The History of Long and Brier Islands

Freeport Shipbuilding

by | May 16, 2021 | Freeport, Shipbuilding | 0 comments

Freeport Ship Building


By Rodney Stark


The purpose of this book is to tell the story of Ship Builders of Freeport in the “Days of Sail”. My hope is that someone that reads this may be interested enough to write the same on the other two villages (Westport & Tiverton).

         I have always been wondering about the shipbuilding on our Islands so I started to gather information on this subject. I only compiled information on Freeport. There are two other villages to be done so maybe one of the readers of this book will do this. It would be nice to see the complete history of Ship Building on our Islands.

         My sources for information were “Geography and History of the County of Digby Nova Scotia” by Isaiah W. Wilson (1890), “History of Freeport 1784-1934” by Rev. Walter R. Greenwood (1934), “The Digby Weekly Courier “(started 1881), “Ship Registry “and the “Tiny Tattler” (started Feb. 1933).

         I tried to cover all aspects of ship building. It took a lot of people to build each one of these ships. I was unable to find the names of all the builders, I am only listing the master builders.  I couldn’t find much information on sail making so that wasn’t included.

         It must have been a very busy village with all this ship building, fishing, farming and trading. As I think about what it must of looked like at the peak of ship building, there must have been a lot of spares standing in the sky line. There was probably more than one vessel being build at one time.

With the decline in the fisheries starting in the mid 1970’s and then in the mid 1980’s when finally our last fish processing plant closed down most all ground fishing stopped in Freeport. The only fishery taking place since then is the lobster fishery.

The wooden fishing boats were then being made of fiberglass because they would last longer and be stronger. After this time the boats were then being repaired at local ship yards and so our hall out was not used anymore. Ship building and ship repair came to a end in Freeport.


Ship Silhouettes                                                                                                       page 4

Drawing How to Build a Ship                                                                                     ‘’   6

Ship Building (How To)                                                                                                 ‘’  7

Freeport The Old Home Town                                                                                    ‘’ 23

Long & Brier Island Map                                                                                               ‘’ 24

History of Long & Brier Island                                                                                     ‘’  25

When Freeport Was Given It’s Name                                                                         ‘’ 26

Map of Freeport 1861 (Church Map)                                                                         ‘’ 28

Map of Freeport Cove 2020                                                                                         ‘’ 29

Sailing Out The Cove at Freeport                                                                                ‘’ 30

Saw Mills Long Island                                                                                                    ‘’ 31

Some of Freeport Blacksmiths                                                                                   ‘’  31

Some of Ship Builders of Freeport                                                                            ‘’  33

Some of The Vessels Built at Freeport                                                                     ‘’  34

Names of Sails on Ships                                                                                              ‘’  38

Brigantine “Sophia” 1847 Built at Freeport                                                            ‘’  39

Something About Freeport 1888                                                                               ‘’  40

The Ship Building Industry on The Islands                                                               ‘’  41

Jeremiah Brooks Ship Builder Freeport                                                                     ‘’ 41

Did You Know!                                                                                                                ‘’ 42

One of the First Steam Fishing Boats Freeport                                                        ‘’ 44

First Gasoline Ferries                                                                                                     ‘’ 45

Schooner “Swan” Rebuilt at Freeport                                                                      ‘’  45

First Gasoline Fishing Boats at Freeport                                                                   ‘’ 46

“Cab Fore” or “ Cab Aft”                                                                                               ‘’ 46

Gilbert Bates Ship Building Tools                                                                              ‘’  48

Raleigh Bates                                                                                                                 ‘’  52

Work on Christian and Baptist Churches Tiverton                                                 ‘’  53

William Brooks Building Lighthouse on Peters Island                                           ‘’  55

Ship Building Revived                                                                                                    ‘’ 55

Freeport Haul Out (Originally one of the First Ship Yards)                                    ‘’ 56

The Last One                                                                                                                   ‘’  60

A story About Fred Brooks (Freeport Most Beautiful Spots in America)           ‘’  61

Schooner “Trilby” Freeport                                                                                        ‘’   65

Ship Building (How to)

The master builder did not follow an architect’s plans, but created a half model of a the ship from which to work, often on a scale of 3/8″ to the foot, but not always. This model was carved out of many horizontal layers of wood pegged together to form a block. These layers provided the builder with the shape of the vessel at various depths or was measured, from its flat side to its curved edge, at equidistant intervals running the length of the model. This vertical center line running measurements represented the distance on the actual vessel from the parallel with the keel, to the insides of the vessel’s frames. When scaled up to full size and potted on the floor of a shed or “mould loft”, they created a pattern from which the shape and measurements of each of the vessel’s frames could be taken.

    Shipyards were located next to bodies of water large enough and deep enough for the launching of a vessel. The site on which the ship was constructed had to slope gradually down to the waters edge, in order that the vessel could slide into the water under the force of gravity at the time of launch. During construction the vessel was supported by bed logs, huge timbers set into the ground, running parallel to the waters edge and extending up the slope for a distance slightly greater than the length of the ship under construction. These logs were flattened on their upper surfaces and usually covered with heavy planking, 3″ to 4″ thick, which created a floor upon which to build the ship, and prevented it from sinking into the mud under its own weight. On top of this arrangement were placed the blocks upon which the keel would rest. These raised the keel three to four feet off the ground, allowing men room to work underneath the ship.

    Hardwood was usually used for the keel (local yellow or black birch). In a small vessel, a single piece might suffice, but in larger vessels huge timbers were bolted together. While the keel was being laid, workmen built and shaped the stern and sternpost and the frames of the vessel. Again, in a small boat, a single piece of timber could be bent to form a frame, but in a large vessel several pieces were used, fastened securely together with treenails and dowels. These timbers were often selected and cut from local woodlots according to the suitability of their natural shapes to a specific section of frame. They were shaped more precisely in the shipyard, using a broadaxe and adze, and following the natural curvature of their grain as much as possible, in continuity with the intended lines of the vessel.

    Finished frames were “raised” by trackles and poles along the length of the keel, at even spacings and parallel to each other. The floor frames were bolted to the keel, and the stern and sternpost fitted in place, using “scarphs” and aprons for extra support. Since the joints were staggered as much as possible on the vertical plane, in order to avoid creating a structural weakness in the ship. It was said that timber which had been seasoned made a stronger vessel. Sometimes frames were allowed to stand unplanked in a shipyard for month.

    When the skeleton of the vessel was complete, she was said to be in frame, and the addition of strengthening timbers could begin. The keelson, a heavy timber, was laid over top of the floor frames, running the length of the keel, and bolted to it through the frames. Inside the hull, the “ceiling” or inner planking was bolted to the frames, running in a “fore and aft” direction to give further strength to the hull and to protect the frames from the ship’s cargo. This planking could be 9″ thick in the ship’s bottom, ranging to 5″ thick above the lower deck. When the ceiling was in place up to the lower deck, the shelf and clamp timbers were bolted to the vertical frames, running perpendicular to them, down the length of the vessel. The number of these “shelves” depended upon the number of decks in a particular vessel. A square-rigged vessel of 500 to 1200 tons usually had two decks, and anything larger, three.

    Upon the shelf timbers the deck beams rested, straddling the ship at right-angles to the keel below. The deck beams were fitted with heavy knees, or braces, at their junction with the vertical frames. In the earlier years of shipbuilding in Nova Scotia the knees were often formed of a single piece of wood, taken from the tree where the trunk meets the roots at a convenient right-angle, and providing a natural strength.

    A vessel was planked from the keel upwards, with slightly thicker planking being used below the waterline. Planks were steamed in a “steam box” at the shipyard, making them more pliable, and then twisted and bent as swiftly as possible into the shapes necessary to fit them onto the frame of the vessel. They were attached using treenails, iron or copper bolts, or a combination of the three. Each was believed to have its own merits. Treenails, being of wood, could be compressed slightly before being driven in, and would swell to a tight fit once in the water. They were also said to “work the ship”, providing a less unyielding resistance to its movements than iron. On the other hand, iron bolts were believed to hold very securely when rusted. Bolts or treenails were driven right through the planking, frames and ceiling into the pre-bored holes of slightly smaller diameter than that of the fastening to ensure a tight fit. The butt-ends of all planks met on the frames and were distributed “out of line” across the hull, to avoid weakening its structure.

