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History of Inverness County, Nova Scotia
Chapter XI - The Town of Inverness


The town of Inverness lies about the middle of the county coast, and owes its existence to a mine of bituminous coal. It is built on a pleasing eminence overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Nature favored this locality. On the west is a curving, interesting beach of sand, and a charming little sheet of water formerly called MacIsaac's Pond: on the North the town is laved by all the pleasant and purifying properties of the sounding sea: On the East is a sparkling stream finding its source in the foothills of Cape Mabou, and coursing its sinuous way through the vales of Glenville and Strathlorne until it mingles with the general world of waters at the mouth of Big River: on the South loom the glories of Strathlorne, and other triumphs of the Great Designer. Yes, the landscape is a garland of Nature: but even Nature must sacrifice betimes to the ruthless greed of industrial enterprise.

The first regular seam of coal found in this region was discovered :by John Beaton (Red), who came here from South West Mabou and bought a farm at Big River from Alexander McIsaac who, with his family, was moving away to the distant Island of New Zealand. Mr. Beaton's crude work of development there exposed a fine face of coal, and caused considerable excitement among the people. But all means of transportation were lacking. Mr. Beaton afterwards sold his property containing the newly discovered coal seam to Rev. Hugh Ross. Mr. Ross was something of a speculator and a fine talker, but did not excel in fruitful work. So the Broad Cove Coal Seam was des-tined to lie low for a lengthened period.

Long before this discovery of Beaton's the pioneer settlers found out-croppings of coal in different places along the shore bank. This outcrop appeared in three seams of two or three feet. The principal of these out-croppings appeared at Broad Cove Banks where for many years coal was won from the steep shore bank by means of pick and shovel, and a rustic creel. The Coal-cutter there carried, the creel on his back along an improvised track cut in the face of the bank to the top. From the top of the bank this coal was conveyed by cart or sledge to the Blacksmiths and others who required it. The remuneration of those primitive coal-cutters was very small, their labors were very arduous, and their families were usually very large; but the good men never even once, considered the refined expedient of a cure-all' "Strike."

In the late Eighties of the century last past a stirring American by the name of William Penn Hussey undertook to investigate the coal possibilities of Broad Cove. Mr. Hussey's home was in Danversport in the State of Massachusetts, but the home of his previous business (that of a coal merchant) was conducted in the city of Boston. He came in person to Broad Cove to make an examination of the, ground and prospects. The conditions that met him were not encouraging. The Coal indeed was there, but there was neither harbor nor railway in sight.

The native people, frozen by the isolation of the past, could lend him no inspiring hope. A more timid man would have taken to the tall timbers instanter: but William Penn Hussey was not built that way. He loved to dance on difficulties.

He proceeded at once to organize a Company called. "The Broad Cove Coal Company", of which he became himself the Manager. After securing a Charter from the provincial Legislature, he issued an optimistic prospectus and went to Europe to finance his `scheme. In Europe he attracted a very considerable amount of capital, particu-larly in Switzerland. He was one brave booster. Whatever else he did or did not, he it was who put Broad Cove on the map. He was a master of map-making. We remember some of his letter-heads with engravings showing "MacIsaac's Lake," bristling with the finest fleet of merchantmen we ever saw in dreams.

And the dreams in this case materialized to a degree of reality. Mr. Hussey at once addressed himself to the opening of "McIsaac's Pond" into a harbor. He brought a dredge with a fleet of scows from Massachusetts, cut a channel from the sea into the said Pond, built two well constructed piers at the mouth, and a neat shipping wharf on the landing road inside the harbor. He laid a narrow guage railway from his seam of coal at Big River to the shipping pier at the harbor, where he shipped coal in vessels of respectable tonnage.

We recall a day when we saw in the new made harbor eight of those coal-carrying craft, with a Government Steamer having on board the then Minister of Public Works of Canada, the late Honorable Israel Tarte. It was a revelation to a Canadian cabinet Minister to see on the coast of Nova Scotia, a neat new harbor with its substantial piers and breakwaters, constructed and completed without a dollar of State aid. But the facts of that day were even so in Broad Cove. The subsequent wanton neglect of The Inverness Railway and Coal Company in allowing that handsome harbor, and those substantial wharves and piers, to be utterly ruined, was a public sin that cannot easily be forgiven. It is said that Hussey screened a cool million out of Broad Cove.

About the very end of the past century, The Broad Cove Coal Company, and Mr. Hussey with it, retired from the stage and were succeeded by The Inverness Railway and Coal Company. The power behind this new corporation was a remarkable firm of railway builders familiarly known in Canada as "Mackenzie and Mann". Whatever else may be said of "Mackenzie and Mann", they were perfect marvels, in the railway world. Both rose from the proletariat, and were descendants of canny Scots. Their brain and brawn are writ large over the face of this Dominion from ocean to ocean. For ten years they were building within Canada an average of a mile of railway per day.. The great Canadian Northern, with all its subsidiary lines, is a huge• product of their thought and toil. They had, not only an evident genius for-the building of railways, but, also, a sublime gift for enticing public money into their projects. There was scarcely a Government in Canada, federal or provincial, that did not fall, time after time, to, the siren song of MacKenzie and Mann.

When they decided to build the Inverness Railway they secured a subsidy of $6,400 per mile from the Dominion Government; from the Government of Nova Scotia $4000 a mile; and from the County of Inverness $2,000 a mile including right of way. The numerous and successful pilgrimages of those famous "Builders" to the Parliament Hill at Ottawa, will be long remembered by the good, loyal, yeomanry of Canada. Some one has said that powerful bleeders often become powerless bankrupts. You cannot predicate such a thing of MacKenzie and Mann. Some of their heavy enterprises may have run into helpless insolvency; but not, it is a solace to say, until the wizards behind had become, in their personal capacity, expanded millionaires and belted Knights of the Nation. And always those men stood and worked within the law. Greater proof of their cleverness is not possible.

At the time the Inverness Railway and Coal Company was applying to the various authorities for financial assistance, the scheme was represented as the construction of a Railway from Point Tupper Northwardly along the shore to the Harbor of Cheticamp - a distance of one Hundred miles. When sixty miles of that line had been built to the Company's own coal mine at Broad Cove, the road stopped there, and never went further. This would seem to be a bold breach of faith with the Governments at Ottawa and Halifax, and with the people of Inverness, especially the good people of the North, who had to pay their full share of all the subsidies already acquired and applied. It was not a good beginning for a new corporation of which good and great things were expected: but the Company got away with it on the ethical ground that "half a loaf is better than no bread".

Immediately on the completion of the road to Inverness the managers of the I. Ry. & Coal Co. set their faces, manfashion, to their mining proposition. They did not continue the operations at Big River commenced by Mr. Hussey. They paid more court to science. On low, level, ground nearer the harbor they opened a slope in which they struck a seven foot seam of superior soft coal. That seam has been operated with varying fortunes ever since. Shortly after striking this seam the Company erected about eighty double tenement houses for miners, and as many more a little later. A respectable modern plant was provided and installed, and for about twelve years the average output from the slope referred to was not less than one thousand tons of coal per diem. Three years ago another slope, distinguished as No. 4, was driven half a mile further to the Northeast. Here, another seam of coal was found which gives promise of good results.

We do not say that the Management of the Inverness Railway and Coal Company was at all times, and in every particular, without reproach ; one costly, if not fatal, error was flagrant, over-capitalization. But assuming these men did things that were wrong, we should not deny them credit for doing things that were right. It is the simple truth to say that the activities of these men have been of incalculable benefit to Inverness County. They gave needed and patriotic employment to our young people at home; they gave us the best home market we ever, had; they paid their workingmen regularly a wage which was not, on the whole, unfair, nearly all of which wage went into immediate general circulation: they called forth, from the depths, the largest and most useful town within our county; and they created an honorable industry in our midst for which generations of our people have wished, waited, and prayed. Nevertheless, we are constrained to think that the greatest usefulness of the Inverness Railway, and Coal Company is behind it. The race of that corporation is run; its bolt was shot; vitality is not left in it; it has become the wizened ward of the Courts and Trust Companies. Let a great Deliverer come? "All things die: Nothing dies"!

