All posts in the History category

A Walk Down Memory Lane….. Part one

Published November 24, 2013 by oddacity designs

One hundred years ago, the Clarke family ruled Bear River.  Many of them left in the 20’s and 30’s  for a variety of reasons.  Atlee Clark , son of W.W. Clarke and Mary Etta Chute,  was one of those and he suffered from severe homesickness.  To relieve the pain and relive the memories, he wrote the following memories, based on geographic landmarks.  Some of the notations are hard to decipher, but are included for accuracy.

Bear River, Annapolis County, beginning with Seth Wade hill and continuing into town

Seth Wade

Jim Trimper and family, a real bunch

Gus Copeland and Family

Asa Walsh and family, elderly couple

Kniffen Rd (old post rd)  At top of Kniffen hollow Rd. a family of Myron Chute and son apparently living alone.

Steve Kniffen and family.  Daughter Mary went to school with me, had a son Roy.

Dan Marvin, place bought by Peter McGregor (Elsie Henshaw farm)

Rice chap moved from head of the tide (possible Elmer Rice)

Other side of Kniffen Hollow was Joe Warren and family and Cliff Copeland

Wm. (Billie) McCormack and son, Earl, married to Edna Coombs

Continuing from Asa Walsh on Main Rd.

Earl and Edna McCormack  and family.  Moved down with father from old Milbury home.  I think Ira McCormick moved out and Earl moved in.

WW Clarke orchard sold to Geo. Oickle.

Truman Hamilton; later Cecil Miller, married to Hazel Oikle.

Mrs. Scott and colored chap, Otis Myers.  Later bought by Major and Amanda Symonds Below road: Rogers family, later Howard and Viola Cress.

WG Clarke and Nancy Marshall lived three houses below with family.  Eldest Ethel was drowned.  Edith Nancy and Josephine.

Between barn and their home, Fowler Robinson, who worked for W.G. Clarke as handyman.  Then Walter Brown bought it.

W.E. Read and family.  Kate, Fred, Ruth, Willard, Stuart, Bruce.  Now Bruce and wife.

error: Between Read and Robinson lived Harvey Marshall, a carpenter, who I think is closely related to Nancy Marshall, wife of WG Clarke, possibly a brother.

Harding and Elizabeth (Rice) Chute, parents of Herbert Chute who was apparently lost at sea, daughter Maryetta Chute, wife of WW Clarke.  Home passed to AB Clarke (son) on his marriage to Grace Edna Moore.  They rented to Joe Steadman, Joe Mc Kenna (bank manager) and sold to Commander Hood from the Cornwallis base on his retirement.

Eddie Troop and Sam Stevens and family.

Harry Mason and family, then Charles Crabbe and family.  Then a barn. House removed by BC Clarke.

Barn, now gone and Riverview annex built by BC Clarke.  Later closed and rented to Morine family, present use unknown.

Just beyond barn next to Mason house occupied by John Morine, engineer of SS Bear River.  When boat was sold, it was replaced by a converted corvette of steel.  So cold, crew was miserable.  Disposal unknown.  Morine moved to Greenland.  Prior to that, he accused Ira Clarke who was rabbit hunting of shooting one of his cows.  Dad investigated and found it was another person.

RIGHT HAND SIDE TO BRIDGE (Clementsvale Rd. off to left)

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Field with small building roadside, used by Alpheus Chute as storage for  building moving equipment. Later used by undertaker for coffin storage, also a polling booth. (photo 1)

Alpheus Chute and family (Lizzie) .  Winnie younger daughter who married Fred Woodworth. Lizzie worked for Clarke Bros as steno for many years.  Annie married Laurie Nicholson, went to USA, returning every year after his death until the 70’s.  Harry went west to Edmonton.  House still vacant. (photo 2)

Capt.L. Brinton and family.  Harold (Annie) Brinton who died a short time ago.

