Shelburne, Nova Scotia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Official seal of Shelburne
Nickname(s): Where Canada's history comes alive
Shelburne is located in Nova Scotia
Location of Shelburne, Nova Scotia
Coordinates: 43°45′48″N 65°19′25″W / 43.763333°N 65.323611°W / 43.763333; -65.323611[1]
Country  Canada
Province  Nova Scotia
County Shelburne
Founded 1783
Incorporated April 4, 1907
 • Type Town of Shelburne Council
 • Mayor Karen Mattatall
 • MLA Sterling Belliveau (NDP)
 • MP Gerald Keddy (C)
 • Land 9 km2 (3 sq mi)
Highest elevation 6 m (20 ft)
Lowest elevation 0 m (0 ft)
Population (2011)[2]
 • Total 1,686
 • Density 187.3/km2 (485/sq mi)
 • Change (2006-11) Decrease10.3%
 • Dwellings 797
Time zone AST (UTC-4)
 • Summer (DST) ADT (UTC-3)
Postal code(s) B0T 1W0
Area code(s) 902
Access Routes Trunk 3

Shelburne is a town located in southwestern Nova Scotia, Canada. It is the seat of the Municipal District of Shelburne.


Early settlers had small subsistence farms, but most of the inhabitants' income from that time to the present have been derived from the sea. Shelburne lies at the southwest corner of Nova Scotia, at roughly the same latitude as Portland, Maine. The large and well sheltered harbour was known to the Mi'kmaq as Logumkeegan or Sogumkeagum.

The first Europeans to make a settlement on these shores were the French Acadians. They set up a small fishing settlement known as Port Razoir in the late 17th century, named after the harbour's resemblance to an open razor. The Acadian fishing settlement was abandoned after repeated New England privateer raids in 1705 and 1708.[3]

Raid on Port Roseway (1715)[edit]

On May 14, 1715, New England naval commander Cyprian Southack attempted to create a permanent fishing station at a place he named "Cape Roseway" (now known as Shelburne). Shortly after he established himself, in July 1715 the Mi'kmaq raided the station and burned it to the ground. In response, Southback led a raid on Canso, Nova Scotia (1718) and encouraged Governor Phillips to fortify Canso.[4]

The Cox Warehouse on Dock Street, Shelburne, Nova Scotia.

New England fishermen knew Shelburne as "Port Roseway" and frequently used the outer harbour for seasonal shelter and repairs. Pirate Ned Low raided the New England fishing fleet at Shelburne Harbour in 1723, capturing 13 ships.[5] After the Acadian Expulsion in 1755, there were no settlers for several decades despite an abortive settlement attempt by Alexander McNutt in 1765.

In the spring of 1783, more than 5,000 settlers arrived on the shores of Shelburne Harbour from New York and the Middle Colonies of the Thirteen Colonies. These settlers were Loyalists (referred to later in Canada as United Empire Loyalists), Americans who had opposed the Revolution and remained loyal to Britain. Opposition to the Revolution, as well as government promises of free land, tools, and provisions lured many to British North America at that time. Four hundred families associated to form a town at Port Roseway, which Governor Parr renamed Shelburne later that year, after Lord Shelburne, the British prime minister. This group was led by the Port Roseway Associates, who had formed while still in New York and petitioned Governor Parr for the land. A large group of Africans who had escaped American slavery arrived in Shelburne Harbour at the same time where they founded Birchtown next to Shelburne as North America's largest free Black settlement.

In the fall of 1783, a second wave of settlers arrived in Shelburne. By 1784, the population of this new community is estimated to have been 17,000, making it the fourth largest city in North America.[6] However, the initial prosperity was short-lived as a lack of agricultural land, poor inland transportation links, and lack of some necessary skills for settlement, soon curtailed economic growth. The population fell sharply by the 1790s, leaving many abandoned buildings. However, the remaining residents gradually developed the harbour potential as a fishing and shipbuilding centre.


