Captain Loran A. Kenney & The Aberdeen

Hi All! I hope you’re all having a great week so far. For this week’s “Over the Waves” we’re heading to the waters around Nova Scotia. I know I’ve covered Coast Guard ships before (usually ones that have been in the St. John’s Harbour), but I decided to look a bit further back, to when they were considered Canadian Government Ship (or Dominion Government Steamer). And, not surprisingly, I found a ship that caught my interest. This week I bring you all the story of the CGS Aberdeen.

Ship Stats
Nationality: Canadian
Length: 55m
Beam: 9.4m
Weight: 674 tonnes
Draught: 5.8m
Complement: 45
Speed: 13 knots
Year: 1894

The Canadian Government Ship (CGS) Aberdeen was built in Paisley, Scotland in 1894 for the Canadian Government. Picked up by a crew from where she rested on the shores of the river Clyde, she left Scotland on August 26th and arrived in Halifax on September 7th.

The CGS Aberdeen on her sea trials. Image from the Canadian Coast Guard.
The CGS Aberdeen on her sea trials. Image from the Canadian Coast Guard.


Originally intended to be an Atlantic service vessel, she was obtained by the Quebec branch of the Coast Guard and became a lighthouse supply and buoy inspection vessel. Being built right at the turn of the century gave her a couple of interesting design features. For one, even though she was a hand-fire coal burning ship, she still had sails on her fore and aft to be used in case of emergencies. This meant that she maintained some charm of the old sailing ships while embracing new technology. The downside to this was that when the sails were in use, or even stored on deck, it was difficult to protect them from damage caused by the red embers drifting from the stack.

The first captain of the CGS Aberdeen, Capt. M. P. McElhinney and his crew.
The first captain of the CGS Aberdeen, Capt. M. P. McElhinney and his crew. Image from Canadian Coast Guard.

This, and the changing steam technologies, resulted in her being put in for refit in the spring of 1905. It should have been the winter of 1904, but while sailing to Toronto to be put into dry dock, the Aberdeen was trapped in the ice off of Soulanges, QC. She spent her winter in Quebec until the St. Lawrence thawed in the spring, allowing her to complete her trek. She came out of her refit with all new boilers, and a high forecastle deck (her previous layout had been flush with the main deck). Her sails and masts were removed, and on the bow a new heavy crane was installed.

She set back out a few months later to resume her duties throughout the Gulf of St. Lawrence. With her crew of 45, she had a successful and seemingly uneventful career. That is until the afternoon of October 13, 1923.

That morning, the Aberdeen, under command of Captain Loran A. Kenney, had left Yarmouth, NS in heavy fog on an inspection tour. It should have been a routine trip – they had some buoys to check on, depth soundings to take, and a delivery of 500 bags of cement for Cape Sable lighthouse. On board was also the Superintendent of Lighthouses John Kelley, Marine Agent J.C. Chelsea, and Engineer P.F. Morrison.

CGS Aberdeen. Image from the Canadian Coast Guard.
CGS Aberdeen. Image from the Canadian Coast Guard.

As the Aberdeen neared Seal Island, NS, it came upon an area called the “Black Ledge”. Here, the captain slowed the engines in preparation for depth sounding check. As they came within almost 2.5km of Seal Island, the lookout spotted an obstruction in the water. The order was given to throw the engines full astern, but it was too late. The Aberdeen struck the sunken wreck of the trawler Snipe, which had run aground in the area earlier that year. The collision ripped a 7.6m hole in the side of the ship, causing her to fill and settle on the ledge in 15 minutes.

The crew sent out a mayday, which was picked up by the CGS Laurentian (Aberdeen‘s sister ship) from Saint John, NB, as well as the Acadian from Halifax and Arieux from Brier Island, NS. The crew of the Aberdeen were actually fortunate that she sank where she did – had she slid off the shelf, there would have likely been a complete loss of life. Because she settled in shallow water, not a single life was lost.

There was one more complication to deal with, however. In addition to her 500 bags of cement, the Aberdeen was carrying drums of calcium carbide. This made everyone  very nervous because when this mixes with water, it forms the flammable gas acetylene. So while 25 of the crew took the ships boats and made it to the Seal Island Light Station, the rest of the crew stayed behind to salvage as much off the wreck as they could. They successfully managed to clear out the Aberdeen with no injuries.


Franklin Roosevelt Visits Shag Harbour on His Private Yacht The Half Moon 1906-1920

Captain Herbert Kendrick was born in Shag Harbour, and lived near the brook in Lower Shag Harbour. At the turn of the 20th century, he worked on several American yachts along the Eastern seaboard; among them The Half Moon, the private schooner of the young Franklin Roosevelt. It all began with a letter.


April 25, 1906

Herbert E. Kendrick

58 Lonsdale St



My friend Mr. T.P. Beal Jr. has written to me that you are looking for a position as Captain and that you have been with Mr. Bigelow on the Pantooset.


Our yacht is the Half Moon, a schooner with a sixteen horsepower gasoline engine. We carry three men, the captain, and two sailors, one of whom must understand the gasoline engine. We pay the captain eighty dollars a month and fifteen dollars board.


I should very much like to see you before doing anything more, so if possible would like you to come on to New York by the Fall River Line, and of course your expenses will be paid. Will you let me know what day to expect you as soon as possible, and what time, and I will be here to meet you.


The Half Moon is at Beverly (MA) and we should want you to begin work on her May 15. We shall be at Campobello—opposite Eastport, Maine, most of the summer and we shall want you until October 15, five months. Hoping to hear from you at once.


Very Truly Yours


Franklin. D. Roosevelt


Evelyn Richardson interviewed Captain Kendrick in the early 1940s and wrote:


“…in May (1906), Capt Kendrick began his ten years on the Half Moon. He himself ran the engine and he signed on two men from his own neighbourhood as deckhand and cook. When the first cook left he was replaced by another acquaintance, James Atwood (of nearby Atwoods Brook). At Campobello the three men lived aboard the yacht but the captain often visited the Rooosevelt home. Sometimes in speaking of those days Capt Kendrick remembered to say “Mr and Mrs Roosevelt,” in due respect to their later status-but usually he reverted to the “Franklin and Eleanor” by which he had known his sailing companions.



