The story of Christ Church, Dartmouth
“When Halifax was first settled, this side of the harbor was the home and hunting ground of the [Mi’kmaq people].
Soon after the settlement of Halifax, Major Gillman built a saw mill in Dartmouth Cove on the stream flowing from the Dartmouth lakes.
On September 30th 1749, the [Indigenous people] attacked and killed four and captured one out of six unarmed men who were cutting wood near Gillman’s mill.
In August 1750, the Alderney, of 504 tons, arrived at Halifax with 353 immigrants, a town was laid out on the eastern side of the harbor in the autumn, given the name of Dartmouth, and granted as the home of these new settlers.
A guard house and military fort was established at what is still known as Blockhouse hill.
In 1751 the [Indigenous people] made a night attack on Dartmouth, surprising the inhabitants, scalping a number of the settlers and carrying off others as prisoners.
In July 1751, some German emigrants were employed in picketing the back of the town as a protection against the [Indigenous people].
In 1752, the first ferry was established, John Connor, of Dartmouth, being given the exclusive right for three years of carrying passengers between the two towns.
Fort Clarence was built in 1754.
In 1758 the first Charles Morris, the Surveyor General, made a return to Governor Lawrence giving a list of the lots in the town of Dartmouth.
In 1762 the same Charles Morris wrote: “The Town of Dartmouth, situate on the opposite side of the harbour, has at present two families residing there, who subsist by cutting wood.”
In 1785 three brigantines and one schooner with their crews and everything necessary for the whale fishery arrived, and twenty families from Nantucket were, on the invitation of Governor Parr, settled in Dartmouth. These whalers from Nantucket were Quakers in religion. Their fishing was principally in the Gulf of St. Lawrence which then abounded with black whales.
In 1788 a common of 150 acres was granted Thomas Cochran, Timothy Folger and Samuel Starbuck in trust for the town of Dartmouth. When these good Quakers left, Michael Wallace, Lawrence Hartshorne, Jonathon Tremaine, all subsequently members of Christ Church, were made trustees in 1798. Acts relating to this common were passed in 1841, 1868 and 1872, and the present Dartmouth Park Commission was appointed in 1888.
In 1792 most of the Quakers left Dartmouth. One at least, Seth Coleman, ancestor of the Colemans of today, remained.
In 1814 Murdoch relates that “Sir John Wentworth induced Mr. Seth Coleman to vaccinate the poor persons in Dartmouth, and throughout the township of Preston adjoining. He treated over 400 cases with great success.”
In 1791 the idea of building a canal between the Shubenacadie river and Dartmouth by utilizing the lakes, a plan which originated with Sir John Wentworth, was brought before the legislature. The Shubenacadie Canal company was incorporated in 1826.
In 1853 the inland Navigation company took over the property and in 1861 a steam vessel of 60 tons, the Avery, went by way of the canal to Maitland and returned to Halifax.
In 1862 the whole property and works were sold by the sheriff to a company which was styled “The Lake & River Navigation Company,” which worked the canal for a little time at a small profit. Thousands of pounds were spent on the enterprise.
It is estimated that altogether $359,951.98 was spent on this canal. The stone locks and parts of the canal are all that remain today.
In 1797 “Skipper” John Skerry began running a public ferry between Halifax and Dartmouth.
The team boat Sherbrooke, described in chapter III, made her first trip across the harbor on November 8th, 1816.
In 1828 a steam ferry boat of 30 tons, the Sir Charles Ogle, was built at the shipyard of Alexander Lyle. In 1832 a second steamer, the Boxer, was built; and in 1844 a third, the Micmac.
In 1869 the Boxer was sold and the old Checbucto also built there, put in her place.
Edward H. Lowe, a leading member of Christ Church, was for many years secretary and manager of the Dartmouth Steamboat Company. At his death he was succeeded by another good Churchman, Captain George Mackenzie, whose wife was a daughter of Rev. James Stewart.
In 1888 the Dartmouth was built.
In 1890 the Halifax and Dartmouth Steam Ferry Company withdrew the commutation rates, and the indignant citizens purchased the Arcadia which carried foot passengers across for a cent, but at a loss.
The present Ferry Commission was appointed on April 17th 1890. It purchased the Arcadia from the citizens committee, and also the Annex 2 of the Brooklyn Annex Line, which was renamed the Halifax. The Steam Ferry Company finally sold out to the Commission, thus terminating an exciting contest between town and company.
In 1809 Dartmouth contained 19 houses, a tannery, a bakery and a grist-mill.
Many French prisoners of war were brought here off the prizes brought to the port of Halifax. Some were confined in a building near the cove, which now forms part of one of the Mott factories.
In early days Lawrence Hartshorne, Johnathon Tremain and William Wilson all Churchmen, carried on grist-mills at Dartmouth Cove. At a ball given by Governor Wentworth on December 20th, 1792, one of the ornaments on the supper table was a reproduction of Messrs. Hartshorne and Tremain’s new flour mill.
Lyle & Chapel opened a shipyard about 1823.
The first vessel built in Dartmouth was called the “Maid of the Mill”, and was used in carrying flour from the mill then in full operation.
In 1845 a Mechanics Institute, the first of the kind in Nova Scotia, was formed in Dartmouth.
In 1860 the Dartmouth rifles were organized with David Falconer as captain, and J.W. Johnstone (afterwards Judge) and Joseph Austen as lieutenants.