Shipbuilding Terms

Barquentine: A vessel square rigged on the foremast only, the main and mizzen masts being fore-and-aft rigged. 

Ballast: Heavy material, such as iron, lead or stone placed in the bottom of the hold to keep the vessel steady. 

Beam: 1.The extreme breadth of a vessel 2.One of the transverse members of a ship’s frames on which the decks are laid. They are supported on the ship’s sides by right angles timbers known as knees. 

Beetle: A heavy iron mallet used to drive wedges into the seams of wooden ships to open them before caulking. 

Belaying Pins: Short lengths of wood, iron or brass set-in racks at convenient places on the ship where the running rigging can be secured. 

Binnacle: The housing of the ship’s compass, its corrections and the binnacle light. It was placed so that it could be viewed by the man at the wheel. 

Block: A wooden or metal case in which one or more sheaves (rollers) are fitted through which lines can run, either to increase the purchase or to change the direction of the line. They are commonly known as pulleys. 

Boom: A spar used to extend the foot of a sail. In fore and aft rigged vessels (i.e., schooners) the boom is a permanent and important spar at the foot of the mainsail and also of the foresail and the mizzen. It is pivoted at the fore end to the mast by a gooseneck. In square rigged vessels booms were temporary extensions to the yardarms to allow the rigging of studding sails. 

Bow: The fore end of a vessel. 

Bowsprit: A large spar projecting over the stem of a vessel to carry the stays for the fore-topmast and from which the jibs are set. 

Brig: A two masted vessel, square rigged on both masts. 

Brigantine: A two masted vessel with square sails on the fore mast and fore and aft sails on the main mast. 

Bulkhead: A vertical partition, running either fore and aft or athwartships, dividing the hull into separate compartments. 

Bull Rope: A rope used for hoisting a topmast or topgallant mast in a square-rigged ship. 

Bulwark: The planking or woodwork along the sides of a ship, above her upper deck to prevent seas washing over the gunwales and to prevent persons from falling or being washed overboard. 

Bunk: A built-in wooden bed on board ship, often built in tiers, one above the other. 

Burthen: A older term used to express a ship’s carrying capacity. 

Buttock: The width of a vessel where the hull rounds down to the stern. 

Cabin: A room or space partitioned off by bulkheads to provide a private apartment for officers, passengers and crew members for sleeping and/or eating. 

Cap: The wooden block at the top of a mast through which the mast is drawn when being stepped or lowered. 

Capstan: A cylindrical barrel fitted on the forecastle deck used for heavy lifting. It is placed in the centre line of the ship and on sailing vessels was usually worked by manpower. Work at the capstan was often accompanied by singing of capstan ‘shanties’ which set the time for the men to take the strain. 

Carvel Built: A method of boat building in which the planks are laid flush with the edges laid close and caulked to make them watertight as opposed to clinker built where the side planks overlap. Generally only small boats were clinker built. 

Cat: The name of the purchase by which the anchor was hoisted to the cathead in preparation for stowing or letting go. Also the process of hoisting the anchor by its ring to the cathead. 

Cathead: A heavy piece of curved timber projecting from each side of the bow of a vessel to hold the anchors in position preparatory to letting go or securing them in their bed after they are weighed. 

Caulk: The process of driving material into the seams of the ship’s deck or sides to make them watertight. The tools used were caulking irons and mallets. 

Ceiling: The inside planking in the holds of a vessel, laid across the floors and carried up the sides of the holds to the beams. 

Chainplates: Strips of iron with the lower ends bolted to the ships sides and on the upper end carrying deadeyes to which the standing rigging (i.e. shrouds) supporting the masts are secured. 

Clew: The lower, aft corner of a fore and aft sail; in a square sail, the two lower corners. 

Cloaming: The framing around openings in the upper deck such as hatches, usually about 15-20 cm. high which prevents water on deck from running into the space below. 

Coppered: The hull of a wooden vessel sheathed below the waterline to prevent the damage caused by ships’ worms and also the buildup of weed and barnacles which lessened the ships speed. 

Counter: The overhang of the stern above the waterline. 

Courses: The sails set on the lower yards of a square-rigged ship. 

Cradle: The timber frame constructed around the hull of a ship while she is on the launching ways during the building. At the launch the cradle slides down the ways with the ship. 

Crank: A ship which, either by her construction or the stowing of her cargo could not carry a great deal of sail without the danger of capsizing. 

Crosstrees: Light timber spreaders fixed athwartships across the trestle trees at the upper ends of the lower mast and top mast. They supported the topmast and topgallant mast shrouds. 

Deadwood: The solid timbers in the bow and stern, just above the keel where the lines narrow down so that separate side timbers will not fit. They are firmly fixed to the keel to add strength. 

Deals: Boards cut from pine or fir of a specified size. 3″ x 9″ x 12′ was the most common. 

Decks: The horizontal platforms in vessels that correspond to floors in buildings. 

Dolphin Striker: The short perpendicular spar under the cap of the bowsprit used to counteract the upward pull on the jibboom of the fore top-gallant stay. 

Draught or Draft: The depth of water required to float a ship. 

Earing: A rope used to fasten the top corners of a square sail to its yard. 

Entry: The form of the fore part of the ship as it cuts through the water. 

Even Keel: Floating upright in the water, not listing on either side 

Eye: A circular loop on the end of a shroud or stay 

Fairlead: A means of leading a rope in its proper direction 

False Keel: An extra keel outside the main keel either as a protection in case of grounding or to increase the draft and improve the sailing quality. 

Fashion Pieces: The aftmost timbers in the underwater hull of a ship forming the shape of the stern. 

Fay: To fit together two pieces of timber so there is no perceptible space between them 

Fid: A bar of wood or iron which takes the weight of a topmast when it is stepped on the lower mast. A hole in the topmast corresponds with a hole in the lower mast and the fid is driven through to hold them together. 

Fiddlehead: The scrolled stem head of a vessel lacking a true figurehead. 

Figurehead: An ornamental carved and painted figure on the stem, below the bowsprit generally expressing some aspect of the ship’s name. 

Flush Deck: A continuous deck of a ship laid from stem to stern without any break 

Foot: The bottom edge of a sail 

Footropes: Ropes in square rigged ships suspended below the yards on which the topmen stand when furling sails 

Forecastle: Pronounced fo’c’sle. The space between the short raised forward deck. Also, a generic term for the living space of the crew in sailing vessels. 

Forward: Toward the bow. 

Frame: The timber or rib of a ship running from the keel to the side rail. The frames form the shape of the hull. 

Freeboard: The distance from the waterline to the upper deck level, measured at the centre of the ship. 

Furniture: The whole moveable equipment of a ship, rigging, sails, spars, anchors, etc. 

Furring: Replanking a vessel to give her more beam and freeboard. This corrects an error in design. 

Futtock: The separate pieces of wood that together form a frame in a wooden vessel. Usually there were four or five futtocks to a rib. 

Futtock Shrouds: Short shrouds supporting the top mast on the lower mast, running from the futtock plates on the sides of the top mast downwards and inwards to a futtock band around the mast or to the lower shrouds 

Gaff: A spar to which the head of a four sided fore and aft sail is laced and when it is hoisted carries the sail up with it. It takes two sets of halyards to hoist a gaff-rigged sail. 

Gammon Iron: Circular band of iron used to hold the bowsprit to the stem of the vessel 

Garboard: The first plank on the outer hull next to the keel. 

Gimbals: Two concentric metal rings for mounting and suspending articles (especially the compass) aboard ship allowing the object to remain level despite the rolling and/or pitching of the vessel. 

Gooseneck: A metal fitting attaching the boom to the mast of a fore and aft rigged vessel allowing the boom to swing sideways. 

Half Beams: Short beams running from the ships side to the coamings of hatches. 

Half-Model: A scale model of the hull of a proposed ship showing the hull from stem to stern. It was made in layers which when taken apart served as models for the full scale plans. 

Halyards: The ropes used to hoist sails. 

Hawse Hole: Hole in the bows of the chip through which the anchor cable passes. 

Head: 1. A general term meaning top or forward 2. The top edge of a four sided sail. 

