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.

Grantees of Shag Harbour


Warren Anson Kendrick

Born: 1743

Died: 1815

Anson Kendrick was born in South Orleans in September of 1734. He was the second son of Jonathon and Tabitha Kendrick. By trade, he was a carpenter. It is alleged that he was a soldier at the taking of Louisburg. However, he would have only been fifteen at the time, so there are doubts as to the legitimacy of this claim. He married Azubah Sears in 1765. Shortly after, he left New England to settle in Nova Scotia and was granted land in the Barrington Township between 1765 and 1770. He eventually moved from the Sherose Island lot to Shag Harbour, where he occupied part of Kendrick’s Island (Prospect Island). He was the first Kendrick to settle in Shag Harbour.

            Anson Kendrick’s death was a shocking tragedy. He was on a boat with his daughter, Abigail, and her family. They were heading to a Shag Harbour Island to collect bird eggs. Unfortunately, there was an accident and the boat was capsized. Everyone aboard the boat died, except for Abigail. She managed to bring the boat to shore. When she finally made it back home, she was asked where the others were, to which she replied, “They are in eternity.”

            There are discrepancies regarding his children. Some sources list thirteen. This list is as was written in the History of the Barrington Township.

Children of Warren Anson & Azubah (Sears) Kendrick:

Tabitha, born 1766

Edward, born 1768

Anson, born 1772

Martha, born 1774

David, unknown birth date

John, born 1776

Sears, unknown birth date

Azubah, unknown birth date

Huldah, born 1786

Phebe, born 1788

Abigail, born 1794







Joshua Nickerson

Born: 1733

Died: 1821

            Joshua Nickerson was born in Chatham, Massachusetts on May 27, 1733. He was the first child of Caleb & Mary (Godfrey) Nickerson. He married Esther Ryder on December 15, 1754 in Chatham. He came to the Township of Barrington in one of the first vessels and was granted a land deed.

He was reputed as a builder and was especially known for his work framing the Old Meeting House in Barrington. He had six sons, and they were active in local enterprise.


Children of Joshua & Esther (Ryder) Nickerson:

Caleb, born 22nd May, 1757

Levi, born 10th December, 1759

Joshua, born 1763

Zenas, born 15th January, 1767

Simeon, born about 1770

Reuben, born between 1770 and 1773

Judah Crowell

Born: 1703

Died: 1771

            Judah Crowell was born on May 6, 1703, in Chatham, Massachusetts. He was the third child and only son of Thomas & Elizabeth (Jones) Crowell. At the age of 30, on September 16, 1733, he married Tabitha Nickerson. Judah was nearly sixty years old when he moved to the Barrington Township in the early 1760s. He and two of his sons, Judah and Thomas, were granted land in the Township.

            Judah died in 1771, while hunting ducks.


Children of Judah & Tabitha (Nickerson) Crowell:

Judah, born 1734 (Grantee)

Thomas, born 28th February, 1735 (Grantee)

Elizabeth, born 1738

Eleazar, unknown birth date.

Ansel, unknown birth date

Archelaus, born 20th August, 1747

Heman Kenney

Born: 1732

Died: 1775

Heman (Heinan in some texts) Kenney was presumably born to Nathan & Mercy (Smith) Kenney in Chatham, Massachusetts in 1732. He died in Barrington Head, Nova Scotia on February 4th, 1775. He was married in Chatham on August 25th, 1752. His wife was Mercy Nickerson. On Cape Cod, he was a Magistrate, or ‘Justice of the Peace’.

He is thought to have migrated to Barrington, Nova Scotia in November 1761 with his family. There, he was appointed by the Nova Scotia government to become the first Magistrate of Barrington. It is assumed that his first five children were born in Chatham and the other seven were born in Barrington.

Children of Heman & Mercy (Nickerson) Kenney:

Heman, born 27th June 1753

Isaac, born 1755

Nehemiah, born 1757

Gamaliel, born 1760

Mercy, born 1761

Betsey, born October 1763

Sarah, born 8th September, 1765

Susanna, born 28th June, 1767

Nehemiah, 20th May, 1769

Daniel, born 13th December, 1771

Elizabeth, born 15th December, 1773

Mary, born 14th August, 1775

Archelaus Smith

Born: 1734

Died: 1821

            Archelaus Smith was born on April 23, 1734, in Chatham, Massachusetts. His parents were Deacon Stephen & Bathsheba (Brown) Smith. He married Elizabeth Nickerson in Chatham in 1752. In 1760, he began planning to move with his family to Barrington, Nova Scotia. He and his family were to be some of the area’s earliest settlers. Archelaus spent the summer of 1760 fishing in the Barrington area and it was during that time that he decided that native hostility in the area was too great. Elizabeth wasn’t aware of his change of heart and she took the family to Barrington before Archelaus returned to Chatham. By the time Archelaus returned to Barrington, his family was being cared for by the natives of the area. These were the same people he had determined hostile.

