Hundreds, possibly even thousands of ships may have been built along the Bay of Fundy and around the Minas Basin shore during the age of sail. Many of those ships were registered and can be found in marine archives, but there was a period when marine registries such as the one at Windsor didn’t exist. In other words, there may be no official records of some of ships that were built in tiny, now forgotten ports and many are remembered only in family records and folklore.
Given the time frame when these ships were being built – the early Planter period to the first decade of the 20th century – researching and compiling records would be a difficult, time consuming task requiring dedication, perseverance, and a lot of detective work
Obviously, Hantsport marine historian Joey St. Clair Patterson has that dedication and perseverance in abundance. Next month, Patterson will release Hantsport Shipbuilding 1849-1893, a book he wrote after nearly a quarter century of research into shipping and genealogy records. Patterson began working on his book after he moved to Hantsport in 1985.
The title of Patterson’s book is a bit misleading, but that’s to the reader’s gain. Yes, the book is all about Hantsport shipbuilding, with particular emphasis on the renowned shipyards of the Churchill family. But before getting into the shipbuilding, Patterson covers the early history of Hantsport in detail with biographies of its founding families, many of whom were seafarers as well as shipbuilders of renown.
Patterson’s book is also a record of shipbuilders outside of the Hantsport area. While telling the story of Hantsport shipbuilding, he writes about the shipyards of Kingsport, Canning, and the shipyards great and small in other seaside communities around the Minas Basin and Fundy shore that turned out more than a few famous sailing crafts.
Nova Scotia was once known world wide as a country of hardy seafarers and shipbuilders. I never understood how Nova Scotia earned this reputation, but Patterson’s work explains it to some extent. Those hardy seafarers and the wooden ships that carried them around the world are brought to life by Joey Patterson. Page after page of seafaring lore, the stories of the men behind Nova Scotia’s shipbuilding era, make up a book that marine history buffs will cherish.
As I intimated, this is really two books in one: A history book, about Hantsport and its founders, and a book about marine lore and sailing ships. You’ll enjoy both aspects of the book.
(Patterson’s book launching will take place on August 13 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Hantsport Memorial Community Centre.)