SHIPBUILDING WAS ONE OF THE “WONDERS” OF WINDSOR (March 17/20)

No less an authority than a former head archivist notes that some of the people buried in Windsor’s old graveyard “are those prominent in the history of the province.”

So said W. C. Milner who in the 1920s (and perhaps earlier) was the head archivist for the Nova Scotia branch of the Public Archives of Canada. Milne paid this tribute to Windsor in an article called The Wonders of Windsor. This was one of about 70 historical essays Milne wrote and published as a paperback book after he retired to Wolfville in the late 1920s. The collection was first printed as a series in the Wolfville weekly paper, The Acadian.

That some of the most prominent historical figures in the province are buried there makes “Windsor distinguished amongst the towns in the Maritimes,” Milner said in his article. Also, “Windsor early became a social centre – partly as an overflow from Halifax and partly the inducements offered educationally by the location there of King’s College and Academy.”

Windsor had other “wonders” than a graveyard with prominent historical figures, of course, and Milne elaborated on them. Windsor was once prominent as a shipbuilding area and ship registry. “This town early became one of the leading ship building ports of Canada. Shubal Dimock’s shipyard was for years a busy place, the country people bringing in timber by the team load, (where) it was hewn and erected into ship frames. Bennet Smith (of Windsor) was another very busy ship builder and a successful ship owner.”

Milner credits Bennett Smith as one of the three leading shipbuilders in the Minas Basin, along with Ezra Churchill of Hantsport, and W. D. Lawrence of Maitland. For some idea of Bennett Smith’s prominence, you need turn to L. S. Loomer’s book on Windsor (A Journey in History). Loomer writes that Smith, as well as being a major shipbuilder, was one of the founders of the Commercial Bank of Windsor in 1865, a business set up solely to offer marine insurance to shippers and shipbuilders.

“In the Acadian days, the English established a military post, which developed into Fort Edward,” writes Milner, although it’s questionable why he included this as one of the wonders of Windsor. More worthy of mention is a Canadian first: “King George 111 located here in a Charter, Kings College, the first one established in Canada.”

Then there is Windsor’s proximity to Halifax and its fine farm soil, which Milner said aided the growth of the town. “Several things have contributed to the buildup of Windsor. The soil is exceedingly fertile and farm products found a good market in Halifax, even before the building of the railway.”

Milner concluded his praise of the town by listing the hundreds of sailing ships that were registered in Windsor between 1849 and 1873. I did a count and reached 300 ships before giving up. Milner said this was only a partial list, many of the shipping records being lost during a disastrous fire in the town – the “great fire of 1897.”

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