All posts for the month January, 2012

Tour of Historic Houses

Published January 29, 2012 by oddacity designs


While the village has lost many buildings over the years, there are still some wonderful examples of 19th century architecture, and each building has a rich history of its own.

 Dr. Lovett House:  This home was built in 1896 for Dr. Lewis Johnstone  Lovett (1867-1942). The home was designed in New York City, and was the wedding present to Dr. Lovett and his bride, Josephine Troop Marshall, from her father, Alpheus Marshall Esq., a leading merchant of the village. Dr. Lovett was well known  politically ,being a staunch supporter of the Liberal Party, and serving as a member of parliament from 1920 to 1925. He served as a president of the Bear River Board of Trade and did much to develop the community as a summer resort. This is a second empire home that was strategically built upon a hill. The mansard roof is equipped with dormers throughout. The entrance is an enclosed verandah/sunporch. The positioning on the hill gives it an extra storey.

In recent history, the house was used as a Bed and Breakfast called Lovett Lodge, from the early 1980’s to the late 1990’s, operated by Adrian Potter. At present it is uninhabited.

Green Lantern:This building is dated from about 1882, originally built as a warehouse by Edward E. Rice who was one of Bear River’s wealthiest men. In 1888 Edward had sold the Green Lantern Building to Thomas Bales Coombs. Thomas Bales Coombs was the first commissioner of Canada for the Salvation Army. He arrived in Canada in 1884 from England and bought this  building in  1888, when the Salvation Army was just five years old. From 1924 to 1944  Robert Yorke turned the building into a theatre: the main entertainment center in Bear River at this time. Mr. Yorke showed silent films here . Mr. Yorke should be a man commemorated as bringing enlightenment and entertainment to this village. Movies shown through the second world war must have given some relief to the bereaved and worried residents. This property has truly had a colorful and eventful past and should be proudly looked upon. The architecture is a rare vernacular design with few windows.

From the time it ceased being the location for weekly movies in the late 1950’s, the building sat empty. In the 1970’s, Donna and Michael Susnick operated the Bear River Farmer’s Museum there.  It was renovated to some extent in the 1980’s and used by the Board of Trade for meetings.  It was also used by a kayak and canoe maker for three years as a workshop. This historic property is now owned by the Bear River Board of Trade and unfortunately is in need of many repairs. Until recently it was the home of the Bear River Historical Society’s Museum.

STEWART DARRES’ POOL HALL. This building is believed to have been built circa 1900   and was once owned by Alpheus Marshall. It served as the home of the Dr. Dinsmore’s dentist office prior to 1924. when J. Arthur Rice, probate clerk for Bear River obtained the building for his office. In 1924 Stewart Darres owned the store/restaurant next to this building ) and built an addition on to his restaurant which unknowingly encroached on this property in question, owned then by J. Arthur Rice. Mr. Rice allowed Mr. Darres to keep this addition provided Mr. Darres pay him a yearly sum of money. In 1936 Stewart bought this building.and  joined it with his store/restaurant so that he had a restaurant with a pool room attached in one structure ( the link has since been torn away). Stewart kept hens and exotic birds under the lower part of this building.  In the restaurant that once adjoined this building he sold homemade ice cream.

The building is now a private residence, having served as a retail space for local crafters  for several years. in the 1980’s there was a small pottery shop and residence in the building.

Captain Anthony Building:  This was built in 1893 and remains the only waterfront commercial building in Bear River, Digby County. It has very direct links to the “golden age of sail”, 1870-1915. Once encircled by a wharf, it served the needs of the ship-building community.The encircling wharf and storage building at the rear, were removed before the 1920s. The third floor was lost to a fire in the late teen’s. However, the remainder of the building  has remained virtually unchanged.

Original gingerbread carvings, lintels, doors. windows etc. remain virtually intact. The interior, with its tongue-in-grove walls and ceiling and its 25 foot long oak store display counter, also are original. Both floors are in keeping with the end of the last century, with the look of an old sea captain’s home. Capt. Anthony retired from the sea in 1893. It is a fine example of a rare second Empire architecture.

In the 1920’s local boys were paid 3 cents an hour to unload from a ship and 2 cents an hour to unload from the land.  The 25 foot counter is original to the building which served the community for many years as a wonderful general store and meat market operated by Ali Harris.

Ali Harris’s store was a delight and will be the subject of another post.

