The History of Long and Brier Islands


by | Feb 15, 2022 | Brier Island, ferry, people, Schools, Videos, Westport | 1 comment

Naming a Ferry for Grand Passage

Early in 2017 the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (TIR) was about to take charge of the new ferry that was being built at A. F. Theriault shipyard in Meteghan River. The new ferry needed to be named. TIR had asked for naming suggestions from ICS  (Islands Consolidated School) in May. A committee of ICS and TIR staff made a recommendation from those submissions to the minister, and the minister approved the name.

 “We had many good suggestions, says Deborah Bayers, spokes-person with TIR. Some of them are cute-some of the students are in Grade Primary, 1 and 2. We are really pleased with the response from the students. The children were really excited and they turned to traditional Islands’ themes like fishing, birds, sea life, animal life.” The students who’s suggestions had been selected will be invited to take part in the vessel’s christening.

The Choice “Margaret’s Justice”

And Why

Christiana Margaret Hubbard was born in December 22, 1764 in the Mohawk River Valley settlement of Cherry Valley, Otsego County, New York. Her parents were Adam Hubbard and Catherine (Koons) Hubbard.

On August 17, 1783, she married Loyalist soldier Sgt. Ethiel Davis in New York.

Her parents were also Loyalists and left New York with Margaret and Ethiel as refugees on October 24, 1783, originally bound for Quebec on the ship Clinton. They landed in Shelburne, Nova Scotia.

After Adam Hubbard drowned in the spring of 1784, Ethiel, Margaret, and Margaret’s widowed mother Catherine, left Shelburne for Weymouth, Digby County in July 1784, and lived at Sissiboo.

They arrived at Westport, Digby Co., Nova Scotia in 1789, the seventh family to settle on Brier Island. In 1828, the widowed Margaret got tied up in a land dispute on Brier and Long Islands, and walked 300 kilometers to the colonial authorities in Halifax to have her claim to the lands successfully settled. She passed away in Westport on February 14, 1858, and is buried with her husband in Hilltop Cemetery.

Naming The New Ferry November 2016

BRIER ISLAND, N.S. — A ferry in Nova Scotia has been dubbed “Margaret’s Justice” in honour of a 63-year-old widow who fought for the right to her land and won.

Premier Stephen McNeil and the descendants of Margaret Davis participated in a ceremony in Westport christening the ship after the Brier Island heroine on November 12th 2016.

In 1828, Davis was at risk of losing her land on Brier Island in Digby County to a neighbour, so she walked around 300 kilometres to Halifax to save her home.

McNeil called Davis’ feat “many years ahead of her time” and said her story continues to inspire residents of the island in the Bay of Fundy nearly 200 years later.

The $9.3-million ferry carries 95 passengers and began service between Brier Island and Long Island in December 2016.

The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (TIR) christened the new ferry on the Grand Passage service for Margaret Davis, a widow who –  at 63 years of age, – walked from Brier Island to Halifax to protect her property rights.

TIR ran a naming campaign at Islands Consolidated School (ICS) in Freeport for the month of May and Carter Thurber, a graduating student at ICS suggested Margaret’s Justice.

“My mother told me the story,” said Thurber. “She suggested I do some more research and make that my submission.”

Thurber went to see Dorothy Outhouse of the Long Islands Historical Society and she provided him with the whole story.

A plaque in Westport, “Heroes in Petticoats”, commemorates Margaret and her mother Catherine Davis, who, in her day sailed to New York twice from Nova Scotia to obtain documentation for a legal claim she made against the British Crown.

Thurber read his official submission to an assembly at ICS on June 29.

“I chose the name in reference to a woman, Margaret Davis, who lived on Brier Island in 1828,” said Thurber. “She was a healer who used herbs, had 8 children and farmed. When her husband died, she was going to lose her land to a man who wanted to own it. So at 63 years old, she walked to Halifax to fight for the right to her land. She succeeded and after several weeks of resting, walked back home. This represents a proud moment in the history of the Islands as well as the persevering spirit of those that live here.”

A Davis family document records that Margaret was rowed to Long Island then to Clements, in Annapolis County, and then she walked on rough trails through the woods to Halifax – a journey of more than 300 kilometres.

She had an audience with the lieutenant governor and received confirmation of her ownership. She rested a bit and then walked home again – arriving on Brier Island eight weeks after her initial departure.

“She was so courageous and so dedicated to looking after her family,” said Thurber. “Her journey was truly extraordinary and I think it makes a great name.”

“As soon as I saw the name, I loved it,” says John Majchrowicz, manager of marine service with TIR. “It gives me chills. It has a ring to it and it preserves an important piece of Islands history. I’m very pleased that this name will be on one of the ferries in our fleet.”

The Margaret’s Justice will be the first ferry in the provincial fleet named for a particular woman.

TIR does have a ferry on the Little Narrows service in Cape Breton called the Caolas Silis, Gaelic for Julia’s Strait.

And of course the Petit Princess operating on the Petit Passage run between Long Island and Digby Neck.

Alva McDormand a long time Brier Island resident, christens “Margaret’s Justice” at Brier Island.

Premier Stephen McNeil stands with Islands Consolidated School Grade 12 student Carter Thurber, whose entry Margaret’s Justice won the naming contest for the new Grand Passage ferry.

1 Comment

  1. Grace Elinor MacDonald

    Very interesting account of the courage and tenacity of a widow who risked losing her land to a hard hearted and cruel Neighbor, she persevered and won!!


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