Church of England, burned and rebuilt.  Rector Rev. A.W.L. Smith of Clements Parish (photo 3)

Old School, burned and rebuilt.  Contractor, Howard Snell.  Could not finish job and finished by ES Langinne of Wolfville.  I was checker of materials. Lumber bought from J. Cunningham, and had to reject large quantities die to poor quality.  Les Fairn was architect and material for building was far in excess of what was needed and much was returned or not used, so original plans were altered and some needed stuff was omitted.  Original plans specified lighting to light a big town and would have cost a fortune so was left out.  Stage had a large number of colored lights specified enough for a New York show. (photo 4)

John Yorke, kept stables. Drove mail to Deep Brook Stn each day. Wife ran millinery shop in basement. He was a farrier, wheelwright.  Family, Dimock, John and Fanny.  Dimock later barbered on addition to Schmidt’s store. (photo 5)

Methodist Church (photo 6)

Dr. Ellison: daughter married W.M. Romans bank manager. After May’s death, Roman married a Milligan (Jessica) and after his death, she lived there many years.  (photo 7)

John Moore and family.  Mary (Hubbard) Elizabeth (spinster) Horace.  They moved away to USA  House rented to Tom Wright and family….Dr. WM Wright (geologist) Clyde and Viola who were half kin to Wm. Later, Horace, Lizzie and Mary Hubbard moved back where they passed away.  House became property of Mel Parker who married Geraldine Purdy.  Now they are both deceased. (photo 8)

W.W.Clarke and Mary Etta Chute and family of  Harry (died of scarlet fever) Atlee, Carrel, Ira.  Atlee married Grace Edna Moore, Ira married Minnie Baldwin of Gravesend, England and Carrel married Anna Schneider of Oswego, NY whom he met at Acadia.  She passed away in May 1967 and he is now married to the widow of Bill Ryan and living in Dartmouth.  His family of Ruth and Wallace are living in Ottawa with their children.  Wallace has three girls and Ruth has three boys, two of whom are married.  Wallace is thinking of retirement from Northern Electric.

WW Clarke property sold to Dr Campbell after death of WW and Mary Etta Clarke.  After death of WW Clarke in 1932, Charles Green and wife lived with Mary Etta Clarke until her death in 1940.  The sons of WW Clarke have all passed away except Carrel.  House was sold to Dr. Campbell after being rented for a very short time to a shyster doctor who did not  pay board and was booted out.  Rented to Lincoln pulp employee O’Keefe who moved to Annapolis. Then sold and Dr. Campbell brought in Dr. Rowton who was a good MD. but his wife was an oddball. He moved to Bridgewater and house went to Chester Kaulback , married to Mary Oickle.  He moved barbershop to small building  built down from house at street. Sold it to some woman who ran an apt. set up for elderly, older and infirm people and carved it to several apartments..  Do not know its present use or disposal.( photo 9)

Chester built a small house next to Clarke property while in Clarke house and another on the Kelly property Charlie Murphy Dunn lived in back.  Do not know much about them. Later, GWVA rented to McLean family.  No knowledge about present use

219th Regiment (I think) looked after by Alphy Banks and often kegs of rum kept under uniforms and supplied by Genps Sanford(sic).  When used by GWVA it was a place for card playing by cronies every day.  Back of bldg. large barn for oxen used by Clarke Bros. drivers George Tupper, JP and collector of customs. Upstairs C. Phinney harness maker.  At back, Charlie Wilson bicycle repairs.  Then Murphy Dunn, cobbler.  Later John Freeman took over Phinney harness maker and leather work. (photo 10)

Down Wharf Rd to river.  Clarke Bros. stables for draft horses, warehouses for all kinds of building materials, wharves full of lumber and piling, storage for all kinds of ships needs such as ropes, tar, pitch, rosin, lime, cement etc. Private stables for driving horses, family cow etc. Hostler, Charlie Garnam who considered himself an authority on horse flesh.  Later stable became used for storing flour and feed, and upstairs all kinds of building materials such as sheathing, flooring, rope, barrels etc.  this was at the back of WW Clarke home.  Both his home and that of John Moore extended all the way back to the river. (photo 11)

W.E. Liller, foreman at Lake Jolly and family.  Roy, Annie, Clara.  He lived at large house at Lake Jolly until after mill closed or in winter time.  Then occupied by Ralph Purdy   and then Waldo Chute. Now occupant unknown.  Below was union bank of Halifax, later Royal Bank.  When bank moved, Howard Cunningham office. All buildings to the Masonic Lodge were owned by Clarke Bros. and used for house furnishings etc. Later for pulp company offices.  When pulp company folded, upstairs badminton.(photo 12)