Following Ali’s Meat Market, the Rice family took over the grocery business for a brief time, followed by a  tailor shop, and an antique store and art gallery.  The building now stands vacant.

William Riordan Building 1852.  This  building was originally built on the opposite side of the street and moved to the present location in 1903.  It was used as a store by a variety of merchants, including the Clarke  (1902-1919) when it was sold to Louis V. Harris who operated a drugstore there until 1962, and it continued as a drugstore until the 1990’s.  This is a one and a half storey Greek Revival with a decorative false front.  it is one of the few remaining buildings built on pilings over the water.

The building was purchased in the mid 1990’s and turned into a cafe.  Various cooks tried operating a restaurant in the premises, and then the building was sold and sat empty for several years.  Sold once again,it once again is used as a cafe, in spite of the fact there is no water to the building.

Andrew Harris building, 1845.  This building has a long history of commercial use; originally built by Andrew H Harris, master mariner and shopkeeper, near his wharf on the east side of the river. He purchased the lot from Robert Jefferson in 1845 for five pounds.  The store was sold to John Troop in 1881 and it was used as a customs house until 1903.  in early deed it was described as the wharf lot with wharf and store.  Later a Bandstand was built in the lot between the store and river. The Clarke Bros. owned and operated a store here from 1903 to 1924, and it continued as a store in various capacities, purchased by Flight of Fancy Crafts co-operative in 1982.  The building is built on stilts to allow for the flow of the river under it at high tide, as the lands behind the store are a man made landfill project.

Unfortunately the stilts and sills under this building are in serious disrepair, causing the right rear corner to sag dangerously.

The building was the home of Bear River Home Furnishings until sold to a group of local artists/craftspeople in the early 1980’s who formed the Flight of Fancy Crafts Co-operative.  Unfortunately, they found the co-operating part difficult and one member, Rob Buckland Nicks bought it and made it a single proprietorship. He runs the shop from May through October, and has established a reputation as one of the finest craft shops in the province.

The Masonic Hall 1828. The building and land were originally owned by Robert Jefferson, and sold to Isaac Willet in 1835, and used for commercial purposes by 3 other owners until 1967 when it was purchased by the Keith Lodge #1628.  The Masonic Lodge of  Bear River was established in 1851, and granted it’s full charter in 1954, making it one of the oldest lodges in Nova Scotia. Since purchasing the building, the Lodge has enlarged and improved it, with a major renovation in 1911.  The Lodge meetings were held upstairs and the main floor rented out.  It can be remembered as Lilly Hubley’s tea shop, Chester Kaulback’s barber shop and Samuel Parker’s watch repair shop. It is a version of Greek revival.

It is now used exclusively by the Masons of Keith Hall, Branch 16.

Clarke Brothers 1902: Now the Bear River Legion branch #22.  In 1903, a store that was located on this land was purchased from C.C. Rice and moved to the other side of the street, and the building replaced it. It was used as commercial premises and possible a bank, until the Royal Canadian Legion bought it in 1947.  It is an example of a highly modified Italianate commercial building.  It is joined to the New Horizons building which was originally built in 1851, purchased by William Reed in 1854 and the reed family ran a general store here until the Clarke Bros. bought it in 1901  The Bear River Legion purchased the building in 1973.

Trading Company Building 1856.  The first building of record on this lot was built in 1856 by David Rice and purchased by Harris Harding Chute in 1863 and later by the Clarke Bros. in 1880.  With the demise of the Clark Bros. empire in the 1920’s,it was taken over as the Bear River Trading Company by Mac Parker in 1932 and it is well loved and fondly remembered as such as a wonderful general store that included dry goods, housewares, hardware, groceries and a great candy counter.  In the 1880’s the building was substantially renovated by the Bear River Economic Development Society. It originally was connected to the adjoining building, built in 1856 by David Rice. It was referred to as the Sail loft building because the upper storey was used for the storage of sails for the wooden ships.  It also housed the local telegraph office for many years. The Trading Company complex is a cornerstone of the village, and one of the few remaining buildings that was built on “stilts’ over the water.

It now houses a second hand book and junk shop, a family diner, an ice cream emporium/gift shop, as well as two apartments.

Edward Sanford (Bear River Pulp Co.) 1880. Prominently visible in most photographs of old Bear River, this was built by Edward Sanford in 1880, purchased by the Clarke Brothers in 1890, and variously used as a warehouse for storing the goods to load onto ships, a hospital for sick seamen, a brandy and liquor store for ships, a ship’s chandler shop, and a horse and oxen barn, a home furnishings store, a used clothing enterprise and even a museum.  The building was purchased in 1996 and extensively renovated by the current owners. It is a Greek revival style commercial building, approximately 9500 sq. feet, the largest privately owned building in the village.

