as known, Miss Irene Wentzell was injured in almost the same manner in her home at 3 Albert Street. At any rate the eye had to be removed. (The above list is made from recollection and from inquiry, but there must be many names missing, especially in the north areas.)

Turtle Grove Breweries, (Oland)

These afflicted people walked, ran or were transported to Queen Street where were located our five town doctors. Dr. Burris was at 32, and Dr. Payzant at No. 31. Already the sidewalks were encumbered with the maimed and bleeding as more and more victims arrived. Hatless women from neighboring homes were working hurriedly with bandages, Dr, Dickson, at the northwest corner of King and Queen, was operating on a table outside his door, because there was then a warning not to remain inside of buildings.

In Dr. Gandier’s residence at 60 Queen Street, and in Dr. Smith’s at the southwest corner of Queen and Dundas, patients were the office and on the floors of the halls, dining room, living room and kitchen. Russell Urquhart, who was led by his brother from Hawthorne School, afterwards related that when his turn came, he was placed on a fur coat in that section of the street, where Dr. Smith put 22 stitches in his mangled face around the injured eye as fast as the boy’s mother could thread the needles.

Hawthorne Street must have been in the line of bedrock that conveyed the concussion, for there were a series of casualties along that thoroughfare. There was one fatality. At 82 Hawthorne Street Mrs. James Cooper suffered such frightful jugular injuries from jagged glass that she had just strength enough to run screaming in the street where she bled to death before the flow could be stopped. In the very next house, Mrs. Edward Conrod lost an eye when window glass smashed into her kitchen at 80 Hawthorne Street. At No. 13 Hawthorne, Mrs. Ellsworth Smith lost the sight of an eye, but not the organ. Another eye casualty was Gladys, three-month-old child of Mr. and Mrs. John Riel 44 Dawson St. This girl had poor health and died at 17 years.

Of all the narrow escapes from death on that dreadful morning, the most miraculous case is that of George Holmes of Tufts’ Cove who still lives to tell the tale. Mr. Holmes was operating the north ferry motor-boat service at the time, and noticing the men rowing from the “Mont Blanc” in a hurry, he headed for the burning steamer with the intention of taking off anyone who might have been forgotten. According to Mr. Holmes, the French ship carried no red flag. The last thing he remembered was that his little craft was about 50 yards away from its destination.

After that, he was unconscious for 19 days in a temporary hospital at the Halifax Ladies’ College on Harvey Street. On Christmas day he revived. Only recently, George related that he knew exactly what happened him, but from meager particulars gathered from time to time, he learned that he was picked up Hanover Street in Richmond. The only clothing left on his bruised ash-embedded body was a heavy pair of high rubber boots.

Of the many pieces of metal that blew to our side of the harbor, not one seems to have been preserved as a memento. Missiles landed in the most unusual places. One sharp chunk hit the roof and through to the cellar of a house on Water St. It landed within a few feet of a little girl named Lynch lying ill in the upstairs bedroom. To this day, hundreds of people in the City and areas surrounding Dartmouth will tell you of similar incidents and how they just missed death by inches.

Many of those injured in the Explosion complain bitterly of the meager dole awarded them in years by the Relief Commission. It is high time Dartmouth had a say in the vast fund certainly not donated exclusively to Halifax.

Whatever chance our stricken and anguished north end residents had of salvaging essential household goods like bedding and clothing, was utterly ruined by a driving snowstorm which set in on December 7th, wrecking tented shelters and covering their abandoned or flattened premises with undulating masses of snow, so that the very location of former buildings was in some cases completely obliterated. The storm was followed by rain on the 8th, and afterward by a prolonged period of cold weather.

storyofdartmouth-83 halifax explosion

This photo was taken from the Dartmouth Rink tower in 1909. At left is the undeveloped Common on north-east side of Windmill Road. At right is one corner of the unfenced Chebucto Grounds. “A” marks the spot where “Imo” and “Mont Blanc” collided in 1917. “B” shows pier 7 at Richmond towards which the burning munition ship drifted for 20 minutes. “H” is the shore where the Imo was driven. “G” is brick Richmond Sugar Refinery. “I” is Pier 8. To the north of that, a railway bridge curved across to Tuft’s Cove until 1893. “D” is Dawson St., extending down to the trees at “Fairfield” marked “C” where Joseph Howe lived. The chimneyed house at left is Michael Lahey’s at the corner of Windmill Road and Lyle Street. (Photo courtesy of late John S. Misener.)