WW Wade, General store and penny goods.  Daughter Hattie, milliner.   Later O.A. Eisner store.  Then Mrs. Hubley Tea Room

Fred Schmidt Store.  Run by widow for some years after his death.  For a short time run by a Mrs. Rice from Head of the Tide.  In same area, Ira and Gladys McCormick ran a store.Howard Cress lived upstairs and I think McCormacks lived there a few years. Tacked on to store was a small converted storeroom where Dimock Yorke did barbering. (photo 13)

Clarke Bros. wharf for SS Bear River and warehouses for storage of clothes,pins, sheathing, shingles, etc. Also part used by O.A. Eisner,  a cooper.  He later opened a store below Masonic Hall. Moved to Lawrencetown with family and store taken over by Mrs. Hubley as tea room. Facing street across from LV Harris, a small separate building. Upstairs Frank Burrage, a tailor with seamstress, Mrs Letteney, helped by Helen Ford who Burrage later married.  Later, Vernon Peck barbered in the lower part.

This about completes South side as far as I can remember. There may be a few errors due to some names not being remembered as to first names.

now gone buildings on warterfront

now gone buildings on waterfront

editor’s note:  On the left hand side of this photo you can see some of the buildings that are mentioned in Atlee Clarke’s remembrances. The large white one in the middle is the  wharf and warehouse for SS Bear River. Further to the left are the other buildings mentioned in the paragraph beginning with “W.E. Liller ..”

main st. in the 1920's

main st. in the 1920’s

The right hand side of the photo is what the village looked like when Atlee Clarke remembers.  Note the extra building where the entrance to wharf rd. is now…next the 2 buildings where the Legion now stands and then the Mason’s Hall. After the gap is what was W.W. Wade General store, later O.A. Eisnor’s and Mrs. Hubley’s Tea Room.  The last building is the Fred Schmidt store.  Note the Bandstand right before the bridge.

The History of Bear River by A. Pearle Nickerson

Published February 2, 2013 by oddacity designs

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”.

Millyard Day; down by the river….

Published August 25, 2012 by oddacity designs


There was lots of fun on Millyard day, August 18, down at the Bear River Millyard Recreation.  While there were no takers for the mud race, there was still a great time to be had.

There used to be a number of sawmills in Bear River and Bob Benson has put together a great display with the names of those who worked in the mills and some great photos of former glory.  Also on display is a tribute to Bill Morine, fisherman extrordinaire of Bear River.

It doesn’t have to be Millyard day to drop down and enjoy some social time and great buys.  the Millyard Market is open on Saturdays from 10 to 3.

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Here are some of the things you will find…


Avery Cress: Fish tales and Beefsteak Tomatoes

Published June 15, 2012 by oddacity designs

Fish Tales and Beefsteak Tomatoes



By Angela McMullen

A collection of stories of the people of Bear River would not be complete without an Avery Cress profile.

Avery Bruce Cress of the Chute Road was a story-teller who loved every aspect of his humble life. His happy eyes were a reflection of his soul; kind and ever so gentle.

Avery was proud of the life he had created for himself.  So much so, that his enthusiasm spilled over into many conversations through social opportunities and home visits.

He was well-known for the luscious gardens he shared so lovingly with those in his life and those in the community. Avery always had a stand at the end of his driveway from which he sold vegetables. If you were lucky to find him at home, you were in for a treat.   Stories and facts swarmed in his head, tidbits he eagerly shared with anyone who cared to listen. Avery carefully explained different varieties of vegetables and best growing environments, and it seemed as though tomatoes were his favorite.

A visit with Avery was an exceptional social experience. You could get a lesson on bird behavior, and it was likely that you’d be invited to feed the birds at a feeder.  You could be invited inside to listen to him play the harmonica or enjoy a lesson in CB communication.

Children enjoyed a short walk to the fish pond where Avery swept them away in storybook fashion with fish tales.  A visit with Avery left you with the feeling that you could do anything; swim any ocean or climb any mountain.

His granddaughter Wendy Richard remembers him fondly and has submitted a school project she compiled on her grandfather as a young girl.