One of the Half Moon’s duties was to meet (Roosevelt) at Easport (Maine) and was to make a similar weekly trip to pick up the large hamper of fresh vegetables shipped from Hyde Park. At other times the schooner-yacht cruised leisurely along the Maine coast and into St. Andrews, New Brunswick, with the family aboard. Once a summer at least she made longer trips with Franklin and his friends, usually companions of Harvard days. Two friends that Capt Kendrick best remembered were Gracie Hall Roosevelt, Eleanor’s brother, and the T.P. Beal mentioned in Franklin’s letter…



Eleanor Roosevelt …”almost always went along (the cruises). There was one night I wished she wasn’t quite so keen a sailor. We were taking the yacht to Easport to meet Franklin that evening. It was thick fog. And blowing! The dirtiest kind of weather. But just as we were about to cast off didn’t Eleanor appear bound to go with us…It was not for the Half Moon’s crew to tell Eleanor Roosevelt she could not come aboard, but nobody made her very welcome. Easport lies on a point, with the St Croix river on one side and a bay on the other. It would be easy enough what with the fog and the currents to miss the point. We’d be all right; I could run up the river and anchor safe for the night. What concerned me was Eleanor. We all knew her baby was due most any minute. And what in the world would we do if it decided to arrive whilst we lay waiting for the fog to clear…I said to myself, “Now stop worrying. If the worst comes to worse the cook will have to officiate, for I know I can’t…”


Luckily the Half Moon made Eastport with no trouble. The small boat went ashore for Franklin and when it loomed again through the fog, Eleanor called out gaily, “Isn’t this dee-lect-able weather?!”..”Dee-lect-able!” (Franklin) agreed, climbing aboard and settling down beside his wife. “I could see him drawing the fog in deep and laughing as spray slapped him,” (recalled Capn Kendrick) “He was always happiest on the water.”



On the longer trips, without the family, Franklin liked to poke into unfrequented harbors along the Nova Scotia coast, and twice Capt Kendrick brought him into Shag Harbour. Once the Half Moon anchored in Barrington Bay, and Franklin went ashore with his shotgun to walk among the lonely Sand Hills, hoping to add to the collection of stuffed birds he had started at eleven when his father gave him his first shotgun.


(In 1916, Cap’n Kendrick left the Roosevelt’s employ. Roosevelt had no plans for the Half Moon with the encroaching World War I. Mrs. Richardson provides an amusing postscript to Cap’n Kendrick’s experience with the Roosevelts).


“…one squally day a few years later Capt Kendrick looked out the window of his Shag Harbour home to see a yacht coming through the tricky entrance to the shallow anchorage, and making rather uncertain way. “It can never be the Half Moon!,” he

exclaimed to his wife and children, “but it looks like her.” He watched the small boat pull to the shore, and before his shocked seamen eyes made the yacht fast to a tree.


Soon there could be no doubt as the identity of craft or crew, for Franklin Roosevelt and several companions (Hall Roosevelt and Mr. Beal among them) appeared at the Kendrick’s door to ask the Captain’s help. Franklin was doing his own navigating while his friends acted as crew, and when dirty weather came up Franklin had thoughts of Shag Harbour and his erstwhile Captain. He and his friends were dripped wet, and since the Half Moon was in no immediate danger, Capt Kendrick opened his sea chest and found the sailor’s dry clothes before he went to anchor their yacht safely.


Memories of FDR’s Visit to Shag Harbour: July 1936




We went out in my brother’s boat and were one of the first to get there, so we could get right up alongside the President’s yacht. When word got out, there was some swarm of people around here. They put a screen around the President’s yacht. Secret service men circled in boats so you couldn’t get but so close. Could still go up alongside the other boats, they were bigger; but they put a screen around the President’s boat. But we were one of the first to go out there and we were able to get up close; even got to talk to him. He was in a little launch, one of them hardwood boats, and he had a line overside fishing. We told him you’ll never catch no fish there. Nothing but Pollock and such. He was a nice fellow, I remember that; talking back and forth with us; no big stuff, fishing and whatnot; a nice man to talk to. Had that big cigarette holder in his mouth. Jovial, I’d call him. He was here twice, you know. Stopped on his way down on his vacation and then stopped again on the way back. This place was swarming with people. Folks come down from the States, they’d never seen their President that close before. There were boatloads going out there to see him. Back and forth, everybody wanted to see the President. I remember up to the wharf there was this old lady going down the ladder front ways, and my father (Robbie Adams) grabbed at her to keep her from fallin’. She flew into a rage!




The boats were all anchored in the Sound, off by the lighthouse. We got there in a skiff, I believe; must have—can’t imagine how else we would have got out there. I don’t remember much else. Not sure there is much more to remember. There was this Mrs. Richan from Barrington. She was getting into a boat by going down the ladder front-ways, I remember that. A wonder she didn’t fall, and I thought, I don’t think she’s been down too many ladders…




Excitement! I guess there was the day Franklin Roosevelt showed up. He was on a yacht and there were navy boats and a press boat; they anchored off the point at Emerald Island, just opposite the lighthouse. When word got out about the President’s yacht, why,

man, you could walk between the two islands on all the boats. Papa (the Old Chairmaker Gilbert Nickerson) went out to take pictures for the paper. And, there, wouldn’t you know it, not a one of the yacht turned out. All blurry. What a mess. He kept them all in his album, but they were no good for the paper. He never went on the yacht; people could only get so close; but we all got to see the president. I saw him a couple of times. Sat near the stern; waving at all the boats. Seemed to enjoy the people and all the fuss. That yacht was a beautiful thing to see; I’d say the president had himself a nice boat. Shame we don’t have a decent picture of it.




