Port Morien

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Port Morien is located in Nova Scotia
Port Morien
Port Morien in Nova Scotia

Port Morien (also referred to as "Morien") is a small fishing community of 700 people in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, located in the southeastern Cape Breton Island near the rural community Donkin, and six miles from the town of Glace Bay.


Port Morien was first recorded as "Baie de Mordienne" on a map in 1580. In the Nineteenth Century, it was renamed Cow Bay by settlers. A cow allegedly escaped from a vessel when being transported from Sydney to Louisbourg and was found in the area. In 1895, its name was changed to Port Morien.[1]


As with much of Cape Breton, Port Morien has a long history. It is one of the oldest communities in Eastern Canada.[1] Its bay was first navigated by the Aboriginal population of the area, and then by the Portuguese.[1] When coal was discovered in Port Morien in the early eighteenth century, people began to live there. The village was officially settled in 1786.[1]

By the 1870s, the village grew to a population of 3000 as a result of the establishment of the blockhouse and mines. There were up to forty businesses in the village. Gradually, it dwindled in the twentieth century.

Coal mining[edit]

The presence of coal in Cape Breton was first noted by Intendant Jean Talon in 1671.[1] It was the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, and the subsequent founding of Louisbourg, which really focused French attention on Cape Breton coal as a valuable and necessary resource. The Fortress of Louisbourg and its inhabitants were in need of a local coal supply, and the closest source was the outcrop at Port Morien[1] So, the first commercial coal mine in North America began production at Port Morien in 1720. By 1724, coal from Port Morien was being traded to Boston in the first officially recorded export of minerals in Canada. The ownership of the mine, called the Gowrie Mines, changed hands between the English and French four times, with the English ultimately gaining control in the late eighteenth century.[1] In 1725, a blockhouse was built by the French to protect the valuable coal reserves.


Alongside the mining industry, the fishing industry also grew. Overtime, the village has become dependent on lobster fishing as its main resource. In 2000, the lobster fleet consisted of 47 boats.[1] There has been a fish processing plant operating at the harbour continuously by one family since 1941. There is also a boat building business in town.

Organizations and clubs[edit]

There are many active organizations and clubs in the Port Morien community. They include: a Royal Canadian Legion branch, a development association, a volunteer fire department, Girl Guides of Canada, a camera club, a community fair committee, a women's institute, an acting group, a wildlife association, a youth sports league, and a walking club.[2] There are also three churches: St John’s United Church, St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, and St. Paul’s Anglican Church.

Although there is currently no active group, Port Morien was the site of the first Boy Scout troop in North America, founded in 1908 by William Glover, the chief book keeper of the North Atlantic Colliery.[3]

Notable residents[edit]

As a community, Port Morien has excelled in education and the arts. It has graduated at least one Rhodes Scholar, three university professors, a moderator of the United Church of Canada, world class organist and a well known opera singer. In addition, no community has produced as many writers per capita as Port Morien. At least 14 authors have published books in the community, both fiction and non fiction.



  • In 2008, Port Morien received the Lieutenant Governor's Community Spirit Award.[5]


Further reading[edit]

  • Port Morien: Pages of the Past (University College of Cape Breton Press)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 46°7′55.73″N 59°52′30.21″W / 46.1321472°N 59.8750583°W / 46.1321472; -59.8750583 (Port Morien, Nova Scotia)