Of the residents of this town the largest number, by far, are miners. The depressed and disturbed condition of labor everywhere since the war has given to miners generally a reputation which many of them do not deserve. The miners of Inverness are a sane, orderly, law-abiding body of laborers. The most of them are good men, good citizens, and good miners. The heinous classes of criminal offences are unknown here. Our men are nearly all professed Christians, and they mean it. In the early life of the town there was too much liquor sold and used. There is too much of it yet, since there is any at all. Liquor is the deadly enemy of all 'men engaged in deep thinking or perilous practical pursuits. Take the miner for example:

He is lowered in a rake through a yawning artificial passage into the deep, dark, and rumbling bowels of the earth. He has to work with pick and shovel, and with dangerous explosives. For him there is no liberty, no air, no room, no moon, no sun, no day: all is one wierd, long and lingering night. For him no birds are singing; no flowers are blooming, no glad voices of innocent children to cheer his burdened soul. Every moment he is under ground his life is in jeopardy. When he returns again to light the reaction is so severe and sudden that it is dangerous for him to expose himself to the ordinary influence of the streets. He must avoid all incentives to violent excitement. What he needs is fresh air, wholesome food, comfortable rest, and the kind care of a well-kept home. The same is true also, of sailors, soldiers, intensive farmers, and strenuous mental toilers whose work presses acutely on mind or body, or on both. These are the men who carry the world on their shoulders.

The town of Inverness was incorporated in 1904, and has since been governed, like all other towns, by a Mayor and Town Council. The first Mayor was Dan R. MacLean; the first Clerk and Treasurer, William D. Lawrence; the first Stipendiary Magistrate and Town Solicitor, F. A. MacEchen, now deceased. Mr. Lawrence still occupies his official positions: Mr. MacEchen remained in his continuously from the time of his first appointment to the time of his lamented death in the Spring of 1922. Alexander D. Fraser is the very efficient chief of the town's police force.

This town has an excellent water system, with a competent Fire brigade, and is electrically lighted. A very commodious brick Public Building, erected by the Dominion Government, serves as Post Office, Custom House, and government Telegraph Office. There is also a Track Association owning one of the best trotting courses in Eastern Canada.

The schools of Inverness are well cared for. There are six school buildings, seventeen departments, and nine hundred school-going children. The teachers are selected with care, and their work is very thorough. The yearly assessment of the town is $500,000. The population, as per latest census, is 3000, of whom about 2000 are Catholics and 1000 Protestants. There is an inconsiderable sprinkling of foreigners whose religion, if any, is blankly undefined.

This town is rich in Halls. Among these induce of fame may be mentioned, The Town Hall, Labor Temple, The Orange Hall, The G.W.V.A. Hall, The C.M.B.A. Hall, and The Oddfellows' Hall. The town Hall and Labor Temple are both imposing buildings for a young town. The leading commercial, business men of the town at present are Duncan A. MacIsaac, J. B. Henderson, A. J. Campbell, John Coady, Edward J. Brassett, L. D. Cameron, John R. MacLennan, Alex. J. Gillis and Bliss MacNutt. There are other men in other lines of business, such as Malcolm MacLellan, Butcher, Arch A. MacIsaac, Butcher, Jack Quigly, Garage owner and proprietor of the moving pictures theatre. All these are brisk going concerns when the going is good. There are also two Barber Shops, three large Hotels and a flourishing branch of the Royal Bank of Canada.

The value and variety of our natural resources do not escape meet attention at the hands of the more ambitious townsmen. Duncan A. MacIsaac owns and operates a canning factory wherein he packs large shipments of Lobster every Spring. J. B. Henderson is the owner of a fleet of salmon nets which he uses with effect near the mouth of Big River. Many daring men with gasoline boats engage in mackerel and cod fishing. A Farmer's Association of considerable strength is doing a large business in Flour and Feed for the special benefit of the rural consumer. Public health and sanitation are not neglected, although sanitary conditions could be much improved in some directions. We have a most efficient Water Superintendent in the person of Angus MacIsaac, Lot. No. 1. We have a Board of Health, a Health Officer, an accomplished county nurse, two modern Drug-stores, three busy doctors and an Undertaker.