            By trade, Archelaus was a tanner and a shoemaker, but after moving to Barrington Head, he was appointed to be clerk of the proprietors as well as a community Magistrate and a surveyor. He was known as a quiet, patient and easy man and was well respected within the community.

            In 1773, he moved to Cape Island and that was where he died on August 3, 1821.


Children of Archelaus & Elizabeth (Nickerson) Smith:

Susanna, unknown birth date

Hezekiah, unknown birth date

Mercy, unknown birth date

Eunice, unknown birth date

Stephen, born 1764

James, born 1787

Archelaus, unknown birth date

Hannah, unknown birth date


History of the New England Planters

History of the New England Planters


          The New England Planters were settlers from the New England colonies (which are 6 states in the northeastern corner of the United States: Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont). After the Acadian Expulsion in 1755, the lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia, Charles Lawrence, sent invitations to these people to populate the lands left by the French with British settlers.

Planters were the first group of English immigrants in Canada that did not descend from Great Britain. Out of 8000 who took the offer for land between 1759 and 1768, most of the Planters were fishermen or farmers. The farmers tended to settle in areas with prosperous land (such as Annapolis Valley and southern parts of New Brunswick, which at the time were a part of Nova Scotia). The fishermen chose to populate areas in the South Shore of Nova Scotia mainly because they were already fishing in our waters from New England. Both the farmers and fishermen were given 1000 acres of land with no rent for the first 10 years of settlement.

          In 1760, these settlers started to create a community that was called “Barrington Township” by the lieutenant governor, Charles Lawrence. Some of the ones granted land in the Barrington Township were: Archelaus Smith, Joshua Nickerson, Judah Crowell, Heman Kenney, and Warren Anson Kendrick, which are now the ancestors of many of the inhabitants in this area.

One of the greatest creations the 50 Planter families brought to the Barrington Township was “The Old Meeting House”, which is the oldest non-conformist house of worship in the whole country of Canada. This building has survived from the year 1765 to the present day and is currently being used as a museum.










Lifestyle of the Planters


          Most of the Planters worked as either farmers or fishermen. The more educated went on to careers in medicine. Other occupations included traders and those who worked at mills and warehouses, and builders to help the Barrington Township thrive. Women were not usually workers, although they did occasionally work on the farms and always prepared food, spun wool, made clothing, maintained the household and looked after their large families.

          The Planter families were not wealthy and wore simple clothing. Their fabric was mostly linen, sometimes wool or cotton, but rarely did they use silk.

Woman’s clothing was designed to be modified during their pregnancy. The arms of the dress were the only fitted part, while the front was pinned/tied and the waist could be sized. Other then Sundays, the women wore woolseys for both a petticoat and apron; and a loose jacket worn like a bedgown. Sundays, they wore their most expensive materials, such as silk calicoes with long ruffles.

          The men, except for Sundays, wore home-made checkered shirts and during the winter season, they wore linsey-woolsey shirts, breeches, stockings and shoes. When summer came along, they wore long trousers that came down around to their feet. When Sundays arrived, they wore their finest cloth or linen and ruffled shirts.







          “Planter” refers to a colonist who took up land in new settlements; this term was used during the Elizabethan Era. It is also used to describe people recruited by public and/or private agencies to occupy areas under the control of the British Empire.

          New England Planters were also referred to as “Pre-Loyalists”, because they came from the same area as the Loyalists.



The American Revolution


The Planters decided during the American Revolution to remain neutral due to a bad economy and geographic isolation. After the 13 colonies won the war, the ones who remained loyal to Great Britain (Loyalists) moved to land under British command. A lot of the Loyalists moved to Nova Scotia and affected the Planter influence on the area.




Did you know…


Did you know that two Canadian Prime Ministers, Sir Charles Tupper and Sir Robert Borden were of Planter descent?


Did you know that there were 13 original townships in Charles Lawrence’s plan for Nova Scotia? They are: Amherst, Annapolis, Barrington, Cornwallis, Cumberland, Falmouth, Granville, Horton, Liverpool, Onslow, Sackville, Tinmouth, and Yarmouth.


Did you know that the Planters are descendants from the Pilgrims that sailed on the Mayflower?

Did you know that during summer months, both the Planter women and men did not wear stockings or shoes? They just walked around barefoot.






Some of the Planter Names:


Adams, Albro, Atwood, Atkinson, Baker, Banks, Barss, Borden, Cahoon, Chipman, Clark, Clements, Coffin, Covel, Crosby, Crowell, Denison, Deschamps, Doane, Folger, Gardner, Greenwood, Hamilton, Harding, Hicks, Homer, Hopkins, Katzmann, Kendrick, Kenney, King, Knowels, Longley, McGray, McNutt, Morris, Newell, Nickerson, Osborne, Pinkham, Porter, Rand, Reynolds, Sargent, Saunders, Sears, Smith, Snow, Swain, Vinson, Walker, West, Wilmot, Wilson, Wood, Worthen