Maitland History

The earliest dwellers in Maitland were the Micmac Indians.  Rivers and Bays being their chief highways, they naturally had an encampment at the mouth of the largest river in the peninsula.  The encampment was situated where there are now many lawns and gardens.  To it they gave the name “Twit Noock” {Due-weed-om-nook), meaning the tide runs out fast.  The river they called the “Saa-Gaa-Bun-Akady”, that is, the place where the Saagaabun or Miccuac potato grows.

As France was the first nation to colonize the land, they called it Acadia. The earliest white settlers were French.  They settled down here to a quiet farming life on the fertile lands around, planting fruit trees and building dykes, “Dykes to shut out the turbulent tides”.  Some of these dykes are still to be seen.

Here, these French farmers dwelt in peace and felt secure, as indeed, why shouldn’t they? True!  Acadia in 1713 had been granted to the English but no one thought seriously that the next treaty would give it back to the French again.  The English had never seemed to value it when they had had it at other times, so, of course, they would not now.

Their spiritual life was guided by the French Missionary J. L. leLoutre. LeLoutre was sent to Canada in 1737 and three years later was missionary to the Micmacs.  His mission center was what is presently known as Shubenacadie

Some years later Halifax was founded and leLoutre’s mission was a conquest of the English.  It was a collection place for some of their scalps and to the early dwellers of Halifax, a dreaded spot.  For 15-years, leLoutre spent part of each year at his Shubenacadie headquarters.  On him, more than to any other person or persons, is the blame that the descendents of those early French settlers do not today occupy the land here.  He was not worthy the name of Missionary.  He encouraged the Micmacs against the English. Towards the Acadians he was a tyrant, not allowing them to take the oath of allegiance and forcing them at times to actively oppose the English.  No wonder the English found the Acadians fickle and unreliable.  A French Catholic of that time said of leLoutre, “Nobody was more fit than he to carr discord and desolation into a country”.  Cornwallis offered a hundred pounds for his head.  Such was the first clergyman on the Shubenacadie.

On Tuesday, September 2, 1755, three vessels came up the Bay.  They passed up on the other side.  One stopped right abreast of Masstown.  On the door of the village church, a building 100 ft. by 40, that must have been clearly in sight from here, was posted the notice signed by John Winslow that the men and boys were to meet in the church the next day, Wednesday, September 3, 1755.  Following that came the loading of the ships from the different places.  Those from the immediate surroundings were put on ship­board at Selma.  Some few escaped.

About 250 buildings were destroyed along the Shubenacadie River and the Bay Shore on this side.  The church at Shubenacadie was not destroyed, because the Indians and French rallied to save it, successfully attacking the English and killing or wounding some thirty of them, and drove the rest to their boats.  For a time after the departure of the French, the land was left vacant.

The Grants of Salters, Malachy and Montague, bore the date of 1766. Salter’s Head on land belonging to one of them, is a prominent feature of the Shore.  Col. Small bought the property granted to Malachy Salter, just below Maitland, erecting his house on the side of what was then a forest-covered hill overlooking the Bay, on the spot between those later occupied by the United Church and Parsonage.  Tradition says it was a very grand residence in those days of log houses, it’s fittings and furniture brought from England,  He gave the name of the celebrated home of Malcolm as described in Ossian’s poems, “Selma Hall”.  (Selma Hall was home of Fingal, father of the blind Ossian” , note by Helen Whidden).  Here, the Colonel lived for six years.  In 1792 he went to England leaving a tenant by the name of McCallum at Selma.  Shortly after his going to the old land, he died.  Selma Hall became the prey of flames and McCallum moved to Eastport.

At Noel, after the going of the French, who gave it it’s name, the family of Timothy O’Brien was the first to take possession.  They left the North Ireland in 1769.  They sojourned for a time, however, at Windsor and then at Walton.  Mr. O’Brien had just returned and was on his way there when he was drowned crossing the Tennecape River.  Mr. O’Briens four sons, Robert, Isaac, Andrew and Jacob divided the land amongst themselves.

About the same time came the Densmores, four brothers, James,. Francis, Samuel and William, sons of James, also from North Ireland.  They were followed by the Faulkners and McLellans, North Ireland people and Andrew Main and family of Scotland.

The first settlers in the surroundings of Maitland village after the going away of the French, was John Ranes from Mass, (later called “Rines”, note by Helen Whidden).  His first house was this side of the Foundry Site, built over an old French cellar.  Later, he built another house about opposite the “Spring”.

The first Maitland grant in the middle of the present village, was that of the New Englanders, Wm. Putnam and his step-father, Luke Upham.  The grant dated January 30th, 1771 included land from the Mr. Pressley place to the Salter Grant and was divided between the Putnams, Caleb and William.

The Whiddens came from Truro in 1795 to engage in shipbuilding.  William Frieze of Providence, Rhode Island, was married to Abigail, Mr. David Whidden’s dughter.  James Douglas and other followed later on.  Five Mile River, Gore and Kennetcook were settled in 1784 and 1785 by disbanded soldiers from the American Revolution.

The coining of a new minister is still an event of general interest.  What must have been the feeling upon the arrival of the first minister, Rev. Alexander Dick.  He and his wife, Ann Eadie, sailed for Canada from Scotland in 1802.  His induction took place the 21st of June, 1803.  The place of public worship was a shed used by Mr. David Whidden in connection with his shipbuilding.  Mr. Dick was a popular preacher.  No wonder the Smiths came to Selma, leaving Windsor and Newport as they did in order to be near Mr. Dick.  Col. Smith for such reason, according to his own statement, bought the property belonging to Col. Small.  (Helen Whidden says this is not strictly correct, as the Smiths were Church of England at that time and never Presbyterians).

Before 1803 was gone the old brick-nogged two story Manse stood where it continued to stand for 90 years, on the property that was formerly the Scotney place.  It was for the time, a large and confortable house.  As the years went by, it’s surroundings became more and more beautiful.  Apple trees studded the fields between the Manse and the Shubenacadie Shore.  A beautiful thorn hedge surrounded the well cared for garden.  Rev. Alexander Dick died of Pleurisy on May 20th, 1812.

Mrs. Dick survived her husband about 20 years.  She did weaving and kept a small grocery store for years on the site of the residence of Mr. William Cox.

In 1815 came another minister from Pathstrine, Scotland, Reverend Thomas Stuart Crowe, great grandfather of Mr. James Sterling.  He arrived in that year, 1815, “in potato digging time in the year of the mice”.  Worthy successor of a worthy man, he continued to minister this congregation for 54 years.

During this time the first Sunday School was organized.  It had Mr. Adam Roy Senior, as it’s first and for a time, only teacher.  Soon there were several assistants.  Miss Eliza Frieze was the first lady in East Hants to engage in Sunday School work.

The first Church of England minister lived in Rawdon and once in a while preached in Maitland.  Mr. Taylor held church in the Temperance Hall after it was built and before that in the old Presbyterian Church.  The first resident minister was Rev. John Randall, coming here about 1855.  He was succeeded by Rev. J. A. Richey.  With the coming of the English, the whole surrounding country was called Douglas.  It included from Shubenacadie to Walton and also Kennetcook and it was to the congregation of Douglas that Rev. Alexander Dick was inducted on the 21st day of June 1803.

Maitland then was known as “The Mouth of the River”.  Such it continued to be called until 1838.  All letters were addressed Shubenacadie, “North of the River”.