Heads: The ship’s lavatory, originally the area forward of the forecastle and beak. 

Hermaphrodite Brig: A two masted vessel, square rigged on the foremast and fore and aft main sail with a square topsail set above it. 

Hold: A large compartment below decks for the stowing of cargo and stores. 

Hoop: In fore and aft rigged vessels the wooden hoops that secure the luff of the sail to the mast and slide up and down it when the sail is hoisted or lowered. 

Horns: The fixtures securing a gaff to the mast. Unlike a gooseneck which secured the boom, horns could slide up and down the mast. 

Horsing Iron: A shipbuilding tool. A caulking iron used when caulking deck seams. 

Hull: The main body of a ship excluding the masts, rigging and internal fittings. 

Jackyard Topsail: A triangular topsail set above the mainsail in a gaff rigged vessel. 

Jeers: Heavy tackle used for hoisting the lower yards in square riggers. 

Jib-Boom: A continuation of the bow sprit used to stay the foot of the outer jib and the stay of the top gallant mast. A flying-jib boom is a further extension to which the tack of the flying jib is fastened. 

Joggle: A notch cut in the edge of a plank to take the butt of the next when planking a wooden vessel. 

Jumper: A stay leading from the outer end of the jib-boom to the dolphin striker. 

Keel: The lowest and most important timber of a wooden ship to which the stem, sternpost and the ribs are attached 

Keel Blocks: The line of blocks on the floor of the slip on which the keel of the ship to be built is laid. 

Keelson: A timber bolted to the keel to provide additional strength 

Ketch: A two masted sailing vessel with the mizzen mast stepped forward of the rudder head. They were usually fore and aft rigged but could have square sails. 

Knight Heads: Two large timbers on either side of the stem of the vessel which rise above the deck and support the heel of the bowsprit between them. In smaller vessels they were called bitts. 

Larboard: The old name for the left-hand side of a ship. It was officially changed to ‘port’ in 1844. 

Launch: The process of sending the hull of a newly built vessel from the shipyard where it was built into the water. 

Launching Ways: Beds of timber blocks sloping toward the water which support the sliding ways of the cradle holding the ship. The launching ways are well greased to facilitate the sliding of the hull into the water. 

Leech: The after side of a fore and aft sail and the edges of a square sail 

Lifts: Ropes in square-rigged ships led from the mast heads to the two ends of the yards to support them. 

Limber Holes: Holes cut in the timbers on either side of the keelson to allow bilge water to run freely to the pump well. 

Limber Rope: A rope threaded through the limber holes, running the length of a ship. Pulling it back and forth kept the holes from becoming plugged. 

Lines: The designer’s drawings of a ship. There were normally three; the sheer plan showing the longitudinal vertical section, the body plan, showing the vertical cross section and the halfwidth plan showing the longitudinal transverse section at various depths between the deck line, waterline and bottom. 

Loose-Footed: A fore and aft sail that is set without a boom. Most jibs are loose footed. 

Lubber’s Hole: The opening in the floor of the tops on the fore, main and mizzen masts of square-rigged ships to give access to the topmasts from below. Unsure seaman preferred going through this hole rather that over the futtock shrouds as the more experienced sailors did. 

Luff: The leading edge of a fore and aft sail 

Mainsail: The principal sail of a sailing vessel. In square-rigged ships it is the lowest sail on the main mast. 

Manger: A small space in the bows of a ship astern of the hawsepipes and enclosed by a coaming to prevent water that came in the hawsepipes from running along the deck. 

Martingale: A stay running from the end of the jib-boom to the dolphin striker, which holds the jib-boom down against the pull of the fore topgallant-mast stay. 

Mast: A vertical spar set in a vessel. They are taken through holes in the decks and fitted into ‘steps’ in the keelson. A mast made from a single tree trunk was called a ‘pole’ mast. In later years when there were no tall trees left, masts were ‘built ‘ of several pieces of timber, scarfed and glued. 

Master: The captain of a ship. 

Master Builder: The head workman in the shipyard. In many smaller shipyards, he was the designer of the ship as well. 

Metacentre: The point of intersection of a vertical line drawn through the centre of gravity of a line drawn through the centre of buoyancy when she is heeled. To ensure that a ship will come upright when she is heeled the metacentre must be above the centre of gravity. 

Mizzen: The name of the third, aftermost mast of a square-rigged ship or a three masted (tern) schooner. 

Moonraker: A small light sail set above the sky sail of a square-rigged ship. 

Moulding: A term describing the depth of any member of a ship’s construction such as frames, keelson, beams, sternpost, etc. 

Mould-Loft: A large building where the lines of a ship could be laid-out in full size. 

Moulds: The thin lengths of wood used to form the patterns from which the timbers are shaped. 

Number: The group of four letters assigned to every merchant ship for identification purposes. 

Oakum: Tarred hemp fibers used for caulking the seams on the decks and sides of wooden ships. It is produced by picking apart old ropes. 

Oar: A wooden lever used to pull a boat through the water. It has three parts, the blade which makes contact with the water; the shaft, the main length of the oar and the loom, the end on which the rower pulls in an action called rowing. 

Orlop: The lowest deck of a ship laid directly over the bilge. 

Outrigger: In sailing vessels an extension to each side of the crosstrees to spread the backstays. 

Parish-Rigged: A vessel which because of the meanness of the owner had worn or bad gear aloft. 

Parrel: An iron collar holding the yards of a square-rigged vessel to the mast so that they could be braced around to the wind. Some of the lighter, upper yards were held with ropes called parrel lashings. 

Partners: A plank framework attached to the deck around the holes through which the masts are stepped, strengthening the deck in these places to take the strain when the ship under a press of sail. 

Pawls: A series of metal dogs, hinged at one end at the bottom of the barrel of the capstan to ensure an even speed when hoisting a heavy load. 

Pay: To pour hot pitch over a freshly caulked hull or deck to waterproof the oakum. 

Peak: The upper, aft corner of a four-sided, gaff rigged, fore and aft sail. 

Pillow: A block of timber fixed to the deck of a sailing vessel just inside the bow on which the inboard end of the bowsprit rests. 

Pitch: A mixture of tar and coarse resin. 

Plimsoll Line: A mark painted on the sides of British merchant ships indicating the draught levels to which the ship may be loaded. Under varying conditions. It was made compulsory in 1876 after many ships were lost due to being overloaded. 

Poop: The short, aftermost deck raised above the quarterdeck of a ship. It usually formed the ‘coachroof’ over the area where the master had his cabin. 

Port: The left hand side of a ship. 

Ports: Square holes cut in the hulls of vessels. Timber ports allowed for the loading of long lengths of wood cargo. When not in use they were closed by port-lids. This term is incorrect when applied to the circular round holes which serve as windows. These are properly called scuttles. 

Pump: A mechanism for emptying the bilges of water. 

Purchase: A mechanical device consisting of blocks and tackle to increase the mechanical advantage when hoisting heavy spars or sails 

Quarter: The after parts of the ship on each side of the centerline 

Quarterdeck: The part of the upper deck of a ship abaft the mainmast and the part of the ship from which the captain issued his commands. 

Rabbet: A notch in a piece of timber made to receive the ends or sides of planks which are to be secured to it. The keel is rabbeted to receive the sides of the garboard strakes 

Rake: The angle the ship’s masts make in relation to the perpendicular. 

Ratline: One of a series of rope steps between the shrouds of the mast. They form a ladder by which the crew and reach the yards when working aloft. 

Reef: To take in or lessen the area of a sail without furling it. 

Reef Bands: A strip of extra canvas attached across a sail to strengthen it where the reef points are located. 

Reeming Iron: Iron wedge used to open up seams before caulking. 

Rig: The characteristics of a sailing vessel’s masts and type and number of sails by which the type is determined ie. square-rigged or schooner rigs. 

Rigger: A shipyard worker who fits or dismantles the standing and running rigging of ships. 

Rigging: All the ropes, wires or chains used to support the masts and yards and for hoisting, lowering or trimming sails. Rigging used to support the masts, yards and bowsprit is called standing rigging. The ropes controlling the sails form the running rigging. 

Rope: All cordage over one inch in diameter. The natural fibers used in ropes on sailing vessels were hemp. Manila, sisal and coir. 

