The History of Long and Brier Islands

“Shacking at the Shack” Westport

by | Feb 13, 2022 | Brier Island, fire departments, Hydroelectricity, legion, people, Westport | 1 comment

“Shacking at the Shack” Westport

“The Shack

This is a story about a family that moved to Westport and made history. They left behind a legacy that would be hard to beat. They also left the building that today most Westport residents would know of, but not know of its importance. That building is “The Shack “.

James (Jimmy) Locke Strickland, was born in Lockport, Nova Scotia, on April 23, 1855. He was a nephew of Edward C. Bowers, on his mother’s side. Mr. Strickland move to Westport in 1890 with his wife Annie E. Strickland. In 1892 they had a son born on September 13, 1890. He was named William Gerald Strickland.

 By 1892, James L. Strickland had invested in “The Insular Steamship Company Ltd”. Mr. Strickland had become a shareholder and cooperate member of this company. They had steamships that carried freight and passengers to various ports in Nova Scotia.


By The Honorable The Minister of Marine

And Fisheries for the Dominion of Canada

Certificate of Competency

Third Class Engineer

To  James Locke Strickland

Whereas it has been reported to me that you have been found

Duly qualified to fulfil the duties of Third Class Engineer

I do hereby in pursuance Of the Canadian Act respecting Engineers of Steamboats, 45 Vict. Cap 35 + amendments grant

You this Certificate of Comptency As an Engineer of the Third Class

Given under the seal of The Minister of Marine and Fisheries of Canada at Ottawa this twenty fifth day of February 1887

The Insular Steamship Company Limited

Spring and Summer Schedule, 1897

Commencing April 1st, 1897
the S.S. Westport
will sail (weather permitting) according to
the following Time Table:

Leave Westport every Tuesday morning for Weymouth via Freeport, Tiverton, and Mink Cove. Time of departure and arrival dependent on tide.

Leave Weymouth every Tuesday for Westport via Mink Cove, Tiverton, and Freeport. Time of departure and arrival dependent on tide.

Leave Westport every Wednesday at 5am for Yarmouth via Freeport and Meteghan, touching at Cape St. Mary when clear.

Leave Yarmouth every Wednesday at 2pm for Westport via Meteghan and Freeport, touching at Cape St. Mary if clear.

Leave Westport every Friday for St. John calling at Freeport and Tiverton when required.

Leave St. John every Saturday at 2pm for Westport.

This is a painting I did some years ago, of one of the Insular Steamships,  the “Westport lll” at the Tiverton wharf 1905.

September the 17th, 1900, James and Annie Strickland had a second son born. His name was to be, James Victor Strickland.

 James Locke Strickland was a Marine Engineer and had become interested in trying to invent a Rotary Steam Engine. Mr. Strickland had the Rotary Steam Engine built that he had invented, and needed to test it. He built the building that was later called “The Shack”. The building had a well under the backend where the Steam Engine drew its water supply, to generate steam.

Source; Digby Courier Sept. 22nd 1905

In 1905 there was an article in the Digby Courier where E. C. Bowers of Westport had his two stores now lighted with electricity, making the corner looking very much of a town. Digby town had already had electricity in 1891.

         Mr. Strickland applied for a patent for his invention and was granted one January 19, 1906.

 He kept working on his invention making changes and over the next years had five more patents in his name.

June 6th 1906

James Locke Strickland asignes fifty-one one-hundreds percent share of Patent to Harry Richards McLellan, for inprovement to a valve.

Source: Digby Courier Aug. 10th 1923

 In 1923 there was an article in the Digby Courier stating, “posts were bein put in place for electric lights in Westport”, and that same year James Strickland applied to the Nova Scotia Government in Halifax to have his company incorporated. The company in Westport was called “The Westport Electrical Light, Heating and Power Company Limited

Digby County: Westport and vicinity

NSL 1923 chapter 144 — Act to incorporate the Westport Electric Light, Heating & Power Co. Ltd.

 The power from the “shack” would supply electricity to the Front road, Water Street and back to the shack in Westport.

Authors Note: I could not find any more information about James L. Strickland after 1923. I would of assumed Mr. Strickland was going to sell shares for his company after he had it incorporated. The “Westport to Digby Telephone Company” sold shares in 1889 after they incorporated. This is how they started. Mr. Strickland may have heard rumors of Hydro coming down Digby Neck in the near future. They started hydro down Digby Neck in 1926 and was turned on, on our Islands, Jan. 21st 1929.

Looking back to 1905 to when electricity was first turned on at E. C. Bowers two stores, twenty four years had gone by. Almost a quarter of a century they had electricity in Westport to help in their daily life. If it wasn’t for Mr. James Locke Strickland, Westport, would have been in the dark like Long Island and Digby Neck.

In 1930 Mr. James L. Strickland’s son decided to do something with the “Shack” as it was just sitting there idol. W. G. Strickland kept the steam generating equipment to generate their own power for his new plans that he had for the “Shack”.. He then started to turn the shack into a talkies (Movie) theatre, dance hall and ice-cream parlor. After three years of labour Gerald Strickland had built his movie theatre, dance hall and ice-cream parlor. He even built his own talkie (Movie) machine, built mainly by Strickland only the more complicated parts were bought.

Westport was ahead of Freeport on Movie halls and dance halls by four years. Lloyd Blackford’s movie hall (theatre) was finished in May 1936. The Dance hall was finished in July 9th 1938.

Source; Digby Courier May 18th 1934

Who says Westport is not booming? The many visitors in town on Saturday evening did not lack a place of amusement. W. G. Strickland says he has talking machine completed and had his first talkie. “Maid of the Mountains” Saturday evening. The hall was crowded and the machine was perfect, Mr. Strickland is to be congratulated on his success.