At that time Judge Fairbanks of Halifax owned all the land from Selma to Big Rock.  In 1838 he gave Maitland it’s present name in honor of Sir Peregrine Maitland, a Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia.  He had formerly been Governor of Upper Canada.  History does not give us any glowing account of his outstanding ability.  He was an amiable man, of refined taste, but utterly wanting in decision of character and administrative capacity.


In 1831 there were eleven houses in the village, four of which were licensed taverns.  Mr. James Whidden then had a fairly large store.  Many came down the river from Colchester and Hants sides as far up as Stewiacke to do their trading here.  In 1832 there was only one mail a month here and it came by Newport and Kennetcook.  The Mail Carrier travelled on horse-back and brought the mail in his pocket.  The first carrier was Mr. Nathan Smith, great grandfather of Miss Mabel Smith.  Mr. Tupper was the next mail carrier coming from Shubenacadie, at first once a week and later three times a week.  There was no post office until 1846, Mr. Adam Roy being the first Postmaster.

The first Doctor was Dr. Henry McDowell.  He was a Scotsman, past middle age, with a fine presence and very fine manners when he chose to use them. We have very little knowledge of his skill as a physician.

The first Bank Manager was Mr. David Frieze, the bank being in Frieze & Roy’s store.  His son, George, succeeded as Manager.

There is outlined the earlier history of Maitland until the shipbuilding era.  Maitland reached the greatness of her shipbuilding days by a gradual growth.  So too the decline was gradual.  Shipyards, one by one, ceased to be used.  Time’s changes came so gradually as not to be noticed.  Chips gradually darken, rot and mix with the earth, grass grows and to-day, not many can trace where the different shipyards were.

As with shipyards, so with houses.  One person would go away, a family follows and then another.  There became more houses than were needed, so some became vacant.  For years, to all appearances, they remain the same, but Father Time was steadily at work.  The time comes when the houses need shingling but it isn’s done, foundations weaken, twenty, thirty, or even more years pass and the rain and snow have completed their task of destruc­tion.

The great ship-building era of Nova Scotia is now only a memory, and very soon will be but a tradition.  Yarmouth, Hantsport, Windsor, Maitland, and other Bay of Fundy ports, swung high on its flood tide of prosperity and romance.

There was work in the village-ship-yards, with the accompanying rush of a great industry, for summer in that high latitude was short, and the Cobequid tide waited not for laggards.  The great wooden ships were out­fitted and ready for sea when launched, and the young men of the village, alert to seize opportunities, sailed away in them to every port of the “Seven Seas”.

Maitland, on Cobequid Bay, one of the tributary arms of the Bay of Fundy, was firmly established as a shipbuilding centre in the sixties.

Bay of Fundy Spruce is tough and enduring, not quite in the Oak class, but in a special one of its own.  From this fine, hard spruce, the ships were constructed, good ships they were, ample carriers, and with fine sailing qualities.  Spruce frame, juniper and iron knees, with a certain amount of hardwood, made a combination that readily classed A-l in Bureau Veritas and English Lloyds.  In one summer nineteen large ships were built in the Maitland District, and that year receipts from Hants County ships amounted to nearly a million dollars.


The men of the community worked in the woods in winter, carefully culling the forest for the finest and best in the way of ship-building timber. Throughout February and March there was a continuous procession of timber laden bob-sleds trailing into the shipyards.  Towards the end of March the yard was “squared away”, timber put into position for the various classes of workmen, and preparations made for laying the keel.  The great timbers were dressed into shape by hand work with broad axe and saw.  The man who bossed the sawpit, was a very important member of the yard outfit.  The first shipyard steam mill in the Maitland district was set up in the yard of A. A. McDougall of Selma in 1871.  It had a powerful whistle that was joy to the children, and we felt quite in touch with the outside world of trains and whistledom when we heard its strident call.

During the winter the new ship’s model (a half-model) and the draftings had been made ready.  Woe betide an inquisitive boy or girl who dared meddle with the sheets of figures and drawings, or laid acquisitive fingers upon the flexible, curved strips of wood, known as molds, the patterns to be used in constructing the ship.


In the fitful April weather, undeterred by slush, and the tenacious Fundy mud, the army of ship-wrights began to arrive.  Many of them were from “Cape Brenton over”, others from the “Gulf Shore” while all the small farmers of the locality increased their living by the skillful use of the pinmall and adze.

About a thousand men worked in the Maitland shipyards in the big summers of that industry.  The usual wage for ordinary workers was a dollar a day and board at the yard cook-house.  Special workmen, dubbers, calkers, fasterners, riggers, joiners and carvers who worked on the cabins and imposing figure-heads, received better pay.  The blacksmith work, or, in local parlance, “ironing the ship”, called for skilled men with sound judgment.  Their glowing forges were a joy to the eyes of childhood and their mysterious galvanizing vats, an offence to the sense of smell. The shipyard day began at seven in the morning and lasted until six, with an hour at noon.


The never-to-be-forgotten sounds of those lovely summer mornings, still ring in my ears.  The sharp “click” of the fastener’s mall as the bolts were secured, the loud and cheery ring of the calker’s mailer, the “thub” “thub” of the dubber’s adze, the muffled blows on treenails, the swishing of broad-axes, the whining saws, the hissing spluttering steambox when the steamed planks were withdrawn, combined in a jubilation of shipyard noises.

In the yard sheds were heaps of rock salt, to be used in the process of “salting the ship”, bundles of oakum for the calkers, coils of wire and manila, to be utilized when the riggers’ stakes were set up.  Contrary to present day practice, Maitland ships were launched fully rigged and sails bent ready for sea.

When the hull was nearing completion, sheers were raised and the masts hoisted into place to an accompaniment of clanking windlass and full-voiced “Chaunties”.

Masts and cross-trees were always well oiled with raw linseed, there was a change in this stage of building from the agreeable balsamic odors of spruce, juniper, fir and pine, to the smells of oil, paint, pitch, tar, and hot grease for the launchways.


Maitland ships could be launched only at new moon or full moon tides, and those raging tides waited for no ship.  The tremendous Fundy tide at Maitland had occasional vagaries for which there was no accounting, Sometimes a launch would have to be postponed because of low tide marks, the following high-tide period would bring dykes bank full, tide marks submerged, and wavelets lapping in under the launch ways.

Launching days were the big events of the summer for “gath youth”. How eagerly we watched to see the launching signals, the Union Jack, the name pennant, and the Red Ensign fluttering from the peaks. There was usually a sale and tea, and always a crowd, for the thrill and excitement of a big-ship launch never palled.  Sleek farm horses drawing express wagons, filled with visitors, and with great bundles of fragrant hay for the horses lashed at the back, ambled in from outlying districts.  Probably the new ship was carrying away in her crew the sons and brothers from those comfortable district homes. There were numbers of pretty girls in the voluminous white dresses and flower-trimmed Leghorn hats of the time, both as onlookers and helpers at the tea.


The man of mark on the launching day was the yard foreman.  His was a great responsibility, for upon his care and honest work depended the safety of many lives as well as the sucessful launching of the ship.

Insurance companies took risks upon ships on the stocks and when afloat, but they were chary of the brief period when the ship, touching neither land nor water, slid along the launchways to the sea.  Maitland ship­builders launched at their own risk, and as a ship represented from forty thousand to over a hundred thousand dollars of invested capital the day was always an anxious one.

The ubiquitous foreman measured the inrushing tide, searched out the on-lookers seated in unsafe places, saw the last man on board, stagings knocked down, and superintended the gangs of men from adjacent yards who came to assist with the launching.