Rowlock: A U-shaped hole cut in the gunwale of a small boat where the oars are placed. 

Royals: The sail next above the top-gallant sail. 

Rudder: The means of giving direction to a ship under way. It is a flat paddle, hung from the sternpost and moving laterally. The movement is imparted by a wheel in large vessels and a tiller in small boats. 

Saddle: A block of wood fixed to a mast or a yard to support another spar attached to it 

Sail: A combination of pieces of cloth, cut and seamed so as to give a particular shape, designed to catch the wind and use its force to drive the ship. 

Sail Burton: The block and tackle that extends from the heads of the topmasts to the deck in square rigged ships, used for hoisting the sails aloft when they are bent on to the yards. 

Scantlings: The dimensions of a timber after it has been reduced to its standard size. 

Scarph: The joining of two timbers by beveling off the edges so the same thickness is maintained throughout. The stem and sternposts of wooden ships were scarphed to the keel. 

Schooner: A vessel rigged with fore and aft sails on two or more masts. 

Scuttle: A circular port cut in the side of a vessel to admit light and air. I has a circular brass or bronze frame with a thick glass window hinged on one side to allow opening. It is tightly closed by butterfly nuts. On the inside is a hinged metal plate, a deadlight that can be lowered to cover the port in very bad weather or when the ships lights must be darkened. 

Sections: Drawings made during the design stage of a ship showing the positions of the frames and their exact curvature. 

Shackle: A U-shaped piece of metal, closed with a pin across the end, used for securing parts of the rigging to each other. 

Sheathing: The covering of thin copper plates on the bottom of wooden ships to protect against wood boring ship worms. 

Sheer: The upward curve of the deck of a ship toward the bow and stern with the lowest point at the waist. 

Sheer Pole: A horizontal steel rod, fitted at the base of the shrouds to keep any turns out of the shrouds while they are being set up. 

Sheer Strake: The top plank next below the gunwale running the length of the vessel. 

Sheet: A single line used for trimming a sail to the wind. 

Shrouds: The standing rigging of a sailing ship that give lateral support to the masts. 

Siding: The width of deck beams, the crosswise members of the ship’s frames. 

Skylight: A window set at an angle to the deck of a ship to give light and ventilation to the cabin below 

Skysail: The sail next above the royals in a square rigged vessel 

Skyscraper: A small triangular sail set above the skysail in fair weather. 

Slipway: The sloping foreshore in front of a shipyard. It is fitted with keel blocks and launching ways. 

Spales: Temporary cross beams fixed to support and hold the frames of a wooden ship while under construction. 

Spar: Any wooden support used in the rigging of a ship. 

Spoke: In a ship’s wheel the extension beyond the rim which acts as a handle by which the wheel is turned. 

Spreaders: Metal bars fitted to the bow of a square rigged ship to give more spread to the tacks of the fore sails. 

Sprit: A long spar that stretches diagonally across a four-sided fore and aft sail to support the peak. 

Stachions: The upright supports set along the side of the upper deck to carry a guard rail. 

Starboard: The right hand side of a vessel when facing forward. 

Stay: A part of the standing rigging of a sailing vessel that supports a mast in the fore and aft line. Forestays support from forward and backstays support from aft. 

Staysail: A triangular fore and aft sail which is set by attaching it to a stay/ such sails take their names from the stay on which they are set. 

Steeve: The angle of the bowsprit in relation to the horizontal 

Stem: The foremost timber forming the bow of a vessel. 

Step: A framework of timber or metal fixed to the keel of a vessel to take the heel of a mast. 

Sternpost: The aftermost timber in a vessel, forming the stern of the ship and joined to the keel. 

Strake: Each line of horizontal planking running the length of the ships hull. In small boats this might be a single plank, in large vessels many planks would go to make a skrake 

Studding Sail: An extra sail set on extensions of the yards. 

Sway: The operation of hoisting the topmasts and yards of a square rigged ship. 

Tack: The lower, forward corner of a fore and aft sail. In Square rigged ships, it is the rope used to hold in the lower corners of the courses and staysails on the weather side. 

Tackle: A combination of two or more blocks with ropes used to gain a mechanical advantage. 

Taffrail: The after rail at the stern of a ship. 

Tarpauline: Tainted canvas used for covering hatches, boats and other gear on board ship. 

Throat: The upper foremost corner of a four sided fore and aft sail. 

Thwart: The transverse wooden seat in a small rowing boat 

Tiller: A wooden or metal bar fitted on to the head of the rudder and by which it is moved. This is a steering mechanism in small rowing or sailing boats. Larger vessels have a wheel. 

Timbers: The frames or ribs of a ship, connected to the keel. They give the hull both its shape and strength. 

Tonnage: The cargo capacity of a ship 

Top: A platform at the masthead of a ship whose purpose is to extend the topmast shrouds so the give additional support to the topmast 

Topgallent Mast: In a square rigged vessel, the mast stepped above the topmast. It is the third division of a complete mast 

Topgallant Sail: The sail set next above the topsail. Normally it is the third sail in ascending order from the deck. 

Topmast: The mast next above the lower mast and the second division of a complete mast. 

Topsail: In square rigged vessels the sail set on the topsail yard. Normally the second sail in ascending order from the deck. Sometimes this sail was divided in tow, a lower and upper top sail. 

Topsides: That part of the side of the ship which is above the upper deck. 

Trail Board: One of a pair of boards fitted on each side of the stem which helped support the figurehead. They were often richly carved and gilded. 

Transom: The crosswise timbers bolted to the sternpost of the ship to give a flat stern. 

Treenails: Pronounced trennels. Cylindrical pins of oak used to secure the planks of a wooden ship to the ribs. They were used instead of metal nails or bolts because they did not rust or loosen 

Trestle Trees: Two short pieces of timber fixed horizontally fore and aft on each side of the lower masthead of a square rigged vessel, used to support the topmast, the lower crosstrees and the top. 

Trysail: Fore and aft sails with a boom and gaff on the fore and mainmasts of a three masted square rigger. 

Tumble Home: The amount by which the two sides of a ship are brought in towards the center above the maximum beam. 

Upper Deck: The highest of the continuous decks running the full length of a ship. 

Waist: The part of the upper deck of a vessel between the fore and main masts. 

Warp: 1. The measurement and laying out of rigging in the sail loft before cutting to the proper length. 2. A line to move a ship within a harbour. After the launch, vessels were warped into position. 

Waterway: The channel hollowed out in the outboard planks of the ship’s deck to allow water on the deck to run off. 

Ways: The parallel platforms of timbers, sloping down the foreshore, one on each side of a ship under construction. The cradle slides down the greased ways. 

Well: A vertical, cylindrical trunk in the ship, running all the way down to the lowest part of the ship. Through it the pipes of the bilge pumps pass. 

Well Found: A vessel that is well built and well equipped. 

Wheelhouse: The deckhouse of a vessel in which the wheel is fitted protecting the helmsman from the elements. 

Whiskers: Short horizontal spars fitted to a bowsprit when the jib-boom in added. 

Whoodings: The planks which are rabbeted into the stem of a vessel. 

Yard: A large wooden or metal horizontal spar, fastened to the masts of a square rigged vessel to carry the square sails. 

Yardarm: The outer quarters of a years 

Yawl: A small two masted sailing vessel with the mizzen mast stepped astern of the rudder post. 


The Old Home Town

by A. Warren Lewis

                                              In the quiet old fishing village

On the Bay of Fundy’s ragged coast,

  Where the fishing fleet lies at anchor

                                             And of which they proudly boast.

 It was the old home town of Freeport

                                            Where I spent my boyhood days,

                                             And the old folks of the village

                                              No doubt had peculiar ways.

                                             But we at night would gather

                                                For a time of play and fun,

When our chores had all been finished

                                                At the setting of the sun.

                                          But the highlight of the weekend

                                         Was the Sons of Temperance night,

                                            ‘Twas a sort of lovers meeting

                                          And the young folks’ great delight.

I recall the sewing circles

  And the off time quilting bee,

      Where town gossip was prevailing

         And was passed around quite free.

The I’d watch the fishermen toiling

As they dressed their fish on shore,

And the fish flakes so amply loaded

   ‘Twas the fishermen’s wealth in store.

