Our History

The Parrsborough Shore area has seen human habitation for centuries, if not millenia.   The following is a very brief survey of some of the significant, interesting or peculiar events that have shaped the area, and the people who occupy it.   Subsequent pages will reveal more stories of local history, people and activities.



           10,500 B.P. First human occupation of area by Native Americans

             1397           Prince Henry Sinclair, Baron of Roslin, Earl of Orkney, and Lord of Shetland, set sail for Nova Scotia.

                                He is reputed to have "discovered" that land in June of 1398, almost a hundred years before Columbus.

Legend abounds with Henry Sinclair.   He has been associated with the Templars and its supposed lost treasure.   He is supposed to have decided to build a settlement in this new land, however, war in Scotland took his time and ultimately his life.    The knowledge of their secret land was passed from father to son. When the English threatened their Roslin castle, the Sinclairs supposedly brought their treasure to Nova Scotia. The Oak Island pit was excavated in 1436. For the next hundred years it was improved upon until the head of the Clan Sinclair left Scotland forever, disappearing from history.


             1607           Samuel De Champlain was first officially recognized European visitor

                           He found here an iron cross-covered in moss, thus proving he was not the first Christian in the region.

De Champlain's Map of Nova Scotia, featuring the Minas Basin

            1670’s         Acadian settlement in the Minas Basin region

            1730           Two Acadian boatmen, John Bourg and Francis Arseneau, operated a ferry service across the Bay of Fundy
                                from Partridge Island

          Du Vivier, undertook to capture all Acadia and marched a small force from Chignecto to Partridge Island,
                             where they were embarked for Minas.

1745          Mavin, a Quebec officer, used the Partridge Island route on his way to Annapolis

                             That same year a small force from New England captured Louisburg
   A 1959 historical novel,
                                "The Young Titan" by F Van  Wyk
Mason recounts this siege and capture.

   In December, Coulon DeVilliers, one of Ramesay’s Officers, on his way to dislodge the garrison at Minas,                                                   came to Partridge Island with 300 troops but were unable to cross because of ice. They then
                                           walked the  long way around

1750          James Noble Shannon born in Boston

              1755            Acadians expelled

Expulsion of the Acadians

              1760 – 1766  New England Planters arrived in the area.  Records show marriage of one of the original families

                                    descendants of whom still reside in the area. 

1755 marriage record

              1764            An inn, tavern, store, blockhouse, school and church were built at Partridge Island
February of 1764, military records reveal that with permission from Governor Wilmot through
                      Major  Hamilton, a local British commander, Acadians Francois Arsenault and Jean Bourg, were allowed
                      to continue operating a shallop as a Ferryboat.
(yes, the same ones who were operating it in 1730
                      (so not all Acadians were expelled)

Very early watercolour of what is presumed to be the James Ratchford house
with the roof of the center core of the present Ottawa House
visible behind it

              1768           Oldest dated timber in Ottawa House construction

              1770            Jonathon Crane and James Noble Shannon first permanent residents of Partridge Island * 


                                First land grants given in Parrsboro area. 2000 acres to John Avery, Jacob, Jr. and John Lockhart

                     Col. Eddy leads rebellion at Fort Cumberland (Amherst area) and blocks Parrsboro Pass with troops.

                     Nov. 9th.-Rebels capture ferry boat together with Partridge Island with privateer vessel of eight guns and

 full of men.

                      Nov.15th.-Ratchford’s sloop of 80 tons moved 300 men from Windsor to Fort Cumberland and Eddy’s Rebellion

  was put down.

 Commodore, Sir George Collier, says he dos not think Halifax in danger because the road (from Windsor) is

  too bad to carry  cannon and the English are in control of the sea, unless much support comes from

  New England.    He sends the warship “Vulture” to Partridge Island to put the run to the rebels.

           1776           The Partridge Island Grant awarded to John Avery, John Lockhart and Jacob Bacon on condition that
                               they operate a ferry from Partridge Island to Windsor mainly for the benefit of the military and the Lockhart
                               Family History states that John Lockhart did so.

Later in the year
  Asa and Abijiah Scott along with Jacob Hurd bought John Avery's half of the Grant,
                              and operated the ferry.    A New England privateer seized the schooner used as a Ferry in November
                              of the same year.   Later at Advocate,  Colonel Michael Francklin recaptured Scott's schooner but the
                              privateer, described as an 8-gun schooner full of men,  escaped!