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

Throughout the winter of 1914-1915, Dartmouth pupils continued on half-time classes until the new Greenvale and Hawthorne Schools were finally opened towards the end of April. Old Hawthorne School, however, still had to be utilized to take care of the overcrowding. Legislation was obtained in 1915 empowering the Park Commission to sell building lots on the Common from the wooden Exhibition Rink to Lyle Street. The name of Quarrell Street was changed to Queen Street, and the Town tax rate was fixed at $1.67. A Town Planning Board was formed. It comprised Mayor Williams, Councilors Lynch and Russell; R. Leo Graham and Dr. W. H. Hattie.

Collections for a machine gun were successful carried out by the Axe and Ladder Company under the leadership Harry Young. Recruiting speeches were made by military and other officials at every opportunity such as theatre audiences and at race gatherings. Numbers of youths donned naval or khaki uniform.

With the concentration of troops and ships at Halifax, more and more newcomers began to locate on our side of the harbor. It was the beginning of the end of old-time Dartmouth, whose ferry-passengers and townsfolk in general were fairly fixed in their number and in their habits, and whose business places had not yet seen many striking changes. No longer was the familiar “To Let” sign visible in vacant houses. Rents took a rise. Vacant spots of scrag land overgrown with burdock and buzzy bushes, which had long gone begging for buyers, now began to be acquired by speculators and new organizations such as the Dartmouth Development Co.

C. G. Walker’s new hardware store at his grandfather’s o. location on Portland Street sold “Model T” Fords on instalment Automobiles began to line up at the cab-stand to compete with horse-drawn vehicles, and to splash pedestrians on our muddy streets which were still macadamized, although the downtown permanent sidewalk program had gone steadily forward every summer. Some stranger with a Southern accent asked for a “cawh” ticket at the ferry, and was handed out a 10-cent one by the naïve young lad at the wicket, long accustomed to similar purchases from herders of cows and oxen.

Symonds’ old Iron Foundry was torn down that year. The Winston Steel plant was erected near Grove Street. The new Post Office was nearing completion. The brick Coombs residence was built on Crichton Avenue. More dwellings went up on Bligh Street. Walter C. Bishop erected the first house on Bell’s Hill opposite Lawlor farm. Ex-Councilor Peter McKenna retired after 35 years in the undertaking business. Cecil E. Zink built a new Funeral Parlor on Portland Street. The Board of Trade report listed the number of new houses at 35. (Peter McKenna was also a prominent Contractor.)

At 201 Windmill Road, died Mrs. Joseph Deyoung at the great age of 102. This remarkable lady’s patriotic activity of knitting socks for soldiers, brought her a personal acknowledgment from King George V. Peter Day, the north-end oarsman died at 92.

Other life-long residents to pass away, were Harry Ede Austen, Lewis Payzant, Mrs. George, Mrs. J. D. Murphy, Mrs. Paul Farrell and ex-Mayor James Simmons who had come to Dartmouth in 1854. Mrs. Dr. Parker 81, died at “Beechwood”. In the Morris house at Lake Loon died Gore Montagu after whose family the mining village is named, but misspelled.

Peter Beals died at Preston, aged 82. Margaret Downey (Mrs. James Kennedy) former school teacher, died at Revelstoke, B.C. Her sister Frances died at Beverley, Mass., and was buried in Dartmouth. Both were daughters of Maurice Downey and grandchildren of Joseph Moore of the Canal. In November, school pupils were escorted to Halifax to view the remains of Sir Charles Tupper, father of the Nova Scotia Free School Act.

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