But how sadly time has changed things

                                             For the landmarks all are gone,

                                            And I sit and view the wreckage

                                             Father time himself has done.

                                              But I still love that old village

And the memories it holds for me,

And dad’s garden all filled with flowers

                                                  In that village by the sea.

History of Long & Brier Island

Initially discovered by Champlain in 1604, Long and Brier Islands were a frequent stopping point and fishing grounds for the Mi’kmaq Indians in their travels between Maine and Nova Scotia. Evidence of shell middens and native tools dating back over 250 years has been found throughout the Islands. Initially Brier Island settlers were fishermen from the New England States who came here to access the rich fishing grounds. In 1783 a wave of Loyalists, refugees from the War of Independence in the newly formed United States, set down roots on these rocky shores and founded the villages of Petite Passage (now Tiverton), Central Grove and Freeport [Then called Grand Passage in the Township of Westport] on Long Island.

            Long and Brier Island were well established and self-sufficient communities by 1875. The great majority of families earned their living from the fishing industry, either in boats or another fishing-related business. Fish was the staple of the Islanders’ diet. 

            A few hardy souls established themselves in farming and lumbering, supplying the Islands with farm produce, meat, and wood for burning and construction purposes. The land was not conducive to agriculture, so these families had to have a real love for what they were doing.

            For those necessities of life not provided by the sea, the farm, or the backyard garden, there was trading. The Islands’ chief trading partner was the “French Shore”–the area of mainland directly across Saint Mary’s Bay. Salt fish and “slack fish”–a lightly salted delicacy for which the Islands were well known–were loaded into a boat for the trip across the Bay. There, they were bartered for bulk vegetables, fruits, and other items. Relatively little cash was necessary.

             When Freeport was Given its Name

Brier Island and most of Long Island was originally called “The Township of Westport” and what we now call Tiverton was called “Petite Passage”.

Digby County was originally a part of Annapolis County and Annapolis was the County seat. In 1837 the present county of Digby was created and Digby was chosen as the county seat. About that time there was a re-organization of Townships and the Islands that were constituted into the Townships of Westport was changed. Freeport was named at that time but by whom and for what reason is now lost.  Previously the place was called Grand Passage, Long Island in the township of Westport and then it was just named Freeport.

When searching the Ships Registries for ships information before 1840 the ships that was built in what we call Freeport now was listed as ships built in Grand Passage and latter, they were listed to be built in Long Island then later they were registered in Freeport. Ships built in what we call Tiverton now were said to be built in Petit Passage. Ships that were built in what we call now Westport were listed to be built in Brier Island.



Saw Mills Long Island

First Saw mill

Isaiah W. Wilson documented in his book “Geography and History of the County of Digby 1893 “

And then from the “History of Freeport “by Rev. Walter R. Greenwood 1784-1934 he states: “In former days there have been four saw mills on the Brook. R. R. Haines operated one near the falls at the tidewater. Balsor Israel on the Brook on the Joe Israel place. A third mill was located at Nicholas Tibert (Clearance Tibert), and a fourth at Edward Tibert (Tiny Tattler Restaurant).

Some of the Freeport Blacksmiths

1. Walter MacKenzie a blacksmith moved to Freeport in 1856 and set up a blacksmith shop.

2. Zachariah Doty moved to Freeport and set up a blacksmith shop near where Jean Haines lives.

3. Mr. DeWolf came to Freeport in 1898 and operated a blacksmith shop at the head of the cove.

Digby Weekly Courier Aug.12th, 1898

Digby Weekly Courier Nov. 11th, 1889

4. Fred Brooks a Boat Builder and a Blacksmith also had a blacksmith shop across the road from his house. (Where David Tudor now lives)

Some of the Ship Builders of Freeport

  1. Evan Powell
  2. Seth VanBlarcom
  3. Thimothy Brooks
  4. Fred Brooks
  5. Thomas Churchill
  6. Samuel Young
  7. Wallace Haines
  8. Frank Haines
  9. Norman Perry
  10.  Alonzo Thurber
  11.  Gilbert Bates
  12.  Jos. Powell
  13.  James Perry
  14.  Edgar Whitenect
  15.  Capt. Allison Haines
  16.  J. Denton
  17.  Benzamin VanBlarcom
  18.  Jeremiah Brooks
  19. William Lent
  20. Israel Brooks
  21. William H. Brooks
  22. Samuel Teed
  23. Stephen Perry
  24. Abraham Lent
  25. L. T. Payson

                       Some of the Vessels Built at Freeport

 Type        Ship’s Name      Master\Owner        Built At        Built By            Year

1.  Bg’t.  “ Edith Ann “       B. R. Haines               Freeport     B. R. Haines      1858

2.  Bg’t.“ John Armstrong “   B. R. Haines            Freeport                               1866

3. Bg’t.  “ Mary E Lent“     William (Shippy) Lent, Freeport                             1872

4.Bg’t.  “ Edward Delisle”  William (Shippy)Lent, Freeport                              1866

5.Bg’t. “ Eclipse “William ( Shippy) Lent,  Shelburne Rebuilt at Freeport                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

6.Sch.  “ Alice And Nellie “  Albert J. Thurber        Freeport    John Denton      1878

7.Sch.“ Annie Coggins “Livingstone Coggins       Freeport        L. T. Payson    1877

8.Sch.  “Dawn “            John Bancroft            Freeport  Benjamin VanBlarcom 1867

9.Sch.  “ Electric Light “    Thomas Pach            Freeport   William H. Brooks 1881

10.Sch. “Freddie Stevens “ Samuel Thurber       Freeport   William H. Brooks 1879

11.Sch. “ Lizze  G. “      Henry Glavin (Westport) Freeport     M. Brooks         1877

12.Sch. “ Malaport “    James Glavin (Westport) Freeport   William H. Brooks1883

13.Sch. “ Minnie G”  C. H. and B. Bailey    Freeport     William H. Brook            1881

14.Sch.  “Mizpah”  James Stevens            Freeport        William H. Brooks           1884

15.Sc   “Utah and Eunice”    Calvin Stevens  Freeport    William H. Brooks     1889

16.Sch. “Migumoowesoo”      E. R. Oakes              Freeport                              1872 

17.Bg’   “F. L. Vail”         J. Oliver Vail                   Freeport                             1844

18.Bg’t  “Sophia”      B. H. Ruggles    Long Island    Freeport                           1854

19.TSch.  “Adonis”            Holland Payson              Freeport                           1853

Type    Ship’s Name       Master\Owner    Built At         Built By           Year  

20.Sch. “Golden Light”  Samuel Teed Freeport               Samuel Teed             1873    

21.Sch. Glydax R”           Nelson Thurber     Freeport       Israel Brooks           1893

22.Sch.“D. E. Collins”    C. Wincell Collins  Freeport  William H.Brooks       1894

23.Sch.  “Jessie”            William H. Brooks     Freeport     William H.Brooks       1895

24.Sch. “Helen Maud” Charles MacDormand    Freeport   William H.Brooks       1896

25.Sch.“Ina Brooks” Thomas Brooks  Freeport  Wm. H. and Thomas Brooks  1899

26.Sch. “Dorothy”     William P. Morrell           Freeport    William H.Brooks       1899

27.Sch.“Hattie & Eva” Daniel Lewis                 Freeport   Milton Haines            1900

28. Sch.“Annie Laurie”    Stephen Perry           Freeport   Stephen Perry            1900

29.Sch. “ Sarah Lent” William Jr.(Shippy)Lent  Freeport  Jeremiah Brooks           1871

30.Sch.    “Ella P.” Timothy Powell                  Freeport      John Denton            1874

31.Sch.      “Royal Charlie”   Abraham Lent     Freeport    Abraham Lent            1879

32.Sch.   “John R. Gould”   William Lent          Freeport                                   1870

33.Sch.   “Edward”  William Jr. ( Shippy)Lent   Freeport                                  1870

34.Sch.    “ Mary Eliza “  Christopher Gillard    Long Island                             1852

35.Sch.    “Twilight”       Edward Spring             Long Island                            1865

36.Sch.   “Reform “ Hubbard Davis (Westport)  Long Island                             1863

