The History of Long and Brier Islands


by | Mar 22, 2022 | Brier Island, Long Island, people, Tiverton, Videos | 1 comment

Last Blacksmith on the Islands (The Movie)

This is the history of the last Blacksmith and the last Blacksmith Shop on Long and Brier Island. There has been three generations of Blacksmiths working in this Blacksmith Shop.

Blacksmith Shop at The Lazy Day Farm Tiverton

It all started when Isaiah and Delilah VanTassel moved to Tiverton. We do not have a definite date of what year they arrived. We do know they were married at Weymouth on the 29th of January 1866. We do know they were included in the 1871 Census and that their oldest daughter Agatha was 4 years old. So it is fair to say they arrived in Tiverton about 1867 or there abouts.

It is around this time we believe the Blacksmith Shop was first built. It shows that in Isaiah VanTassel’s Death Records that Isaiah was listed as a Blacksmith.

Nova Scotia Vital Statistics (Marriage License 1866)

              Census                               1871    1881     1891

1916 Death Records( He was listed as a Blacksmith)

Digby Courier; March 3rd 1916

Isaiah VanTassel;  Aug 12th1844-Feb 27th1916

Delilah (Weaver)-VanTassel; April 9th 1844-Aug. 27th 1924

Next to do Blacksmithing at the Lazy Day Farm was Elmer VanTassel son of Isaiah VanTassel. He was the second generation to be a Blacksmith there.

Here is a piece of fishing equipment that Elmer VanTassel made in his Blacksmith shop at the Lazy Day Farm.

Porpoise or Whale Harpoon

This porpoise or whale harpoon was made by Elmer VanTassel of Tiverton, the local blacksmith. A long stick would be positioned in the end and a rope tied to the rope knot adjacent to the stick. A string was tied around the end of the point and was used to keep the point together until it entered the target. When the animal was hit by the harpoon, the string would break, and the prong became imbedded in the flesh. The stick which was used to throw the harpoon would fall leaving the rope to become the attachment between the fisherman and the porpoise . As the animal tired and the boat caught up to the target, the porpoise would be killed by the fisherman and dragged to shore. We can only imagine some of the contests between men and fish, especially large fish fighting for their life and men in small sail boats, also looking for survival.

Elmer Merton VanTassel; July 6th 1887-Jan. 6th1970

Bernice (Outhouse)-VanTassel; Nov. 17th1905-Sept. 25th1988

Digby Courier: Jan 8th1970

Now the third and last generation to be a Blacksmith in this shop was Elverton “Kenneth”VanTassel son of Elmer VanTassel. This is the Blacksmith that this documentary is about. In this film you will see how ox shoes are made, shoeing the oxen, yolking the oxen up and taking them around the yard.

Elverton “Kenneth” VanTassel; July 17th1930 – Oct. 15th2019

Judith (Titus)-VanTassel; June, 1947-Dec. 1st, 2021

Obituary of Elverton “Kenneth” VanTassel

Elverton Kenneth Vantassel, known as Kenneth Vantassel, born July 17, 1930 on the Lazy Day Farm in Tiverton, Long Island, Digby County, passed away at Grandview Manor, Berwick on October 15, 2019 at 11:58 PM.

Kenneth worked at the Department of Highways for Digby County for 40+ years and enjoyed farming along with his prized oxen and worked in the woods many years gathering firewood, also he was the last blacksmith known on the island and he attended the Bear River Exhibition frequently in ox hauls with his son.

In later years, Kenneth loved walking along the trail (formerly railroad tracks) from Kentville to New Minas.  He was a kind and gentle man to everyone and never let anyone down.

He will be sorely missed by his family and friends.  May he enter heaven with a pure heart and everlasting peace…  Amen.

He is survived by his wife Judith Vantassel; his son Robert Titus; along with several nieces and nephews.

Kenneth was predeceased by his parents, Elmer and Bernice Vantassel; and two sisters, Iona Cann and Roberta Elliot; as well as his sister-in-law Wendy Titus.

A Funeral Service will be held on Wednesday, October 23, 2019 at 2:00 pm in the old IOOF Hall now known as the Tiverton Community Hall.

Kenneth VanTassel, Phylida Leeman,

Lion and Bright (1991)

Blacksmith Shop 1995

Note:        To update you, all on what is left of this Blacksmith shop, the oxen (Bright and Lion), and the people involved in this history.

         This is the Blacksmith Shop in 1995 as shown above, was being propped up by poles to keep it from falling apart. Early in 1996 a storm came to our Islands, and the shop fell to the ground. Today only a memory of it exists.

         Kenneth held on the oxen until about the time when the Blacksmith Shop fell to the ground. Kenneth sold the team of oxen, to a new home, on the mainland.

         Douglas and Crystal Cann live at the Lazy Day Farm today, they miss the old way of life, Kenneth, and the oxen. Gone but not forgotten.

         Douglas still cuts his own wood, but hauls it home by means of a four-wheeler.

1 Comment

  1. Phil Ossinger

    Thank you for that Rodney. It brings back memories of when I used to go to the blacksmith shop and watch Kenneth’s father, Elmer, shoe oxen. I got my first (and only) taste of chewing tobacco from Elmer at a young age. I made the mistake of swallowing the juice and got quite sick. I remember Elmer laughing but I didn’t!
    I used to crank the blower on my father’s forge in his shop by the bridge when he was doing some blacksmith work, mostly in outfitting boats.


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