The History of Long and Brier Islands

Barque Aurora /Oddfellows Hall Westport

by | Jun 25, 2021 | Brier Island, shipwrecks, Westport | 3 comments

Barque Aurora

On November 27, 1908, the barque Aurora with a crew of twenty men sailed out of Digby Harbour under the command of Captain Saarum. Her destination at the time was the port of Buenos Aires. She was carrying a cargo of lumber.

About an hour from port the Aurora ran into rough weather. It was early morning with a thick blanket of fog prevailing. As Captain Saarum steered his vessel according to the compass, the weather seamed to change for the worst. A strong wind of gale force sprang up, forcing the Aurora off her course by five miles.

Because of the change of course, Captain Saarum had no idea of his position and, to make matters worse, the fog enshrouded the barque and obstructed their vision. The men of the Aurora kept a watchful eye as well as a close ear for the sound of crashing waves. The barque was almost three hours from Digby, and the weather had not changed. Now, just a mile north from Brier Island Light, the crew of the barque Aurora found themselves high out of water and tossed about like rag dolls.

They were hard ashore with a gapping hole in their bottom, with the sea washing in. Although she struck within twenty yards of shore, the sea was running high. It seamed that with each crashing blow, the barque would fall apart. Soon the mainmast broke and it fell into the foaming water. The scene was a wall of crashing waves, with fragments of splintered wood everywhere. It was a daring struggle for the men of the Aurora to try reach shore safely. Seated in their life boats, the men were tossed about like corks. The wind increased and, with each trust of the tremendous waves, the barque was forced higher onto the rocks.

After all hands reached shore safely, attempts to save the barque proved fruitless. The weather continued with all it’s furry and this hampered other vessels from approaching the Aurora  in attempts to free her. The owner who lived in Norway was later informed that his vessel was a total loss on the rocks near Brier Island Light.

Shortly after the wreck the lumber was taken off the wrecked Aurora and was landed at Cow Cove on the Westerly side of Brier Island. A road had to be cut from town (Wesport) to the wreck at Cow Cove. During the winter of 1909 the men of Westport transported the cargo of Aurora which consisted of one million feet of lumber.

In March of 1909 there was an article in the Westport news of the Digby Courier that reads; “The wrecked cargo of lumber is about all hauled up to town now, ready for shipment when the spring opens.”

Also in March of that same year, Howard Titus, Albert Payson and Lloyd Baily bought a piece of land on the Back Road belonging to James Gower, a Brier Island fisherman for $100. This was to be the location for the new hall for “The Independent Order of Oddfellows Juanita Lodge #81.” Before this new hall was built the Oddfellows meet at the Baptist Church.

Then in the May 21st issue of the Digby Courier, in the Westport section it reads: “E. Lantalum’s wrecking steamer is working on the wreck Aurora, although the weather has not been very favorable.” Then in the same paper it reads; “Messrs. Jones Bros. men have carried two scows of lumber to Weymouth, Stmr. Idea Loe doing the towing.” So not all the lumber was used on the building of the hall.

The basement was dug and the basement walls were being built in June of 1909. The Digby Courier of June 18th 1909 reads; “The stone masons are at work laying the wall for the Oddfellows Hall.”

I believe they were waiting for Mr. Wm. H. Brooks to finish the new Lighthouse at Peters Island before  starting to build the new Oddfellows Hall. He had with him a gang of 12 men to build this new Hall. They finished the job at a cost of $1300. It would of cost a lot more if it hadn’t been for the saving of not having to buy any of the lumber all coming from the cargo of The Barque Aurora.

In 1981 the Oddfellows sold the building to the village commissioners of Westport and it is now used as a community hall. The upper floor still has the original collapsible wooden chairs bolted to the floor in a horseshoe formation keeping the character of the Oddfellows meeting room alive.

The Municipally Registered Property registered the building and was recognized for being a historical place in  March 28th 1994 .

It was again listed on the Canadian Register on July 29th 2004:

 Description of Historic Place

The Independent Order of Oddfellows Hall was built in 1909. Located in Westport on Brier Island, it is a two-storey Georgian style building with a hipped roof. Both the building and surrounding land are included in the designation.

Heritage Value

The Independent Order of Oddfellows (IOOF) Hall at Westport on Digby Neck is valued for its historical role in the community. As a benevolent society, the organization provided assistance to many local families. The hall was built in 1909 from lumber salvaged from the Norwegian barque “Aurora” that was wrecked off the coast of Digby Neck. The hall is no longer used by the IOOF, but continues to be used by the village of Westport.

Oddfellow’s Hall

7 Second Street, Westport, Nova Scotia, B0V, Canada

Barque Aurora

3 Comments

  1. Cheryl and Tony O’Neill

    Love history and my great grandparents are from Westport! Thank you for sharing this.

    Reply
  2. John Carroll

    My family lived right next door to it for the nine years I was pastor of the Baptist church in Westport. A grand old building. I have many wonderful memories of the kind people of the island and many walks along that rugged back shore where the Aurora and others were wrecked. Great article!

    Reply
  3. Harry Lent

    What a great story,nice to see it all in one place

    Reply

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