Remembrance Day a few years back also inspired an essay from Ms. Richard, which is posted as well.




A Piece of History

By Wendy Richard

A boy named Avery Cress was born in Deep Brook,AnnapolisCountyin a rented house to his parents Roderick and Elsie Cress in 1921.

His father died when he was two years old. His mother remarried when he was four. She married Frank Kaulback. She had another son and two daughters by her new husband. Then they moved to Victory, which is between Bear River andSouth Milford.

His step-father made him work hard and they didn’t have a lot of money. His chores were to feed farm animals such as chickens and pigs. He also had to milk the cows and cut and pile firewood.

His sisters’ chores were quite different. They picked berries in the summer. They did the housework and some of the cooking.

The schools were important to the community because of the things it did for the community. It taught children as well as held small meetings and bake sales.

The church was very important in the community because of the religious sense. The church was also used for weddings.

There was a truck that held supplies. On the truck was food like fruits, vegetables, candy, oil for lamps and other various articles. There were two stores, two churches and two schools.

Victory was a very rural community. Everybody had to work very hard. There wasn’t a lot of spare time for anyone.

Electricity hadn’t reached Victory while my grandfather lived there. To this day, electricity still does not run in Victory.

During the Depression years Victory did pretty good. The people there were farmers and wood cutters and were almost self-sufficient. The only thing they needed to buy was kerosene flour, molasses and butter. His step-father cut wood and would trade it for the supplies the truck would carry.

There were different ways to save supplies as well as money. At night, a family would blow out their lanterns and go to a neighbors house. They would alternate houses, thereby saving fuel and socializing at the same time.

Christmas during the Depression was pretty slim. There would only be one toy; a mouth organ or a jackknife, a coconut and some oranges, but no one went hungry and everyone stuck together and made it through.

Grampy quit school after grade ten. He thought he would be freer, but quickly found out this wasn’t so. He had to work for his step-grandfather. They cut pulp wood by hand, ten hours a day  for one dollar or one dollar and fifty cents a day.

He says he regrets quitting school, but by the time he was eighteen, they had moved to Bear Riverand he decided to join the Army. There was a war on in a far away place and they paid good money, one dollar and sixty-five cents a day in the Army. This sounded more exciting than working for his step-father so away he went.

The family moved to Bear River when he was seventeen.Bear River had jobs and electricity. His first job was in the lumber mill and he made fifteen cents an hour. This was easier than working in the woods and Bear Riverwas almost a city compared to life in Victory.

During the war, he went to many foreign countries;Germany,Belgium,Holland,Italy and Africa. He also learned to stand up for himself and matured very quickly. He also met a woman, Annie Stewart, whom h e would later marry.

While he was in Europe he sent twenty dollars a month home to his mother. When he got home he had over a thousand dollars. He had a wife  and they used the money to build their house, where he still lives to this day. With his new attitude, his step-father treated him much better too.

While he was away, things changed in the community also. People were making four dollars a day, a wage unheard of five years before. When he came back on the train, it stopped at Cornwallis. He didn’t know where he was. There was nothing there when he left and now was a busy job generating place.

If given a chance to live at any time, grampy would have chosen to have been born in the twenties. Many parts of his childhood were rough, he doesn’t like to talk about it, but life was simpler then, and he fondly remembers the war years. He also said he’d do it again, and is glad he went.

The present is difficult. He says he wouldn’t want to be a teenager these days because of crime, drugs and world instability.

He says he wouldn’t want to be a young person bringing up small children.

His outlook for the future is not very optimistic. Fewer and fewer jobs, high tech war, pollution and many other problems make the future look bleak to him. Is he wrong or will we have what it takes to get us through like they did then?

Avery Cress

A Remembrance Day Reflection

By Wendy Richard


When I think of my grandfather Avery, I reflect on his many gardens and his dedication to making them bigger and better, year after year, right up to his death; rows of potatoes, tomatoes, peas, beans and corn.

I remember the smell of his shirt, a concoction of sweat, dirt and citronella. To this day, when I close my eyes and see him, my eyes still water with the memories of these scents.

Avery didn’t always wear a shirt. To catch him wearing one around the house was a rare find.