The first special movement was “wedging up” with its sharp, rattling of pin-malls, a merry racket, followed by the splitting of blocks under the keel, then “bilge-shores” carrying the great weight of the ship while on the stocks, were knocked out.  The driving out of bilge-shores was ardu­ous work, dangerous also, if the ship should start suddenly.

Onlookers rose in breathless suspense when the ship began to move, there was always the gamble element as to what might happen, but when the stern rose from the water and the bow sank gracefully, showing that the whole ship was afloat, the pent up feelings of the watchers found vent in tre­mendous cheering.

The great care exercised in launching arrangements made the percentage of accidents at Maitland very small, the few were mostly due to error in judging the tide, or to some idiosyncrasy in the ship itself.

Generally, by watching the mast, the first, fine tremulous movements can be perceived, they increase rapidly as with a loud murmur the ship sweeps into the sea.


A :”FINE LAUNCH” is one of the most inspiring sights called forth by the handiwork of man.  There were a few launches when the ships acted like great frantic animals, starting with a rush and a roar, smashing bilge-shores, tearing down uprights and dragging a mass of debris with them. In such a launch there was a great danger for the men who were working underneath the ship, and since they would have no chance for safety themselves, they simply would lie flat and stay perfectly still while the great ship tore above them.  The “Salmon” launched at South Maitland, went off in this wild way.  There was no time to cast off a stay rope, it caught in crane and uprights, and the great masses of timber came crashing down among the bystanders.  No one was killed, but there were injuries and hair-breadth escapes.


Owing to tide changes, there was an occasional launch at night. Summer moonlight, immense bonfires in the yard, the great ship looming high, masts and rigging silhouetted against the star-spangled background, and workmen with their gleaming torches, made an unforgettable picture. Probably each ship-building community had its own pet superstitions and bad luck signs.  In Maitland there was strong objection to girls being launched on board, “just for the fun of it” and a dislike for naming ships after fish or amphibious animals.  He was a bold man who launched an “Otter” or a “Salmon”.


Looking back and judging by the standards of today, one really recognizes that the Maitland shipbuilding community was in many ways a remarkable one.  The enterprise, business acumen, integrity and morality of its citizens stood high.

They were of that mixed ancestry that has the world habit of doing things and of getting there – descendants of settlers from England, and New England, from Scotland and Ireland.  Village names familiar in those busy days were:  Frieze, Cochran, Roy, Douglas, Putnam, McCallum, Lawrence, Murphy, Eaton, Ross, Sydney Smith, Bowden Smith, Dickie, Lynch, Currie, Hays, MacKenzie, Mackintosh, – this is but a partial list, including not only builders, but those who in a general way, contributed to the business life of the community.  Today, 1979, there are a few of the descendants left in the beautiful country village.  The heritage of restlessness bred in those born beside the fierce, ever-changing tide has borne them afar to new lands, fresh activities, and great adventures.


Many of the shipbuilders provided captains from their family connections. McDougall, Roy, Douglas, Putnam, Graham, Lawrence, Howe, Cox, Whidden, Allan, Caddell, Dart, Nelson, McNutt, Walker, Blois, Forbes, McCullough, MacKenzie, are some names I recall, the majority having two or more cap­tains and one family with a dozen.  The junior officers and crews were native born intrepid sailors, who well understood “the way of a ship” and could blithely figure the exchange value of a dollar in any country under the sun.


The Maitland village shipyards – those of the Roys and others – were situated on the estuary of a tidal creek.  A mile south of Maitland was the Monteith yard on the Shubenacadie River, and across the river in Col­chester County the yards of Messrs. Norris & Sanderson.  Farther up the river at South Maitland, Wm. P. Cameron, William McDougall and his son, Adams, and the Traheys built ships.. Across the Maitland marsh near the Dominion wharf was the shipyard of Archibald McCallum from which many large ships were launched, near it, that of William Dawson Lawrence from which the largest wooden sailing ship ever built, the W. D. Lawrence was launched.  The author of “Wood Ships and Iron Men” in his opening chapter gives a fine pen picture of the monster ship, with all said set flashing by.  Just over the hill were the yards where Sydney Smith built the great “Peerless” and later Bowden Smith launched the “Laura Emily”.  Then came the Putnam yards where one summer in the mid-eighties, three fine vessels stood ready for launching.  The high-road followed the Cobequid Bay to Selma where, from the shipyard of Alexander A. McDougall nine-teen barques were launched, and adjoining were the yards of Pratt & Cox, and that of George Oxley Smith and his son S. McCully Smith.



The great ship was first an idea in the brain of William Lawrence. Of sound Ulster stock, born near the river Bann in County Down, he came to Maitland with his parents as a babe in arms.  There he grew up and learned the ancient craft of the shipwright, and he taught himself to play the violin.  For nearly thirteen hours a day, he swung the broad-axe in Lyle & Campbell’s yard at Dartmouth. He was enrolled in the classes of the newly opened Dalhousie College in 1838.  And he learned drafting in East Boston under Donald MacKay, the Scot from Shelburne, who gave the world the Clipper ship.  Then, having served his apprenticeship and fulfilled his wander years, he came to the beautiful hamlet of Maitland to build vessels on his own account.  He hewed and fiddled his way through life.

He began in a small way.  His total capital for his first venture was no more than thirty pounds.  Tradition says he cut the frames for his first vessel in the woods and carried them out on his shoulder, for he was a tall and powerful man.  This was the Brigantine St. Lawrence.  She was lucky and made money.  Then followed the barque Architect, the Persia, the W. G. Putnam, the Mary, named for Mrs. Lawrence, and then the Pegasus, known of course to sailors as the Pegashious, which was launched in 1867. Captain Jim Ellis from Shubenacadie sailed her; he married the owner’s eldest daughter, who went to sea with him as was the wont of Nova Scotia girls who married captains.  William Lawrence prospered and was respected in his community.  He represented Hants in the House of Assembly and gave his voice and vote against Confederation.


The great idea of William Lawrence was simple enough.  One big vessel with one crew would do the work of two smaller vessesl with two crews, to an immense saving in operation costs.  It is the same idea which went to the building of the Titanic and the other steel leviathans. Lawrence had thirty-four years of experience in his craft, and from that experience he conceived his grandiose plan.  He did not proceed by rule of thumb.  First, he drafted his dream-ship, hull plan, spar plan, profile, section, streamlines, everything to accurate scale.  He then, made his half model, which is preserved in the provincial museum.  Then, the layers of wood were taken apart for the actual moulding, and the huge frames, or ribs, were drafted in strict accordance with the little model.  Then, like the true artist, he turned his dream into concrete reality.


In September, 1872, a little to the south of Maitland, in front of his own house, William Lawrence laid the keel of the giant ship to be.  No such keel had ever been laid in Nova Scotia; it extended two hundred and forty-four feet, nine inches, on the grass.  John M. Blaikie showed me where he and his partners built their first vessel in Great Village. She measured a hundred tons.  “And we thought her a whale of a ship”. But this Maitland venture was designed to be bigger than twenty Blaikie’s “whales”.  It was a daring conception, but all the winter of ’72/’73, little work was done upon it.