A month later the Dartmouth Engineers with Richard Hartshorne as captain and Thomas A. Hyde and Thomas Synott lieutenants were found.
A fire engine company was formed in 1822, a Axe and Ladder Company in 1865, and a Union Protection Company in 1876.
Dartmouth was incorporated by an act of the Provincial Assembly in 1873 with a warden and six councillors. The first warden was W.S. Symonds, the first councillors, Ward 1 J.W. Johnstone, Joseph W. Allen; Ward 2, John Forbes, William F. Murray; Ward 3, Thomas A. Hyde, Francis Mumford.
In 1886 the railway station was built.
In 1891 a public reading room, believed “to be the only free reading room in the province” at the time, was established near the ferry docks.
Until 1890 most of the water was obtained from public wells and pumps.
In 1891 a Water Commission was formed. E.E. Dodwell, C.E. was appointed engineer, and on November 2nd 1892, our splendid water supply was turned on for the first time.
On July 13th 1892, the Dartmouth Electric Light and Power Company began its service.
The old brick post office near the ferry was erected in 1891, the present fine building quite recently.
Woodside once had a brickyard and lime kilns, first owned by the late Samuel Prescott. They then passed by purchase to Henry Yeomans Mott, father of John Prescott Mott and Thomas Mott.
Mount Hope, the Hospital for the insane, was erected between 1856 and 1858, the first physician being in charge being Dr. James R. DeWolfe.
Mount Amelia was built by the late Judge James William Johnstone.
In 1856 George Gordon Dustan Esq., purchased “Woodside.” He was much interested in the refining of sugar, and the Halifax Sugar Refinery company was organized with head offices in England, and Mr. Dustan was one of the directions. The first refinery was begun in 1883, and sugar produced in 1884. In 1893 the refinery was transferred to the Acadia Sugar Refinery Company, then just founded.
The works of the Starr Manufacturing Company were commenced by John Starr in 1864, associated with John Forbes. At first they made iron nails as their staple products. Mr. Forbes invented a new skate, the Acme, which gained a world-wide reputation, and in 1868 a joint company was formed.
In 1868 the firm of Stairs, Son & Morrow decided to commence the manufacture of rope, selected Dartmouth for the site of the industry, erected the necessary buildings and apparatus in the north end of the town, and began the manufacture of cordage in 1869.
In 1836 the ice business was commenced. William Foster erecting an ice house near the Canal Bridge on Portland Street. The ice was taken in a wheel-barrow to Mr. Foster’s shop in Bedford Row, Halifax, and sold for a penny a pound.
In 1843 Adam Laidlaw, well known as driver of the stage coach between Windsor and Halifax, commenced cutting and storing the ice on a large scale, making this his only business.
About 1860 the Chebucto Marine Railway Company was found by Albert Pilsbury, American Consul at Halifax, who then resided at “Woodside,” four large ships being built by H. Crandall, civil engineer.
About 1853 the late John P. Mott commenced his chocolate, spice and soap works.
In 1885 a railway was constructed from Richmond to Woodside Sugar Refinery, with a bridge across the Narrows 650 feet long, which was swept away during a terrific wind and rain storm on Sept. 7th, 1891. A second bridge at the same place was carried away on July 23rd, 1893.
Among the early settlers in Dartmouth was Nathaniel Russell, and American loyalist, who settled near the Cole Harbor Road near Russell Lake. He was the father of Nathaniel Russell, who took so great an interest in the Mechanics Institute, grandfather of Mr. Justice Benjamin Russell, great grandfather of H.A. Russell, one of our progressive citizens of today.
The Rev. J.H.D. Browne, now of Santa Monica, California, and editor of the Los Angeles Churchman, who was with the Late Archdeacon Pentreath, one of the founders of Church Work, was born and spent his boyhood in Dartmouth.
The first regatta ever held on Dartmouth Lake is said to have been that on October 5th, 1846.
Gold was discovered at Wavery in 1861.
Captain Ben Tufts was the first settler at Tuft’s Cove.
In the thirties the industries of Dartmouth included besides the grist mill, of which William Wilson was chief miller, a foundry run by James Gregg on the hill back of the railway station; the manufacture of putty and oils by William Stairs; a tannery kept by Robert Stanford; a tobacco factory; the making of silk hats or “beavers” by Robinson Bros.; a soap chandlery run by Benjamin Elliott opposite Central School, and several ship building plants.
John Gaston, who lived near Maynard’s Lake, drove a horse and milk wagon into Halifax, a two-wheeled conveyance known as “Perpetual Motion”. He is said to have been the first to extend his milk route from this side to Halifax.
As already related the first schools in the town were established by the Church of England, the teachers getting salaries, small it is true, from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Mary Munn (appointed 1821) was the first teacher of the girls at a salary of £5 a year. William Walker (appointed 1824), father of E.M. Walker, and grandfather of H.R. Walker, now superintendent of Christ Church Sunday School, at £15 year of the boys. Mr. Walker held school in a little half stone house on the site of the present Central School. The S.P.G. was specially anxious for the religion instruction of the children, and the following “Prayers for the use of the Charity Schools in America”, issued by the society were doubtless regularly used by these early teachers.”
Vernon, C. W. “The story of Christ Church, Dartmouth” [Halifax, N.S.] : publisher not identified , 1917 https://www.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.80672