           1777        Report to Governor: “It is reported that a Rebel Privateer is now at Spencer’s Island, perhaps waiting

                           for transports bound from Windsor to Halifax. Capt. Camplote tells me in consequence of prospect,

                            can escort be sent to Annapolis,  that an armed vessel is there to protect them.”

          Horton, March 21st., Petition asking for armed naval vessels in the Basin for protection. Signed Silas Crane.

          Armed Schooners  ” Loyal Nova Scotia” and “Rainbow”, patrol in Bay of Fundy regions.

                    Silas Crane Jr. bought lots # 1 and lA, at Partridge Island from Jacob Bacon.   Another historian states that

                                              he also bought  John Lockhart's town lot. Silas began a new ferry service using a forty-two ton

                                              sloop, as a packet, and continued this service until his death in April 1792.

*Note: A sloop is a shallow draft, schooner-like vessel with open holds and often, no cabins.

           1778           April 16th, Silas and Mary Crane establish a home and ferry service at Partridge Island.

                      Aug.9th.& 10th.,  Privateers came up the Cornwallis River and burned and looted homes.

           1779            Philadelphia Grant of 1779, made by Governor Francis Legge, names the following on the site map of the grant:   Silas Crane Jr. (originally No 1 to Jacob Bacon),  James N Shannon (originally No2 to John Lockhart),  and James Ratchford, Sr. (originally No 3 Jacob Bacon), as the principal holders with one parcel (originally No 4 John Avery)  being ceded (sold?) by Jonathon Crane to James Rathford, and three very small parcels from the original grant being retained (apparently) by John Avery and Jacob Bacon. (The name Philadelphia survives to this day with one street in the current town of Parrsboro retaining the name.)   Three other adjoining parcels of land are listed on the grant map, inland of those bordering the shoreline, all of which were granted to John Lockhart.

The precise measurements are difficult to determine as some of the distances are listed as “174 perches”  or “171 perches”, an Anglo Saxon unit of measurement which was cited in a law known as the Composition of Yards and Perches (Compositio ulnarum et perticarum) some time between 1266 and 1303 but which has not survived to today.  No precise equivalent of distance has as yet been determined.

The name Philadelphia survives to this date as Philadelphia Street in the current town of Parrsboro.

Philadelphia Grant 1779

             1780             In June, a privateer from Machais Maine, attempts raid on Shannon Store at Partridge Island Settlement Three of the raiders killed and remainder captured, along with their vessel.

Later in the same month, another privateer made a raid.   Fortunately this was a small one, and as the landing party  of 8 men was busy looting a home, they were surrounded by a small group of soldiers under a Lieutenant Wheaton.  Three of the privateer’s men, including their Captain were killed and the rest on land were captured. Their vessel escaped, although British naval ships sought it.

           1781             May 21   
ABattle of Blomidon@   This is the raid that contains an element of humour.   Initially the privateer, entering  the area in a shallop, described as "bristling with guns" and towing two whale boats, captured a small schooner loaded with goods for British posts on the Saint John River.

Lt. Colonel Jonathan Crane and Captain William Bishop confronted this group with about 30 militiamen  in an old schooner armed with a single six-pound brass cannon.    Unfortunately they had set out in such a  rush that they had not checked their powder supply and it was the schooner that ran out of gunpowder and with her rigging in tatters was forced to surrender.                                                

Fortunately a Lt. Belcher soon arrived in the armed sloop ‘Success’ and in a spirited battle off Cape Split,  he defeated the raider whose crew escaped ashore in the whaleboats.

Belcher captured five of them the next day. Belcher now pursued and recaptured the schooner and that   night Colonel Crane was able to free his men and retake his ship. This was a feat that was to be of enormous   help to him in his later political career.

This same year, Captain Thomas Wm. Moore arrived at Partridge Island. He had purchased lot no. 6 from  Jacob Hurd and there he built his home, the interior of which he had plastered with 'plaster of paris' obtained at Windsor,  thus earning it the name of 'Whitehall'.   The name survives today as "Whitehall Road"  He also purchased lot no. 9 from  Jacob Bacon, a large portion of which he later turned over to the Church of England.   It was here that our first actual church was erected.

Note: There may have been an error made when the old cemetery was laid off as a portion of it was later found to be across the Cumberland road when surveyed many years later by Crown Land surveyor Charles Harrison.