In April 1873, Lawrence’s plans were ripe, and work began in earnest. He engaged a force of seventy-five men.  His brother Lockhard was the master-builder, and John Lawrence, his son, moulded the timber.  He himself was in the yard from morning till night, and saw to every detail. First and last, this vessel was a family affair.  The keel is the spine of the ship, and it behooves it to be strong.  This was of spruce, seven­teen by thirty-one inches square.  Keel and kelson together were eight feet through, bolted with 1 1/2 and 1 3/8 inch iron, hammered out in Isaac Douglass’s smithy.  The stem was forty-seven feet long.  Towering in the air, it showed plainly how huge the new ship was to be.  The frames were set in their places; from the keel to the rail they measured fifty-five feet, the breadth of beam was forty-eight feet.  Never was seen so huge a skeleton of a ship in a Maritime shipyard.

Lawrence built for strength as well as beauty.  No treenails for him.  All was metal fastened.  Two hundred of tons of bolts were put into her.  There were three decks, each nine feet in height, and the beams of the two lower decks were reinforced by one hundred and sixty iron knees, some of them weighing eighteen hundred pounds apiece.  In all they weighed sixty-two tons.  There were double waterways around each deck, the inside one being dovetailed into the beams, and fastened with 1 1/4 and 1 3/8 metal.  In reviewing her career, Lawrence noted with pride that she never damaged her cargo.  So the vessel grew deck by deck and plank by plank, “Lock” Lawrence working at the outside, and John, within.  The long bowsprit was set in place, projecting above the roof of the Lawrence Mansion.  It was of yellow Southern pine, as were the three lower masts.  Now MacDonald’s riggers came on and set up the shrouds, and chains of thirty-three tons weight, and stays, like the timbers, all of unusual strength.  The topmasts grew on the lower masts, fore, main and mizzen; and then the top-gallant masts on the topmasts.  Then the yards were swung across, with their trusses, halliards and braces.


Above the royal yards were swayed up the three skysail yards, which marked the final development of the full-rigged ship in Nova Scotia.  The mainyard was ninety feet long; the truss that held it weighed five hundred pounds. From kelson to trunk, the main-mast measured two hundred feet, eight inches. The lower shrouds and topmast backstays were of 5 1/2 inch iron wire, made to order in England.  Her rigging has been discribed as “massive”; and the official figures support the term.  Finally, the sails were bent on the yards, 8,000 yards of them.  For eighteen months, the yard rang with the cheerful clamour of broad-axe and saw, ten hours a day, but not more, for Lawrence was the first to break the universal custom of working his men from daylight to dark.

In a hut by himself, J. S. Shaw, carver and gilder, worked at a gigantic figure head. It represented a forward-looking, square headed, bearded man, attired in a flowing cloak. He bore a scroll with the piously agressive motto, “God defend the Right”. It may seem strange, but Lawrence had to stand on the defensive all the time his ship was building. Few believed that he would succeed, fault-finders were many.

A busy shipyard is a spectacle to draw and hold all eyes, the activities are so many and so diverse.  Visitors came to see the new venture from idle curiosity; and they were, for the most part, hostile critics.  Let her builder and maker testify as to what happened, in his own vigorous English.  “The ship W. D. Lawrence, from the time her keel was laid up to the time she was sold, seemed to be an eyesore to a certain class of men, who could see nothing about the ship that was right or speak favourable word about her.  During the time I was building her I had visitors from the United States, Saint John, all parts of Nova Scotia, England and even from the Continent, who with very few exceptions were fault-finders.  One would say, “Don’t you think, Mr. Lawrence, she is too large”? Another would say, “Don’t you think it would have been better to have her in two ships”?  Again another would say, “I’m afraid you will not be able to make her strong enough out of pine and spruce; I would not trust myself in her at sea in a heavy gale”.  Another would say, “Don’t you think, old man, she will be unwieldy and labour hard at sea”? And so on.  I generally passed it all off in good humor…  But on one occasion I had to act differently.  A certain man came into my shipyard and before bidding good-day began to find fault with the ship.  He said everything about the ship was wrong.  It would be impossible to make her seaworthy.  She would ruin me and everyone else who had anything to do with her.  I tried to reason with him but to no purpose.  At last I said to him, “Friend, do you know the way you came into this yard’1?  “Then, sir, please take your back tracks, and if you need any assistance it is handy”.  He took his departure and never came into the yard again”.

Lawrence worked on, and at last the end was in sight.

– 39 –


Launchings marked gala days in old Nova Scotia.  From far and near people flocked to see the impressive sight.  The thing of wood, built on land, would take the water in a splendid dramatic rush.  It was a critical moment, big with fate; for the launch might fail.  The vessel might not leave the ways; she might even capsize; or stick ingloriously in the mud.  Hence the announcement the Mr. Lawrence’s “notorious and much abused ship” was to be launched on Tuesday, October 27, drew four thousand persons to Maitland. From Windsor, from Parrsboro1, from Londonderry, from Truro, from both banks of the Shubenacadie they came, and a goodly number from the Captial itself. Mr. John Stairs and Mr. Adam Burns made a special trip from Halifax, to see the sight.  Early on the Monday morning every boarding-house in the village was filled, and crowds poured in on Tuesday morning.

Two of the visitors were not well received.  They were slick, well-dressed, high-hatted gentlemen who came over by the ferry from Truro, with a barrel of whiskey for the benefit of the thirsty.  But Lawrence heard of the enterprising strangers, and had no desire to see the holiday disgraced by drunken riots.  He was a magistrate, as was Alfred Putnam, his friend; and both were tall and formidable men.  By virtue of their office, they appre­hended the two gentlement from Truro, marched them through the village to the ferry and shipped them back whence they came.  The little procession of the crest-fallen pair, wheeling their stock-in-trade on a barrow through the street, the two stalwart magistrates marching behind the bearded Presby­terian Minister showing the way, was long remembered in Maitland.

All Maitland kept that Tuesday as a holiday, and did no work.  Round the shij and into the ship pressed the curious crowds, peering examining her all over from the patent rudder which weighed seven tons, to the patent double action metal pumps and the patent windlass which was to work by steam.  They insp­ected the clean, big deck-house, fifty feet by twenty-six, with accommo­dation for twenty-four seamen, sail-room, carpenter’s shop, gaily, boat­swain’s store-room, engine-room, and rooms for the boatswain, carpenter and boys.  Even more admirable were the cabins for the after-guard, fifty feet long by thirty broad, more roomy than many a Maitland dwelling.  There she stood, as strong as wood and iron could make her.  The carpenters’ measure­ments made her 2858 1/2 tons; her net tonnage was 2459; and she was rated A-l at Lloyd’s for seven years.  Would she ever leave the ways? Would the prophets of evil see their predictions fulfilled?


At one o’clock the workmen began to wedge up the ship for launching and to split the keel-blocks.  This last was no easy task, for the vessel, with 400 tons of stone ballast in the hold to steady her, weighed 3800 tons, and the great weight split the supporting keel-blocks.  For nearly an hour the carpenters laboured, and, about ten minutes before two, all but the forward block had been worked out.  Then the ship began to move, slowly at first as the clutch of gravitation laid hold of her; soon her speed increased and, amidst the crash of falling shores and the cheers of four thousand throats, she glided majestically into the orange coloured Fundy tide.  “She went of like a-rowboat”, said an eye-witness.  It was William Lawrence’s greatest hour.  After long months of labour and anxiety, agravated by hostile criticism, he stood justified by the work of his hands and received the congratulations of his friends-.


