Sunday, 4 May 2014

Today's Dartmouth Walking Tour

Gathering outside the Quaker House (owned and operated by the Dartmouth Heritage Museum).

Today, from 1pm to 3:15pm, I joined a walking tour of historic Downtown Dartmouth. It took place in conjunction with a number of similar tours throughout Halifax/Dartmouth this weekend. I was impressed with the large turnout. Special thanks to our enthusiastic guide! The tour started at Geary Street Cemetery (below the Dartmouth Commons). One of the members of the walk, Mr. Billy Lewis, was an elder who grew up on the reserve in Millbrook. He volunteered information on his people who are buried in the Catholic cemetery. He is friends with Don Awalt, a researcher (and descendent of the Dartmouth Paul family) who has investigated the Mi'kmaw presence on this particular plot of land. Saint Peter's Church, on Maple Street, had a significant aboriginal contingent in the 1800s. According to John Martin, the hymnals even included Mi'kmaw translations. I have attached an online version of the Dominion Paper which includes a 2012 article (heavily featuring Don Awalt) on the cemetery:
Geary Street Mi'kmaq Cememtery Article (the relevant article starts on page 6 of the PDF)
Our guide then took us through the Dartmouth Commons (which was originally marked as a 'common' cattle grazing area) to King Street to talk about the 'Dartmouth blockhouse.' I will address this topic in great detail in upcoming posts.
We then moved on to the site of the old Quaker Meeting House (now covered by the Dartmouth Central Post Office) and the Quaker Whaler House (see the above picture). In the summer, you must visit the Quaker Whaler House; it is a quaint little museum owned and operated by the Dartmouth Heritage Museum (which is currently based at Evergreen House on Newcastle Street). What's a Quaker, you ask? The Quakers were a religious 'sect' founded in England in the wake of the Reformation. They are also known, more formally, as the Society of Friends. In the historiography (the history of the history) of Dartmouth, the Quakers have been celebrated as whalers (our group of Quakers were heavily involved in the lucrative whaling industry) and community builders (especially because the Quaker House is the oldest known still-standing building in Dartmouth).

The Quaker House is the only Provincial Heritage Building in Dartmouth.
The walk focused heavily on Geary Street Cemetery, the Quakers and local business people. We were lucky to have such a nice day for such a nice walk with lots of people. One man even brought an envelope full of maps (including early plans of the Dartmouth Commons). I hope that more such tours will pop up in the future. We also walked near the former Starr Manufacturing property on Prince Albert Road. I would like to add that the Starr company produced the first modern skates in the world (which were invented by John Forbes) and Starr played a direct role in the creation of hockey, Canada's official winter sport.
House of John Forbes, inventor, on Crichton Avenue, Dartmouth. The house is now split up into apartments.
Starr Mfg. sold MICMAC brand hockey sticks which were originally manufactured by First Nations craftsmen on the shores of the Dartmouth Lakes. Starr skates were used all over the world (millions of pairs were produced) and they were made in a factory powered by water-power diverted from the Shubenacadie Canal (which was built, first in 1826, across the province from Dartmouth Cove to the Bay of Fundy).

Panoramic view of Sullivan's Pond (originally a holding pond for the Shubenacadie Canal) from Crichton Avenue.
I will add more posts concerning Dartmouth's role as the birthplace of hockey, in the next few days. For now, please check out the website for the book Hockey's Home: The Origins of Canada's Game by Martin Jones:
Thank you for reading!

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