We were raking hay up where Joshua Greenwood lived; way up on a hill in upper Shag Harbour that looks out over the harbour; and we saw all these ships coming in. We were kind of surprised and fearful; scary, really, seeing all that coming in the harbour. I thought we’d had it! But then word got out it was Franklin Roosevelt, and the wharf was full of cars and people from all over; I’ve never seen so many people in Shag Harbour all at once. Boatload after boatload went out to see the yacht. I don’t remember people taking pictures, so maybe it wasn’t allowed; but there weren’t too many with cameras back then, so maybe that was it. We could only get so close, maybe about 50 feet or so; but they were very friendly, they threw fruit down to us, apples and oranges, maybe some candy. I should remember more because I went on just about every trip that went out. Bowman Adams was taking people out to see the yacht, and just as soon as he came in he was turning out with another boatload. I don’t believe I missed many trips on that boat, me and my friend Leona. Seems to me I must have seen Franklin Roosevelt, I went out on nearly every trip I could. I know quite many said they saw him; probably I did, but I was so young, and there was so much to see, I can’t honestly remember what he looked like! They stayed here I want to say 2 maybe 3 days, then steamed away.




I was 17 at the time and remember going out to the yacht in my stepfather’s boat. One of the sailors on the yacht threw down an orange and I caught it. I printed the date on it and kept the peeling for a long time. I want to say the name on one of the boats was the Potomac. I remember pronouncing it Pot-o-mac, like a Indian name; but later I looked it up in a book and realized it was pronounced Potomac. Of all the things to remember and forget, now, why would I remember a thing like that?




I was 16 in 1936, and a very eager member of the Temperance division. I was on the committee for the entertainment, and it was my turn to prepare the refreshments for the meeting. I made home-made ice cream. Division was still big back then and I had to make enough for a lot of people. And then the big day came and no one showed up. Everyone was down to see the President’s yacht. So that’s what I remember about Franklin Roosevelt visiting Shag Harbour. Nobody was around to eat my homemade ice cream!




We were heading out fishing up to Cape Breton, and when we got to the Sound, off Bon Portage, we saw them coming. The presidential yacht, and the Naval escorts, I think there were two; and there was another boat, I believe. We knew from the radio that the President was coming. I can’t tell you much about what went on after he got here; we were heading out to sea and missed all that. I don’t believe they came ashore; and no one could go on the yacht, of course. But it was something. Not very often we get a visit from the President of the United States.

Tea Meetings at Shag Harbour

As far back as I can remember, the ladies of the Baptist and the Methodist sewing Circles used to hold an annual bazaar and tea meeting in the hall. This would usually be in January and last for two evenings. In this way the two churches were chiefly financed. If there were any grudges from Atwoods Brook to Upper Woods Harbour, they were brought to be settled at these tea meetings. If there was any liquor to be had, it would appear then; there was often a fight walk over the tea table, amidst the cakes and other food. There were no local constables who were any good. The chief dependence seemed to be to have two ministers there, and both Baptist and Methodist ministers spent the evenings at each tea meeting. The Methodist ministers were usually elderly men, and not much value in a scrimmage, but Mr. Miller, the Baptist one, was a husky 240 pounder, who could easily pick up a 196lb. barrel of flour and toss it into his truck, as I have often seen him do.


The trouble makers were not many, but they gave anxious moments to the women who had worked all year to make materials for this sale.


When the Division was raising funds to enlarge the Hall, a tea meeting was one of the means. They knew that any trouble makers would be sure to show up at the sale, and it was decided that the time had come to stop such doings, and that if the churches would not, the Division would. So a committee was appointed with instructions and full power to act, assured they would have the moral and financial support necessary.


The night of the sale, the trouble started, but eight men of the committee surrounded the disturbers and handcuffed them after arresting them in the name of the law. They had the official constables there, then they bundled the arrests into a sleigh with a span of horses and drove them 10 miles to the Township Jail at Barrington, where they were locked up until two days later, when their case came on. I was one of the witnesses – the first time I was ever in court. The defendants were fined $50 each and costs, which ran to over $100 each.


When the court was over, there were great threats as to what would happen at the next tea meeting at Shag Harbour, but of course nothing happened. This action by the Division ended all such trouble; they had their lesson and future sales were held in peace.


These tea meetings bring other recollections of Solomon, elsewhere mentioned. The Division usually granted the request of the ladies to let them have the old Division room, before enlargement, for a tea room. This meant that a cook stove would be installed for a day or two, and the question arose one year after they had purchased a new organ, whether the neighbouring heat would affect the organ or not, when Solomon got up and winking his small eyes said, “I’ll gurryentee, yes gentlemen I’m willing to gurryentee that that organ will play just as well after that stove is there an’ taken out as she did before.”


Solomon was usually the official announcer for the next evening sale, and near the close of the first evening sale, he would get the attention of the crowd and announce “Gentlemen, this here sale will be continued tomorrow night, teas at ‘duced prices.”


One evening at a public basket sale by the Division, Willie Swim from Clark’s Harbour, a new boyfriend of Jessie Nickerson, bought her basket, no doubt having advance information. Solomon, wishing to help a stranger, went over and asked him whose basket he had got. Willie held up the name in the basket and Solomon, who could not read, said he had left his glasses at home and asked Willie to read it, which he did – Jessie Nickerson. Solomon, pointing with his first finger, which by an accident was bent to a right angle, pointed in the indefinite direction which such a finger would give, and said “That’s Jessie Nickerson, wight over yender.” Jessie, until she married Willie and went away, never got over the sign of the crooked finger, and “that’s Jessie Nickerson, wight over yender.”



This excerpt taken from records of the late E. R. Nickerson, of Shag Harbour.

History of Emerald Isle (Eph’s Island)


A bit of local History of Emerald Isle

by Gilbert Nickerson

Away back in 1700 the exact date is not known-a lad was born in the town of North Shields, England, and named John Stoddart. When old enough, he, like many another English lad, took to the sea; and finally found himself on board a man-of-war, where, after a few years of service, he attained the rank of boatswain. At the time of the American revolution, and the English loyalists were leaving what is now the New England States, and coming to Shelburne, Nova Scotia, John Stoddart was boatswain on one of the ships. It is not known at what time he married, or where his wife belonged. Her name was Nanoy; and she had been on the ship three years. But she was landed in Shelburne, and she stayed there for a time. John Stoddart sailed on the ship for another voyage; and when the ship returned to Shelburne, he gathered up a few of his clothes, (a pair of his white luck pants is in the possession of his great grandson, Mr. Henry Stoddart, of Bear Point), strapped them on his back, slipped down over the bow of the ship, deserting her and swimming ashore, joined his wife.

After the ship sailed, John Stoddart obtained a boat and came up to Cape Negro Island, and stayed there a year. During that year, his eldest son, John, was born. They did not care to live on this island, and so moved up to Barrington Passage, to Sherose Island, where his second son, George, was born, in 1791. From Sherose Island, he moved up to Shag Harbor, and settled on an island, which Dr. Edwin.Crowell, in his Barrington History, says was called Hope Island; but I think the doctor was wrong in that statement, as the early map of Nova Scotia, which used to hang on the walls of the old schoolhouse of sixty years ago, at Shag Harbor, gave that name of Hope Island to the island, which is known today as Bon Portage. But after John Stoddart settled on this island, it was always called after him, “Stoddart’s Island,” until it came into the possession of Mr. Michael Wrayton, when it became locally known as “Wrayton’s Island;” but on charts and in government circles it is still known as Stoddart’s Island,”. Tradition has it that the island was granted to John Stoddart, for his services on the man-of-war; but as he was a deserter, that tradition cannot be correct.

John Stoddart made his homestead on the harbor side of the island, probably on the site where the present owner Capt. Larkin’s house is now situated. At that time fishing was the main industry, and the fishing was good. When young John came of age, and thought he would like to have a home of his own, he took unto himself, for wife, a young lady by the name of Miss Rhoda Lonsdale, of Wood’s Harbor. He chose for his home site the top of the hill to the east of his father’s home. Once, in later years, when on board an American vessel in the harbor, after a social glass had been passed around, and partaken of by him, he turned to the captain and crew, and as he was gifted in a small way for making rhymes, he said this, pointing up to his home on the hill: “There stands Stoddart’s castle, as you may plainly see; And the man, who invades it, defeated he shall be.”

Of the children of John Stoddart, Jr., there was only one son, Samuel Stoddart, who settled on the island; and his field and cellar are still to be seen down on the southeast point of the island. Another settler, by the name of Hughie Blades, lived further up on the eastern side of the island. The remains of his little wharf, his field and cellar can still be seen there today. Hughie’s wife was a daughter of John Stoddart, Jr., . George Stoddart, second son of John Stoddart, Sr., took unto himself for a wife a young lady by the name of Elizabeth Atkinson, of Cape Sable Island. And strange as it may seem, her father was a seaman on a man-of-war, having been born in Dorchester, England. He was a carpenter and also a captain of the maintop on his ship. He also deserted his ship in Shelburne, and came to Cape Sable Island and married a Miss Hannah Nickerson; and one of their daughters became the wife of George Stoddart, as already stated. George Stoddart must have lived with his father, as part of his house is in the present one standing there today, of his sons, three settled on the island. Robert, whose nickname was “Toot,” settled on the very southern end of the island, and that point has always borne the name of “Toot’s Point.” His cellar and field are still to be seen there, with the stone walls, which show that some hard labor was done in those early days.

Next, one of George’s sons was called john, and he married a Miss Margaret Sears, and he settled on the southern side of the island. There is a small cove near his homestead, which is still called “Jack’s Cove.” Another son of George Stoddart would be Isaac, and his wife was Miss Jane Crowell, of Shag Harbor. His homestead would be about where the house of Mr. Ashford Fox stands. He would be using water from the original well dug by Isaac Stoddart. When the people had settled around the island, a public road was granted to the settlers, and it was duly cut out from the landing at Stoddart’s wharf right down through the island. It was made a public road and was kept in such good order that it is easily passable today. After some years had passed, the question of wood began to appeal to them, and they began to cast longing eyes to the main, where there was an abundance of wood. So finally, like the Arabs, “they folded their tents and silently stole away,” and made new homes for themselves on the main.

In the early part of 1800 there was a boy born in the city of Dublin, whose name was Michael Wrayton. He grew up apace, went to the various schools and graduated with a good business education. He also possessed a good musical gift, and was a good violinist, a pianist and also a flute-player. As he attained to young manhood, the desire came to him to get out into the world, and go into a business career. So finally he gathered some merchandise and took passage in a ship for the city of St. John, N.B., intending to establish himself in business in that city. But the fates willed it otherwise, as the ship was wrecked in the vicinity of Stoney Island (Cape Sable Island). She proved to be a total wreck. This young Wrayton with a small pistol got up into the rigging, and kept popping away with it until he had exhausted all of his ammunition. When asked why he was doing that, he replied, “Sure and I am firing signals of distress.” -Hearing sounds out in the fog, which had enveloped the coast, at the time Of the wreck, boats put off from the shore to investigate. Soon after leaving the shore, they heard strains of music, from out of the fog. of the fog; and soon the ship’s boat, with the crew, came out of the fog, and, standing in the stern, was a young man playing a flute for all he was worth, which he claimed was also for distress signals. Young Wrayton saved about all of his goods, and opened ‘up a store about Barrington Passage and began business there. Finally he married a Miss Maria Cunningham, and located himself at Doctor’s cove, where his eldest son, Michael, was born. When the Stoddart families moved off from the island, Michael Wrayton thought that the prospects for making a living would be better at Shag Harbor than at Doctor’s Cove, so he made arrangements with the Stoddarts and bought the island from them. He finally moved up and took possession of it, and built a store, enlarged the wharf and went into business, ant-fitting fishermen and buying fish. About that time mackerel used to be plentiful inshore; and in the little cove to the eastward of the wharf occasional schools of mackerel used to show up there. Mr. Wrayton conceived that if a weir or trap were set there, he could make some good hauls of mackerel. His son told him that was the place to set a trap, and said that he should set it out further towards the point. He says, “Ah now sure, and at any rate; and when they are there, they are here; and when they are here they are there.” And the old gentleman set his trap in the little cove.