People often stopped by to chat, get advice or to have a drink or a smoke.

He cared not the least about his appearance. I can still remember what he looked like wearing black socks and dress shoes.

His housekeeping was not up to snuff at the best of times. I remember as a kid staying over at his house on weekends. In August there were flannel sheets on the bed and dirt on them, which I thought nothing of and just brushed off. Looking back, I cannot say that he ever changed those sheets.  At the time I thought to myself, “Don’t look. Don’t check for dirt.”

Morning time meant waking to grampy’s homemade pancakes, and as a younger child, cornflakes were on the breakfast menu.

Winter and summer both, it was likely three hundred degrees on his house, with the kitchen stove blazing hot and the one in the living room glowing red.  The house was very small so likely one stove would have heated it. I can remember uniformed columns of wood piled to the ceiling in the kitchen, the living room, and in the porch. I am sure if there had been room in the bathroom and bedroom, he would have piled it there also.

On a kitchen clothesline hung dish rags, underwear and wool stocks, all stiffened by the intense heat.

Shelling peas with grampy was not a fun job. It took so long to get any amount in my pot, but he sat for hours in the scalding sun, sweat beading on his brow, anticipating them for supper.

I remember inches of dust on his shelves. Pictures hung crookedly on the walls, pictures which likely graced his home for over fifty years. Today I have the spice rack from his kitchen, an inheritance which I treasure. It’s circle spots of dust are still etched into the wood. I could not bear to wash them off.

Sometimes my grandfather was a man of few words, but when he took time to talk on his CB, he could talk for hours. Posted on the wall, near the little hand held device, was a sheet of paper where he had written call signs and code names. He was entertained by voices from beyond, some of whom lived just down the road. Others were from the States. I remember staring at that dusty black box with dials and switches, and also the times when he let me do the talking.  “Over and out,” we’d say!

Fond memories of my grandfather include all of the times he taught me how to feed the birds, with stealth and patience. If I shelled the sunflower seeds and slowly moved close to the bird feeder, chickadees and pine siskins fed from my hand.

As a child, I so wanted to play the guitar like my grandfather so in imitation, I strummed the instrument and made up words to songs as I went along. The real excitement was when he grabbed another guitar and sang along with me.

For my sixteenth birthday, he gave me my grandmothers’ diamond ring.

I could spend hours recording my memories of my grandfather, but on this Remembrance Day, I am inspired by Avery the Wartime hero. Above being a husband, a father, an uncle, a brother, a grandfather, a man of God, he was a Second World War Veteran

On this Remembrance Day I will remember him as a fearful young soldier who proudly fought for his Country, far away from his native home. He would not talk of wartime with me, his grand-daughter.

Had he not returned from War, he would not have married my grandmother, nor have moved to Bear River, nor built his little red house on Chute Road: the little red house which shared space with woodpiles and outbuildings, gardens and birdfeeders and a fire pit which he utilized for cooking kippers for lunch. Had he not returned from war, he would not have created the children whom are my family; my mother and aunts and uncles.

So on this Remembrance Day, and for many to follow, I give thanks for my grandfather for not only going to war, but for coming home.

I will end these writings with another little incident which took place in my childhood.

As my grandfather aged, we visited more frequently.  During one particular visit, we all sat around the kitchen table, which was a story in itself, that table.( It was usually sticky with left over sauces and spices from a previous meal, and often had at least one dirty plate on it, which he may or may not have rinsed before eating from it) He asked me if I wanted some apple pie and ice cream, and of course, I excitedly said yes.  Off to the fridge I went searching for my snack. No pie or ice cream there, so off to the freezer I went. No apple pie or ice cream there either. I returned to the kitchen to find my grandfather smiling from ear to ear.

He said, “Well we will have to get some. I don’t have any.”  He teased me about that for many years.

The last memory I have of my grandfather dates back to the night he passed away. After never visiting me in my own home, he paid me a visit. I made him a tea, he held my three year old son. He then went to my moms.(his daughter)

I miss you grampy

I love you.

Avery Cress’s War:

Like many Canadian men, Avery Cress went off to fight in WWII.  His contribution to the war effort was notably heroic.