37.Sch.    “Mary Ann”     B. R. Haines               Freeport      Samuel Young      1862

38.Sch.    “Frank L. “ William Jr.(Shippy) Lent    Long Island                           1869

39.Sch.   “ Marie”    William Jr.(Shippy) Lent     Long Island                            1869

Type     Ship’s Name      Master\Owner          Built At          Built By            Year  

40.Sch.  “Tessic “     Albert A. Spicer             Long Island      W. & H. Brooks  1895 

41.Bgt.  “ Maggie “ John Armstrong (St.John)     Freeport                                 1869

42.Sch.    “ Sabine “  A. J. Crosby (Clare)             Freeport                                1860   

43.Bgt.    “Emma Haines “    B. R. Haines       Long Island      B. R. Haines     1866

44. Bgt.    “Flying Cloud “      B. R. Haines      Long Island      B. R. Haines     1852

45.Sch.     “Sea Gull “            Thomas Perry      Long Island

46.Sch.  “ Jessie Lent”  William Jr. (Shippy) Lent  Freeport                               1870

47.Sch. “ Alice & Nellie”      Albert Thurber        Freeport         John Denton    1905

48.Sch.    “ Sally Ann”                                        Freeport          Evan Powell     1830

49.Bgt.      “ Mary “      William Jr.(Shippy )Lent  Freeport

50.Sch.   “ Little Sarah “       Samuel Teed            Freeport

51.Sch.       “ Lily “           Lyman Stevens             Freeport   Seth VanBlarcom 1852

52.Sch.      “ Isma “                                                 Freeport                               1891

53.Sch.    “ John Collins “                                       Freeport

54.Sch.   “Herbert Eugene “                                    Freeport

55.Sch.   “ Mildred B. of Malapert “                      Freeport

56.Bgt.     “Ospray “         H. I. Bancroft                Freeport                                1851

57.Bgt.    “ Sophia “                                                Freeport                               1847

58.Bgt.      “ Turk “          C. Innes                       Grand Passage                        1816

59.Bgt    “  Eliza Jane “  D. McMillian                  Grand Passage                      1821

Type       Ship’s Name        Master\Owner           Built At          Built By       Year  

60.Bgt.    “ Emma Harris “     B. R. Harris            Long Island                           1866

61.Sch.     “ Vera Ritchy “        R. Ritchy                 Freeport        Fred Brooks  1919

62.Bgt.    “ Claremont “ J. S. Bois De Veber            Freeport                             1875

63. Sch. “ Daron “  R.     Gaskill,Grand Manan NB    Freeport                          1867


Something About Freeport

Source: Digby Weekly Courier July 1888

Mr. Editor-Freeport being a fishing village, it is quite natural for strangers to presume that a fishing village it must necessarily look shabby and unattractive to the observing eye of the stranger, and that the mental and moral condition of the inhabitants must be very limited and in an undeveloped state.

Now my object in writing this letter is to correct that very erroneous opinion held of the inhabitants and the village of Freeport. I am in a position (from personal knowledge) to give the public a true idea of the place and the character of its inhabitants. The village is located between Saint Mary’s Bay and the Bay of Fundy, and as a result of its situation, there is a sweet and beautiful sea-breeze during the warm weather, it’s streets are in good condition, it’s wharfs are substantial and well surrounded with vessels every Saturday and Monday. The merchants are (seemingly at least) doing good business. The dwelling houses and other buildings look exceedingly clean and tidy in every respect. The very appearance of the village is indeed attractive and charming during the summer months, and would prove to be a pleasant summer resort to tourists. There is an excellent graded school of three departments, a temperance and public hall and last but not least a neat commodious church with a large vestry adjoins it, of which any town would have reason to be proud. The people are intelligent and enterprising. The young men are strictly temperate and circumspect in word and action. It would be readily perceived that the people of Freeport are of good mental ability as evidenced on this an other occasions. There are brighter days instore for Freeport, when there is established telephonic communication with the mainland.

                                                                                                  Yours Truly  Traveller

The Shipbuilding Industry on The Islands

Source: Digby Weekly Courier June, 1893

The builders were commanders of their vessels, and coasted and made deep sea voyages. Although the particular business flourished, the general prosperity of the place was at low ebb. The general mass of the people was dependant upon the few. This dependence has been gradually replaced during the past few years by a growing spirit of self reliance as the people woke up to the fact that rich treasures lay at their doors; and instead of working for a day’s wages for capitalists, they found that they could earn three or four times the amount for themselves. They gradually went into fishing, beginning with the skiff boat; then the whale boat; next the pinkey; and from that to the present class of fine sea going vessels. Today Westport, Freeport and Tiverton are three of the most prosperous fishing centres in Canada. The size of the vessels, running from 20 to 30 tons. They carry six to eight men, who are able to catch all the fish that congregate around a vessel, and as rule come home and “wash out” every week. The Islands fleet numbers fifty vessels, aggregating 1, 000 tons, exclusive of whale and skiff boats.

Jeremiah Brooks Ship Builder Freeport

Source: Digby Weekly Courier June 1895

Jeremiah Brooks, Freeport, is aged 87 years. In the palmy days of shipbuilding when Freeport, with other places, sent out new vessels every year. Mr. Brooks was known as a master hand at his trade of shipwright.

Freeport news Mr. Jeremiah BROOKS, one of our oldest inhabitants died Monday after a short illness. He was in his 89th. year and until within one week had been remarkably active and vigorous for a man of his years. During the past summer and fall he frequently took his boat and rowed out into the Bay and fished as a pastime. Mr. BROOKS was born at Weymouth and came to Freeport 58 years ago and in his younger days was a master ship builder and caulker. In the sixties and earlier he built upwards of twenty vessels at his yard in Freeport, the largest a brig of over 300 tons. He married Miss GRANT of Weymouth who died about six years ago in the 79th. year of her age. They reared a family of seven sons and three daughters, nine of whom lived to grow up. Four sons followed the sea, and died or were drowned away. Two, Charles and William, reside here and two daughters Mrs. Benjamin THURBER and Mrs. RING alone survive Mr. B. united with the Baptist Church over 40 years ago in one of the historic revivals of those days. In politics he was always a staunch Liberal and years ago was almost the only standard bearer of that party.

Did You Know!

Did you know that for many years starting in the early 1800’s, Freeport had a big industry of ship building that lasted till near the end of the middle of the 1900’s century.

            In Freeport’s early days anything that needed to be transported was done over water. If someone wanted to travel, they went by sea. The lack of and the poor quality of the existing roads made them almost impossible to use.

            Freeport, Tiverton and Westport were all ship building communities, but Freeport became the most popular because of the large and safe harbour. There were four saw mills on the brook to saw the lumber that was needed for these ships. Some lumber came from the French Shore. The labour to build them at the turn of the 1900’s century was here as there was over 2000 people living on these two Islands at that time.

            In “Canada’s Age of Sail” (1800-1875) over 4000 ships were built in Canada. In 1878 there were 7196 ships registered in the Canadian Ships Registry. The peak was in 1865 and Nova Scotia built some 350 ships and by the end of the nineteenth century over 26,000 ships were built in the province. Barques, Brigs, Brigantines, Schooners and full -rigged ships were all built along the shores of Nova Scotia. Canadian ships were given the highest quality rating for 14 years of A1 by marine insures “Lloyds of London”.

            At first these ships were built to transport dried and salt fish, lumber and other commodities to the West Indies or other parts of the world and on return bring back sugar and its by-products (molasses and rum). Ships were used for fishing and fish trade to our coastal cities up and down the eastern seaboard.

            In 1854 a reciprocity treaty with the United States had worked greatly to the advantage of Nova Scotia commerce. A large fleet of coasting schooners carried cord wood to Rockland and New England points and brought back flour and merchandize.

            The dried and salt fish trade changed to fresh fish and so did the size of the boats that went out to catch the fresh fish. Because Freeport was at the centre of an abundance of fish these daily trips, fishing and unloading daily became very profitable. The fishing fleet unloaded their catch daily with smaller boats and as the orders were filled were sent out on larger ships to the fresh fish markets of the coastal cities.


          With the arrival of the steam engine being introduced at about 1890’s here in our region, fishermen started having smaller fishing boats with steam engines installed.