He interested himself in sheep-raising; and in the first memory of the writer, he was in the ice business, furnishing ice to the local and American fishermen, as there was plenty of herring bait in the summer season at that time…Mr. and Mrs. Wrayton had a large family, whose names, in the order of birth, were as follows:-Michael, Belle, George, Addie, Arthur, Sophie, Maggie, William, Aggie, Carrie and Lovell. The greater part, or maybe all, of the family, except Michael, would be born on the island. When the family had grown up, they began to marry and make homes for themselves. To go back to Mr. Wrayton again; One Saturday as one of our local fishermen was coming in the harbor, the old gentleman went down and hailed the vessel, “And have you any halibut today?”-The answer came back, “No halibut today.”-The old gentleman hailed, “And sure now, have you got any fins?”

A few years later an idea came to the old gentleman that he would name his island after the land of his birth. So one day he had a party of his friends from Barrington and Shag Harbor gathered on there, and they had a social time. A bottle was broken and the island was re-named “EMERALD ISLE;” and it is still called locally by that name…Finally, Mrs. Wrayton, who had been an invalid for some years, died; and that was a severe blow to the old gentleman. His daughter Sophie had married a William McDonnell, at Lower Argyle. One day the old gentleman, and his two youngest children, Carrie and Lovell, took passage on a schooner going to Argyle; and when to the west of Pubnico Point, the vessel suddenly began to fill with water and foundered; and as they had no boat with the vessel, they had no means of escape. The captain and young Lovell went to the bottom with her. The old gentleman and his daughter Carrie were picked up, but not in time to save their lives.

After his father’s death, William took charge of the island for a few years; and then Arthur, who in the meantime had taken the position of light-keeper at the Bon Portage light station, thought that he could look after the old homestead better than William; so he made an exchange with him, and William went to Bon Portage, and Arthur came back to the old homestead, and took charge of affairs there. Some years later, while on a visit to the mainland, and on returning in the evening, a strong southwesterly fog breeze was blowing; and despite entreaties not to attempt to cross to the island, he left for his home in a boat too small to venture out in the gale of wind that was blowing. Next morning his body was found on the shore, with his little boat overturned.

After Arthur’s death, the island was sold, and came into the hands of Capt. Ephraim Larkin, who had the old house re-built and re-modeled. Some years later, he divided the island with his grandson, Ashford Fox, and the two families are living there today. Emerald Isle had its scenes of gaiety and pleasure; also its times of sorrow and sadness; its comedies and its tragedies, and the end is not yet.

Gilbert Nickerson

Taken from Sharing History in Shag Harbour by Trudy D. Atkinson

Groundhog Day Storm 1976

Monday, February 2, 1976 started as have countless other days.

If for no other reason it would have possibly been assured a place in history as nothing more significant than ‘Groundhog Day’, that time of the year when it is said the severity of winter will be determined by whether or not the tiny groundhog can see his shadow.

Despite its seemingly normal beginning February 2, 1976 etched its place in the annals of the area’s history not because of the groundhog but because of incidents which unfolded throughout the day starting in mid-morning.

Before the day was over, those who had witnessed the untamed forces of nature spread a path of destruction throughout the area, had seen such stormy fury that undoubtedly everyone will have the memories of the day permanently etched in their minds.

Weather forecasts concerning February 2nd, did not indicate there would be anything akin to what eventually developed. One early morning weather report called for winds of around 35 miles per hour, it hadn’t been snowing, and relatively speaking winter had known worse days.

However by noon hour in South Western Nova Scotia the general population was not in need of radio relayed weather forecasts to let them know what was occurring.

Winds were recorded at over 100 miles an hour at one point during the storm and everyone near the seacoast was well aware that the tide was higher than it had ever been seen.

High winds coupled with the abnormally high water level threw wharf planking into the air as if the structures were made of balsa wood.

Fishing vessels everywhere were damaged, many of them snapping their moorings like thread and being set at the winds mercy. A sunken vessel was a common sight along most waterfronts. Estimates of damage to the fishing industry have been measured in the tens of millions of dollars.

The storm lasted throughout the day and even when it subsided most of the area was left with a reminder of its fury that will be remembered forever . Falling trees and other results of the Groundhog Day storm saw to it that electrical power was cut off. While those faced with the arduous task of restoring power to the numerous communities worked long hard hours there were still some areas which were without power for days.

The age of electricity was quickly replaced by candles, kerosene, and woodburning.

The destruction to South Western Nova Scotia, and other parts of the Atlantic Provinces, was such that it was described in the Senate in Ottawa as making the area one in a state of emergency. Despite millions of dollars of damage there was no loss of life in South Western Nova Scotia attributed to the worst storm in the area’s history.

Fundy Group Publications Ltd.

Tales from the South Shore-History of Bon Portage

Tales from the South Shore- History of Bon Portage


Local history of Shag Harbour Outer Island also known as Bon Portage, a name given to it by a French mariner and also known as Hope Island, a name given to it by the British. This appeared on the school map in 1850. In the year 1875- soon after Barrington was settled- there was a second division of land through Woods Harbour and Shag Harbour, and in that division all the islands were included in the division of the mainland. The old proprietors records at Barrington has the following record concerning Shag Harbour outermost island.

