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Nova Scotia: The Province that has been Passed By
Chapter X. Bridgewater and Lunenburg


Yet the Blue-nose is first and foremost a fisherman.

When all is said of Nova Scotia’s varied resources of fa'-m and factory, and mine and forest, there is still to be told the tale garnished with adventure of the great and abiding interest of the peninsula and the island—the Nova Scotian fisheries. Of a total population of half a million souls in this province, over 40,000 men are engaged in the fisheries. This will seem a stupendous and utterly unreasonable proportion until I explain that the occupations of fisherman and farmer, fisherman and forester, even fisherman and miner, overlap in many districts, giving rise to a curious combination of characteristics in the same individual, which I had previously noticed amongst the fishermen-miners-farmers of Newfoundland.

The sea-coast of the Maritime Provinces from the Bay of Fundy to the strait of Belle Isle measures some 5600 miles, or about double that of the United Kingdom. In this magnificent fishing field the Nova Scotian is lord paramount, although others have at Various times sought to share them with him.

The total fisheries of Canada, the largest .n the world, are valued to-day at $25,500,000, of which Nova Scotia’s share is $7,632,330, or nearly one-third of the whole. All along this extensive sea-coast, in the bays, and harbours, and inlets from Cape North to Cape Sable, for generations boats have been putting out, manned by hardy stalwart men who go to brave the perils of the Jeep, and there are many perils in these latitudes, besides much cold and privation, :n order to reap a harvest of cod, lobster, mackerel, haddock, and herring.

Besides manning their own craft, the Nova Scotians, like the Newfoundlander, mans the vessels of other countries, especially American and British. The bulk of the product giies to America, although for nearly a century an important market has been found in the West Indies and South-America, while the trade with Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, and Portugal is increasing annually.

Under the new Reciprocity Agreement the fishing industry of the Province will be vitally affected, probably to Nova Scotia’s advantage.

“I’m off to the Bank fishery
From my farm at Port Matoon,
Where my little lass awaits me,
And I can’t get back too soon.’’

Schooners of about 100 tons burden carry off the men to the Bank fishery. When they reach the Banks—those great marine plateaux frequented by inexhaustible shoals of cod, the fishermen separate into dories, six to ten of which accompany each schooner. From each dory, which is about 15 feet long, two men, six trawls of say, 4000 hooks, making a total of about 40,000 hooks to a vessel. Far smaller crafts arc in use, however, for the inshore fishery. One can see these boats, of from 20 to 60 feet over all, and manned by from two to ten men, at any port, using the dory and trawl, or the hand-line. But the familiar British otter trawl is not seen here at all, and trawls of any description are illegal in Canadian territorial waters.

Mackerel and herring are captured in nets moored near the shore. One sees little of drift-net fishing, although it is occasionally practised.

In the opinion of fishing experts the herring hereabouts are not only more abundant, but are a larger and better fish than those off the British coasts. Then there is the inland fishery, which yields chiefly smelts, salmon, trout, and eels, large quantities of which are sent in cold storage to all parts of Canada and America, a trade which offers great possibilities of expansion. This remark is true of the whole fishery— both in the actual catch and in the distribution. Improved methods are wanted, which means that more technical knowledge and more capital are wanted. A more progressive system is already here and there in operation. The employment of gasolene motor boats for inshore fishing makes the fishermen more independent of the weather, and hundreds of their boats may now lie seen off the south-west shore.

Enormous numbers of lobsters are caught and canned, and exported by two hundred and twenty canning factories scattered up and down the coast. Their sale to the packers means the distribution of a great deal of cash among the fishermen of Western Nova Scotia, frequently running into hundreds of thousands of dollars. But in spite of all that is done, I find a general feeling that much more could be done in the way of catching and curing according to those scientific principles which prevail in Norway and Denmark, and also in the shipments of living lobsters to the States.

Few are aware that only in these Marrime Provinces of Canada and Newfoundland are lobsters procurable in sufficient quantities to make canning profitable. The catches of Norway, Scotland, Ireland, and America are not sufficient to supply the demands of the consumers for lobsters in the shell. Unhappily it cannot be said that the lobster industry as regards hatching, conservation, and canning is placed here on a very sound footing. In fact, unless a new style is adopted the lobster will be a diminishing crustacean.

A year or two ago at Ottawa, a Fishery Committee of the House of Commons was formed, and fishermen and packers from various sections of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island were summoned to Ottawa to give evidence, hut little practical resulted.

