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Time Travel and the Age of Sail

This isn't so much a walking tour, but rather a sitting and observing tour. When we last left off on the walking tour, we were at Lawrence House in Maitland, Nova Scotia. Here we shall return.

Before we go into the Age of Sail, I shall mention that Sisterhood of the Sword is now available for purchase.

You can also purchase any of the Jamie Poole Books directly from the author. Arrangements can be made by emailing:

In working with Hal-Con there can be arrangements for drop off within Halifax as we are a virtual vendor. Additionally two preferred vendors can also assist you in getting the books any time of year:

Once upon a time, not so long ago, the Annapolis Valley looked entirely different than it does today. If we don't live there (I did once) then we might visit the Valley to savor the apples or to linger over a glass of local wine. Perhaps we go to hike a trail. Let us not forget the dykes and riverways that add to the beauty of the landscape. Oh, and the Bay of Fundy, home of the world's largest tides!

However, once upon a time as I said, the Annapolis Valley and surrounding areas was the heart of Nova Scotia's shipbuilding industry, which was at its height during the second half of the nineteenth century. This is what we refer to as the Age of Sail. By the end of the 1870s the demand for wooden ships began to decline.

Now if you expect this blog to be all-inclusive, I will say up front, there is no way that a single blog can do this subject justice. I will hit the high points and those touched upon in Sisterhood of the Sword as it applies to Jamie Poole's discovery at William D. Lawrence's house. Remember, Jamie Poole Books is magic realism. There is historical reality behind the magic in the stories.

Imagine a town like Windsor. According to Wikipedia: Its harbour made the town a centre for shipping and shipbuilding during the Age of Sail. Notable shipbuilders such as Bennett Smith built a large fleet of merchant vessels, one of the last being the ship Black Watch. As the port of registry for the massive wooden shipbuilding industry of the Minas Basin, Windsor was the homeport of one of the largest fleet of sailing ships in Canada. Notable vessels registered at Windsor included Hamburg, the largest three masted barque built in Canada, and Kings County, the largest four masted barque.

Windsor was not unique. Neighbouring Kentville also had a sailing industry. I could list off almost any town that rests on the Bay of Fundy, the Minas Basin, or any of the rivers that connect, and say that this town was significant in the Age of Sail. Ships were the way to transport goods. England alone had a hunger for Nova Scotian apples and lumber. Ships would sail up the Bay of Fundy and along river systems into towns where they would load up with goods coming or going across the ocean. The landscape of the Valley would have been entirely different than today. You may find it unexpected to know that the Age of Sail did not entirely die away until less than 100 years ago. According to Saltscapes, the last ship to sail here was in 1937. "Built in Hansport, Nova Scotia in 1917, the Avon Queen was a four-masted schooner with an overall length of 252 feet, a height from waterline to top mast of 132 feet, a beam of 39.2 feet, and a net tonnage of 1035 tons." She would have been one of many.

Today ships are seen coming and going daily through the Halifax Harbour. There are three terminals in the city to manage the shipping containers. The Age of Sail has evolved into this. But what became of these giants? Did they just disappear? If you hike a trail or along a beach in the Annapolis Valley, look a little closer. The infrastructure of the docks remains. It's broken and decaying into the landscape, but it's there. In some towns like Port Williams, more of the infrastructure remains.

And who were the men who build these ships? One was William D. Lawrence. Jamie has already explained who he is. From Sisterhood of the Sword: In 1874 William D. Lawrence constructed the largest wooden-hulled, fully rigged ship ever built in Canada. At that time, shipbuilding had been common in Nova Scotia. The province exported goods, including wood and apples and, in Mr. Lawrence’s case, bat guano.

That’s right: bat poo....

OK, so Nova Scotia exported more than apples and lumber. When you look at the landscape around Mr. Lawrence's house today, the evidence is there. After all, Jamie basically said he build the ship in his own yard. If you look about, there is a lot to see. At a glance it might look like a bunch of rotting wood and rusting metal, but it's a testimony to an age gone by. Shipping brought money into this province, and industrious men like Mr. Lawrence helped make that happen. He went on to do more work including writing and political work.

The town of Lunenburg continues to be known for ship building. The Bluenose was built there.

Shipping remains an important part of Nova Scotia, and men like William D. Lawrence helped lay the groundwork for it. Thank you for joining us on these walking tours, and I hope when next you walk through the Annapolis Valley you see the ghosts of our province's past.


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