Out on the Bay, proud and tall, rode the Great Ship.  Two tugs were in readi ness.  They made fast their hawsers, the crew of Maitland boys on board loosed the lower topsails, and away she went with a fair wind and tide for Saint John.  The crowds gazed and approved.  In spite of her immense size, she was a thing of beauty, and made a picture on the waters as she passed from sight.  Suddenly there fell a hush.  On shore there was a great void, filled a few moments before by her rich and mighty symmetry.  Only the black greased parallel timbers, a confusion of planks and thick carpet of chips betokened her presence.  And the place that had known her once knew her again no more for ever.



Building a ship without a rival on the five oceans was not the only great idea cherished in the brain of William Lawrence.  “For years past’!, he writes, “I had a desire to make a voyage around the world’!.  It was this same romantic desire which sent Drake from Plymouth in the Pelican.  It was a royal thought.  Voyages hither and yon, however long and adventurous, do not appeal to the imagination like an entire circumnavigation.  Putting a girdle around the globe, tracing a single furrow with a single keel through all the Seven Seas and home again, is an exploit in the realm of romance. William Lawrence was able to convert his thought into action. “I now set about to make arrangements for the voyage, setting up the ship’s accounts and paying off the carpenters1‘.

Having done so, he left Maitland on November 15th for Saint John, taking with him his fiddle and his Bible.  His daughter, Mrs. Ellis, and three grandchildren were also on the passenger list.  Then Lawrence loaded a thousand standard of deals, filling her threefold hold and piling up her deck.  Then, on December 4th, with a crew of runners and Captain Ellis in command, the great ship towed down past Partridge Island.  Instead of the usual course by Brier Island and Digby Neck, Captain Ellis chose to take her between Grant Manan and the mainland, with a leading breeze.  It was no easy navigation, but the great ship proved her capacity at once.  Captair Ellis worked her “as easily as a pilot boat and handled her like a yacht”, records the delighted owner.  No king could have been prouder on his throne than William Lawrence on the deck of the ship he built, as with all her span-new canvan set, and every sheet taut, she walked down the Bay to the open Atlantic.  Twenty-three days later she was in Liverpool, filling up the Mersey.

After discharging her cargo of deals the Lawrence went into dry dock to be coppered, and ship a donkey-engine for hoisting the heavy yards.  Then she signed on a crew of Negroes, loaded coals at Birkenhead, and set sail for Aden on April 10th.  On June 7th, at five in the morning, she had an accident.  Carrying all sail proudly, even her three skysails, and plowing along at fourteen knots, with the wind on the starboard quarter, she met with a sudden gust which carried away her mizzen top-gallant mast.  Over th< side it went taking with it the main top-gallant mast, with the main top­mast head at the hounds.  The crew made repairs, of course, as the Lawrence scudded before a strong gale, and covered some three hundred miles in the next twenty-four hours, but her glory was diminished.  Crippled by the loss of her spars, she did not make Aden until August 1st.


Here the owner left her to discharge her coal, and took a steamer to Bombay in order to purchase the necessary spars.  Lawrence stayed a week in Bombay, seeing all that was to be seen, including the modestly managed mixed bathing of the natives.  He brought his spars back in the S.S. Pekin. Captain Ellis met the steamer with part of the crew, and towed the timbers to the ship, where they were soon fitted.

“The carpenter and sailors went to work in good earnest and in a few days all was aloft, and the ship ready for sea”.

On September 13th, the Lawrence left Aden for Callao.  In “a fair and pleasant passage of eighty days”, the great ship traversed the Indian Ocean, passed through Timor and Torres Straits, skirted Australia and crossed the breadth of the South Pacific.  On December 3rd, she came to anchor in the port of Callao, all well on board, exactly a year since she towed out of Saint John.  Here as always Lawrence used his eyes and saw what was to be seen, the hoods and pretty feet of the cigar-smoking Peruvian belles, and a bull-fight in which seven bulls were slain.  On January 20th, 1876, the Lawrence sailed for Pabellon de Pica, a small guano-loading port at the south of Peru, where a strange fortune awaited her.

Two weeks before the great ship slid off the ways at Maitland, William Lawrence obtained a charter to carry cargo of guano from Peru to Harve. For ages, myriads, of sea birds inhabited rainless portions of South America and their droppings formed great dust deposits of a complete and valuable fertilizer.  Since 1840, this precious compost had been carried to Europe in shiploads.  By 1876 a new fertilizer .was discovered, – nitrate of soda. Consequently the price of guano was falling, and the French firm did not want to ship it at a loss.  A dozen other vessels were anchored off Pabellon de Pica, also waiting for cargo.

“It is a wild, lonesome-looking place, with lofty cliffs and mountains on one side and the great Pacific Ocean on the other.  The landing of boats is nearly always attended with danger, on account of the dreadful surf”, Lawrence notes in his narrative.


Ship after ship got tired of being put off, and went elsewhere for cargo, but Lawrence doggedly held on.  Ulster blood is obstinate blood.  A charter is a charter; and there is a penalty for keeping a vessel waiting for her load, which is called demurrage.  Lawrence waited eleven months, nearly all the year 1876.  At last, Captain James Favel Scott of the Antoinette (1100 tons) got his load, proving that the French company had the guano to sell, and the Lawrence’s turn came.


This long time of waiting was not spent unimproved by such a born traveller as William Lawrence.  After two idle months on board he took passage in a steamer to Mollendo, 300 miles to the northward.  Here he stayed one night, then went by rail 107 miles up through the mountains, and across a white sandy plain to the city of Arequipa, 8,000 feet above the sea.  Pizarro founded it about the time Jacques Cartier discovered Hochelaga.  Lawrence liked the climate and the towering snow-clad mountains.  He spent six days in Arequipa, observing everything.  He then proceeded by train to the city of Puno, 217 miles farther on, and 7,000 feet higher up, the journey occupie two days, for the train was forced to crawl.  Now our man from Maitland saw with his own eyes Lake Titicaca, whereabouts was the center of the strange civilization of the mysterious Inca race.  As everywhere, he saw what was to be seen, the snow-capped mountains, as if it were on fire at the going down of the sun, wheat in the fields ready for the sickle, the condor circling the sky, the llama, the vicuna and the alpaca.  When he got back to the ship he remained on board for five weeks; then once more tiring of his enforced idleness, he made a trip south to Valparaiso where he spent two months.  He witnessed the celebration of the independence of Chile, a fiesta “which was kept up with great spirit for seven days, accompanied with music and dancing and ending with a grand display of fireworks”.

All things come to him who waits.  At long last, the Lawrence was full to the hatches with .her odoriferous dust.  On December llth, she sailed from Pabellon de Pica, bound for Havre.  Good weather favored her for a month. She rounded Cape Horn with all three skysails set, and reached Havre about the end of March, as well.  The St. Stephen of New York raced her one April day, overtook her and left her astern.  From the St. Stephen’s deck, the first mate, D. A. Mcleod, watched her storming along in a smother of foam. Ellis mastheaded his main top-gallant sail and drove his ship, but the speedy American Clipper passed him.  Eleven months at anchor in tropical waters had furred the hull of the Lawrence with clogging weed.  Later, Captain William Lawrence drove her three hundred and four miles under fore­sail and lower topsails in twenty hours off the Cape of Good Hope; and when freshly coppered, she had done her fourteen knots, as noted in the owner’s book of travels.