Shelburne Shipyard in 2012

Shipbuilding is a historically significant industry. The first vessel launched at Shelburne was the 181-ton Roseway, built for MacLean and Bogle in 1786. Commissary Island, now a peninsula, was the area from which supplies of flour, pork, and salt were dispensed to the Loyalists by the Commissary General, Mr. Brinley. Later, this area became the shipyard of Joseph McGill. The Cox family also built their own ships and conducted extensive international trade. The former MacKay shipyard was located in Shelburne at Black's Brook. Donald McKay, famous in the United States for the clippers which he built at Boston, began his shipbuilding career in Shelburne. He was born at Jordan Falls in 1810, and left the area at the age of 16 to apprentice in New York. Led by master shipbuilders such as Amos Pentz and James Havelock Harding, Shelburne shipyards built many fishing schooners in the banks fishing era, as well as a notable research yacht inspired by fishing schooners, the schooner Blue Dolphin in 1926.

In May 1945, following Germany's surrender, U-889 surrendered to the RCN at Shelburne, Nova Scotia.


Many of Shelburne's buildings date back to Loyalist times. The Shelburne County Museum is a restored home built in 1787 by David Nairn, a cooper from Scotland. The present day Christ Church (Anglican) is on the site of the original building of the same name, which was designed by Loyalist Isaac Hildreth and consecrated by Bishop Charles Inglis in 1790. The original structure was destroyed by fire in 1971. Tottie's Store is thought to have been built by John Tottie about the year 1800.

The Shelburne County Museum. Originally owned by David Nairn, a cooper from Scotland.

In 1787, government distribution of provisions to the new settlers was terminated. Within a few years, houses were put up for sale, and settlers left for England, New Brunswick, Upper Canada, and the United States. In the 1820s, the population of Shelburne had dwindled to about 300.

Present day[edit]

Although much smaller today, Shelburne remains the capital of the county which bears its name. It was incorporated as a town on April 4, 1907. Many descendants of the original Loyalists still live in the area today.

Fishing remains a primary industry today. Other economic activities include tourism, ship building and repair, aquaculture, logging, fish processing, and the manufacture of barrels, institutional furniture, granite monuments, and marine suppliers.

In 2011, Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding Company completed the renovation of the Shelburne Shipbuilding, facility which included the installation of North America's largest marine railway[citation needed]. In late 2011, Irving was awarded the largest-ever government shipbuilding contract, valued at approximately $35 billion, mainly for work at their Halifax Shipyard but some work is expected to spill over to the Shelburne yard over the 30-year term of the contract.

Cooke Aquaculture Ltd. has chosen Shelburne as site for a substantial increase in their salmon farming operation there, which would increase the number of farms in the area to eight or more and would include the construction of a fish processing plant employing 350 people. In February 2012, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency quarantined one site due to a suspected Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) occurrence.

The area is served by a weekly newspaper, a large online news operation, radio stations east and west of the town and CBC radio from Halifax, plus the regional version of the Chronicle Herald.

The weekly newspaper, The Coast Guard, is published at the same intersection where newspapers had been published as early as 1784, including the General Advertiser, the Port Roseway Gazetteer and Shelburne Advertiser, and the American Gazette.

Shelburne has a climate similar to many locations in southern Nova Scotia and coastal locations of northern New England. Due to its coastal location and moderating influence of the Atlantic Ocean, Shelburne's climate is relatively temperate without major extremes in temperature. Winters are wet and cold, with snow, freezing rain and rain frequent from mid December to the end of March. Snow is common in the winter months, however it rarely lays on the ground for extended periods of time. Snowstorms often change through freezing rain and then rain, thus melting accumulated snow. Following a winter storm, the air often turns clear but cold. Spring is cool and frequently damp, while summer features heavy morning fogs in June and early July, but clear, mild days from mid July to the end of September. Autumn weather features pleasant days and cool nights and this can extend well into November. Shelburne is susceptible to strong coastal storms called Nor'easters, which bring heavy rains, pounding surf and damaging winds. Shelburne is also susceptible to hurricanes, which can occasionally affect the area from August to October.[citation needed]