“On the same night C company was engaged in more serious business.  Number thirteen platoon was managing positions on the Senio dyke, sandwiched between German posts two hundred yards to the left and right.  for the previous week  fighting patrols had gone out each night under command of an officer to obtain prisoners for identification purposes.  On this night, Cpl. Avery Cress led three men of his section to the left hand enemy position.  Putting his men in in an unoccupied enemy trench to shelter them from mortaring  and machine gunning directed at their passage, he himself killed a German sentry and jumped over the dyke into an empty dugout.  no German emerged to answer his call to them to come out, so he went in firing his Thompson sub-machine gun, killing two Germans and taking two prisoners, whom he shepherded back over the dyke and handed to his men to take back to the platoon, while he himself stayed on the dyke to provide covering fire until the patrol was safely back at Platoon HQ. Cpl. Cress was awarded the Military Medal.

excerpted from Invicta by Robert Tooley (about the Carleton and York Regiment in WW2.)

And from the memoirs of Rodman Logan: (Col. Ret.)

“I was a Major in the Carleton and York Regiment, 13 Platoon “C” Coy, during the Italian campaign of 43-45.  We were fighting outside Bagnacavallo when….Corporal Avery Cress earned , for his actions on the Senio, the Military Medal (Bronze, VM., N.D.R.)

During the crossing of Lamone, the Canadian regiment drove back nearly 13 enemy counterattacks, all extremely bloody, in order to install a firm bridgehead on the ridge still occupied by the Germans. …

The last of the Canadians mentioned, Corporal Cress, was able to infiltrate the occupied ridge called Senio, and made way for himself amidst submachine guns and hand grenades, protecting his section and taking two prisoners, something no other group was able to do”

And in Avery Cress’s words, from an April  2001 interview:

“Well, he comes to me and says he’d like me to see what I could do.  I say, “With respect Sir, can I try this my way?  Just give me three men and twelve pair of heavy wool socks.  And we’ll go in quiet light, no packs, no armed to the teeth and making so much noise.  Just bandoliers and utility belt and a weapon each.  i had a Thompson on a sling over my shoulder.”

Avery Cress

Village news: June 10th

Published June 10, 2012 by oddacity designs

It was a busy day up at the Oakdene  Center, June 9,  with the grand opening of the “New” Museum and the Oakdene Yard Sale.  Check out The Visit to the New Museum  

https://bearrivernovascotia.com/2012/06/09/a-visit-to-the-new-heritage-museum/ for photos of all the new displays.

Congratulations to Gertrude and Bob Benson who celebrated their 50th anniversary on June 2nd.

Welcome back to John and Linda McSweeny for the summer who arrived in their motorhome after an extended journey from Florida.

It’s nice to see Cheryl (Fetter) Amore in town for a visit.

Welcome to Micki Volenik,( Paul’s Mom), who is back behind the counter at Bargains and Books for the summer.

The ceremony to dedicate the Democracy Park was held by the Bear River Legion on June 10th with refreshments served in the lounge following the dedication.

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A Visit to The New Heritage Museum

Published June 9, 2012 by oddacity designs

view of the tool exhibit

The grand opening of the NEW Bear River Heritage Museum took place June 9th.  The new premises at the Oakdene Center is much smaller than previous quarters,  but there sure is lots of light.

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The museum will open for regular hours in July and August. Look for workshops and demonstrations!

The Amazing Life of John (Jack) Payne

Published June 5, 2012 by oddacity designs

Edward Holland of Ontario, the great-grandson of John (Jack) Payne wrote to us asking if we knew the location of his great-grandparent’s burial sites.  He forwarded the following information about his great grandfather, and what a life it was.

Born in England in 1885, John Payne began his military life in 1902, arriving in South Africa for the Boer War just as it was ending.  He then served in India and Ceylon.  After the outbreak of WWI, John Payne saw action at Mons, Belgium and was wounded during the retreat to France.  The very fact that he survived the bloodbath of Mons is pretty amazing.  According to his daughter, John suffered from the injuries he received throughout the rest of his life.

In 1926, John, his wife Catharine, and their children moved to Bear River in 1926 under the auspices of the Soldier’s Settlement Act.  The family operated a farm in Morganville and John Payne became renowned as a farmer and sportsman.

