CANNING MONUMENT SALUTES FAMED SHIPBUILDERS (August 5/05)

Immediately east of the Bruce Spicer Park on Canning’s main street stands a stone monument dedicated to a family of shipbuilders. This stone marks the area around and in Canning where five generations of Bigelows toiled at shipbuilding. The inscription tells how Amasa Bigelow came to Cornwallis with his father Isaac, a Planter grantee. Amasa is mentioned as a shipbuilder in Eaton’s Kings County history but the monument tells us that as well, he built and operated a mill on “Deep Hollow Mountain,” which is either the mountain behind Sheffield Mills or the mountain above Deep Hollow Road in Greenwich.

Amasa was the first of the five generations of Bigelow shipbuilders. The Bigelow monument says he came to this area in 1762. He would have been a boy of seven at the time since Eaton gives his birth date as 1755. However, Eaton’s history says that Amasa’s father, Isaac arrived in the township of Cornwallis “in 1760 or ’61,” which differs from the monument. Elsewhere in his history Eaton appears to contradict himself since he writes that Isaac received his Cornwallis grant in 1764.

We’ll let the historians sort out what appears to be discrepancies in the Eaton account of the Bigelow family. We know for sure that Amasa was the first of the Bigelow shipbuilders here. Following the story as told on the monument, we find that Amasa was involved in shipbuilding in Wolfville. He met a tragic end while working on a ship but this isn’t mentioned on the monument. Eaton says that Amasa was killed in 1799 while working on a vessel; he would have been 44 at the time. Marine historian Leon Barron tells me that according to folklore, Amasa was killed during a fall from the mast of a vessel. that was being constructed.

Following his father’s footsteps, Amasa’s oldest son, Ebenezar Sr. operated a shipyard in Kingsport. His son, Ebenezar Jr. was the first to operate a shipyard in Canning. The area around the Bigelow monument and Bruce Spicer Park was the site of the shipyard. Ebenezar Jr. operated the shipyard there for about 50 years, building some “67 vessels of various rigs and tonnage.”

“The last vessel built by the Bigelows,” the monument reads, “was the tern schooner Cape Blomidon in 1919.” You can read about the Cape Blomidon in the display at the Bruce Spicer Park.

On the Cape Blomidon, there appears to be a slight discrepancy in documentation on this vessel. Recently Leon Barron showed me a copy of the Cape Blomidon’s certificate of registration, which indicates it was built in Canning in 1919 as per the Bigelow monument. The certificate of registration indicates that the builder was one Harvey MacAloney. In the book, Sails of the Maritimes, Captain John P. Parker also gives the builder of the Cape Blomidon as being MacAloney. According to Leon Barron, the records show that MacAloney’s construction foreman at the time the Cape Blomidon was being built was one Russell Hatfield.

While this appears to contradict the Bigelow monument, a newspaper article from 1919, which is in Leon Barron’s files, notes that the Bigelows were busy building ships at the time in the Canning yard. However, Barron has another newspaper article from the same year which appears to indicate that the Bigelows were busy at the time building ships in another area.

Again, we’ll leave it to the historians to sort this out, keeping in mind that in 1919, newspaper were notorious for printing gossip as fact.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s