Queens County has a long and varied history, rich with mighty highs and crushing blows. There have been people living on this land for thousands of years, living in concert with nature and adjusting to the changing tides. In that respect, our history is very much our present and future. As residents in the UNESCO Southwest Nova Biosphere, we strive to maintain a balance between development and nature, ensuring that Queens remains true to her past and is a legacy for our children to enjoy.
Guiding traditions are a strong part of the cultural history of Queens. The Mi'kmaq, skilled at hunting, fishing and ways of the woods and waters, passed along their skills to European settlers who shared the same passion for the wilderness of Queens. In 1909 an amalgamation of the Western Nova Scotia Guides Associations took place in order to assist guides in obtaining professional recognition and to help improve wild game and habitat protection initiatives. Currently, there are over 400 members of the Nova Scotia Guides Association whose home is in Queens County. Every year members gather to share their pastimes and to relive the traditions passed down through the generations.
The Tent Dwellers
Mark Twain's biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine, wrote an autobiographical story of his trip through what is now Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site and the Tobeatic Wilderness Area that was published in 1908. The Tent Dwellers recounts, rather humourously, Paine's journey with his friend and several Nova Scotia Guides. It is perhaps one of the best accounts of Guiding life at the time and is a treasured book for Guiding enthusiasts in the County.
Queens County gold was first discovered in the settlement of Whiteburn in 1884 in the North Queens area. The vein found was very rich and soon proved to be profitable for the owners. The full value of the mine would never be determined, however, due to inefficient equipment and poor management.
After the 1887 discovery of a fissure (a large deposit of gold carrying quartz), the Brookfield Mines became the banner mine of Nova Scotia. The mine was equipped with the most modern equipment for that period including an air compressor plant for operating drills. After a split in the earth's crust in 1906 concealed the fissure forever, the mine was abandoned.
The McGuire mine at one point produced about 20 pounds of gold in 11 days which turned a profit of $4400, a mighty sum in 1886. However only three years later, the mine failed to produce enough to stay open and it closed.
By 1892 there were only two mines open that produced any significant amount of gold, the Molega Mining Company and the Boston Gold Mining Company. Most gold from 1894 until 1934 was found by local prospectors rather than mining corporations. In 1938, a fifty-ton capacity mill was built in Molega, keeping the site open for only another eight years.
A mainstay for families since Liverpool's founding in 1759, the forestry industry is closely entwined in Queens County's history. Settlers were first attracted to Queens to cut the vast amounts of timber and then stayed to cultivate the land.
The first sawmill in Queens was built in Milton in 1760 as the demand for house and shipbuilding materials was high. Queens' economic boom in the 1800s was due in part to forestry as the United States was growing quickly and demand for wood was great. By 1870, 42 sawmills operated here.
Getting raw logs to one of the sawmills was not an easy process, as cutting sites were often quite a distance from the mills. "Driving" logs down river was a daunting task and river drivers were ill-compensated. Several weeks of intense labour was required to get logs from the most remote locations in North Queens down to the Milton sawmills.
Once the logs arrived at the mills they were transformed into a range of products including raw lumber for construction, shingles, doors, flooring, window sashes, furniture and materials for making barrels that helped sustain the demand for exports.
Unfortunately for Queens, the downturn in the United States in the 1870s resulted in reduced demand for forestry products causing the closure of many local sawmills. Despite the lean times, the Davison Mill in Mill Village prospered as the largest lumber producer in Nova Scotia in 1894. (It was claimed by Edward Doran Davison, the owner, that the Davison Mill was the first steam powered mill in the Province, an assertion that is still up for debate today).
Pulp and Paper
By the early 1900s and after much experimentation with pulp for paper production purposes, there were several mills in Queens producing pulp for export to be turned into paper elsewhere. In 1929, the Mersey Paper Company opened its doors in Brooklyn and a new chapter in the forestry industry in Queens began. Bowater purchased the Mill in 1956 and the industry enjoyed decades of prosperity before the demand for pulp and paper declined and the world economy shifted. The mill closed in June 2012 and though the next chapter is still being written, the mill site is being transformed into the Port Mersey Commercial Park and Innovacorp Demonstration Centre - new uses for forest fibre and clean, green technologies from natural resource are leading us forward once again.