         Mr. and Mrs. C. K. Rogers held the opening of “The Shack” on Saturday evening, after the talkies. Many enjoyed the free dancing, carpenters and painters have been employed the past month making alterations, laying hardwood floors, etc. The front of “The Shack” is a large room with a hardwood floor, waxed for dancing, and around the sides of the room are small tables where ice cream will be served. The dances are free. Radio and Victrola will furnish the music. In the rear of the building, Mr. Rogers has a meat shop, fitted with a large commercial refrigerator.

Source; Tiny Tattler May 26th 1934

On October 9th 1934 only six months after Gerald Strickland opened his movie hall, dance hall at Westport his father James L. Strickland passed away at the age of 78.

Source; Digby Courier Oct. 12th 1934

Source; Tiny Tattler, Aug. 3rd 1935

I found this information about “The Shack” in “Passages” July 2004 issue.

Source; Digby Courier Sept. 17th 1937

Source; Digby Courier Nov. 26th 1937

No written date when the “Islands No. 54 Branch of the Canadian Legion of Westport bought “The Shack” to be used as their meeting place, the following is my only source. I would think it would be between January 1st and the date of the following article Feb. 20th 1947. It was reported in Caroline Norwood’s article of July, 2004 that “The Shack” was sold by Charles Rogers to the Legion. I have not read where the building had changed hands from William Gerald Strickland to Charles Rogers.

Source; Digby Courier Feb. 20th 1947

Source; Digby Courier Nov. 1st 1951

Legionettes Organize At Westport

A meeting was held in the Westport Legion Hall Wednesday evening for the purpose of forming a club of ex-service men’s wives. Chairman and organizer of the club was Mr. George Chayko.

Officers Elected were:

Pres.—Mrs. Percy Walch

Vice-Pres.­­–Mrs. Raymond Robicheau.

Secretary- Mrs. George Denton.

Treas.—Mrs. Ronald Gaudett.

Chairman Entertainment Committee-Mrs. Alfred Garron.

Chairman Refreshment Committee-Mrs. Gordon Dakin.

Name chosen for the club was “The Westport Legionettes Club”.

About six were present.

Editor’s Note: In the summer of 1961 I was working in New Brunswick and I came home on time off. I remember going to Westport one Saturday night to a dance at “The Shack.” The legion was still holding dances there at this time. I can remember the building being full of people. I still remember coming back in the ferry boat. There was probably a dozen Islanders making the return trip to Long Island.


William Gerald Strickland; Sept. 13th, 1892-Feb.21st,1964

Westport organizes and forms its first Fire Deparment in “The Shack”in 1971.

Source: Digby Courier; May. 13th 1971

In 1973, Islands No 54 Branch, of the Canadian Legion, Westport, amalgamates with Freeport and Tiverton Legions, after Freeport Legion buys the “Nu-Era” theatre and dance hall at Freeport.

Source; Digby Courier, Dec. 20th 1973

The Legion sold “The Shack “ to Wilfred Swift of Westport and then he sold it to his son Roland Swift who lived next door to the building. Roland Swift sold the building to George Garron and then George sold the building to Johnny Graham who still uses it today as storage for his fishing business.

Westport Builds a New Fire Hall-Recreation Centre

Source; Digby Courier, Aug. 11th 1977

Editor’s Note: I would like to conclude this story of the Stricklands of Westport, Brier Island, by what happened to the last Strickland.

James Victor Strickland, R. C. M. P. Marine Div. Halifax

On February 11th 1979, one of the coldest day on record, for that year, I received a phone call. I was in charge of the Ambulance for the Islands, as Mr. MacIntyre the owner was away on vacation.

 It was Evelyn Strickland in Westport on the phone asking for help, because her husband Victor Strickland had gone up to the well to thaw the frozen pipes and had never came back. Mrs. Strickland said he had been gone over two hours. She was very distressed so I went right away.

When I  got to her house she said the well was up by the road leading to Western Light. I thought Victor was still working on frozen pipes, but when I got there the door was open to the well house and when I looked in, I could see the water in the well had started to freeze over and down in the water was Victor. I broke the ice in the well and reached down in the water to pull Victor out. All I could do was bring him to the surface, I couldn’t get him out by myself.

I called Digby Hospital to report the situation. They called me back and said they had spoken to the coroner, and he had given word for me to transport Victor to the hospital. I had a job trying to find someone that would help. When I told them there was someone who had died in the well, that changed their minds. Gordie Thomson and Henry Porter came to my rescue that day, I could never thank them enough.

We had to work in through a door opening not allowing much room for the three of us to work. After we had Victor out I found why he was so hard for us to get him out of the well. After he had fall in the well he must of fought trying to get out .He had tried to get out so bad it riled the gravel on bottom and that ended up in his boots, pockets or were ever there was room. When we had him on the ground then we could see why he was so heavy. I thought I would freeze to death, like I said it was the coldest day on record.

We have had more than our fair share of tragedies here on these two Island over the years, we just get through them as best we can.

I find it very ironic to be writing this story of Victor Strickland on the anniversary of his death 43 years ago today, on this date February 11th 2022.

James Victor Strickland: Sept.,17th 1900-Feb. 11th, 1979

Member of the R. C. M. P. Halifax Div.

1 Comment

  1. Richard McDormand

    Hi Rodney, Victor was my uncle as Evelyn was Dads sister, I didn’t know the full story of his death but did know he drowned in the well .I didn’t know my aunt called you and that Gordie and Henry were there to help. Another sad day on the Island.


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