Louisbourg in 1900 – 100 years ago – Irving Gas Station – by Bill O’Shea (2000)

LOUISBOURG HERITAGE NOTES 
IN THE LOUISBOURG SEAGULL

Extracted from © The Seagull

Louisbourg Heritage Notes

“January 2000”

Louisbourg in 1900 – 100 years ago.

The big Louisbourg event for the summer of 1900 was a visit by the Prime Minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier. He came to the fortress site to address the annual picnic of the Provincial Workmen’s Association. There were 4,000 people here on a Saturday in August. Food was served by the churches in town and speeches were given by the politicians. There was a rowing race held that day as well. The winners were Zeb Townsend and Billy Peach, George Devison and Charles Hunt, W. W. Mann and G. Billard.

Surveyors for the Cape Breton extension were a short distance from Louisbourg. It was expected that there would be another railway line into Louisbourg and there were hopes for increased business and soaring property values. The newspaper correspondent wrote that ” It means that Louisbourg once renowned only for its picturesque and historical associations will take its place among the greatest of Canada’s shipping marts”. The hope for the rail line, an eastern route along the coast from St. Peters to Louisbourg, continued for the next several years though nothing ever came of it.

Lobster season closed at the end of July. The catch was exceptionally good in May and June but poor in July. The lobster canneries and the fishermen had what was described as a fair season. By November when the fishing season closed it was reported that except for the lobster and mackerel fisheries it had been a poor year.

Water line pipes were being installed along Main Street. In the fall people began to get their homes connected to the water. Three people early off the mark to get water to their houses were Murdock Cameron, Alexander Kerr and Peter MacIntyre.

There were rumours that Calvin Presbyterian church was to be enlarged and the Methodists were also planning to build a new church, though they would not be able to start construction until 1914. The Baptists also decided to build and would complete their church in several years. The Catholics had raised money for a new glebe house to be constructed in 1901.

On Labour day there was a sports day organized for the men and young boys. It was the first sports day ever held in Louisbourg. Events included the 12 and 16 pound shot, standing broad jump, running broad jump, 220 yard race, 100 yard dash and swimming. The winners of the events included John MacLean, Arthur O’Toole, P. J. Sullivan, N. O’Toole, Hugh MacIntyre, Dan Cann, Henry Townsend, William Campbell, Sam Cann, Richard McGillvary and Thomas Cann.

Through the summer and fall an 85 foot high smoke stack was constructed at the end of Aberdeen Street for the new Dominion Coal Company boiler house. A coal pocket – to stockpile coal – was constructed along with an engine house and a new shunting engine arrived. The conveyor belt system was installed to move coal from the pocket to the coal boats awaiting at the pier.

By November, the poles for the electric lights along the Coal Pier had been put in place, though there would be no electricity produced until 1901. The coal pier would be the only part of Louisbourg with electric lights until 1917. In that year the town installed poles and wire and bought electricity from the Coal Company. This system lasted until the 1940/41 when the present power system was installed.

J.S. McLennan, who would eventually write Louisbourg: From its Foundation to its Fall, spent the summer in South Louisbourg at the house called Havenside.

There were 100 members of the Louisbourg Division, Sons of Temperance.

In November there was a federal election and the Laurier government was returned. In Louisbourg the liberal candidate, Dr. Arthur Kendall, was successful. The win was celebrated by bonfires, “musket” fire and a parade of 200 people led by someone carrying the Union Jack. According to the newspaper they “certainly had a hot time in the old town last night.”

There was a building boom with 20 new homes, Coal Company buildings and businesses. For example the houses now owned by Orlando and Ruby Vallis and Jean Kyte were built in 1900. Some of those who started to build in 1900 included: Wm. McAlpine, Mr. Sutherland, Mr. Baker, Mr. Bagnell, Z.W. Townsend, David Tutty, Leonard Wagner, C.S. Keefe, Murray Fiander, C.L. Mitchell, James Hart, Angus McKenzie, Mrs. Thomas Tutty and Roderick McDonald.

