SHIPBUILDING ON THE PARRSBORO SHORE (January 11/02)

As noted in a column last September, bayshore spruce and hardwoods from Nova Scotia’s windswept shoreline were often used in the construction of sailing ships in the old days. Toughened by marine elements, especially the salt-laden onshore winds, these woods are hardy and long-lasting; durable enough, in other words, to withstand the grinding, ever corrosive forces of the sea.

After this column appeared I received a note from Maritime Museum of the Atlantic curator, Dan Conlin, about an article in an 1874 newspaper that mentioned bayshore spruce. Mr. Conlin sent me a copy and I found that as well as discussing the merits of Nova Scotia bayshore spruce and other provincial woods, the article provides some insight into shipbuilding on the Minas Basin. Excerpts from the St. John Daily Telegraph article follow. I hope readers will find it as interesting as I did.

“The largest and probably the best vessel ever built on the Parrsboro shore will be launched… from the yard of Messrs. D. R. and C. F. Eaton at Three Sisters, Cumberland County. She is appropriately named Chignecto after the famous cape near which she was built, and which divides the waters of the Bay of Fundy at the junction of the Cobequid and Cumberland Bays… The Chignecto is barque rigged and has three decks; here extreme length on the upper deck is 175 feet; breadth from outside to outside 36 feet; depth of hold at midships to upper deck 23 feet, 10 inches and registers 1,032.11 tons.

“She is principally constructed of spruce grown at Cape Chignecto. It is known as ‘Bay Shore Spruce’ and valued for its great durability, far exceeding that of spruce grown elsewhere.

“The Chignecto is iron-kneed, copper-fastened and substantially built in every respect. Her bowsprits, lower masts, rails and staunchions are of imported pitch pine and a large quantity of southern oak is put into her. She is owned by the above named firm and others, and is the first of a number of vessels to be built by Messrs. Eaton in the same yard.

“In the immediate vicinity there is a great abundance of ship timber (birch and spruce) of superior quality, all owned by the Messrs. Eaton. The birch on the Parrsboro and Chignecto shores is also distinguished, like spruce, for great hardness and value, bringing the highest price of any birch taken to the English market.

“The Messrs. Eaton have now in their yard at Three Sisters, and prepared in their woods ready for teaming, the principal part of the timber required to build two vessels of about 500 tons each, register tonnage. The keel of one is to be laid immediately, the other in the spring, and both are to be launched next summer.

“Isaac James Olive, Jr., an experienced shipwright from St. John, N. B., was the master builder of the Chignecto, and her model, workmanship and finish do him much credit. She will be commanded by Charles W. Shaw, of Hantsport. Soon as launched she will be towed to St. John where her rigging and equipments will be completed. These are now on the way from England. From St. John the barque expects to go to a southern port for a cargo of oil or cotton, to be conveyed to a European market.”

(A word on shipbuilders D. R. and C. F. Eaton: Leon Barron tells me they farmed in Lower Canard and before moving to the Parrsboro area had commissioned the building of ships in a yard near Blomidon. Eatonville, near Parrsboro, is named after the brothers.)

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