The History of Long and Brier Islands

Long and Brier Island Population

by | Nov 28, 2021 | Brier Island, Long Island, people | 1 comment

Long & Brier Island Population

The Ups and Downs

The Mi’Kmaq were living, hunting and fishing on our Islands first. They had been here for over 4000 years. There is no way to have a count on how many, as there was no records to track. The tribe was known as Souriquois, they became known as Micmac. The correct term is Mi’Kmaq. They left around 1894, only to return for a few months in the summer.

From the First Settlers:

 Geography & History of Digby County by Isaiah W. Wilson

In 1769 David Welch Senior settled on Brier Island, he was a fisherman and a native of Maine. He was accompanied by his wife and children.

 The first settler known to have lived on Long Island was Nathaniel Bates. It is not known how long he had been settled at Grand Passage, Long Island (later named Freeport). It may have been for a considerable time as he evidently knew the waters to the Annapolis Basin.

A Couple of Poems About our Islands

“Long Island”

The Belle of the Bays

Digby Courier; 1908

How Brier Island Came To Be

“Brier Island”

Digby Courier; Oct. 28th 1932

The Nova Scotia Census records prior to 1871 do not include individual family members. Until 1861, they include heads of household only.

1838 Census: ( Heads of Family Only)

Tiverton (Petit Passage)/Central Grove:

Families= 32








Totals for Long & Brier Island 1838:(Head of Families Only)



1861 Census: (Heads of Family Only)[Tiverton not Counted in this Census]

Long Island: (Freeport, Central Grove )


Population= 954




Totals for Freeport/Central Grove & Brier Island: (Head of Families Only)[Tiverton not Available in this Census]



First Census for Dominion of Canada

1871 Census (Full Families)



Population 563

Freeport/Central Grove:






Totals for 1871 Long & Brier Islands:


Population= 1654

1901 Census:

Freeport/Central Grove:


Population= 1050







Total for 1901 Long & Brier Islands:



Digby Courier; April 11th 1902

1911 Census:







Tiverton/Central Grove:



Total for 1911 Census Long & Brier Island:



1921 Census for Long & Brier Islands:





Tiverton/Central Grove:


Totals for 1921 Census of Long & Brier Islands:


Census returns taken after 1926 are in the custody of Statistics Canada and disclosure of personal information from these records is not permitted. The only exception is for individuals who require information about themselves. Census are only available after 100 years.

The Tiny Tattler, Thursday, July 29, 1937

 Long Island:

         Did you ever stop to think how up-to-date Long Island really is? Here we find most everything that modern towns have, including a modern theatre, large general stores, banks, barber shops, ice cream parlors, hotels, large schools, excellent churches, daily mails, taxi service, dance halls, lodges, including I.O.O.F., Masonic and Rebekah, canning factories, fish plants, garages, milk and cream delivery, meat paddlers, etc. We also have here a large number of Fox Ranches and a number of sawmills.

Some people that say that they could never live on Long Island, but if they should happen to get stranded here they would find that they would not do so badly after all.

Islands Population 1961

Digby Courier 1966

          Report on Petite Passage Crossing; A consultants report released today by Highways Minister Stephen T. Pyke says the original cost of the bridge, across Petite Passage would be approximately $3,882,000. He estimated that to recover the capital cost and necessary financing, the vehicle toll would have to be of the order of $18.50 per trip, which is obviously prohibitive.

There was no cost estimate on a causeway. In regard to the causeway the report says it would interfere with the fish movement, but better harbor facilities, permanent crossing would have an expansion industry facilities which are protected for the area. Living standards as well as social services would be improved and would have an effect on future population increase. It is reasonable to conclude that some of the population decline is a resolve of people moving from Long Island and Briar Island because of the transportation facilities between the Islands and the Mainland. Population in 1911 was 2000, in 1961 population was 1300. Despite decline in population ferry usage has been increasing each year. In 1950 they were 9500 vehicles crossing, 1961 they were 29,000 vehicles. The maximum annual capacity at petite passage is 50,000 vehicles with the existing ferry and that would be reached after 1970. A larger scow or second scow would be needed.

With regard to this proposed, Mr. Pyke said he felt certain that the province would be quite willing to consider the possibility of incorporating a highway crossing in any permanent structure which might be designed with a view of creating a useful harbor the creation of a harbor is not, as pointed out by Mr. Pyke, a responsibility of the province.

According to this consultants report of 1966, our population was 1300.

From a Book “Freeport Now and Then” Compiled by Annabel (Elliott) Outhouse, she compiled a Census of Freeport for 1989.

The population of Freeport at the end of 1989 was 424 people, adults 337 and children 87. There was 131 cars, 4 vans, 2 campers and 51 trucks.

I am very grateful to David and Judy Teed for allowing me to add this information to my population of Long & Brier Island.

Armchair Census of the Islands – A Snapshot in Time – March, 2020

By David & Judy Teed

You may recall in the Feb. 2018 issue of Passages we published an Armchair census of all communities on Long & Brier Islands.

It’s now March 2020 and it is time to update this census again to see how things have changed in the past two years. A special thanks to Dawn MacKenzie for doing the census of Westport and Michael & Susan Outhouse for doing the same in Central Grove & Tiverton. Thanks to everyone who answered our questions and helped in any way to update this information.

