History of Shag Harbour


By Gilbert Nickerson

Shag Harbor

Shelburne County

Nova Scotia


August, 1924



According to history written by Dr. Crowell of Barrington, a Frenchman, J. Amirault, came from Tours, France and may be credited for the first house, or “trading house” in this Southwest part of Nova Scotia.


In 1785 when the Third Division of land was made at Shag Harbor, the line between Lots 9 and 10 was near where “the old house stood,” and would be located at the shore in what is today Mr. Delmar Kendrick’s pasture on a high piece of land. This spot is supposed to be the site of a French trading post that was built in about 1612. Champlain sailed on the waters of the Bay and named many local spots. There were French settlements in Doctor’s Cove and some French were at Woods Harbor. These French settlers were also taken from their homes by the British. These Acadians were taken to Boston and were later released and made their way back to their homes, which were destroyed. Most of them settled in Pubnico where there was a large French settlement.


Just west of the schoolhouse in Doctor’s Cove, is a tongue of land extending southwest and separated by a narrow passage from Ministerial Island. On this was an old French settlement. It is now grown up in trees, but, upon careful search, traces of occupation may still be found. The Cove, on the west side of this tongue of land, was well sheltered from observation, while from the Eastern side of the approach, enemies were easily seen. Shag Harbor was the oldest of all the French settlements or Trading posts, The L’Omeron of the first settlers.


Lot No. 9 originally went to Philip Brown and later owned by Obed Wilson of Barrington. This was bought by Levi Nickerson II and later sold to Levi Nickerson III, where his heirs still live today. When Shag Harbor was settled in 1785-1790, the first settler would be Josiah Sears who came to Shag Harbor in 1792, and David Kendrick (who) came about that time and settled on the South side of Inner Island, then called Prospect Island. Mr. Zara Smith came to Shag Harbor about 1795 and Levi Nickerson came about the same time. Where Levi built his house would be where the house of Miss Grace Miller now stands. Where he built his shipyard would be where Mr. Solomon Nickerson’s fish store is located and just east of the Government Wharf. He also built the first wharf near the present one owned by Mr. Percy Banks and Mr. Melvin Nickerson. The first house was built by Mr. Zara Smith. Mr. David Kendrick had the first blacksmith shop and was situated at the shore on the lower side of the road across from Mr. Gamaliel Banks’ gateway. His old foundry could be seen in the memory of the writer and one or two of the old skids could be seen.

Old Road area (Early 1900’s)

In the first settling of Shag Harbor, travel and traffic was along the shore and by boat. There was no road, and the forest primeval was very much in evidence. With the increase of settlers it soon became evident that a public road must be cut through the forest. That was done by a Frenchman, Mr. D’Entrement, and the line of the road was laid over all the high land possible; and that accounts for the hilly conditions of our present road. But there was a plausible excuse for that action as the swamps were so very wet and soft that it would mean an extra amount of labor. However, some years later a level road was laid out across the swamp from Mr. Hallie Nickerson’s gate out to the Great Bend where the road comes out to the shore. The outline of the old road can still be seen where it climbed the hills.


The first school was built across from where the Temperance Hall stands. Sometimes after, the log one was torn down and a board one was built in the same spot. Afterwards, a new one was built near where Mr. Dayson Kendrick’s house now stands. As that location did not seem to work out, it was hauled to the south of the two former school houses and remained for some years until the children had increased and a bigger one was needed. This one was built on an embankment near the road dividing the line between Mr. Percy Banks and Mr. Clayton Shand. The west slope of this School House Hill seems to have a special attraction to early settlers for educational purposes, for when the school house proved to be too small, the children of the lower part were moved to the Temperance hall until the present school was built near the Church. This would be the third school house in the writer’s memory.

Early 1900’s

The first church was built a little to the west of Mr. Ernest Nickerson’s store. It was of the old style church, two stories and a gallery built around three sides with straight backed pews. The church was used for some time until a more modern one was built further East on the hill, which is the present one here today and was built in 1857. After the new church was built the old one was sold as a dwelling place for cattle. It was used as a barn on the property of Mr. Henry Rogerson.


The first dry goods store was built by Mr. Nickerson (Isaac) and the store is still standing. A brother of Mr. Isaac Nickerson was a shipbuilder and his shipyard was over the brook. The last ship to be built in Shag Harbor was called The Quick March, (1867?) and was built in the memory of the writer who was a small boy at the time of the launching and can well remember the event. In later years a small fleet of fishing boats was owned here, but as fishing seemed to decline, the vessels were sold ff. The lobster factory began to expand and big sloops were fishing craft rather than the sail boat, and it began to disappear. It is a rare thing to see a sail today. The motor engine is King.

Chapel Hill towards the wharf

In the memory of the writer one of the early Doctors was Mr. I. Wilson, the grandfather of our present young and popular Dr Alpheus Wilson. The first lobster factory in this part of the country was built here at the shore on land owned by Mr. M.A. Shand about 1857. and was owned and run by Mr. Solomon Kendrick, a retired sea captain who at one time was engaged in the whale fishery. Then, in about a year, another lobster factory was built

by the late John Shand, Sr. which was operated here for a few years and then went out of existence, and today a few bricks and stone mark the spot.


Rome, Rome, thou art no more, as thou has been.


Hands of time and the lack of care is leaving its mark, and before long Shag Harbor landmarks will be no more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *