UPDATES AND HISTORICAL QUIRKS (August 20/99)

In 1831 the schooner Caroline was ravaged by a winter storm in the Bay of Fundy with a loss of 14 lives. The story came to light when a plaque marking the Caroline’s plight was found on the Fundy shore near Baxter’s Harbour.

In my column on the Caroline I mentioned that Lochlan and Elizabeth Rafuse of Sheffield Mills were among the first to go to the site where the plaque was found. Mrs. Rafuse copied the inscription on the plaque that I reproduced here.

At the time no one seemed to know who first discovered the plaque and reported the find. In my column I said that the plaque’s origin was a mystery. It was assumed that the plaque had been placed on the Fundy shore shortly after the Caroline’s fate was discovered, perhaps by a family member of the crew. This was a natural assumption but as it turned out, it was incorrect.

Credit for discovering the Caroline plaque must be given to two Kings County teenagers, Ruby Misner, 14, Lamont Road, Kentville, and Carla McCully, 13, Baxter’s Harbour. Ruby and Carla were walking on the beach and the former tripped over the plaque that was partially buried by debris.

After discovering that the Caroline plaque was only a few years old, I gave the names of the men responsible for placing it on the Fundy shore and a brief explanation of its origin. This account contained a slight inaccuracy in chronology and I would like to set the record straight.

As mentioned the idea for the plaque originated with the late John Bigelow of Halifax. Mr. Bigelow did the research on the Caroline, interviewing in the process a relative of one of the men who found the storm battered Caroline on the shore.

Mr. Bigelow had the 2,000-pound plaque prepared in 1996 and it was placed on the beach the following year. According to his nephew, Tom Taylor, Mr. Bigelow wanted the stone “left as a legacy” to mark the Caroline tragedy.

Mr. Bigelow was also instrumental in the placing of a stone monument at the east end of Canning marking the location of the old Bigelow shipyard. “This stone marks the site of the Canning-Cornwallis shipyard of Ebenezar Bigelow,” the inscription on the monument begins. The Bigelows were early shipbuilders in this area and John Bigelow was a descendant.

Historical Oddities

Odd bits of information and unusual events I came across while researching Nova Scotia history.

Occasionally referred to as the “graveyard of the Atlantic,” Sable Island has been known to explorers since early in the 16th century Here are two tidbits from its history:

In 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert lost one of his ships when he attempted to explore Sable Island. In his diary Gilbert mentions that 30 years before, the Portuguese had placed cattle and swine on Sable to breed and they had flourished.

In 1585 the explorer La Roche left 50 convicts on Sable Island while he investigated the coast. La Roche’s ship was blown out to sea in a storm and he returned to France without the convicts. When a rescue ship returned to Sable Island five years later, only 11 of the convicts were still alive.

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