The spiritual needs of the town are looked after by two energetic resident clergymen, one a Presbyterian Protestant, the other a Roman Catholic. They serve in two fine churches built, in line with one another, on a picturesque height looking down upon the town. Like wise men they work with mutual good will, and without friction or prejudice. "A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another." This is the precept, this the ideal which will meet the wishes and satisfy the longings of the good people here. Both of these pastors are zealous and sincere, and both are honestly striving to see and supply the higher needs of their respective flocks.

The first resident Presbyterian Minister at Inverness was the Reverend John A. W. Nicholson now of Dartmouth, N. S. He was. then a young man, able, sane and broadminded, and did signal work in this town. There have been several Presbyterian ministers here since his time, all of them men of character, but none of them remained long. The present incumbent is the Reverend Mr. Wright, who has. been in charge for the last few years. He is a man of evident culture, and is very popular. With his education, refinement and Christian spirit, he cannot fail to have a happy and uplifting pastorate. We cordially wish him ad multos annos.

The first Catholic pastor to assume charge here was the Reverend A. L. MacDonald P.P., who still holds the fort. Father MacDonald. is a practical man of tact and good judgment. He is one of the men "who do things", He inculcates faith, but does not hesitate to say that "faith without good works is dead." Into the first ten years that he spent here he crowded the physical work of a long lifetime. That work can be seen and examined, and will speak for itself. We refer to it in detail elsewhere. Father MacDonald is kind and friendly in his counsel and conversation, but uniformly firm in his purpose. When occasion requires it he can stab like a lance; but he seldom has to do it. twice. In all the civic and social services he is a working citizen and a warning priest. His popularity is general. All regret that in recent years his health has been indifferent, obliging him to invoke the aid of curates; but in the big, warm, heart of his flock no one else can fill the place of their own fond "Father Alick". The town, at large, will implore for him health and length of days.

SOLOMON SURPASSED.
(From the Casket, Nov. 9th, 1922.)

It was just a quarter of a century ago that the march of progress, brought to central Inverness the first locomotive to be seen in that part of the country. Its trial run was naturally an event, and was thus graphically described by the Broad Cove correspondent of The Casket, October 21, 1897:

"It has been said that there is nothing new under the sun. There: is a deep sense in which this is true; and yet there are many things newly formed. There is a brand new locomotive at Broad Cove fresh from the Baldwin Locomotive Works at Philadelphia. It is owned by the Broad Cove Coal Company, and is positively `a thing of beauty.' Let us hope that it may also be `a joy forever' to the enterprising owners and the people of this place. It came by rail to Mulgrave, whence it was conveyed on one of Mr. Hussey's scows, and by his own tug, to the new harbor near Broad Cove Mines. It was landed safely here last Tuesday (12th inst) together with a large number of coal carriages and other mining plant. Thursday following, it was placed on the railway track, furbished and fired, and run from the harbor to the mine (two miles) and back again with t-ie first car of coal ever seen in Inverness. Yes, the long-looked for `iron horse' is, in good truth, a triumphant verity in this county. No paper creature-no speculative phantom this; 'tis the actual, living, moving roaring, reality itself, -the gallant, genuine charger! Here in primitive Broad Cove, after a century of unbroken stillness, its incipient `snort' was so new, so strange, so often heard of, but never before heard, so rapturously welcome, so ominous of things in hope, that its first effect was singularly bizarre. The beasts of the field, the birds of the air, caught up the novel noise, as if the knell of doom had sounded. The pebbly beach of the shore, as if with fear and trembling, re-echoed the wrath-like rumblings. The sea itself, for the nonce, was still, in the awful majesty of suppressed amazement. The ancient hills of Cape Mabou stood aghast to listen. The young men cheered; the old men wondered. As for the saintly old women who are usually as impervious to the lessons of science as a marble goddess is to human love, why, they thought of course, it was the terrible trumpet of Gabriel. With them Solomon has lost his reputation. Greater far, to their thinking, is the wonder-working name of William Penn Hussey!"


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