Number ten outermost Shag Harbour Island laid out for eight shares in all ye islands that was laid out in ye year of 1785. Said Island is laid out to those of ye proprietors whos names are under written as follows:

Joshua Nickerson 1shear

Solomon Smith Sr. & Theodore Harding 1 shear

Joseph Worth 1 shear

Elizha & Jonathan Coffin 1 shear

Hewben Coffoon 1 shear

Thomas Smith 1 shear

Thomas Crowell 1

Benjamin Folger 1

Isaac King 1


For ye use of proprietors ½ shares 8 shears

Ye above island is laid out by Committeeman Archelaus Smith, Stephan Nickerson, Thomas Crowell and Joseph Kendrick


In later years the shares were divided among the heirs of the shareholders and finally the late Michael Wrayton bought out the shares from the heirs and the shareholders and at that date the island came under his control. Just at what date that the island was settled the writer does not know, but it would be about the year 1840. The lowest homestead on the East Side of the island would be on the upland below the breakwater and at the edge of the wood just above the light house and was cleared by Mr. Absalom Nickerson. The next homestead would be just above the breakwater and belonged to Mr. Joshua Connell and his well was used by fisherman up until a few years ago. Just a few hundred yards to the north of the homestead was the place where an old sea duck built her nest and reared her young and that spot has always been known as the old sea ducks nest by the residents living on the island. The nest homestead was that of Mr. John Garrons and was situated the lower end of the great savannah that stretches from shore to shore of the islands. It furnished quite a crop of cranberries annually. Some years ago it was attempted to drain the Savannah and a ditch was dug across it and a trunk put in to drain water off but it did not prove successful. The next homestead at the Northern end of the Savannah belonged to Mr. Daniel Cameron. Ruins of the Cellar can still be seen but I think it was filled for safety after he left the island (the well was filled in). The next homestead a little further north would belong to Mr. Benjamin Atwood. The remains of his home can still be seen. He had quite an extensive clearing and his landing can still be seen today and boats can land there when it would be almost impossible to land anywhere else on the island. On the Eastern shore of the Island can be found the remains of the Alexander Dixon home and on a knoll of land above the savannah stood the house of George Stoddard and his wall can still be seen there today. Another clearing at the shore but a little way below the savannah in the woods was known as Cameron Place and off the shore a little way is a piece of shallow ground known as Cameron Shoal. The settlers lived on there for some years until they had families growing up and the mainland began to settle, living on the island was not as convenient. The mainland with its stores, churches and schools began the migration from the islands. The last settler to leave the island moved his off to Woods Harbour and it stood on the site where he rebuilt up to a few years ago. There were a few people who are still alive, though somewhat advanced in years that was born on the island. The outer island as always been known as a great resort for herring during herring season. The herring ground would be about a third of a mile from the shore down at the South End.

            One event that has quite a historical interest to the outer island would be the days of 1812. American privateers were quite common along these shores at this time and often visited the harbours and were uninvited guests to many people. These privateers would often land and take what they pleased without asking people. One time news reached Shag Harbour that a privateer had been raiding the argyles and they were expecting the vessel to come in here. Word was circulating in the village to be ready for a call. One day a suspicious looking vessel was seen coming down the bay and word was sent out for the men to gather at Upper Shag Harbour to be ready to oppose the landing if the vessel came in the shore. A boat was manned and rowed across the sound and landed at the North End of outer island. They were probably armed with old flint and steel muskets. They marched down the shore inside the beach until they were near the south end of the island where the beach was up 10 feet above sea level. It was not long before there was a vessel rounding the south end of the island and haul up to the shore for anchorage. When at anchor a boat put off of her and made for the shore. When near shore the coxswain gave the order to pull the bow oar and that brought the boat broadside to the shore. The men were behind the beach at the beach at this point and their leader gave the order to fire. A volley was given and the men in the boat ducked below the gunwale out of sight It is supposed that some of the men were killed as the writer (Gilbert Nickerson) heard his mother say that her father killed a man. But some of the men were not killed as one man lying down managed to scull her back to the vessel with only his hand and arm exposed. When the boat rounded the vessels stern and in a few minutes was back on the boat.

            Sometime later in the year of 1870 a petition was signed by the residents of Shag and Woods Harbours asking that a light house be built on the Southeast end of Bon Portage to guide vessels into the harbour. A year or so later the light house was built. There have been many keepers. The first would be a Mr. A. Wrayton who held that post until the death of his father, Michael Wrayton. A. Wrayton then went to Emerald Island. A change of government and a Mr. Leslie Hopkins was sent in order. He held the position for many years when he resigned Mr. Angus Greenwood came after him. Then came Maurice Nickerson, Mr. Israel Atkins, Mr. Barkhouse and Mr. Elbrons Wickens. He had Mr. Roy Greenwood as a keeper in the winter. Mr. Aubrey Lanthorne, a retired solider was the next keeper. Mr. Harry Greenwood liked the position until ill health forced him to resign. The next man to take over was Earl Greenwood and then Mr. Morrell Richardson. Please read “We Keep a Light” if you haven’t already. You can fill in who the next keepers are after Mr. Richardson.






















War of 1812 & Abigail Kendrick

The War of 1812 and Shag Harbour’s Involvement


The war began on June 18, 1812 when the United States of America declared war on Great Britain. Several factors influenced the American government, led by President James Madison at the time, to make this decision. One was the United States’ frustration regarding Britain’s recently adopted overseas trading policies, which greatly reduced the ability of American ships to take goods to Europe. The Napoleonic wars were putting a great deal of pressure on Europe at the time, forcing Britain to create these new policies, which also included seizing American citizens to be put to work on British ships. This only added to the tension that already existed between the United States and Great Britain. Americans were further frustrated when in 1807, at Chesapeake Bay, the British HMS Leopard opened fire on the American frigate Chesapeake when the latter refused to be searched for British deserters that both parties knew to be on board. Along with the United States’ belief that Britain was hindering American territory expansion, the American government came to the conclusion that war was necessary.





As an easily accessible colony of Great Britain, Canada became targeted by the United States. The Americans believed that Canadian loyalty to Britain would be weak overall and that they could gain the cooperation of many Canadians. However, this was not the case. English, French, and First Nations Canadians came together to fight for Britain and their homeland. Most of the major battles took place in central Canada, where key figures such as British Major-General Sir Isaac Brock and the great Shawnee chief Tecumseh worked to repel American forces. The war went on for about two years until December 24, 1814, when the United States and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent. The treaty stated that all areas captured by either country during the war were to be restored to their pre-war ownerships.





A clear-cut winner of the War of 1812 is difficult to identify. The British and the Canadians won several key battles and prevented any American expansion northward, but the United States were not without victories. They were able to later expand westward, which was one of their original goals; however, the war did not change the British policies that had initially infuriated the United States. Both sides were required to give up territory conquered during the war, so the War of 1812 can be considered a draw in some aspects.