At Havre, the Great Ship discharged her cargo undamaged, and paid off her Negro crew.  Their wages came to something between 1500 and 2000 pounds. Lawrence notes how soon had how foolishly the Africans spent it all, but that is the sailor’s way.  He collected the freight and secured a portion oi the demurrage he claimed for the long detention of his vessel at Pabellon d« Pica.  Cannily he accepted, under protest, what the charterers were willing to pay, and he placed his claims to the whole amount in the hands of a French attorney.  The case was tried at High Court of Rouen, and Dryfus Freres et Cie had to pay the full demurrage claimed with interest, amounting to 10,620 pounds’ stg.  Added to the freight on the cargo of guano, this mac up the tidy sum of 23,000 pounds.  Thus did the W. D. Lawrence in one voyage lay the foundation of the Lawrence fortune.


In the eight years that Lawrence operated her, she made a return of twenty-two percent on the original investment.

All this business took time, and again the man from Maitland had to wait. But with the instinct of the true traveller, he knew how to profit by this enforced leisure.  He saw whatever was to be seen.  He spent three hours at a masqued ball in Havre and enjoyed watching the “gay crowd rustling in silks and satins”.  Then he spent several days in Paris, noting how empty were the churches on Sunday and how thronged the opera and circus.  He visited Versailles, he visited Rouen, he admired “the French forests, the admirable roads, clean and hard, unfenced, on either side, apple trees and grain fields sheep-pastures.,.a pastoral landscape.  The roadside, the grass, and green grain were sprinkled with the festive poppies and the faithful bluies…  I

went my way over the road stimulated by so much colour..   Everything

made a vivid and glad picture to my eye”.  In the end, sight-seeing became wearisome, and the sated traveller longed for the little Nova Scotia village which was his home.

When the Lawrence was chartered and ready for sea, the owner left Havre in a Cunard steamer for Liverpool, waited there a few days and took an Allan Line steamer for Halifax.  By June 23, 1877, he was again in Nova Scotia. He remembered going about Halifax in his shirt-sleeves with a red bandanna handkerchief full of guineas paying his just debts.  For the Lawrence had sailed with a debt of twenty-seven thousand dollars on her.  T. Forhan had trusted him for the eight thousand yards of canvas which made her spread of sail;  and now the claims were met.  Four days later, he was home again in Maitland “after a roving voyage of two years, seven months and twelve days1!. He had traced his single furrow through all the seas engirdling the planet. Of him it might be truly said that he had seen the world.

The designing, building and operating of the Great Ship by William Lawrence of Maitland must be reckoned as the most impressive single chapter in the long and splendid story of wooden ships in Nova Scotia.  His faith in his great idea, whilst all men scoffed, his gamester’s confidence in putting all his means, and more, into one venture, his daring and his caution, his North Country tenacity and strong business sense, make a rare combination of qualities.  Add to these the deep vein of poetry in his nature, prompting him to visit strange cities and see with his own eyes governments of men all around the globe, as well as the traveller’s joy in all he looked upon, and the sum total represents an original man of strong character.  He knew the satisfactions of the artist, the craftsman, the merchant, the traveller. Rarely is it given to mortals to drink more deeply the cup of success.

William Lawrence died after a prolonged illness in his home in Maitland on December 8th, 1886.  He had lived to see the rise and the heyday of ship­building in Nova Scotia and he had played his part in it as one of the greatest and most daring of the Shipbuilders.  The era of the wooden sail-ships died shortly after William Lawrence.



Selma was named from “Selma Hall”, the fine residence of Colonel Small of the disbanded 84th Regiment.  Selma Hall stood on the hillside comm­anding a magnificent view of the Bay and Cobequid mountains when the property passed to Colonel William Smith of “Stanley” the name Selma was retained, but not improved by the addition of the letter “H” in the now official spelling “Selmah”.  One of the old Smith homes is still standing (1927) a stone house, with the date 1825 out over the front entrance.

Baiter’s Head, a bold bluff on the Bay, and Selmah perpetuate names connected with early ownership.

Selma in the seventies and eighties was largely a Smith community.  They owned the fine farms, dykes, marshes, along with their relatives, the Hamiltons and Sterlings were pillars of the Mehtodist Church in Selma.

Archibald Frame, was associated with A. A. McDougall in business.  A general store was usually an adjunct of the shipyard, the stock ranged from a wheel-barrow to a needle, from a carpet to a spool of thread, from kerosene oil to “bull’s eyes” the fashionable sweeties of the youth.

Down the Bay from Selma was the yard of Lorenza O’Brien at Sterling’s Brook.  At Lower Selma Charles Cox & Son, James Rose, and Brown & Anthony were busy builders.

The Crowes of Lower Selma provided some noted Captains, there were also Captains Esdale, McKeil, Cox, MacKenzie, Dalrymple, McLellan, Campbell and Others.  William Creelman, William Gaetz, D. M. Faulkener were residents.

At Noel, ten miles down the Bay from Maitland, the O’Briens, Densmores, Faulkeners, and Goulds, provided ships and captains.  Noel retained the name from its Acadian settlements, and Maitland was named for Sir Pergrime Maitland, a Governor of Nova Scotia.

There were some very outstanding men among the Maitalnd Captains.  Their wives too were helpers, brave, fine women able to lend efficient aid in time of stress.



The great sea tragedies of our village are ever fresh memories.  Fires at sea, typhoons, shifting sands, and rockbound coasts that took their toll of many a brave soul from the shipbuilding villages.  The tragic story of the ship “Milton” and of the courage, resource and endurance of Captain McArthur and his wife, Kate Stuart, and of the two young men of the district George Ettinger, and Edwin Anthony, is one of the “Sagas of the Seas”.  A similar story of fire at sea and heroic endurance in an open boat was the Captain Neil Currie ans his lovely young wife, a Maitland girl.

There were thrilling accounts of rescues from storm battered ships in mid-ocean, of the hazard of a shoreline on rocky coasts, of the doom of shifting sands, of icebergs, waterspouts, foreign revolutions, mutinies, and the haunting menace of yellow fever, but of all the tales of the sea, told by our village firesides, those which cut deepest were of the ships that left port and were never again heard of.  There were new ships as well as old in that “sad, missing list” crews, captains, their wives and little children swallowed up in oblivion.


There were many strange and true stories of occult significance told around the bee-hive stoves in the village stores;  stories that would make good reading the annals of “Psychical Research”.

What a heritage the children of the shipbuilding community enjoyed, what marvellous stories they heard beside the cheerful open fires. Captain James Crowe, Senior, was the prince of story tellers, a gift probably inherited from his father, the beloved Parson Crowe of early days.

In his book, “A Sack of Shakings” Frank T. Bullen discourses delight­fully upon the sailing properties of two Nova Scotian ships.  One of these, “The Wanderer”, “Built by rule-of-thumb by an amphibious sailor-farmer on a little creek in Nova Soctia”, he accounts as perfection in the model of a sailing vessel of that class.  The “Wanderer” was aptly named, a sort of rolling-stone of the sea, always in trouble, and in spite of her fine model and superior sailing qualities, no money-maker, and the occasion of many “high days” of annoyance for her owners.



Maitland Captains took special pride in keeping their fine ships trim

and polished, up to the mark in every detail.  During the long months

at sea they lived near to Nature’s heart, and in port drove shrewd bargains,

were careful not to exceed “Pay Days” and sent home drafts to the retiring

fund in the village bank.

Settling down to a landsman was always a protracted business, and the Maitland Captain took in on the installment plan.  The programme was along these lines.  The village would hear the some well known Captain was on his way home “to settle down”.