One of the first Fishing Boats with a Steam Engine in Freeport was Built by Maurice and Leander Melanson (Brothers) in 1890.


In 1896 the ferry operator for Grand Passage had a new ferry boat built with a steam engine installed. The steam engine ferry was called the “Gem “. This new ferry went in service in August 1896.


            In 1905 a new ferry boat was built for Grand Passage and the first gasoline engine was installed making the new ferry the first gas powered ferry to carry His Majesty’s mail.


            The following year a new ferry was built for Petit Passage, built in Freeport by Mr. Gilbert Bates and a gasoline engine installed by Mr. Frank Ruggles. This ferry went in service in April 1906.


Schooner “Swan” Rebuilt at Freeport

Source: Digby Weekly Courier Nov. 1907

Fishing Vessel Thoroughly Repaired

Schr. Swan, of Freeport is as good as new. Messrs. Haines Bros. of Freeport, own as pretty a little fleet of fishing vessels as will be found along the coast all of which at present are in good repair. The firm never carries a cent of insurance on their vessels, take their own risk, but occasionally insure their cargoes of fish when on a freighting trip. Mr. Edwin Haines showed a courier representative through their schooner Swan one day last week while she was lying at their wharf, ready to sail on her maiden voyage after being New-Topped, etc. This pretty little vessel is pure white as her name suggests. She was built in Shelburne in 1803, is 73 feet long, 19.2 beam, 7.5 deep and registers 56 tons. She was rebuilt at Freeport this season, the work being in charge of Mr. William Brooks of that town and reflects credit on the man, workmen and owners. Her cabins, for castle and steward’s apartments are up-to-date in every respect and we congratulate Capt. John Thurber, Steward Chester Thurber and their crew on being comfortably located for their rough and boisterous work during the next few months, a big balance on the right side when they settle up their season’s work.

We regret to state that while in St. Mary’s Bay last Monday, the Swan carried away her foremast. Mr. Milton Haines one of her owners, was in Weymouth yesterday looking for a new stick and the schooner will be underway again as soon as money and workmen can put her there.


First Gasoline Boats in Freeport

Source: Digby Weekly Courier March 1911

The first gas motor boat in Freeport was in 1905.-Everybody obtained new boats and everyone wanted to race them. The Courier talks continuously about the Fishermen’s Regatta that is to take place in August 1911. The race will begin in Tiverton and end in Digby. There are anticipating entries from New Brunswick. Mr. La Grippe is talking around seeking whom he may devour. Mr. Charles Teed has recently purchased the schooner “Iolantha”.

“Cab Fore” or “Cab Aft”

          Boats were constructed differently in different villages of the two Islands. The cab “aft” was indicative of boats native of Tiverton, while “cab fore” were indicative more of Freeport boat builders.

Gilbert Bates



Digby Weekly Courier July 27th 1906

          Mr. Gilbert Bates and Wm. Brooks, are at work on the Baptist Church; 10 ft. is built on and a new spire is up and partly finished. Repairs on the Christian Church will be commenced by those carpenters as soon as work is completed on the Baptist.

Digby Weekly Courier Oct. 6Th 1906

            Work on the Baptist Church is completed by Mr. Gilbert Bates, as foreman, and Mr. William Brooks.  This church presents a modern appearance with spire on the corner and two stained glass windows in belfry and one large window 6 by 8 ft. In the front, also stained glass.  An addition of 10 pews and a gallery on the end to seat about 50 people which makes the seating capacity of the church about 275.

            The Christian Church is being thoroughly repaired by a new up-to-date spire, some 73 ft. From the ground, with two double doors in the end on the belfry, stained glass over the door, also two large double windows above the door.  The house is to be papered and grained inside, with new chandelier and other improvements as well. The exterior will be painted.  When finished we will have two of the finest church buildings, as you will find in any small town.  But we are hoping the time will soon come when the two churches will be united, as union is prevalent all over the land.  That, we all may be satisfied to bear the name of Christian only.  The meaning of Christian is to be Christ-like.  Let there be no divisions among you is the admonition of the Master himself.

Tiverton Christian Church Originally Built 1867(with new 73ft. Spire)

Digby Weekly Courier Sept. 3Rd 1909

          Mr. William H. Brooks has taken the contract to build a new lighthouse at Peter’s Island.

          The new lighthouse is a wooden octagonal tower, white with a white lantern. The tower stands 44feet high and the light is 62 feet above the high water. A unique feature to the octagonal tower was the circular gallery deck beneath the lantern room. The new light is a dioptic fifth-order apparatus showing a fixed white light.

Freeport Ship Building 1918

Source: Digby Weekly Courier May 1918

The Freeport Shipbuilding Co. are hard at work. The keel of their vessel is being shaped and the ship yard is a busy spot these days.

Fred Brooks was building the schooner “Vera Ritchy’ for R. Ritchy.

Freeport Ship Building Revived

Source: The Tiny Tattler April 1935

In the beautiful little village of Freeport, whose rocky shores are washed by the turbulent waters of the Bay of Fundy, shipbuilding has begun to revive. There are at present two under construction, one by Edgar Whitenect for Capt. Ernest Haines and the other by Capt. Allison Haines for his own use in fishing. Capt. Haines also plans to use his vessel for transportation of freight.

            The public have been excluded from his shop as he is incorporating several new features in the construction of the hull. The day for the launching has not been set, but Capt. Haines opines that she will slide down the ways in May.

            The fishermen of this place are awaiting the date of the launching to see this a distinct departure from the accepted model of fishing craft.

From the bottom of Plunket Street to Lloyds Theatre & Dance Hall was when I was growing up in Freeport called “The Ship Yard”. In the fall and spring, the fishermen would land their boats on the beach in front of this place and have their boats hauled out to do repairs, change engines or paint their boats. There were so many boats that it was difficult to find a place for your boat here.

            When I was young Warren MacIntyre would hall the boats out of the water with his oil truck, then later when I took over the oil business here on the Islands, I hauled the boats out. Before that I am not sure who did. Both Warren and I never charged the fishermen a cent to haul the boats as it was good for business to do so. When it came time to haul the boats out the fishermen would all gather and stand on each side of the boat so the boat would not tip to one side or another until the boat was where it needed to be and they would place a crib on each side to keep it sitting upright. The fishermen done this for each other no mater if their boat was in the lineup to be hauled out or not. No body expected pay for doing this.

            There was always someone there working on their boats, scraping, painting, replacing a plank, changing a stem, replacing an engine, overhaling an engine, repairing the blades, painting from stem to stern, or whatever their boat needs to be in tip-top shape. They done their own work or sometimes they would help one another. It was a very busy place. When it came time to get their boats back in the water everyone pitched in to get the boats launched.

A Story About Fred Brooks (The Shipbuilder) and Freeport, the Most Beautiful Spot in America

Source: Originally in the Family Herald and then the Digby Courier October 18, 1956

Time & Tide Wait on Freeport, Nova Scotia;

(In Freeport they shrug aside a lot of worries which plague the rest of the world, and time itself seems of little consequence).

By H. Gordon Green in the Family Herald

When we crossed the ferry to go to Freeport, no one asked us for a fare, and we thought perhaps that the ride had been for free.  On the other side, however, a fisherman soon enlightened us.  “They just didn’t get around to asking,” he said.  “But they know you’re coming back.  They’re in no hurry.”

            And when we finally came to know Freeport itself, we could not escape the feeling that this same lovely disregard of Time permeated the whole atmosphere.  It is a prosperous town and yet there is little evidence of the hurry which is supposed to be the price of prosperity.  The stores still cram their goods together as did the country stores of a half-century ago, but you can find almost anything that is modern on their shelves.  The houses which ring the horseshoe-shaped cove seem as old as the rocks which break the waves in front of them, and just as unshaken by Time.  There are few shacks in Freeport.  The houses are big and solid and well fortified against the weather.

            And there is no such thing as Daylight Savings Time here.  In Freeport, Time seems to be of comparatively little importance.

            We do not suppose that Freeport is unique.  There must be a hundred Nova Scotia villages equally tranquil. And we do not suppose that Fred Brooks is unique either.  There must be many like him in Freeport.  He just happens to be a little older then most and he therefore has a bit more to talk about.

