We recently came across this history of Bear River which was written in the early 1900’s. We don’t know who A. Pearle Nickerson was…if any one can tell us, we sure would like to know.
The earliest knowledge of Bear River is dated back to the 10th day of January 1613, when a small French vessel commanded by Capt. Simon Imbert arrived in the basin of Port Royal in the midst of an easterly snowstorm. She was laden with supplies for a small colony on the Granville shore. It was the first trip of Imbert on American shores and on account of the storm, was forced to seek shelter under the lee of some island and he found his way behind what is now called Bear Island at the mouth of the river bearing the same name.
The next morning, they explored the river beyond the head of the tide and discovered its two branches It was the river named St. Anthony on Champlain’s map, but Imbert’s countrymen called it henceforth Imbert’s River. It’s present name is simply a corruption of the name of Simon Imbert (Imbare).
No village was made here by the French, and it was not until after the American Revolutionary War that any permanent settlement by the English was attempted and these settlers were the Loyalists.
It was the earlier pre-loyalist settlers of Annapolis that we should attribute the honor of being the founders of the present town of Bear River, for they changed the forest clad hills into smiling farms and comfortable homesteads.
The river at the time was teeming with salmon and a few seals were seen in it. At the head of the tide was a place called “Salmon Hole” where a great many people went to fish but of late years there has been so much lumbering carried on that possibly the sawdust killed the salmon.
The people who laid the foundation upon which the wealthy town now exists wer the Rices, Croscups, Harrises, Clarkes, Millers,Chutes and Bensons.
The town is situated on ravines and on the hills which abound near the head of the tide which extends to about four or five miles from the basin into which the waters of the river are discharged.
The first framed house built in the limits of the village was finished in 1785 by a Capt. Sutherland and stood not far from the residence of Capt. John Harris on the road leading to the Hessian line. All the houses erected before that year were constructed of logs and have long ago given place to more elegant and comfortable dwellings.
Thomas Chute built the first store on the east side of the river about the same time that Capt. Freeman Marshall commenced business on the Digby side. Today, the greatest number of stores are on the Annapolis side where the Clarke Bros. have become the leaders in Bear River Business matter. Among the other fine stores are W.W. Wade, C.O. Anthony, A.B. Marshall, and F.W. Schmidt.
The Baptists, who are the leading denomination here, have a fine place of worship on the Digby side and the Methodists and the adherents of the English Church have a neat place of worship on the opposite side of the bridge.
One of the most important industries of Bear River is the lumbering. In former years, this industry was carried on more extensively, the river being used to float logs down to the mills. Although now it is not carried on to such great extent, piling cord wood and finished and unfinished lumber are to be seen piled up on the wharves at all times of the year.
No less than nine highways from all points of the compass find their termini in the town and one cannot find any of the surrounding places a more picturesque town than the “Switzerland of Nova Scotia”.
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