Nova Scotia’s Contribution to the War of 1812


Although the major battles of the war were fought in central Canada, Nova Scotia was not entirely uninvolved. Halifax served as a port for the British to send over supplies and troops, and was a vital base for the North American Royal Navy. In addition to this, Atlantic Canada sent out privateer ships to capture American vessels and goods, and also saw many attacks from the United States’ own privateers. One of the most known privateer ships from Nova Scotia is the Liverpool Packet schooner, which collected prizes worth approximately $264,000.




Shag Harbour’s Involvement in the War


Though Shag Harbour is a small community, there are records that indicate that American privateers visited the area during the war. In “History of Barrington Township” written by Edwin Crowell, there is a mention about the effects of privateers on Barrington and the surrounding areas. He writes that the fishing industry was “almost at a standstill on account of the operations of American privateers”.




On display in the museum is a cannonball found by Gilbert Nickerson on Outer Island, which is now more commonly known as Bon Portage Island. It is believed that the cannonball dates back to the early 1800s, which means that it was possibly left behind by the privateers.




The following information has been taken from a minutes of meeting book from the Chapel Hill Historical Society dated back to October 2,1980, with Anne Wickens as the guest speaker, stirring the society’s interest about Shag Harbour and the battles that took place here in the war of 1812.


            During the war of 1812 much privateer activity took place in Shag Harbour waters with attacks and counter attacks on cargo vessels, fishing vessels, etc. resulting in the seizure of these ships and cargo. There was the historic incident of Abigail Kendrick recruiting women of the area to defend Shag Harbour during the absence of the men folk. With their pans, brooms sticks and bravado, they routed the enemy who decided the place was well protected.

            Cannon balls fired from an American Privateer were found 125 or more years later in the washed away sea-wall by the Richardson children at Bon Portage. Men from Shag Harbour had provoked this when they fired on a landing party coming after fresh water from the brook. 





Another tragedy is the trial of Mrs. Alice Wrayton, widow of Arthur, accused of murdering her servant, William “Billy” Thurston. The trial begin June 20st , 1893 and finished three days later on June 23rd.  It was concluded that there were not sufficient grounds to merit the charge of murder, and Mrs.Wrayton was declared not guilty. In spite of this non-guilty verdict, there is still much wonder about what truly happened between December 22-24, 1892, as there were many witnesses that provided accounts pointing towards the neglect and mistreatment of Billy Thurston by Alice Wrayton. It should be noted that she was an outcast in the community and suspected of having an affair, which would give many cause to testify against her. Till this day, no one knows the truth except for her and Billy. You can read the whole court transcript on the table. Points of interest are highlighted.

The Wrayton House on Emerald Island





“Noticed his boots were burst open and saw his bare heel with snow in around it…I next saw him at quarter to four when I went into the barn. Thurston and Mrs. Wrayton were there. He was behind the cows and she had a stick in her hand. It looked like the rung of the ladder about 18 inches long and 1 ½ inches in diameter. I next saw Thurston, dead at the inquest before Coroner Schrage…His face was scarred and I saw impressions of a rope around the wrist. At the inquest she (Mrs.Wrayton) showed us oil pants, nearly new and said they were what Thurston wore that day. I saw Thurston on the day of his death… and the oil pants she showed were not the ones he wore that day. The latter were dark and all to pieces…I found in the barn, down behind some barrels, the old oil pants he had on when I last saw him alive.” – Fred Greenwood



“I found what I considered to be the result of a blow behind the right ear extending toward the back of the head. I saw also a small contusion on the left temple…There is no way of determining from the contusions what agency it was produced. A blow of that severity would produce partial unconsciousness, faintness and inability to move. It would not necessarily be fatal. This rule is not invariable, sometimes a slight blow….would cause death instantly. I do not think the blow in question would be fatal…There was quite severe contusion on back of left hand from knuckles to wrist. There was a slight lacerated wound at the junction of the third finger of the left hand. I believe it was the effects of a blow. Marks of discoloration were all over the back of that hand.”- Dr. C.M. Freeman



“I saw him last on Sept. 18, 1892. He was coming from the house down to the shore. I saw Mrs. Wrayton at the same time with a stick in her hand trying to make Thurston pack a stick that four men could not carry…Thurston speared scared of her when I first saw him. He was running away from Mrs. Wrayton who had the stick in her hand.” – Angus Greenwood



“Her previous treatment of the deceased made it easy to conclude that the deceased having failed to attend to his duties at the lighthouse she had struck him and knocked him down. Her subsequent conduct, leaving her imbecile servant hatless and wretchedly clothed to die in the cold and snow…never even looking for two nights and a day to see whether he was dead or alive and making no attempt to summon aid, lent strength to the conclusion that she herself had rendered him incapable of motion by the blow…she, with full knowledge of his desperate plight, made no effort to save his life.” – Mr. Congdon






Alice Wrayton’s story to the jury: She had sent Billy for some hay. When he brought it to the barn, the door struck him on the back of the head causing his nose to bleed. When they went back to their house, she found Billy quarrelling with her children. She drove him out and then he came and asked for some matches to go and light the light. Looking out a few minutes later, she saw that there was no light. She went out to the lighthouse and saw Billy crawling around on the ground. She asked him what was wrong and he said that he had hurt himself. She tried to get him into the house, but could not. She stayed there from dusk until half past seven, then went back into the house. It was cold and she was thinly clad.



