98 YEARS AGO HANTSPORT WAS FLOURISHING (October 6/14)

When a New Brunswick based magazine published a feature on the  Annapolis Valley in 1916, Hantsport was one of the towns profiled.

Hantsport’s inclusion in The Busy East feature was recognition of the town’s relative prominence at the time.  Only the leading towns in this region were included in the magazine’s review, Berwick, Wolfville and Kentville among them.

At the time of the review Hantsport had recovered from decline of the shipbuilding era in which it played a leading role throughout the 19th century.  Rev. A. R. Dickie, who wrote the Hantsport review, referred to the shipbuilding period as the town’s “palmy days” when it “enjoyed great prosperity (and) shipyards boomed under the ring of the broad axe.”  During the shipbuilding time Hantsport produced hundreds of vessels, one of them the largest three-masted barque built in Canada.  Prominent among the shipbuilders was the Churchill & Sons Shipyards, in its prime renowned along the Atlantic seaboard.

However, while shipbuilding had declined, Hantsport was far from finished.  In his review Rev. Dickie writes that “though on a decline for a time,” the town had rallied and was again flourishing.  In 1916 Hantsport could boast about having at least two major hotels. Some sources say there were several hotels located in the town from about 1900 on, but Dickie only mentions the Evangeline Hotel and the Hantsport Hotel; he describes the latter as being “one of the best hostelries of any town in Nova Scotia.”

Although no mention is made of it in The Busy East, a newspaper (the Review) was printed in Hantsport in 1916 and 1917. (Source: Fergusson, Place Names and Places of Nova Scotia).  This was Hantport’s second newspaper, the Advance being published there for eight years until about 1912.

Among the town’s industries in 1916 was the Chesley Artificial Limb Co. which was flourishing, says Dickie, because of the ravages of World War One.  That the firm enjoyed the “patronage of the Imperial Government of England” (Dickie) and was supplying artificial limbs to British hospitals undoubtedly explained its success.

Other major industries located in the town at the time were the Hantsport Fruit and Basket Company with markets throughout the Maritimes, the W. C. Balcom Greenhouses, and the Candy Manufactory of G. H. Yeaton & Sons with markets all across Canada and as far away as the West Indies.  Dickie also mentions that a number of small businesses were in operation at the time, among them a garage and retail stores.  Hantsport would become even more prosperous with the arrival of the Jodrey family and Minas Basin Pulp and Power, but that was a decade away from becoming operational.

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