The building is home of Oddacity Designs, a one of a kind clothing and accessories enterprise, as well as a vintage/antique shop, The Innocent Rose,  and a licensed guest suite, Inn out of the Fog.

The Turnbull House.1829.  This is arguably the oldest remaining building in Bear River, and some claim a section of it dates to the late 1800’s when it was used as a stagecoach stop and inn.  A previous building may have been used for that purpose. The date of 1829 is well documented however, and was originally used as a house/store purchased by John Barr in 1845, it was used as a postal station and customs house, and it is during his ownership that it is believed that the addition of the painted room was made.  The building was purchased by the Great War Veteran’s Association of Canada, Bear River Branch, and used as a memorial and club house until 1947, when the group purchased the Legion building.  It is a modified vernacular style with Greek influence. One feature of the house is a “painted room” which is believed to have been created in the mid 1800’s.

It is currently uninhabited.

Bear River Customs House 1920. This is now known locally as the Rebekah hall as the building was owned for many years by the Independent Order of Oddfellows, with the Ladies’ Auxiliary the Rebekah’s. Originally it served as the Customs House for the cargo that was brought into and leaving the area by the shipping industry. The downstairs has also housed the Royal Bank of Canada, a dress shop, millinery shop, bakery, and museum. The village cenotaph was originally located in the adjoining yard.

The building now houses a coffee roasting enterprise and an art gallery that is open occasionally. There is also a space on the second floor that is used for public events.

Edmund Walsh 1873: Known locally as the Harris house, this was built by Edmund Walsh, merchant, in 1873 and purchased by Robert McClelland in 1885 who operated it as an inn until 1898.  It was owned by Edward and Arthur Rice , prominent merchants until 1925, when it was purchased by Fred R Harris a prominent citizen of the village and the local insurance agent. At one time there was a tennis court in the back next to the creek.  The house is 3 storey Georgian with a mansard roof and Italianate influences.

The building was turned into apartments in the 60’s and then back to a single residence with a bed and breakfast in the late 1990’s, which closed in the early part of the 2000’s. It is  currently uninhabited.

Harris Harding Chute: 1857. One of the leading merchants in Bear River, Harris Chute also served as a Member of the Provincial Legislature. The house was purchased in 1884 by Wallace W. Clarke, one of the Clarke Brothers who ran the Trading Company, a lumber mill, clothespin factory, logging operation, shipbuilding operation, and shipping business.  It is still known in the village as the Clarke House, as the Clarke families lived there until 1944, when it was sold to Dr. Alexander Campbell, a physician who had his medical practice there until 1952.  It then became a residence for senior citizens and later was renovated into apartments.

John Moore House 1853   John Moore built this in 1853, and is listed in Lowell’s directory as having the occupation of caulker.  His daughter,  Elizabeth was a “spinster” who kept house for him, and inherited the property on his death in 1890.  It remained in the Moore family until 1944.  This is a modified Greek revival architecture.

It remains a single family residence.

Charles Brown 1869.This unusual example of a picturesque style architecture was built for Charles Brown, mariner, in 1869, and sold to Dr. Robert Ellison, who ran his medical practice there until  his death in 1907, when he willed it to his grandaughter Robina Romans.  It is still known locally as the Romans house, as the Romans family owned it until 1956 . This house is unusual in it’s three bay facade with central doorway.

It remains a single family residence.

Methodist Church: 1856.  It is believed that the Methodists were given this land by William Turnbull sometime between 1837 and 1840, and that there was a different building first built here, while other’s claim that this was the first church, built in 1856. The original structure had a tall steeple but it had to be removed as it was the frequent target of lightning and wind storms. This is a modified Greek revival architecture.  Unfortunately, the Hillsburgh United Church closed its doors in 2011 due to the declining numbers of congregants.

Andrew H. Harris 1837.  This is one of the oldest remaining buildings in the village, and the residence of Andrew Harris, who ran a dry goods and grocery store near the Bridge   He was deeded the land by his father, John Spurr Harris.  It remained in the Harris family until 1891, when it was purchased by Dr. Robert Ellison .   In 1907, it was purchased by Rhoda Yorke, wife of John Yorke who ran a livery stable between Bear River and Deep Brook, It was her horse and wagon teams that met  the Dominion Atlantic trains in Smith’s Cove and brought them into Bear River.  She also owned a dry goods store. The family also operated the Green Lantern theater for many years.