Island Census 2020     Westport    Freeport   Central Grove   Tiverton  Totals

Adults                               169           217               52                125      563

Children                              28             41                13                28      110

Census Totals                     197            258               65               153      673

Vacant Houses                     17              34                 9                 22       82

Seasonal Residents              51              36                 2                 63      152

Island Census 2018     Westport     Freeport   Central Grove   Tiverton Totals

Adults                               162           214                  51             126       553

Children                               29             45                  18             28        120

Census Totals                     191           259                  69            154      673

Vacant Houses                     18              31                  13              24       86

Seasonal Residents            53             43                    2              70      168

Island Census 2016       Westport    Freeport    Central Grove   Tiverton  Totals

Adults                                 170             211               48             124     553

Children                                 31              52               19               36      138

Census Totals                        201            263               67             160     691

Vacant Houses                        17               39               15              29     100

Seasonal Residents                  49               50                3              73      175

Island Census 2014       Westport     Freeport     Central Grove   Tiverton Totals

Adults                                 175          216               46             135        572

Children                                31           55                20               46        152

Census Totals                      206           271                66              181     724

Vacant Houses                       18              35                14               27        95

Seasonal Residents               56             38                   3              71      168

Island Census 2012      Westport      Freeport    Central Grove   Tiverton Totals

Adults                                176            209               53             138        576

Children                               30              58                17              49        154

Census Totals                    206              267                70             187      730

Vacant Houses                      15                42                8               32        97

Seasonal Residents               43                34                 4                54      135

Island Census 2010     Westport      Freeport    Central Grove   Tiverton    Totals

Adults                                177            213               50             139         579

Children                              44              45              19              45        153

Census Totals                     221            258                69             184        732

Vacant Houses                     21              45                  8              36         110

Seasonal Residents               31              31                  5               21         88

Now with the current census complete we can compare present-day populations with those of our past thanks to the efforts of Donald Outhouse in his book “Glimpses of the Past from Long & Brier Islands” and Annabel (Elliott) Outhouse in her book “Dwellers & Dwellings”. In Donnie’s book he published the populations for 1871, 1901 and estimated populations for 1997 saying the population for 1997 is about half that of 1901. Annabel did a census from Boar’s Head to Donnie Crocker’s in 1980 (Hattie Allbright’s home today in Central Grove).

Now for some eye-opening comparisons:

                       1871     1901   1980   1997   1998~   2018    2020

Long Island       1091     1372                                       482      476

Tiverton             n / a      542*   355*               292*      154      153

Freeport            n / a      830     n / a               452       259      258

Central Grove   n / a     n / a    n / a                             69        65

Brier Island        641      724     n / a

Westport                                   n / a                353        191       197

Totals                1732      2096             1048**   1097~     673      673

* Central Grove figures were included with Tiverton. / ~ Figures from Digby Courier 1998.

** Donnie estimated population half of 1901.

In the case of Annabel’s figures for 1980, the population of 355 in Tiverton (included Central Grove) compares to 218 in March. 2020; there, of course, may be a margin of error but it gives us a snapshot of our populations in 2020 to years prior.

The overall population of these Islands as of March 2020 has remained the same at 673 from Jan. 2018; this is noteworthy given current unemployment levels, the global economy, the younger population leaving to find work and recent graduates going off to University or Community College and deaths etc. As noted in the data, from which the population was calculated, there have been many changes in terms of property ownership as new surnames surface and old familiar ones disappear. Overall, a good news story for the Islands.

Overall comparisons between Jan. 2018 & March 2020:

Overall population remained the same at 673

Adult Population increased by 10 / Child Population dropped by 10

Vacant Dwellings decreased by 4 / Seasonal Residents decreased by 16

You can read the comparisons for your own community and see how things have changed.

 If you compare the inventory of 82 vacant houses in March, 2020 to 110 in Jan. 2010, when we started this Armchair census on both islands, properties are in much better condition than in previous years. Congratulations!

A BIG THANK YOU and WELCOME goes out to all the new residents & neighbors who NOW SHARE the Islands and to all the work everyone has invested in their respective properties to improve the overall appearance.

We hope the new residents of the Islands enjoy learning a bit about the history of the Islands population and appreciate the efforts put forth by everyone who has contributed to the gathering of this information.

David & Judy Teed

The CBC came to our Islands, September 6th 2002 to make a documentary of life in Canada from coast to coast.

A Day in the Life of Canada

All of the images you will see in this wonderful documentary were recorded on September 6, 2002. You will meet Canadians from all walks of life, in every province and territory. One day, 50 cameras and six time zones. The sights and sounds of the people, the landscape and the country. Viewers stalk a musk-ox in Canada’s North, gather the harvest on the prairies, watch open-heart surgery, chase a suspected criminal through backyards and alleys, watch an assembly line in high gear, dance with senior citizens, greet a brand new Canadian – born on September 6th – and much, much more. Dozens of locations from coast to coast to coast are included, reflecting the daily activities of Canadians everywhere. First aired on September 29, 2002.

1 Comment

  1. David Clark

    Great information. My husband’s mother was a Gower, Beulah, her father was Randolph Gower, and we still have relatives on the Island. How do we join this group.


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