While the catch of lobsters in the United States is not more than ten per cent, of the total catch of the world (Canada enjoys a catch fully eight times as great), the Fisheries Department of the States of Maine and Massa chusetts have spent a very considerable sum in an effort to restore and restock their depleted waters with lobsters. The Dominion Marine and Fisheries Department, which is responsible for the care of the lobster fishery, have not expended nearly as much as they have in these two American States.

This condition ought to be changed if the permanence of a most productive branch of the fisheries of Eastern Canada is to be guaranteed.

Happily, the lobster catch last year was very successful to the fishermen and packers alike, and by the present regulations, whereby during a long close season the fishing is absolutely prohibited, the lobsters are protected and given a reasonable opportunity of natural propagation.

The oyster is little cultivated, and yet :t is claimed for Nova Scotia that she has a larger cultivable area for oyster beds than many districts where it is a source of great profit, as for instance, Maryland, where as much as ten million bushels of bivalves have been extracted. Here a few thousand bushels are all that is forthcoming.

The truth is, the fisheries of Nova Scotia are only partially occupied, and are an inviting field for the investment of capital in enterprising hands. With its unexcelled position, with a population of as hardy and courageous men as are to be found anywhere, there is no reason why Nova Scotia in its fisheries should not rank even higher in point of production than it does now.

Speaking of oysters suggests pearls, and I was not surprised to hear that n the scallop oysters on these shores are found pearls of a fair quality. Numbers of the scallops may be found in Chester Basin, Lunenberg country, which, if collected in the right season, might be valuable and give employment to many in collecting and working. Several samples of pearl I saw seemed to me to compare favourably with those imported from abroad, and no doubt the scallop contains many valuable gems. Who knows, therefore, but that the pearl fishery may yet be carried on here in Nova Scotia as profitably as it is elsewhere?

Bridgewater is one of the most perfect towns in New Scotland, beautifully situated on a river bluff, picturesquely environed, well built, with an enterprising corporate spirit, and inhabited by a cheerful, unpretending people. It is within easy reach of both sea and forest, and it is the headquarters of both the railway and of a large timber-carrying fleet, which visits many of the distant ports of the world. I shall not easily forget the view that burst upon me as I set foot upon the first span of the bridge that crosses the La Heve River coming from the railway station, the tree-clad banks to right and left, with tne verdure fading into the grey purple of the distant clouds, the white sails of the ships shot with sunlight, the broad, clear, swift-flowing stream; and, facing me, the colour and brightness of the town itself, three or four streets running parallel to the river, the first containing all the shops, each street rising high above the other, and the last on the skyline. There was movement, but no hurry. Pretty girls, carrying school-books, moved along, dissolved in rippling laughter. Teams drawn by great red oxen coursed leisurely to and fro, directed by cheerful teamsters. And above all the intensely yellow sunlight poured down, making rich heaps of shadow; and the air, redolent of the pine groves, pressed southward in warm waves and scented volumes, seeking the sea. It was good.

My luggage went on by omnibus, and I made way to Clark’s Hotel on foot. Here is an inn after my heart— after the heart of any traveller. Perched high on the Street of the Third Parallel, it was once a commodious private dwelling, with steep steps and the usual verandah in front. A hedge of English hawthorn encircles it, and high planes and maples cast thei" shade about lawn and verandah. Within, an air of cosiness pervades; all is spotlessly clean, and trim and active maid-servants cheerfully attend to the traveller’s needs. The food is good of its kind and tastefully prepared, and it needs but a little to make this inn perfect, and that little will never be supplied until the travellers themselves learn how to behave themselves— to learn, for instance, that in order to smoke i* is not necessary to excrete saliva, and that one of the uses of a hotel is not that of a lounging-place for local idlers. These latter are the pests of hotels throughout the Continent, making an inn occasionally insufferable for the real sojourner.

Bridgewrater has a population of over 3000, and is steadily increasing in size and importance. It is the centre of trade for a fertile farming county, and has considerable manufacturing and commercial interests; well-built public buildings, particularly its brown stone Post Office and Customs House, and several golf, tennis, and yachting clubs. But Bridgewater will always be memorable to me because of what was the most interesting Incident of my travels through Nova Scotia. It was here I met the members of the Royal Commission appointed at Ottawa to inquire into Technical Education. I should like particularly to direct the attention of the English reader to this fact—a Royal Commission appointed by His Majesty’s Government, not at London, but—at Ottawa. How this British Empire of ours has marched! Would not Haliburton and Howe have pinched themselves to make sure they were awake upon hearing His Majesty’s Commission (duly drawn up by His Majesty’s Canadian Ministers) read, beginning “George the Fifth, by the Grace of God,” &c. It only needed “King of Canada, Newfoundland, and the West Indies” more clearly to adumbrate the idea. Here was King George III.’s great-grandson pronouncing his Sovereign will and pleasure upon the advice of His Majesty’s constitutional advisers, not Mr. Asquith, Sir Edward Grey, and Mr. Lloyd George, but the members of Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s Cabinet at Ottawa. A group of gentlemen constituting this Royal Commission sat upon the platform. One hailed from Manitoba, two from Ontario, one from Quebec. Before them witnesses resident in the district were duly sworn, that they would tender the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help them God; and forthwith proceeded to give evidence as to the industrial conditions of Bridgewater.