He would come home, build a fine house, set out an orchard and ornamen-taly trees and buy a fast horse.  Before many moons he would be discoursing learnedly upon the rotation of crops, arguing loud and long with the orchardists in regard to location, quoting himself as an authority upon potato raising, everything seeming to be “set bright and fair”, then some fine morning he would read in The Halifax “Chronicle” of rising markets and good freights, and was off in a rush to join a ship.  There would be repetitions of this settling-down-act for the habits of a life-time are hard to break, but when the Captain finally turned a deaf ear to the “calling of the sea” he became, indeed, a bulwark of strength in our Maritime community.  The wives, who so often accompanied their husbands on the long, deep-sea voyages, would, when in port, travel around to see what was worth while, palaces, parks, museums, picture galleries, and great cathedrals were made familiar to those at home by their graphic descriptions and the photographs that they brought back.  What treasures too, in the pretty clothes, fine china, novelities in carved ivory and sandal wood, and best of all – books – books – that even after the lapse of long years, tingle the strings of memory.


In the eighties Maitland was an isolated community with the nearest railway station twenty-one miles away; it is a mere trifle of distance in these days of motor-cars and good roads, but a tiring journey in those times.  The daily stage left Maitland at three in the morning, met the trains at Shubenacadie Station, and returned to the village at noon.

An outstanding mail-contractor was Anthony Shaw Smith, whose irresistible wit’and wealth of funny stories helped to relieve the tedium of the long, rough drive for many a weary traveller.


During the summer there was a ferry across the Shubenacadie to Black Rock, and a drive of ten miles to Truro.  A commercial traveller descr­ibed a trip from Truro to Maitland as a “day with the prophets”.  Job, Elias, Isaiah, Caleb – names and suggestive of New England connection. He drove from Truro to Black Rock with Job (Nelson) was ferried across the river by Elias (Nelson), he put up at Caleb’s (White’s Hotel), and Isaiah (MacDougall) drove him back to the ferry.  There was also a ferry across the Cobequid Bay to DeBert, a distance of about seven miles.  In long gone Acadian days this Bay country was the headquarters of the dread­ful and dreaded Abbe leLoutre, whose residence and activities are per­petuated in the name of the little village of Masstown, and the Shubena­cadie River was the highway travelled by his fierce Micmac Chief Jean Baptiste Cope on his raids against the English.


The ferries were not available in winter.  The Bay was never frozen, but the terrific force of the tide sweeping in and out piled the beaches with an immense sea-wall of giant ice-cakes.  A sign of Spring that never failed was the out-going of the sea-wall.  Great quanities of freight came to Maitland in those halcyon days; there was so much’of it that a railway siding was built from Stewiacke Station to the river, where Watson’s scow and other barges brought it down the Shubenacadie to Maitland.  Campbell’s and Macomber’s Schooners were Bay Freighters along with a small steamer from St. John, N.B..

The Western Union Telegraph Company established a branch in Maitland in 1872.  A great boon to the days of no telephones, on motor cars, no railway.  Another forward movement was the establishment of the Merchants’ Bank of Halifax (now the Royal Bank of Canada) in 1873.  Before that date the drafts coming in from every quarter of the globe had to be taken to Halifax to be cashed.  Workmen had to be paid and builders were often under the necessity of keeping large sums of money in their homes.  One builder had the snug little fortune of forty thousand dollars in an attic room in his house for three weeks.  There were very few robberies, an occasional raid upon a pantry, or cellar store-room, and one bold attempt upon the Bank, was the work of a professional crook.




Insulated, rich, with a floating population of nearly a thousand men, it is surprising the lack of criminal violence during those busy summers.  Among the hundreds who flocked in to work there, were many of different language and religion, affording excellent chances for trouble.  There were ho police­men, and the builders were, in a way responsible for their workmen.  A difference of opinion was occasionally settled by (“peelin1 of coats”) but even that was rare.  No doubt the peace and order were due to the strong temperance sentiment of the village.  Maitland shipbuilders stood firm on the Temperance question, and there was untiring vigilance and a stern fight to keep liquor from being smuggled into boarding-houses.


There were to be ships launched within twenty-four hours, and some hundreds of men would be paid off and plenty of money afloat.  Into this, apparently profitable field, two men came from Truro bringing with them a large supply of whiskey.  They conveyed it secretly to a house on the Selma Road.  The Maitland shipbuilders found out the secret of cached whiskey, and took prompt action.  They marched two by two in a long, dignified procession to the house where it was concealed, compelled the owners to load the whiskey on a huge barrow and wheel it to the ferry, a mile or more, while they followed in funeral march behind, the perspiring red-faced wheelers. It was a gala episode for the boys who felt that it was quite legitimate to hoot and cat-call to their lung limit.  Down through the greasy, red mud of low-water it was wheeled, loaded into the boat and the men sent off with a warning.  There were other instances when would-be whiskey sellers were summarily dealt with, but none so courteously, nor so publicly.

William Stairs, Son, and Morrow, John Stairs, T. E. Kenney, the Troops, Bayne, Eliot, are names of some of the Halifax merchants interested in Maitland ships.  The firm of Brown and Watson, Glasgow, owned largely in the ships built by A. A. McDougall and there were other “old country” owners.

The Maitland owner was usually a part owner in his ship, beginning with a sixteenth and increasing his shares with his growing capital, until he was able to secure a controlling interest and thus become his own “Ship’s husband”.



Shipbuilding was an industry peculiarly fitted to the adventurous spirit bred in the dwellers beside the mighty restless tide.  The sea opened avenues to wealth for many a poor and plunky lad, and their brains, indus­try and iron nerve, along with the determination “to get there” sent Maitland captains and Maitland ships into every world port.

We were a prayerful community, as befits those whose near and dear ones “Go down to the sea in ships, and do business on the great waters”.

A church service always had a special petition for those at sea, and even the children understood the significance of “Give them, O Lord, blue skies, favoring gales, and a rolling sea behind the ship”! The seventh day was pre-eminently a day of rest in that busy district. “No sound of labor vexed the quiet air” of those long-gone Sundays. Through the open windows of the churches drifted in the perfume of clover, wild roses, and balm of Gilead trees, and the long-drawn murmur of the tide.


The Hon. Arthur McNutt Cochran, clever, courteous, and kind, was the Anglican “Father of the village”.  David Frieze, tall, spare, wrapped in an Inverness cloak, and absorbed in his business, stood in similar relation to the Presbyterian Communion, and at Selma, Colonel Richard Smith exercised a wide influence in the church work.

In the year 1903, the Presbyterian congregation at Maitland celebrated its one hundredth anniversary.  The first five ministers were Rev. Alexander Dick, Rev. Thomas Crowe, Rev. John Currie, (Pine Hill) Rev. L. C. MacNeill, and Rev. T. C. Jack, pastor from 1879 to 1896.  The Rev. L. C. MacNeill and Rev. T. C. Jack were residents during the seventies and eighties.  The Rev. Mr. Jamieson, and the Rev. G. R. Martell were their contemporaries in the Anglican Church.  The method by which Mr. MacNeill’s salary was contributed illustrates the village spirit.  Two plates were fastened to the doors entering the church; those who went in contributed or not as they pleased.  There were no collections taken during the services, no envelope system, and no subscription list, and always a surplus.

The Presbyterian church records of this great sea-faring period are full of pathos.  The proportion of its sons who perished at sea, died of accident, or of yellow fever in foreign ports was very great.  The cable­gram that brought such sorrowful word was always delivered to the Minister, a hard, hard task that of “breaking the news”.



