OLD CORNWALLIS RIVER WHARF NOW FORGOTTEN (April 27/01)

“In 1900-1901 the Department at a cost of $6,360.50 built by contract a public wharf on the right bank of the river near its mouth, at a distance of about half a mile from the town. The approach consists of earthworks and embankments 144 feet in length, 25 feet in width…. The wharf itself, which was substantially built of pileworks, was 152 feet long, 36 feet wide … It had an ‘L’ on the outer end 82 feet long … The ‘L’ was 40 feet wide and from 48 to 49 feet high…”

The town referred to in the 1912 report of the chief engineer of the Dept. of Public Works is Wolfville. In the report, Wolfville is referred to as a “town of about 2,000 inhabitants situated on the right bank and near the mouth of the Cornwallis River…” The report, therefore tells us that about 100 years ago a large wharf was constructed near Wolfville, apparently at the mouth of the channel that leads to the town’s harbour.

No such wharf exists today, of course. And, in fact, few people living today know that it even existed. Even less known is that the wharf was originally built to accommodate a ferry that ran in the Minas Basin for a couple of decades before the famous Kipawo began its run. In its relatively short lifetime, however, the now forgotten wharf and ferry provided Wolfville and the inhabitants of eastern Kings County with an important connection to the Minas Basin and ports along its shores.

The wharf’s lifespan? Perhaps 25 to 30 years. The wharf was the docking place for the Prince Albert, a ferry that plied the Minas Basin, serving the ports of Wolfville, Parrsboro and Kingsport as did its successor, the Kipawo. Leon Barron tells me the Prince Albert ran from 1904 to 1925. Barron doesn’t believe that the wharf was ever used by the Kipawo which docked in close to the town proper. One long-time resident of the town claims, however, that a photograph is extant of the Kipawo tied up at the old Cornwallis River wharf.

Readers will note that in the quote above, the old wharf’s distance from Wolfville is given as about half a mile. This distance from the town must have been inconvenient and it probably explains why a new wharf was built practically in downtown Wolfville for the Kipawo.

Actually, the distance out to the Cornwallis River ferry terminal may have been more than half a mile. A road connected to the old wharf started about opposite the duck pond in Wolfville’s east end and ran across the dykeland. This road, Barron says was approximately a mile long. Traces of the old road are visible today, but says Barron, two to three feet of silt have built up over it.

It is believed that the Cornwallis River wharf never saw regular use after the Prince Albert ceased running. Leon Barron believes that the wharf was abandoned after the Kipawo replaced the Prince Albert. If it was, it probably deteriorated rapidly, he says. The wharf’s position on the river channel was precarious in that it was exposed to wind, tide and weather. For example, a few years after the wharf was completed, during the winter of 1903-04, erosion and exceptionally heavy ice in the Minas Basin almost totally destroyed it. The Dept. of Public Works report on this destruction notes that wharf had to be “rebuilt in substantial cribwork” between 1904 and 1906.

Leon Barron tells me that he visited the site on the river channel last autumn and found that almost nothing remains of the old wharf. “Basically, all that’s left is a bunch of rock ballast,” he said.

 

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