            Fred tells us that he is 87 now.  His wife, Hazel, insists that he is only 86.  And Fred shakes his head with the polite sorrow of a man long accustomed to letting the woman have the last word. 

“No use arguing with her,” he says.  “I’ll just have to live a year longer, that’s all.”

But Fred still thinks that his memory is better that his wife’s.  “When I married Hazel, she was considerably younger than I was,” he teases her. “Now it’s the other way round.”

But while there is some doubt as to the exact time of Fred’s birth, there is no argument as to the place.  Fred was born in the very house in Freeport, Nova Scotia, where he now lived.

The house, which was built by Fred’s father a century ago, is as sturdy and square as Fred himself and it hugs the slope a stone’s throw from the ocean.  The sea is only a short distance behind the house too, for the village of Freeport perches on the end of that peculiar part of the geography known as the Digby Neck.  For forty miles the Neck stretches out aside Nova Scotia’s north shore, and in no place is it more then a mile or two wide.

So Fred Brooks has the ocean just beyond the rim of his lawn, and he has it a half mile over the hill to the back of him as well.  It is no wonder that the sea is so much a part of him.

            “This,” he told us as his arm swept the circle of the cove, “is the prettiest place in America, and don’t ever let no one tell you different.”

            And Fred speaks with some authority for he hasn’t always lived in Freeport.  As a lad in his teens he went to sea as a ship’s carpenter and one by one the glittering, boisterous ports of the continent became familiar to him.  He made the acquaintances of Yarmouth, Boston, New York, and finally San Francisco immediately after the great earthquake of 1906, and later moved up the coast to Seattle.  In Vancouver he signed up with an adventurous ship owner who wanted a partner to hunt sea lions off the British Columbia coast.  There were lots of animals to be had and there seemed to be a ready market for the pelts.  Fred was to get a third of the proceeds.

            The hunt was so successful that the ship brought back 1,500 skins, but the captain got roaring drunk as soon as he hit port and sold the cargo for a song before Fred could do anything to prevent it.  Fred got little more than experience.

            “Money doesn’t bother me much no more,” he tells us. “We kind of ignore it down here.”

            The Brooks have a garden which supplies them with an ample variety of vegetables.  Fred uses seaweed for fertilizer.  “You get the right kind of seaweed and rot it proper and you’ve got fertilizer that would grow bananas,” he says.  He uses nothing else.

            And in Freeport one need spend very little on meat.  Fresh caught fish are easily had for about four cents a pound, and lobsters are free for the fun of taking them from December ‘till June.  And when the tide goes out and empties all but the center of the cove, Fred can dig clams by the bucket twenty yards away from his front door.

            “Hot clams is meat for a king,” he declared as he tipped a clam into his mouth.  “And I can be the king any time the tide is out.”

            So with few money worries and their table so pleasantly taken care of, the Brooks have more time than most of their neighbors to enjoy the lovely life about Freeport.  And much of that time is quite obviously spent in enjoying each other.  Not that the Brooks are given to a never-ending round of adulation.   On the contrary, they seem to be forever engaged in a most delightful bickering.  The day we arrived Fred was getting his dory ready to slip into the cove for the first time that season and his wife was protesting with all the vehemence of mother love.

            “You know you’re too old to go out fishing alone,” she scolded.  “When are you going to act your age?”

“When I feel like it.”

            “But you might have a heart attack or something, Fred.  Rowing is too much for you!”

“Heart attack? You sure of that?”

“Sure, I’m sure. Anybody’ll…”

            “Then tomorrow I’m buying that outboard motor we’ve been arguing about.”

Mrs. Brooks admits that they’ve been arguing about that outboard for over a year now. “And I’m scared of my soul he’s going to get it too!” she says.

            But while he patiently waits for his wife to agree to the outboard, Fred finds many other occupations to keep life interesting.  He knows every fisherman in the cove, knows where each is fishing and has a pretty fair idea of who is making the money and how much.

            Fishing is very good this year and it isn’t at all unusual for a man to make $100 or more in a good week.  If a fisherman cares to hold his fish for a while and put a little work on them he can do even better.  Fred’s nephew, Burpee Campbell, always maintains “a bank” of hogsheads, which he fills with dressed and boned cod in salt brine.  He may get as high as 24 cents a pound for these before snow flies. Even Fred’s eighty-year-old neighbor, Frank McNeil, is enjoying good luck this year.  “My legs is kind of gone back on me this year,” he complains.  But he was in his dory at two o’clock that morning and caught $14 worth of fish.

            “I’ll be out one of these days with you,” Fred promises him. 

            But Fred still has a fair supply of repair work to do, and when we were visiting him he proudly took us down to the wharf to admire some of the work he has done in years gone by.  For many a Freeport mast has come from his shop and he can recognize each at a glance.

            And when Fred Brooks isn’t spending his time in one way or another on the ships that go down to the sea, or talking to the men who sail them, he hides himself away in a little room above the woodshed to build model ships.  Some of the finest models ever to come out of the Maritimes have been Fred’s handiwork, but he has never tried to make a business out of it.  He once made a four foot model for a famous seafood restaurant and got $110 for the job, but mostly he works for the fun of it and gives the ship to a friend or perhaps to one of his grandchildren in Montreal.

            “Ships! Ships! Ships!” his wife protests.  “Is it any wonder I can never get him to fix the house?  If this house was built like a ship, he’d be tinkering with it morning, noon and night.”

            I do everything she asks,” Fred replied.  “Wouldn’t dare to do nothing but.”

“It’s nearly ten years I’ve been after him to pipe us some running water, for instance.  But do you think I can budge him?”

            “We got running water, without taps” Fred tells her. “You just holler and I come running with it.”

            But in spite of the fact that convenience of running water has not quite caught up with the Brooks, their home is comfortable, and uniquely attractive.  The front room furniture was that which was handed down to Fred from his parents.  It is as solid and as beautiful as the day some superior craftsman made it and world doubtless be worth a lot of money to an antique dealer.  So would Mrs. Brooks china which fills a large cupboard off the kitchen.  The radio is tuned to Saint John,  N. B., across the bay, but the Brooks listen mainly to the weather reports.

            “He can’t follow the radio too good anymore,”  Mrs. Brooks explains.  “He ought to have an earphone.”

            To which Fred replies that he can hear too much as it is.

            It was a little past sunrise when we took our leave of the Brooks and the tide was beginning to go out again.  The cove was filled with fishing craft of all sizes and shapes and on the other side of the bay, a half mile away, we thought we could see Frank McNeil coming down on his uncertain legs to begin another $14 day.  A little farther along the clangor of a huge flock of gulls behind his fish house told us that Burpee Campbell must already be cleaning another batch to salt away in his “bank”.  And in with the mewing of the gulls were the morning calls of the birds in the woods behind, the music of the bells, as someone nearby brought his cows in for milking, and the haunting chorus of a hundred other sea sounds that our own landlocked ears were not prepared to read.

            It wasn’t hard at all to understand why Fred Brooks should call this spot the most beautiful in America.


Fred was married twice.  His first wife Hannah Powell (d/o William) died while giving birth.  His second wife was Hazel Burke of Saint John.  Many residents still remember Fred Brooks, and his name still comes up in many old takes.  Fred was a carpenter and seaman.  He was in San Francisco shortly after the great earthquake of 1906.  He joined an expedition to hunt sea lions along the British Columbia coast.  Fred never lost his love for Freeport so he returned home in his later years.  Fred once said, “Hot clams is meat for a king, and I can be a king anytime the tide is out.”  Fred had been in many places and always called their Island the most beautiful spot in North America,  Fred and Hazel always had a garden and always used seaweed as fertilizer.  “You get the right kind of seaweed and rot it proper ands you’ve got a fertilizer that would grow bananas,” he said.  It has always been noted how Fred and Hazel would “bicker” at each other (loving each other dearly all the same).  Fred had a little room above the woodshed where be built model ships.  Some of the finest models ever to come out of the Maritimes were built by Fred, but he never tried to make a business out of it.  He once made a model for a famous Boston seafood restaurant and got $110 for it, but he mostly worked for the enjoyment of it.  Fred Brooks really made an impact on the Island as being an outgoing, say it like it is, type of guy, and he made many friends.


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