The day of “Ministerial Catechising” had not passed, and the children of the congregation tussled valiantly with the “Westminister Catechism”. On one occasion when a catechising visit in a home fell on launching day, in the home-yard too.  The facility with which the children answered those “Shorter Cathechism” questions grew as the time for “highwater” drew near. They sat on the edges of their chairs, impatient to be off, and cast longing glances at door and windows.  Through the latter they could see the tall masts and fluttering flags.  The minister, new to the village, did not understand these significant signs.  He finished with the Catechism, and in the midst of his earnest prayer, one dear, small boy, whose head had been raised to the level of the window-sill, gave a loud interrupting gasp of “O George there she goes!  There she goes”!  The prayer came to an abrupt close, the shame-faced apologies were tendered and the clergyman hurried the boys off to the “yard” where they arrived in time to watch the ship being “wared out of the creek” and to take a hand in scraping the launch ways. The boy, who could scrape the greatest quanitity of grease from the ways after a launch, and reeve the signal halyards, was in the eyes of his fellow marked out for a great future.  How truly “time change and we with them”.


The man who knew the proper consistency and temperature for launch-way grease was “no mean citizen” of the ship-building community.  When a launch took place in late Autumn, there was danger of the grease harden­ing and caking on the ways.  It was in times like this that he judiciously stirred fish-oil into the unsavory mess of tallow, all the time grumbling. “I’ve come to this, Hev I? Fish-oil and taller1  Why wasn’s that ship off the stocks before cold weather set in?

They had good schools and many excellent teachers.  Two that stand out are the late Edward J. Lay, forceful and determined, who made you learn whether you wished to or not, and Mr. George W. T. Irving, whose careful instruction, courtesy, and patience, are happliy remembered by his pupils in many far lands.  Miss Eliza Frame’s specialty was teaching Navigation, and many a sea-captain “along the shore” got his first directions in “Plain sailing” and knowledge of the “Epitome” under her direction.

The Bay children talked knowingly of trade winds, typhoons, and doldrums, the “River Plate” was of commonplace familiarity, and Singapore, Valpar­aiso, Rio, Melbourne, Bahia, Bombay, Iquique, Yokahama and other foreign ports, better known names than those of cities in our own Dominion.



Summer meant work, and rush, and bustle in Maitland, but winter brought ample time to enjoy social life.  They were doubly isolated in winter when the raging tide piled up a sea-wall, and swirling ice closed the ferries. They were a shut-in village, but not a narrow one, there was always “some­thing doing” in that community of alert intelligent women.  Now, they went the village rounds – there were church and other societies, a Magazine Club that took in four of the leading English Reviews, and Blackwood’s and Chamber’s Journal, and thus the snow-bound community kept abreast in literature, while the great leathern sacks of newspapers dumped from the stage into the post office bore witness of keen daily interest in the busy world so far beyond its doors.

Halifax papers were opened at once to the “Shipping” page, all other news was at a minimum until this was scanned.  What a boon “wireless” would have been to us in days torn by anxiety when we waited for fuller reports of wreck and disaster.


They skated on the frozen marshes, drove, rode, danced with zest, and played whist.  Twenty-one miles from a railway station is a bit too far for popular lecturers, but Dr. John Allison gave us a red-letter week one winter, and Mr. Mills, another week of recitations that have been a lasting pleasure to those who listened.

No telephones, no gramaphones, no automobiles, no wireless, no radios, no railway, and yet they found life abundantly worth living in that charm­ing village of the golden days.

They had many local celebrities, keen witty men and women, also a liberal sprinkling of quaint characters, akin to those of “Cranford” or “Josiah Allen1s wife”.

It may have been the sharp contrasts between busy summers and quiet winters that gave our lives so serene a balance, but there was one point – unfailing disturber of village peace – a political campaign. We took our politics seriously, and warily side-stepped in regard to our friends’ way of thinking when it did not coincide with ours.  A number of Maitland citizens were members of Local and Federal Pariliaments, and our County of Hants was at one time represented by Hon. Joseph Howe and also by Hon. William Annand.


They had a resident barrister, H. T. Harding, who was an official in the Maitland Marine Insurance Company of large dividends.  George Oxley Smith, Archibald Frame, William Currie, Robert Barry Eaton, were Justices of the Peace and sat in judgement upon various disturbances.  Timber con­tracts were the most fuitful sources of dispute, and as illustrative of the spirit of the place, the majority of these difficulties were settled by arbitration.  My father’s keen legal mind and broad outlook were always in request for the arbitration meetings.  There were a few notable family clashes that came into the magistrate’s court for settle­ment.  On one of these very lively occasions, witenesses were inadvertently sworn upon a small leather bound copy of “Peter Simple”, that had been hastily slipped into the bookcase corner occupied by the similarly bound “oath” Bible.  The disputants aired their grievances and departed, and the discoverers of the mistake kept discreet silence in regard to the part that “Peter Simple’s” leather bound back had played.


The village doctors, S. D. Brown and F. S. Creelman, were busy helpful members of the community – Dr. Brown – the old doctor •- was a Canadian type of Ian MacLaren’s Dr. McLure, clever, kind-hearted and unconven­tional.  He drove in a very light, high two-wheeled gig, so small that it barely seated the tall, spare Doctor.  There was only a low iron rod for back support, and his medicine chest reposed beside his feet. Any thing extra to be carried was tied underneath the axle.  The Doctor’s specialty on the road was his habit of furious driving down steep hills, and thundering across bridges.  With arms extended, coat tails flying, high gig and horse going like mad, he came with reckless breath-taking dash, and strange to say, met with few accidents.

One Spring morning when the roads were hub deep in mud, the Doctor reined up at our door.  His attention was called to a huge bundle that he had enclosed in a sack fastened to the axle.  The bundle had sagged and was in danger of dragging.  “I’ll tie it to the back of the seat”, he announced cheerfully.  “I’m on my way down shore eighteen miles to see a sick boy.  Mother’s a widow and poor, sent for medicine, have it here in my pocket.  Eh, what, leave that bundle behind?  No indeed, that’s the real medicine that boy needsl  Whirrupl  Whirrup”! And the Doctor tore off mud flying in every direction, and twenty pounds of fresh beef bobbing frantically at his back.



Maitland in 1927 was a very quiet, very pretty village surrounded by a farming community.  The Captains’ roadside elms have grown into giant trees, hedges have run wild, the well trodden short-cut paths through fields to the shipyards of long ago, have been fenced and obli­terated, the shipyards have reverted to hayfields, even their sites hard to locate.  All the reminders of the stirring activites of mutable men have crumbled into dust.  Silence reigns save for the lapping of tide, waves on the beach, and the scream of an eagle to its mate.

The young men have gone West, or to the United States, and are putting forth their pluck and energy in new lands and new activities.  The Maitland freighting fleet has vanished.  Many of the ships passed into Norwegian hands, wreck and fire demolished the remainder.  Like an in­substantial pageant faded this great source of prosperity passed.  The Bay ship-building village went down before the march of progress.  Iron trade.  The Suez Canal, with its shorter voyage and convenient coaling stations, gave steamships the monopoly of the East India trade.

The builders and Captains have, for the most part, made port with the great silent majority.  There are few that remain of the men and women who worked so faithfully and well in those golden years.  New stones in the village churchyards do not now beat that pathetic inscription “Lost at sea”, and no yellow-fever cablegrams bring sorrow to the comm­unity.  The tree shaded burial grounds of the village and district over­look the Bay — their mysterious tide-swept Bay, that opened the way for so many fine and gallant souls to fare forth, and when the end of life’s long voyage drew near crooned them home to meet their Pilot for the last Great Adventure.