During the Second World War, John Payne served as a reservist in Canada.

This is an amazing story of how the wheel of fate plays in one’s life.

John Payne in India

John Payne’s medals

John Payne from the Campden 1914-1918 book

page 2 Campden book: John Payne

Obituaries: John (Jack) Payne

According to one elder, John Payne was a fox farmer. When the bottom fell out of the fox fur market, John Payne released the remainder of his stock into the wild.  Because of this,  the foxes around Bear River have different colors than the foxes in the rest of the province.  An interesting legacy!

Anyone with any more information about John (Jack) Payne or members of his family that they would like to share, let us know!

Loose Cannons

Published April 25, 2012 by oddacity designs

Bear River Nova Scotia is unusual in many ways.  A cannon barrel embedded in the pavement on a street corner is one of them

a little worse for wear

....but still standing.


One school of thought of why it is there is that it keeps anyone from taking the corner too quickly.  But here it is in the 1880’s, when it was only horse and buggy.

130 years ago

cannon on the corner, 1920's

We would love to know how that came about…. Did some one say: hey, Wilbur wants to get rid of that old cannon barrel he’s got lying around.  Let’s put it on the corner next to Clarke Brothers store. People can use it as an ash tray.

Was there a ceremony, or did it just appear there one day?

It’s not like you come across a cannon barrel too often.  Historically, Bear River was not a fortress town.  There were cannon in Digby and cannon in Annapolis Royal, but Bear River?  Was it a souvenir someone brought back on a sailing ship?

A lot of people live in town for a long time before they realize that there is a cannon on the corner.  Some people may not even know it is there at all.

It’s just another one of those important little things.

all content on this page copyright of Think For Yourself Publishing,  April 2012

History and Stories of Bear River: Ethel and Ancil Ellis

Published April 3, 2012 by oddacity designs

The most recent pamphlet we can find written by a resident of Bear River about the village is “History and Stories of Bear River, The Switzerland of Nova Scotia.”  

This wonderful glimpse of the village, complete with photos, was written in May,1977.  Here is it reproduced digitally for your enjoyment. Click on image to enlarge.

Unfortunately Ancil and Ethel Ellis have both passed on,  but with enough encouragement, maybe another “old timer” will tell you a few stories.

Bear River History from 1893

Published April 2, 2012 by oddacity designs

The document reprinted here has no identified author.  If anyone has any ideas as to who it was written by, please let us know.

Nestled among the hills, along both sides of the stream which for some distance forms the boundary lines 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 now 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 formed a union for educational purposes, and at their present rate of progress, the community of interest existing between both, may draw them into more complete union, of a municipal  nature, at no very distant day.

The stream divides the two sides; foreground, Bridgeport, background, Hillsburg

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 pronounciation of Imbert, a gentleman who formed one of the 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 that 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 pay for the services they had rendered in that unfortunate struggle.

The first frame 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 housewarming, given on the occasion of the 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 reseate until the dawn of the next day.  Among the guests were the Demoliters, the Hertricks, Kyshes, Callecks, Vreens, Ditmarses, Boehlers, Purdys, Joneses and others whose names do not now occur to our memory.   Perhaps there has been not 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 proprietors, that much want and suffering was felt by their families  for several years to come.

Towards the close of the century, there was considerable movement from the townships of Granville and Annapolis, to the hill country on the shores of Bear River.  At 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 descendants of these men today constitute a large percentage of the population, both of the village and its immediate vicinity.

early farming in Bear River

Still, up to the  date under review, 1790 to 1810, there had been no village visible, but soon after sawmills 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.  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 of vital existence.

freight arriving in Bear River?

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

The jewel of the Clarke Brothers commercial empire

The town also 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.

left to right: Anglican Church, Oakdene School, Methodist Church

Bear River has 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 ports in the United States, the West Indies, etc., and commanded by our skillful and intelligent native captains.

loading the ships with Bear River lumber

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 heart’s 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 in the country, which serve as historical landmarks to that period.

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 more direct communication with the principle avenues of travel.

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 $7000. schoolhouse and other evidences of prosperity and wealth mark the town  as one of the most progressive in the western part of the province.