It remains a single family residence.

Oakdene School (1934)  The original Oakdene Academy which was built in 1895 was destroyed by a fire in January of 1934, and this replacement, similar to the destroyed school, was completed by September for the beginning of the school year. Unfortunately, the school was closed  in 1993 but the building now serves as a community center with  studio and commercial space.

St. John’s Anglican Church 1833: Originally the Anglican Church was built in 1833, but was destroyed by the same fire that devestated the school in 1934. This may have been the earliest church, but perhaps the smallest with it’s congregation beginning in the late 1700’s with the zarrival of the Hessians and Loyallists in 1784.  It was considered the most conservative of the village churches and adopted by the Protestant Hessians as a substitute for the Lutheran Church. this small church is still used for an occasional summer service.

Horatio Nelson Chute House  1830. It is believed this house was built inthe early 1830’s making it one of the oldest remaining houses in the village.  Horatio Nelson Chute was drowned off his boat “The Robert” in 1840, and the house passed to his wife and remained in the Chute family until 1855 when it became the property of Zebidiah Croscup, a shipwright and customs collector. In 1884 it was purchased by W Alpheus Chute, who’s occipation was listed as house mover, and later by his son Joseph Burton Chute, also a building mover; and the one who moved the Clarke Bros. buildings in 1903.  Oral history has it that he was famous throughout the county for his moving skills. It remained in the Chute family until 1951, then the Nicholl family until 1978, when it was turned into rental units.It has been recently renovated.

Zebidiah Croscup Building 1855.  The origins of this buidling have been in dispute for many years, some believing the builing was originally a church and later moved here.  There is no evidence of that however, and the records of the 1870’s show that this was a custom house operated by Zebediah Croscup .  Later this building was used to store and sell caskets. It is an example of a Greek revival commercial building.

All content on this site © the Bear River Tides and Think for Yourself Publishing 2011-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Historic Sketches: Ina Rice, 1905

Published January 29, 2012 by oddacity designs

We have the wonderful description of Bear River from 1893 by the anonymous author, and then we have this lovely essay from 1905 by Ina Rice.  The Rice family was fruitful and multiplied and while some remained in Bear River, the sons and daughters of the original Rices of Bear River are widely scattered.  We would love to know who exactly Ina Rice was….anyone?

The text is reprinted exactly as the original version.


as documented by Ina Rice


I am now about to start the history of one of the most beautiful places in Nova Scotia situated among the hills on the border of Digby and Annapolis Counties and of which the most people know little about.

It has been said by some writers that its present name is a shortened form of La Riviere d’Hebert in honor of Louis Hebert who sought to cultivate the line along its banks. Another authority derives its name from Simon Imbert a favorite captain under Poutencourt who was blown over to the mouth of the river when on his way to the Granville colonies with supplies. Whichever is correct the fact remains that the place is replete with interest and its historical associations afford ample scope for investigation along this line.

A boy was once asked in class how Bear River got its present name and he replied “there were more bears than school masters.”

The first settlers were Indians of a very savage condition who got their living from the forest and dressed in skins of animals and lived in wigwams but now they are highly civilized and have a church and school-house of their own and live in houses and dress like the white people.

Bear River First Nations

No settlement was made here by the French and it was not until after the close of the French American Revolutionary War that any permanent settlement was attempted by the English.

The first settlers were preloyalists that came from Yorkshire and settled on the out-skirts of the village of Bear River called by the Hessian and Waldec Line which still hold their names.

The village was founded in the year 1808 and the names of the founders can be traced to the present inhabitants as the Rice’s Harris’ Benson’s Chutes and to which can be added the Crescups and Bogarts. It can be seen that the place has greatly developed since that time for now there is said to be 200.inhabitants according to the last census.

The first frame house was built by Captain O’Sullivan Sutherland in the year 1785 on the road leading to the Hessian Line an the other houses which before that were built of logs have long since given place to the fine homes and beautiful dwellings of the present day.

The Yorke Family in front of their home circa 1900

One of the first settlers was the late Christopher Harris who resided on the west side nearly opposite but much nearer the village. Mr. Thomas Chute commenced the work of erecting the new house at an early date and the result was the first store on the eastern side.

looking east on main St.