Towards the close of the proceedings something dramatic happened. A little, old, white-haired, rosy-cheeked man arose and declared modestly that his name was John Macoun, the official botanist of the Dominion of Canada. And people stood and craned their necks, and asked what was it he said, and how it was they had never known this Professor Macoun was in Bridgewater before, and why was it the Mayor and the rest hadn’t met him at the railway station with the others and driven him round the town.

“Where do you reside at present, Professor Macoun?" "At Bridgewater,” said the old, rosy-cheeked gentleman. “I have been for some months conducting an investigation into the flora of the district, with a view to ascertaining its botanical possibilities, the arable nature of the soil, and its adaptability to other vegetable production.”

Then, in truth, the folk of Bridgewater stared this time at one another. Here was this man, filling a very important position indeed in an agricultural country like Canada, dwelling quietly in the midst of their small town, not alone, but with his wife and assistants, pursuing his work, gathering his collections of flora, compiling in a specially-rented building his extensive hurtus siccus, and not a soul of them the wiser.

“I believe in technical education, because it means thoroughness, and thoroughness means that a man knows his work. I am the man who forty years ago told the Canadian Government that wheat would grow in the North West.

Every one was against me. 1 was threatened and reviled and held up to ridicule, All the forces of prejudice and tradition were brought to bear upon my official report. I was told I was mad. But I held in this right hand earth whose constituent particles I recognised. I had studied them grain by grain, and I knew if they would produce wheat in Ontario, they would yield wheat in the Red River country; and I said that that country, where net a single bushel of wheat was grown, would produce fifty million bushels a year. Last year it produced a hundred millions, and I thank God I have lived to see t. And if you Nova Scotians would only listen and have equal faith in your own country, it could be made ten times richer and more fruitful than it is to-day.”

That is all. The Professor sat down. Anything that happened after that it would be bathos to describe.

Lunenburg, on the south shore, was settled in 1751 by Hanoverian immigrants, and still largely retains its German character. The settlement was under the protection of King George II., who was also ruler of Hanover. The old German speech has not yet died out amongst them, although I heard one inhabitant deploring that the last fount of German type had been melted down, and for some years no German periodical had been printed. Famous fishermen are the Lunenburg folk; there is much lumbering, and some farming. One notices a reminder of old Germany in the ox-teams, curiously yoked together by the horns.

Mahone was once a popular rendezvous for pirates. Their long crouching crafts were so often harboured there that the early French settlers dubbed the bay “Mahonne,” an old French term for a low-lying boat. Later the name was anglicised, and extended to the town which snuggles at the head of the bay, half-hidden by encircling hills. From the tops of the hills the old-tune beacons blamed a message of distress or a flash of warning to the neighbouring settlements when the Indians trod the war trail.

Now the beacon sites are vantage points for viewing the glorious stretch of island-studded bay below. Shaggy, uncombed pines surmount the hillsides, and charge the are with revivifying odour.

Chester is a popular summer resort for Haligonians, whose charmingly wooded hills, now so redolent of peace, were once the rendezvous of pirates; notably, so tradition says, of that estimable scoundrel, Captain Kyd. The Oak Island Money Pit, within easy sighting distance of the Hackmatack Inn porch, is a tantalising memorial of piracy on the Spanish Main. A million dollars have been spent by joint stock companies trying to dam out the Atlantic and pump the Pit dry; but the treasure is still uncovered, and doubtless will always be hidden—a source of mystery and romance, to many visitors. The bay, flanked by long, sprawling hills, and protected at its mouth by a barrier of rocky islands, is a beautiful stretch of water, twenty miles long and twelve miles wide. Both bay and shoreline are littered with points of interest. The names alone are a delight—Oak Island, Murderer’s Point, Heckman’s Island, Hobson’s Nose, The Ovens, Mount Aspogotan, Ironhound Island, and The Tancooks. How R. L. Stevenson would have revelled in them!


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