UPDATE ON “MYSTERY WRECK” AND LOCAL SHIPBUILDING (November 9/01)

Dan Conlin, curator of the [Maritime] Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, e-mailed me recently with an update on the wreck found in Wolfville harbour. And from a Halifax reader, Dr. Frederick A. J. Mathews, comes information about shipbuilder Ebenezar Cox and some facts about early shipbuilding on the Cornwallis River.

Readers will recall that in a previous column on the investigation of the Wolfville harbour wreck I ran an interview with a reader who suggested it was a mud scow that sank about 60 years ago. Mr. Conlin tells me that findings by the marine archaeologists who surveyed the wreck preclude this possibility.

“The two underwater archaeologists Willis Stevens and Ryan Harris are certain this vessel was not a barge or scow,” Conlin writes. “(The person who suggested the wreck was a scow) had a good detailed memory of a flat-bottomed, square shaped scow and these timbers were curved with fine bow lines and a tapering stern. The planking is also different from scow and barge construction.”

The search for the wreck’s identity continues, Conlin said. “On the bright side, we can chalk up the knowledge of these unrelated wrecks, the 18-ton schooner wreck in 1878 and the mud scow wrecked in 1939, as useful information turned up in the search for the identity of these timbers.”

I received several letters from Mr. Mathews regarding the Cox family including the shipbuilder, Ebenezar. Mr. Mathews included some genealogy with his letters which may be of interest to anyone researching the Cox family.

In one letter Mr. Mathews writes that he has a “listing of vessels built on the Cornwallis River at Kentville in the 19th century.” These vessels were the 200 ton brig Mason’s Daughter, built in 1813 by Handley Chipman, and in 1846 a barque called the Kent, tonnage unknown, built by James Edward Dewolf.

I’m curious to know Mr. Mathews source of information; that is, if it can from a source other than Eaton’s Kings County history.

“Years ago,” Mathews writes, “I came across mention of a grist mill that was built and operated at Kentville on the Cornwallis River.” I’ve seen several references to mills on the Cornwallis and on tributaries of the river (including an Acadian mill) but have nothing concrete as far as dates and names go. Hopefully Mr. Mathews will recall where he found his reference when I contact him.

As I mentioned in a recent column, I’m collecting information on the Cornwallis River with the hopes of preparing a history that looks back at least 250 years. This will be posted on my website and a hard copy will be offered to libraries and historical groups. I hope that reader who have information about the early days of the river will contact me. Anything and everything will be useful. A letter mentioning the river, a story about the Cornwallis that was passed on by a grandparent, even photographs and postcards that can be copied will help fill out the river’s story.

And speaking of rivers, here’s a question about the Gaspereau River bridge at Whiter Rock. Was it once known as the Eagles Bridge?

To read more about the Cornwallis see the historical columns on my website. E-mail address: edwingcoleman@gmail.com.

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