1782            Abijah Scott claimed ferry boat destroyed by American privateers

            1784            Governor Parr visited area and Township later named in his honour.

1786           July 11th, first official reference to James Ratchford at Partridge Island
July 20th, Parrsborough declared a Parish and new church began construction

1788          William Moore and James Ratchford take over original land grant at Partridge Island
James Ratchford gets official control over Ferry Service

1789           Bishop Inglis uses ferry to visit church at Partridge Island

1792           Silas Crane Jr., ferry captain dies.
Tombstone of Silas Crane, Parrsboro cemetary

             1800             Mill Village (former name of Parrsboro town site) began after a gristmill was built there by Josiah Davison                                                      (Note:  descendants of the Davison family still reside in Parrsboro)

              1803          J.Ratchford & J. Shannon given license to “Inspect and Search American vessels in the Minas Basin

              1812          June,    War declared between Great Britain and the United States.

            Col. James Ratchford calls out Militia at Partridge Island.

  Blockhouses at Fort Edward (Windsor) and Partridge Island were improved and provisioned for war.   Two brass                                    naval cannon were brought as part of the armament for Partridge Island fort.

  Brig “Parrsboro” built at Partridge Island. Records of this vessel are the earliest yet found of any ship building on the                          North side of the Minas Basin.

              1813           New ferry “Friends” begins Minas Basin service.

Capt. Stickney, known to be master of rival ferry between Parrsboro, Windsor and Horton.
Partridge Island settlement, 1818

First Petition of Parrsborough residents to join Cumberland County or form its own county

Col. Jonathan Crane died.

James Noble Shannon, founding merchant of Partridge Island, died.
James Shannon's tombstone. 
He lies buried in the old Partridge Island burying ground

This decaying cairn marks the site of the old Partridge Island Burying Ground
a few minutes walk from the Ottawa House, the only grave left visible is James Shannon's

               1826            James DeWolfe, began a store in Mill Village. At that time there were only five houses in present town site.

            “Maid of the Mist”, (nicknamed Fundy Fog) was the first steamer to enter the Minas Basin                       
            Western Stage Coach Company advertises for connecting service with steamboat ferry from                                                                   Windsor,  Parrsborough and Saint John.

     1834             Petition of John Fisher for license to operate Stage Coach from Parrsboro to Amherst.

               1836             James Ratchford, Esq., considered founder of Parrsboro dies.


Tombstone of James Ratchford

     1840            The Parrsborough Shore becomes part of Cumberland County.

     1840             Packet “Amethyst”, Ratchford & Company ferry in operation on Minas Basin service.

     1848            Parrsboro experienced a devastating drought and weevil infestation. It snowed in every month that year.

     1851            Joseph Howe elected to represent Cumberland County.

                             May 31st, Joseph Howe appoints a Mr. Roop to be lighthouse keeper at Parrsboro.

     1854           “Jack Easy” operated by Capt. James Merriam, one of several sailing ferries operating on the Basin.

                        (The Merriam name will resurface, some say in infamy, many years later in the time line of Parrsboro.)

     1855           Charles Tupper defeats Joseph Howe in Cumberland.

                                  Note:   Charles Tupper and Joseph Howe were both present at the Ottawa House on election night.

      1856          Charles Tupper gets money for steamboat wharf at Partridge Island.  

                        Referred to at the time as "Tupper's Folly" the remains of this pier are still visible at low tide.

'Tupper's Folly', Pier at Ottawa House

                1857          “Maid of Erin”, running as steam packet, from Windsor, Partridge Island, Saint John.

      1860          Postmaster’s salary for Parrsboro set at $127.18.

             Government offers $1600 per year for 4 years to operate a steamboat service, 3 times per week between Parrsboro,  Hantsport, Five Islands, Londonderry, Maitland, Petite, Kempt and Windsor.

      1861         Government offers $4000 per year for steamboat service from Windsor to Saint John and Annapolis, and

              $3000 per year for the Minas Basin.

                       Population of Cumberland County was 20,000, while that of King’s County was 17,460.

       1864         Charles Tupper becomes Premier of Nova Scotia.

                       Free schools established in Nova Scotia.

      1869         October 4/5   The "Saxby Gale"  which by local oral tradition was the storm that created the bar than

                       now connects   Partridge Island with the mainland.   (Named after Lt Stephen Martin Saxby, a naval

                       instructor who predicted  unusually high tides and a storm surge.   It also breached dykes and flooded

                       large portions of the Tantramar Marsh.)

      1871         Sir Charles Tupper buys Ottawa House property as a summer home and commences renovations. 

                       He names the building Ottawa House By-the-Sea in honour of Confederation.