The first saw mill built at the head of the tide was called “Imberts Mill” and it is said the saw mill went up one day and came down the next. If this is true there has been a marked improvement in the mills of the present day.

early shingle mill

The hill quite near the mill still bears the name of Imberts hill. It is probable that the name was first given to the hill having been preserved traditionally by hunters and afterwards transferred to the hill.

The first mill on the east branch called the “Hickory Mill” was built about sixty years ago by an American by the name of Cleveland he sold it to Mr. Silas Rice who in turn sold it to Mr. Welsh and it was burned twice.

The first mill on the west branch was built about eighty years ago above the falls. And the first grist mill was below the falls. It was built by my great great grandfather, Mr. Thomas Rice who mortered the frames in the stump of a hemlock tree and when the tree began to grow it pushed the mill out of place. My great Grandfather built a saw mill in front of his house this was burned down and he then built a grist mill in which his daughters worked to grind the grain with the old fashioned flail.

The mills standing at the present time are the most of them quite old. The grist mill just spoken of can be seen and is similar to the one on the cover but this one on the cover was torn down last year and a carding and cider mill has been built in its place.

The old mill on the east branch of the river was torn down three years ago and the one below it was bought by Mr. T. Rice for a tombstone Factory and also the former cider mill.

On the west branch there are three mills first the Electric Light Mill that has water power enough to run the lights in the town of Digby. Established in 1893.

The next is a threshing mill, planning mill and grist mill all combined which is run by water power and last year a new iron wheel was put in, in place of the large wooden one. They used to have and it does not take as much water to run the mill now as it did before.

And a little further down at the entrance of the dam there is a saw mill, grist mill and shingle mill all combined owned by Mr. W. H. Rice & Son.

In the spring of 1902 the freshet broke away the road and bridges at the head of the tide and Mr. Rices’ Tombstone mill, situated at the foot of the dam was washed out and a number of the nice stones he has polished for sale were swept down the river as well as the buildings, road and bridges. This caused a new road to be built that connect the two bridges, across the two branches that come from the dam.

spring freshet near head of the tide

About fifty years ago, only a log bridge crossed the river at the village but now it is an iron draw bridge that will permit vessels to pass through laden for the ports of trade and commerce.

the "new" iron drawbridge 1905

Many and marked are the improvements since I can remember. There have been a number of stone bridges built near the town only in late years such as the one near Clarke Bros. store, which leads to the Cemetery and the one on Iron Avenue which leads to the Lakes, where the great lumbering trade is carried on, on a large scale. Also the one on the road leading to Milford Corner.

The town about fifty years ago was very small there only being four stores , but since that time they have been gradually increasing  until in 1888 Jan 25th a fire broke out and destroyed a large part of it but this did not stop the growth. The town has increased greatly in size and now there are about twelve stores of which the principal ones are Clarke Bros., O. Rice, C. Rice, A.B. Marshall, Post Office and Drug Store which has only been in use about two years under the help of Dr. L. Lovett.

The Digby side of "Main St." circa 1900

The Union Bank of Halifax was only opened to the public about five years ago.

There was a new road opened to traffic in or about the same time and people heard of the gold find in Klondyke and this road was named after it.

Shipbuilding used to be a great industry but it has since died out, the last launched was called, “Castans,” which went out to sea and was not heard of afterwards. There used to be a yard for shipbuilding on the present school grounds from which the schooner “Josephine” was launched and sails between Boston and Bear River. The other yards have been bought by people and one man has built a wharf at one and piles cordwood on it to be shipped to Boston by the “Valdare.”

the Valdare takes another load of lumber to Boston

There are about four vessels that carry lumber piling and cordwood to different ports as Havana Boston, Bermuda and South America, and one schooner The Citizen makes a trip a week between St. John and Bear River bringing supplies for the merchants and taking in return things such as apples, butter, eggs, etc, that will bring a better price than they can get at home.

bringing home the goods!

A new drop pier was built at the bridge near the mouth of Bear River in 1902 and the old one repaired.

The railway and the one lane bridge/mouth of river 1905

There used to be a steamer route between Digby and Annapolis until the missing link of the railroad was built. This caused the building of a new road from the village to the station a distance of four and one half miles. But part of this road had been built.  But to avoid some of the hills, the new one was put into construction and completed about fifteen years ago.

Now there is a great stir about having the cars run through the town of Bear River from Caledonia Corner to Digby or whichever place would be the most convenient for the Railway Company.

