The History of Long and Brier Islands

Bad Storm Feb. 28, 1952

by | Aug 14, 2021 | Brier Island, ferry, Fish Plants, Long Island, wharfs | 0 comments

Worst Storm in Years Hits County

Digby Courier March 6, 1952

The Heavy gale and snow storm which struck this area last Wednesday evening and continued through Thursday completely tied up transportation in the Digby District. Streets and sidewalks were all blocked with drifts some eight to ten feet high.
     Some thirty persons from rural districts around Digby were forced to spend the night at the Digby Rural High School after school buses found it impossible to return them to their homes following Adult Education classes at the school. Radio appeals were issued to neighbours asking them to care for the stock of people marooned in Digby.
     Members of the Digby Ravens hockey team and a number of supporters from Digby were marooned at Annapolis on their return trip from Bridgetown Wednesday night. Some fifteen cars from Digby were stranded about a mile from Annapolis in heavy drifts. A number of those who could not get any further by car caught the early morning freight at Annapolis, arriving in Digby shortly after seven o’clock. This train usually makes Digby shortly before five a.m.
     Three freight cars went off the tracks on the spur line running to the Digby pier shortly after noon, tying up rail traffic to the wharf. Heavy drifts blocked the rail line to the wharf but efforts of the train crew had succeeded in getting the yard engine through to the wharf before the derailment tied things up for several hours.
     Five taxis spent the night on the road near Smith’s cove when they were caught by the storm. One truck driver in town, after helping car owners to get their cars off the street was forced to abandon his truck in a heavy drift. He stayed in his truck until the motor quit, then spent the remainder of the night in the town hall, along with seven or eight others seeking shelter from the storm.
     The peninsula and islands of Digby Neck took the full brunt of the storm. Sixty mile an hour gales, coupled with the mountainous waves of an extremely high tide, combined to wreak heavy damage at East Ferry, Tiverton and Freeport.
     At East Ferry the fish plants of Harrison Theriault, Sydney Small and E.J. Theriault and Sons were carried away. Fish houses belonging to McClafferty and Theriault and Harley Theriault were also destroyed as was the gas service outlet of Arthur Harris. Preliminary estimates of damage to buildings in East Ferry was $50,000.
     Also destroyed at East Ferry was some $4000.00 worth of fishing gear which was swept out to sea from the government pier. Three fishing boats moored at East Ferry were also totally destroyed. These belonged to Dalton Sollows, Bernard Young and Ralph Titus.
     At nearby Tiverton, across Petite Passage from East Ferry, the fish processing plant of Lauriston B. Small was completely destroyed as were several other shore establishments. At Freeport the ferry slipways were badly damaged and beaten about by the storm. The fish storage building of the E.C. Bowers Company was washed away and two craft went adrift to crash on the rocky coast.
     At the full tide in Digby, which came around midnight Wednesday night, mountainous waves lashed the waterfront of the town. Along the boulevard section of Water Street sand laden sea water was carried right across the roads and houses on the land side were swept by the heavy spray. Seaweed was carried by the sea across the road and left on the sidewalk on the west side.
     Abutments protecting properties on the waterfront were badly damaged and the piling under several buildings on the waterfront of the business district were severely damaged. One building suffered so severely fears were expressed it might collapse and as tide and weather conditions permitted workmen were busy shoring up supports.

East Ferry Wharf 1950 (Before the Storm)

Digby Courier; March 6, 1952

Digby Courier; March 13, 1952

Storm Feb. 28, 1952 Tiverton Ferry Wharf

This is what Tiverton looked like in 1951. The Feb. 28, 1952 storm took most of this out. The big long fish plant with the ramp at the end is Lauriston B. Small’s (Small Bros. )Fish Plant, it was completely destroyed in the storm.

Tiverton Feb. 28, 1952
Tiverton Feb. 28, 1952
Tiverton 28, 1952

It wasn’t mentioned till the Digby Courier Jan. 29, 1953 that we had lost our wharf in East Ferry in the Storm of Feb. 28, 1952. Almost a year later they was going to do something about it.

Digby Courier; Jan. 29, 1953

Lets go back in our history a ways to where the government felt it necessary to build this wharf that was just destroyed. In 1931 the government decided that where the ferry boat and scow couldn’t land at French Beach on all tides because of the rock ledge at the outer end of the wharf, they would build a new ferry slip a little further up the shore. The location they chose is the location we use today. The road then was down next to Dalton Sollows house.

Digby Courier; Sept. 18, 1931
Digby Courier; May 13, 1932

After the storm of Feb. 28, 1952 the ferry operators then had to start landing in East Ferry at French Beach again. The landing we hadn’t used since 1932.

Crossing the Ferry to the Mainland and Back (1952-1954)

  French Beach is the area where the ferry landed ever since the ferry was started in 1804.They had a problem at French Beach when they started using a scow to carry cars and trucks. They could only land the ferry and scow at the wharf at high or half tide as this was due to the formation of a rock ledge at the outer end of the wharf where they couldn’t bring the ferry by this rock ledge as there was not enough room.

 So in May 1932 the contract was awarded for a new wharf to be built in the location where the ferry lands today. After completion of this wharf the ferry could cross at any time of the tide. There was no road along the shore as there is today. This road that connects our present day wharf and the fish plants was only built in the sixties.

In February 1952 this wharf was damaged and the ferry had to go back to landing a French Beach, but  only on the high water or half tide.

In 1952 I was not very old and sometimes I would travel to Digby with my father to haul back a load of slab wood or a load of coal for the Island people. My father’s truck was a three-ton and there wasn’t many around at this time so there was always something to haul.

My greatest fear in those days was coming down East Ferry hill at French Beach and then going down the ferry slip to get on the ferry. Although my father’s truck had brakes, in those days the brakes were not the great greatest. They were no booster or power brakes in those days, you had to stand on the brake pedal with all you weight and hope you stopped.

The one lane road or path to get down to French Beach from the Digby Neck Highway was very steep, and at the bottom was a house to the left that you had to pass or you would hit very easily. Once you started down the hill the road was very narrow and if you met a vehicle the one coming up would have to back all the way to the bottom to pass. I can remember my father putting the truck in reverse so he could ease out on the clutch to slow the truck down. At the bottom of the hill you had to make a sharp turn to the right, it took you over to the ferry slip. There are some vehicles that did not make this turn.

The ferry slip was a lot steeper then and I was always afraid of going off the slip. The ferry slip was covered with wooden planks, today the slip is made of concrete. These wooden planks would become covered with slime and rockweed and would be very slippery. Once you started down there was no stopping. The slip was so slippery that you could hardly walk on them so they would nail chicken wire on the wooden slip, but this didn’t help much. When I look at it today how far we have come.

The government didn’t seem to be in any hurry to help us Islanders back then. After we lost our wharf in Feb 1952 and as far as getting on and off the Island we had to wait till high water or half tide to do this. The same as they did in 1932. They didn’t even call for tenders to replace the wharf that was destroyed in February 1952 until January 1953. I believe it was in 1954 when we then landed where the ferry does now.

 How many can remember landing at French Beach?

Signed: Rodney Stark

Rebuilding East Ferry Wharf 1953


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