Sir Charles Tupper

      1872         The Spencer’s Island brig “Amazon” renamed the “Mary Celeste”, was found abandoned at sea

             for no apparent reason.

Mary Celeste

                1873            First run of the Springhill & Parrsboro Railway was on July 1st.   This is also the first surviving written record of the
                                    Parrsboro Cornet Band.  It was  mentioned in the newspaper article as being on hand to greet the train as it arrived.

Parrsboro Cornet Band 1883
Many of these players would have greeted the first coal train
(Several were later killed in WW I)

            In this first year of railroad operations to Parrsboro there were 900 ships loaded with coal

Parrsboro's busy coal wharf
                 1878           Skating rink built at a cost of $1,500          
                                    One third of the tonnage shipped from Nova Scotia, shipped from Parrsboro

                 1879            First telegraph from Parrsboro sent on March 28th

      1884           Sir Charles Tupper sells the Ottawa House to the Cumberland Railway and Coal Company.

                1889           Town Of Parrsboro incorporated on July 15th

                                     First Town Council met on September 7th

                 1891            First telephone service in Parrsboro

                 1892            Parrsboro's census was 1909 with 347 families, records indicate that the  birth rate was astonishing.

               Parrsboro boat works build the three largest tern schooners ever launched in N.S.

                 1897           Parrsboro became first town to operate its own electric light plant.    Population:  2,000

                 1900           Parrsboro was 2nd. only to Halifax for tonnage shipped.

                 1910          Dominion Steel Company buys Ottawa House

                 1913            Post Office moved from Howard Lane building to new brick building on Main Street.

Parrsboro Customs House and Post Office

                  1916             Schooner Minas Queen was launched.

                  1919             July 5th,  Handley-Page aircraft "Atlantic"  made forced landing at Parrsboro, crashing as it attempted

                                        to land on the   race track. During 'the summer of the Handley-Page' it was repaired and left for 

                                        New York on Oct.9th, 1919. Due to the crash of the Handley Page, Parrsboro is now a sister community

                                        to Greenport, NY.   Many aviation were records set during these flights. 

                                                                            E.g.   First Airmail between Canada and U.S.A.

The unexpected visit by the Handley-Page "Atlantic"

The navigator's seat from the "Atlantic" is on display at the Museum

                        1920           Whitebelle is the last large sailing vessel launched in Parrsboro.

                        1923           Captain Carl Merriam buys Ottawa House, running it as a fine hotel.   He erects a dance                                        

                                           hall beside Ottawa House some of  which material is still in use as the floor of the dining room

                                            of the Ottawa House today.        (Be sure to see and learn more of Capt Merriam in "Our Stories")

Ottawa House By-the-Sea with dance pavilion

                          1926           April 1st., M.V. Kipawo first arrived in Parrsboro to begin her long career as ferry boat between
                                             Parrsboro and Annapolis Valley

MV Kipawo

                               The Seaman family buys Ottawa House and continue running it as a hotel.

               1942          A Hudson bomber, on a training mission out of Debert, makes an unexpected stop

                                on top of the aboiteau in Parrsboro.

The Hudson bomber

              1948         James and Lottie Wheaton buy Ottawa House building its reputation as a hotel to new heights.

                              Lottie's interest in the history of the area prompts her to start a museum in the old adjacent school house

(still commemorated in the school house display in today's museum)

                          1956          Partridge Island School recognized as the oldest school in Canada.  Note: it was demolished less than
                                            two years later as the Deparment of Roads widened West Bay Rd.

The Partridge Island school, oldest in Canada

                          1958           June 14th, Parrsboro train makes last trip.   No celebration by citizens, or band on hand to
                                             mark the occasion.

          Mr. Kitchener Tracey buys Ottawa House, continues running it as a hotel.

              1974           Peter & Winnie McCaig buy Ottawa House.  They continue the hotel tradition for six years.

               1977          Parrsborough Shore Historical Society founded

                        1980           Department Of Lands & Forests buy Ottawa House

              1981           The Parrsborough Shore Historical Society begins Ottawa House Museum.

                          1982           M.V. Kipawo comes home after a nearly 40 year absence.

                          1984           M.V. Kipawo moved to present site at Lower Main Street and becomes a permanent theatre.

                          1986           World's smallest dinosaur fossils found near Parrsboro.

                          1989           Town celebrates 100th Anniversary of Incorporation.

                          1993            December, Fundy Geological Museum opens.