They also propose building a lighthouse on the point just outside the bridge but time will tell whether they will get it or not.

Yes, they did build one!

There has also been a marked improvement in the religious line as well as in the industrial line. The Old Baptist church torn down about five years ago. The Baptist and Methodist churches now standing were built about fifty years ago but since that they have been repaired inside and new bells put in the steeples. The other churches are the Advent Episcopal and the Catholic on the Indian Reserve.

the Baptist Church

The Anglican Church circa 1905

The Methodist Church circa 1905

The Academy was built in 1895 which united the schools of the two counties, Digby and Annapolis. There have been six school houses built within fifty years and the Academy is the last one. The last school house I went to before going to the academy has been torn down but the one on the Digby side is still standing and is used for making of sails for vessels.

The first Oakdene Academy

The principle industries of the people are lumbering and farming. Clarke Bros., W. Miller, and S. Davis are the principal ones that have anything to do with lumbering but Clarke Bros. are the principal ones connected with it.

They have within the last year or two improved the mill at Lake Jolly so it now works, all the year around where as before when they had it at Lake Tom Wallace it only worked in the winters this now is controlled by Mr. S. Davis who only works there winters. This scene was taken out near Lake Jolly where they get their logs for lumber. They cut the tree down clean the limbs off and haul them, to the Lake where they are drawn into the mill and sawn into lumber for the market.

working with the raw materials

Farming is carried on in a most successful way. The farmers have formed an Agricultural Society which meets once a quarter for the transaction of any business that may come before it. Professor Sears from the Agricultural College Truro was in town on the 12 pruning the model orchard started about three years ago. The hills are covered with trees and spots of ploughed land as you can see in the photo of Bear River taken from the Hotel cupola.

Cherries were the famous Bear River crop.

Many are the improvements in the articles used in farming as for mowing they now have mowing machines where they used to mow with the scythe, but in some places they use the scythe yet. The disc harrow is also a new invention that is just being used. The seed planters are also a new invention where in place of using the hands for sewing the seed they have a new machine.

The separator, a new machine for separating the cream from milk, and if they want to, they can make butter in a short time.

Mr. Cox started a creamery in the summer of 1904 but by bad management it did not result in anything of any consequence.

The Exhibition building is now used for a rink in the winter time.

The wharves along the river where the vessels leave for the American ports are often very bare, and when the tide turns, and rushes around them it puts new looks of beauty to all things about it and the vessels that were once stranded like whales are now afloat.

a boat afloat

The Hotel was repaired and another story built on it and it gives a splendid view of the town as seen in the picture on a page before.

The Bear River Hotel is the big building on the hill

The town is supplied on both sides of the river by splendid water and everybody can have the water in their house by just paying a few cents.

I am about to close my history but in closing I wish to say don’t forget the cherries they are coming and so is June.

another successful cherry crop

Ina May Rice was born circa 1880 at Nova Scotia. She was the daughter of James Herman Rice and Irene Rice. Ina May Rice was born in 1884. She married (?) Digwell. Ina May Rice and Frank B. Dunn married 2nd, son of William Dunn and Anna Sophia Crousse. Ina May Rice died in 1943. She was buried at Bear River, NS.

(From Marion McCormack’s geneology of the Rice Family of Bear River)

A Look at Bear River in 1893

Published January 17, 2012 by oddacity designs

Historical Sketch of Bear River

compiled  in 1893


Nestled among the hills, along both sides of the beautiful stream which for some distance forms the boundary line between the Counties of Annapolis and Digby, stands the bustling, enterprising community, which, collectively, is known as Bear River.

The parts on each side of the river belong to different Municipalities, and in some respects diverse interests. A few years ago an attempt was made to complete the diverse between the two sections of the town by giving to each a distinct name, that part on the Annapolis side being called Bridgeport, and that on the Digby side, Hillsburg. But this attempt to diverse what Nature had joined together proved abortive, and these names are seldom heard , while the general name used to designate both communities as one town remains fixed, doubtless, permanently. If we mistake not, the sections on each side have recently formed a union for educational purpose, and at their present rate of progress the community of interest existing between both , may draw them into a more complete union, of a municipal nature at no very distant day.

facing north

Several explanations have been advanced as to the derivation of the name of this town. A recent writer claims its origin as derived from the French pronunciation of Imbert, a gentleman who formed one of a party visiting this spot as early as 1611.