In the late 1800's, Liverpool was the fourth largest shipping port in Canada. At least seven shipyards were in operation at the time, building windjammers for use in trade. From the mid 1800s to just after World War I, over 75,000 tons of ships sailed away from close to twenty Queens County shipyards. D.C. Mulhall, mayor of Liverpool (1899-1903, 1908-1916) once commented that there were so many ships in town that "a pedestrian could walk [across the harbour] by stepping from deck to deck of the vessels that filled the river." While shipbuilding in Queens was reduced drastically with the advent of steel construction, some of Liverpool's shipyards were used by the government to build vessels during World War II.
During the late 18th Century, Liverpool was considered by many to be the Privateering capital of British North America. Liverpool's trade was badly affected during wartime, and the rise of Privateering and the fleet of ships provided some protection and, more famously, compensation.
Privateering was an important tool during times of war as they attacked the enemy in their pursestrings and served to distract the enemy. Enemies would deploy warships to accompany their merchant vessels, thereby reducing the number of fighting vessels dispatched to battle zones. Extremely cost effective, Privateering required no initial investment from the Crown, relying instead on entrepreneurs and investors to equip and man the ships.
Letter of Marque
One of the most common misconceptions is that Privateers and Pirates were one and the same. However, while Pirates raided any ship they pleased and kept the spoils for themselves alone, Privateers were sanctioned by the Crown via a Letter of Marque to confiscate enemy property with a view to disrupting trade. The wealth of the ship was distributed between the Crown and the crew as soon as the capture was judged to be legal in a court of law. Privateer captains were highly respected men in our community, seen as men of stature rather than lawless thugs that preyed on the high seas.
The Rover and the Lucy were two ships of great repute, but it was the Liverpool Packet that was the most famous. Starting out as the American slave ship, the Severn, the Packet was captured in 1811 and bought the same year by Enos Collins of Liverpool. Although re-christened the Packet, the ship was to keep its nickname The Black Joke.
When the War of 1812 broke out, the Packet was converted from a mail and passenger ship to a Privateering vessel. Captained by Joseph Barss, the ship's crew went on to capture 33 American vessels. The Packet fell into enemy hands, but not for long, and under Captain Caleb Seeley, she captured a further 14 prizes before the end of 1813. The Liverpool Packet was the most successful Privateer ship to sail out of a Canadian port.
The end of the War of 1812 marked the end of Privateering for Liverpool, although the stories and heritage are still celebrated today.
Long before the Bronze Age, before the first stones of the Egyptian Pyramids were put into place, before the Romans expanded and then conquered the known world, the Mi'kmaq made their home in this area as the ice sheets from the last Ice Age were melting away. Living a semi-nomadic lifestyle, they moved from place to place, following nature's cycle as they searched for food and resources. A language and customs developed, seven districts were formed and the Mi'kmaq nation emerged.
Mi'kmaq legend foretold the eventual contact with European settlers and they were greeted as friends. Portuguese, Basque, English and French fishermen came first to this "New World" and a casual trade developed. With the claiming of Nova Scotia as part of Acadia in the 1600s by the French, Roman Catholicism came onto the scene. In 1610, Grand Chief Membertou was converted to the religion and the Mi'kmaq nation's first treaty was with the Vatican and the Holy See.
Allied with the French, the Mi'kmaq endured some difficult times during the period of conflict between France and England, with the lowest point occurring during what some historians refer to as Father Le Loutre's war. After a long period of conflict, a series of treaties with the British Crown were established.
For more information on the modern Mi'kmaq people, their history, traditions and beliefs, visit the Mi'kmaq Spirit website.