Climate data for Shelburne, NS
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 13.9
Average high °C (°F) 0.9
Daily mean °C (°F) −3.7
Average low °C (°F) −8.3
Record low °C (°F) −22.8
Precipitation mm (inches) 151.3


Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1784 10,000 —    
1901 1,445 −85.5%
1911 1,435 −0.7%
1921 1,360 −5.2%
1931 1,474 +8.4%
1941 1,605 +8.9%
1951 2,040 +27.1%
1961 2,408 +18.0%
1981 2,303 −4.4%
1986 2,312 +0.4%
1991 2,245 −2.9%
1996 2,132 −5.0%
2001 2,013 −5.6%
2006 1,879 −6.7%
2011 1,686 −10.3%
Canada 2006 Census Population  % of Total Population
Visible minority group
South Asian 0 0
Chinese 10 0.5
Black 160 8.5
Filipino 0 0
Latin American 0 0
Arab 0 0
Southeast Asian 0 0
West Asian 0 0
Korean 0 0
Japanese 0 0
Other visible minority 0 0
Mixed visible minority 0 0
Total visible minority population 185 9.9
Aboriginal group
First Nations 15 0.8
Métis 10 0.5
Inuit 0 0
Total Aboriginal population 20 1.1
White 1,670 89.1
Total population 1,875 100

Film production[edit]

Present day barrel factory

In 1992, Dock Street was the location for the filming of Mary Silliman's War, based on a true story depicting Fairfield, Connecticut during the American Revolution. In 1994, Dock Street and area was the location of a major film, The Scarlet Letter, based on Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel depicting Puritan New England in the mid 17th century. Some of the buildings on Dock Street still retain the grey-tone paint finishes used for the film. Other movies made in Shelburne were Virginia's Run and Wilby Wonderful. In 2008 an old naval station in the Shelburne area was sold to a group who plan to make more movies at a sound stage located on the station, though it was later sold for other purposes. In 2009, filming for portions of the 2-part TV miniseries Moby Dick was carried out in Shelburne. The Whaleman's Chapel was recreated on the waterfront and the Spouter's Inn recreated in Cox's Warehouse. The series stars William Hurt as Ahab, Gillian Anderson as his wife Elizabeth, Ethan Hawke as Starbuck and Donald Sutherland as Father Mappel.

Public library[edit]

Located at 17 Glasgow Street in Shelburne, the McKay Memorial Library is one of the larger branches of the Western Counties Regional Library. It joined the Western Counties Regional Library on June 5, 1969 but it did not have a physical location in Shelburne until the first branch opened on February 15, 1970. The branch relocated to its present site on July 21, 1989.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nova Scotia Geographical Names: Shelburne
  2. ^ a b 2011 Statistics Canada Community Profile: Shelburne, Nova Scotia
  3. ^ "Shelburne", Place Names of Nova Scotia Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management, p. 618
  4. ^ Geoffery Plank. An Unsettled Conquest. University of Pennsylvania. 2001. p. 76=77; J.S. McLennan. Louisbourg. The Bookroom Limited. 1979. p. 64
  5. ^ Dan Conlin, Pirates of the Atlantic: Robbery, Murder and Mayhem off the Canadian East Coast (2009) Formac Publishing, p. 35-37.
  6. ^ The Americans, Retrieved March 14, 2011
  7. ^ "Environment Canada". Retrieved 2009-11-03. 
  8. ^ I:\ecstats\Agency\BRIAN\census2
  9. ^ [1], Censuses 1871–1931
  10. ^ [2], Census 1941–1951
  11. ^ [3], Census 1961
  12. ^ [4], Canada Year Book 1974: Censuses 1966, 1971
  13. ^ [5], Canada Year Book 1988: Censuses 1981, 1986
  14. ^ Scotia.html, Census 1991–2006
  15. ^ [6], Community Profiles from the 2006 Census, Statistics Canada - Census Subdivision
  16. ^ [7], Aboriginal Peoples - Data table
  17. ^ WCRL – McKay Memorial Library. Retrieved August 13, 2010.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°45′48″N 65°19′25″W / 43.76333°N 65.32361°W / 43.76333; -65.32361 (Shelburne Nova Scotia)