From the date of the French occupation of the country, 1604, to the date of their expulsion, in 1755, it is believed no settlement was made, as no remains have been found on which to ground an opposite assertion, and the town is, doubtless, of exclusive English origin. With the invasion of the United Empire Loyalists the settlement of the district commenced, and in 1784 the township of Clements, including both sides of the stream, was granted to certain English, Hessians, and Waldeckians, who had served during the old revolutionary war, and who, at its close, received grants of land, in lieu of other pay, for the services they has rendered in that unfortunate struggle.

The first framed house was erected by one Capt. O’Sullivan Sutherland and stood nearly midway up the slope of the eastern hill, and adjacent to the present residence of Captain J. Harris. The house-warming that was given on the occasion of its completion was a merry-making of no ordinary description. Everybody who was entitled to be somebody was invited, and music, dancing, and drinking made the hours roseate until the dawn of the next day. Among the guest were the Demoliters, the Hertrieks, Kyshes, Calceks, Vrooms, Ditmarses, Beehlers, Purdys, Joneses, and others whose names do not occur to our memory. Perhaps there has not been so jolly a party in the place from that day to this.

Before the completion of this first framed dwelling a number of log huts had been built and occupied by both German and English settlers, and the work of clearing the soil for cultivation had commenced, but with so little success, owing to the ignorance of the proprieters, that much want and suffering was felt by their families for several years to come.

early farming

Towards the close of the century, there was a considerable movement from the townships of Granville and Annapolis to the hill country on the shores of Bear River. It was at this period that the Clarkes, the Millers, the Troops, Dodges, the Rices, the Chutes, and the Harrises bought lands and settled in the district, a course they were induced to take in the belief that wheat and other cereals could be produced in larger quantities and of finer quality there than could be raised, on the same sized areas, elsewhere in the county and the descendents of these men to-day constitute a large percentage of the population, both of the village and its immediate vicinity.

Still, up to the date under review, 1790-1810, there had been no village visible, but seen after saw-mills began the work of transforming the timber up the streams into lumber, necessitating the inception of shipbuilding, which was almost contemporaneously begun, stores were erected, and a thriving town was the final result.

looking south

No less than seven or eight public highways converge upon the present town from different directions, and not an hour passes without the arrival of vehicles laden with freights for export or passengers on business or pleasure.

Substantial and comfortable dwellings line the hilly streets in all directions, which at every point, new aspects in landscape scenery. Neat fruit and vegetable gardens and lawns are attached to nearly every domicile in the town, and thrift and comfort everywhere give evidence to vital existence.

Main Street, Digby Side

To-day the greater number of stores are on the Annapolis side, where Clarke Bros. have become the leaders in Bear River in business matters, although there are a number of new and well furnished ones on the west side of the river.

Hillsburgh Waterfront

The town has fine places of worship, the Baptists being the leading denomination. Within the past year, they have remodeled their church, making it one of the handsomest in the town. The Methodists and adherents to the English Church have each neat pretty religious edifices on the north side of the river, and the Adventists have also a house of worship.

Bear River have sent from its shipyards many vessels, some of large tonnage, constructed by such efficient master-builders as Mr. Thomas Rice, Captain John Benson, the Lents, and others, which carried away freights of lumber, cordwood, pulpwood, and other products of the forests, for which it is noted, to parts of the United states, the West Indies, etc., and commanded by our skillful and intelligent native captains.

This delightful resort among the hills has also gained a deal of notoriety owing to its mammoth yield and great variety of cherries, and is visited, during the season, by excursionists from distant parts of the counties of Annapolis, Digby and elsewhere, to enjoy to their hearts content a feast of the luscious fruits. Besides the hundreds of others, here and there may be seen a majestic cherry tree planted by the French during their occupancy of the country, which serve as historical landmarks of that period.

a cherry orchard

The construction of the so-called “Missing Link” of railway from Annapolis to Digby, and the building of a new highway from the town to the depot, — located some four miles distant, –proved a great boom to the commercial interests of the entire locality, affording as it does mere direct communication with the principal avenues of travel.

railway bridge at mouth of river

Within the past year, electric light has been introduced, driven by one of the best water powers to be found in the country, while the many other improvements in the way of new dwellings a $7,000 schoolhouse and other evidences of prosperity and wealth mark the town as one of the most progressive in the western part of the province.

the first Oakdene school
a History of Bear River , written in 1893, author unknown