“I remember the 22nd of last December. It was a storm and a gale of wind…The wind increased later in the evening with continued snow squalls. I judged it blew from 50 to 60 miles per hour…The weather the next day was worse…When I went on the island on Saturday I saw Mrs. Wrayton. She was talking to Adelbert and George and half crying. She told us of the death and the three of us start out to find the body, as we suppose Thurston must be dead…Had on a shirt, a jumper, a coat and an oil jacket over that…I never saw him ill treated. I never saw him indecently dressed.” – Captain E. Larkin



“Yes, the woman who tried to save poor Billy Thurston is by the bitter irony of fate placed in the dock for manslaughter…Mrs. Wrayton came with clothes for the burial but she was told these could not be got without breaking the limbs..Does this look like manslaughter? Does that look like fixing on this poor woman a disgrace…which will cause the arrows of hate and malice to be aimed at her children for years to come.”- Mr.Bulmer


Evelyn Richardson

Evelyn Richardson was a well-known local author whose writings reflect the local history and way of life of a small fishing communities. She is best known for her novel, “We Keep a Light” (1945) detailing aspects of her 35 years spent living on Bon Portage Island while her husband, Morrill was the lightkeeper there. Her other novels include the works of fiction, “Desired Haven” (1953) and its sequel, “No Small Tempest” (1957). She also wrote “My Other Islands” (1960), and “Living Islands” (1965). The novels, “B was for Butter” (1976), about how the Richardson’s contributed to the war time effort; “Ben Peach and the Pirates” (1991); and “Where my Roots Go Deep” (1976), a collection of short stories were published after her death.

Evelyn May Fox was born on May 16th, 1902 on Emerald Island, where her maternal grandfather, retired captain, Ephraim Larkin was a lightkeeper. Therefore, light keeping seems to run in Evelyn’s family considering that her paternal great-great grandfather, James Fox was the first lightkeeper of the Cape Forchu lighthouse in Yarmouth as a reward for serving in the British Navy. His son, John Thomas succeeded him.


Evelyn spent her early tears in Clark’s Harbour, where her father, Arthur was a teacher at Clark’s Harbour School. However, the family spent every holiday on Emerald Island. In 1917, the family moved to Bedford when Arthur accepted the post of principal of Alexandra School in Halifax. Evelyn graduated from Halifax Country Academy, and then taught for a year in order to save money to continue her schooling. She attended Dalhousie for a year, and then continued teaching for several years.


Evelyn met Morrill in Halifax. However, during the early years of their relationship, they only got to see each other a couple of times a year due to Morrill’s work in Quebec, then the States. Evelyn and Morrill got married on August 14th, 1926 on Emerald Island. After her marriage, Evelyn gave up teaching and hopes of finishing a college education.


Early on in their married life, Evelyn and Morrill lived in Worcester, Massachusetts were he worked. However, they did not enjoy city life and longed for the ocean. The Richardson’s first had the idea of living on Bon Portage Island when Evelyn’s oldest brother, Ashford suggested that Morrill buy the island and wait for the position of lightkeeper to open up. Morrill bought Bon Portage Island almost immediately.


Evelyn gave birth to her first child, Anne Gordon in 1928, about a year and a half after their marriage. Soon after, they re-located to Boston for Morrill’s work. Morrill’s office closed down but at about that time, the position for lightkeeper opened up. Morrill applied and learned from Ottawa at the end of May, 1929 that he had gotten the job.


Island life was difficult at first as they were $1000 in debt and Morrill’s monthly salary was only $60. However, over the years, they acquired animals such as cows, roosters and hens, sheep, and pigs. They also made a hay field and eventually became more prosperous.


In addition to Anne, Evelyn has two other children, Laurie in 1929, and Elizabeth (Betty) June, born in 1933. They were raised and home-schooled on the island. Sadly, Laurie became ill with pneumonia in October, 1947, and even thought he was brought to mainland and hospitalized, he died at the young age of 18.


Evelyn and Morrill lived on the island for 35 years. During those years, Evelyn only left the island about 13 times. However, Evelyn loved living on the island and marveled in its beauty. In the summer, the Richardson’s often had many visitors, so they weren’t completely isolated. In 1964, the Richardson’s retired to the mainland and gave the island to Acadia University. During the last two weeks in August, biology students go to Bon Portage to study the wild and marine life. There is also a bird observatory.


Morrill Richardson died in 1947 and two years later, on October 14th, 1976, Evelyn Richardson died, but she still lives on through her writing today.

Shag Harbour & Her Pirate Encounters

In the days of the war of 1812 American privateers were frequent visitors on the southern coast of Nova Scotia, not only for the purpose of destroying British commerce but they would often land to obtain provisions and were not particular as to the means by which they were procure or the amount of damage done to the settlers.    (1813-1814)

A favourite resort of theirs was at Shag Harbour- a harbour west of Barrington Bay and near Cape Sable-the islands of the coast on which sheep were kept, affording the privateers man an easy opportunity of replenishing their larder with fresh mutton.

On many of the hills commanding a good view of the sea, cannons were mounted and lookouts stationed near by to fire them as a warning, to the people on the approach of a suspicious looking vessel.

One summer evening a strange brig was seen at anchor near Bon Portage Island about 1 ¾ miles from the mainland, a council of the people was held, and indignant at former losses which they had sustained they were determined if possible to prevent the Americans from lessening their flocks this time. So the long boat was manned by a sturdy crew commanded by Solomm Adams, and under cover of darkness, with noiseless oars they rowed to Bon Portage or “Outer Island” as it was called where entrenched behind the high sea wall they passed the night. At early dawn a boat from the privateer was seen making for the island, and when within easy gun-shot, Capt. Adams rose up and demanded them to surrender and row ashore.

A volley of gunfire was the reply, which cut off a limb of a tree over Capt. Adams head. He immediately ordered his own crew of men to fire which they did with such effort, that every man in the boat with but one exception was killed; he although wounded managed to pull the boat back before the visitors could reload the old muskets and inflict further execution.

The remaining crew of the brig, witnessing this scene had got a gun to bear and shot after shot plunged into the beach rocks doing no damage to the sturdy defenders of the islands, who smugly sheltered like the farmers in the “Concord” fight, “Gave them ball for ball from each fence and old stone wall”.

Apparently thinking chances for obtaining mutton or revenge were slim, the brig got underway, her guns carrying idle threat to the shore, aided by her sweeps the morning being calm, she got out of range and away to sea, thinking no doubt that plundering was an unprofitable business on this coast.



“An account written by the late E. R Nickerson”