RARE THOMAS COX AXE SURFACES (September 14/01)

Master tool maker Thomas W. Cox (1844-1921) specialised in making axes in the 50 years he operated a blacksmith shop in Kentville. Cox probably made hundreds of axes but they’re difficult to find today; antique tool collectors are convinced for the most part that few if any exist.

However, in response to my [recent] column on the life of the old-time blacksmith, a rare Cox axe has surfaced.

John Griffiths, English Mountain Road, called after he saw the column to tell me he has a Cox axe and a garden hack the blacksmith may also have made. “The axe is definitely Cox made,” Griffiths said. “It has T.W. Cox stamped on it.”

Griffiths said the axe is in reasonably good condition. He described it as a single-bitted pole axe – an axe made for cutting and pounding – and he has an unusual tale about how it came into his possession.

One of Griffiths’ neighbours of decades age, the late Wilson Hatchard, used to talk about Cox tools, Griffiths said. “He was always praising them up, and telling me how good they were, so I knew something about them.”

One day Griffiths was poking around a pile of junk in a New Minas salvage yard. He saw an old axe in the junk heap and as he was digging it out a friend jokingly asked, “You aren’t going to take that?”

“Of course I am,” Griffiths replied. “It looks old enough to be a Thomas Cox axe.”

Griffiths said he was flabbergasted when that’s exactly what it was – an axe made by Thomas Cox.

The axe is still in excellent condition even though it’s over 80s years old, Griffiths said.

A Mud Scow?

Is the mystery wreck in Wolfville harbour nothing more than the workhorse of the marine world, a scow once used in mud clearing operations?

That’s what it is, says long-time Wolfville area resident Earl Weatherbee who recalls a mud scow sinking in the harbour about 60 years ago. Marine history buff Leon Barron, who assisted in the recent exploration of the wreck, says there is clear evidence that it once carried a mast. This definitely means the wreck is a vessel and not a scow, Barron says.

Mr. Weatherbee tells me that when the ferry was running into Wolfville, two scows were used in an ongoing battle to keep the channel into the harbour open. The scows were anchored in the channel at high tide and filled with mud at low tide by a crew armed with shovels. On the next high tide the mud-filled scows were ferried into Minas Basin and emptied. Around 1939 or 1940, Weatherbee says, one of the scows sprung a leak and sank in the harbour; since it was no obstacle to navigation, it was left where it settled.

Mr.Weatherbee estimates the length of the scow that sank as approximately 40 to 50 feet. Dan Conlin, curator at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic says the investigation of the wreck indicates its length was about 60 to 70 feet, which “probably means a vessel around 100 gross tons size.” And says a former Wolfville resident, Gordon Hansford, there are more wrecks besides the scow in Wolfville harbour; Hansford says that at least six and possibly seven vessels sank in the harbour.

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