Steamers and schooners were arriving regularly with freight, loading bunker or domestic coal. Some schooners had to wait up to a month until the larger boats got loaded. During the past winter there had been 13 steamers loading coal for the Boston market and 5 charter coal boats on the Boston run during the summer months.

In early December the steamer Ceylon arrived with a cargo of brick for the Steel Company. Over 150 men were involved unloading the brick. The large pier at which the Ceylon unloaded was constructed in the fall and winter of 1899-1900 and was located just west of the coal pier. Because of all the activity for the Steel Company the pier was known for years as the Steel Pier as well as the Freight Pier.

It was noted in the newspapers that a number of stores around the town were carrying toys for Christmas. The stores included those owned by Roderick McDonald, A. Bates, N.G. Townsend and I.E. Kanter. Kanter’s shop was in the Mitchell Building, which was located on the old Town Hall site.

The German Medicine Company was in town during December giving performances in Mitchell’s Hall.

The final news for the year 1900 was a petition signed by 70 ratepayers delivered to the Sheriff requesting that a poll be taken to see if the citizens wanted to become incorporated. The proposed boundaries of the soon-to-be Town of Louisbourg were set out.

Signal Mast and the New Year – I wish you peace, much good will, and good fortune

On New Year’s Day (January 1st, 2000) , Allister MacDonald flew a Canadian and Nova Scotia flag and 3 signal flags from the signal mast. The signal flags read Y2K. The idea came from the Board of the Royal New Zealand Coast Guard. All New Zealand vessels at sea and in port as well as signal, lifeboat and coast guard stations were encouraged to fly the international symbols reading Y2K during daylight hours of Jan 1, 2000. It was for one day only and signified: I wish you peace, much good will, and good fortune. For more information about the Royal NZ Coast Guard check out the website at – .http://www.nzcoastguard.co.nz.

The Irving Gas Station

They tore down the old Irving service station on Main Street on Tuesday, 14 December 1999. I was in Halifax at the time, but Helen said that they began tearing it down in the morning and were finished by 4:30. If anyone took photographs of the event please contact me at 733-2873. For many years the Irving Garage was operated by Charlie Stacey. Charlie provided some information for the History of Louisbourg 1958-1982 produced under the direction of Greta Cross and Margie Cameron. He gave up the fishery in the fall of 1940 and took on the lease of the newly-built Irving Garage. Sam Dowling worked for him at the garage for 30 years. Charlie recalled the many others who worked at the garage including: Michael Burke, Gary Wilcox, Peter Hutt, Angus MacKay, Terry Morash, Arthur Kennedy, W. Mullins, Jim Steylen, Hector MacKay, John A. MacKay, Duncan Beaver, David Stacey and Darryl Beaver.

Before the Irving Station, Peters Brothers Store was in the approximate location. It was built in 1902 and destroyed by a fire bug in June 1940. The bottom floor was a meat and general grocery store. The upper floor was Peters Hall and hosted public gatherings during the first part of the century including election rallies, band concerts, dances and travelling entertainers.

Bill O’Shea

A big thanks to Eric Krause from krausehouse.ca for hosting this important information. Eric was a long time colleague and friend of Bill O’Shea. 

This site is dedicated to the memory of William A. O’Shea:

William A. O’Shea was a researcher, historian, and manager for Parks Canada / Heritage Canada. His professional life was dedicated to learning more about and teaching Canada about the history of our country. One of his personal passions has always been to learn more about local histories and share them with the broader community. He was a founding member of the Louisbourg Heritage Society, Deputy Mayor of the Town of Louisbourg (Nova Scotia) and wrote many books and articles about the town of Louisbourg and the surrounding area. He called Louisbourg home for more than 30 years. Until his passing on October 14th, 2019, he resided in Cornwall, Ontario near his home town of Long Sault, Ontario. 

William A. O’Shea (Bill O’Shea) – historian, writer, researcher

This site is maintained by Kevin O’Shea (son of Bill O’Shea).

Contact Kevin (email): makingbetterteachers@gmail.com

Twitter: @madformaple

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