Guysborough County Genealogy

Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Canada

Boylston, NS

History of Boylston.doc; Gysborough Historical Society

Boylston, NS

Almost from the first, this part of Nova Scotia was best known to the navigators who came to the New World. In 1713, under the Treaty of Utrecht, Nova Scotia became an English possession. With the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the French claims to North America ceased. The long struggle with the French was ended.

History is a recording of events, but since history and geography are closely related I will start with the location of Boylston. An arm of the Atlantic Ocean, called Chedabucto Bay, reaches far inland even beyond Guysborough Harbour. Chedabucto is an Indian name meaning “Running Far Back”. Beyond this harbour is Milford Haven. From the harbour entrance to the head of the tide is nearly ten miles. Boylston is a block of land situated about three miles from the entrance of Guysborough Harbour along the eastern shore of Milford Haven reaching from the upper narrows northward to the Clam Harbour River, eastward along this river to the Branch Brook, then southerly to the Lime Kiln Rock in the Lime Kiln Cove, then westerly along the shore some three or more miles to the place of commencement.

This block of land was first granted by his Majesty King George III of England, at the beginning of his reign (1760-1820), to one Ward W. Boylston, then of America, thus was Given the name of Boylston in honor of the owner. In 1754 Boylston gave 20,000 acres of this land to his nephew Benjamin Hallowell, then an official in the Boston Custom House and this land became known as the Hallowell grant. Preliminary work was done in preparation for the settlers. The land along the Milford Haven was measured off into town lots with intervening streets. Beyond these lots were farm lots of varying sizes. Usually a settler was given a town lot and a farm lot of about 150 acres. Richard Morris was the Deputy Surveyor of the Province and he duly completed this task.

Many Loyalists arrived and took up lots in 1784. During the war of American Independence and following the close of it, many people were forced to change their residence and seek new homes, rather than foreswear their allegiance to the British Crown. Some 200 persons of the civil department of the army and navy from New York came to these parts. The back lands of this section were settled and called Manchester in honor of the Duke of Manchester.

Across the harbour the Town of Guysborough was laid our, and it became the county seat. Many Loyalists took up residence there. It was named in honor of Sir Guy Carleton, then the commander in Chief of his Majesty’s Forces in North America.

The section of land known as the Intervale was in part allotted to the 22nd, 71st and 75th regiments in 1785 and also to the civil department of the army and navy.

Settlers came to make homes for themselves in the forest. There was game to be had for hunting and the waters were full of fish. For these things the Pioneers were thankful. The names of some of the first settlers in Boylston are of interest. One of the first settlers was William David, the deed to his land is still preserved by his great grandson of Boylston, Ira Atwater, Josiah Hart and Moses Hull. In 1787 one James Lodge was appointed Sheriff for the county. At this time the county was called Sydney county and comprised much of what is now included in bot Guysborough and Antigonish counties. His appointment was signed at Chichester in the county of Sussex, England. Lodge’s residence was said to be Thorncraft and it seems stood on what is today called Thornhill.

In 1790 and 1791, known lots were sold to John MacMaster 172 acres, Richard Morris 150 acres, Titus Luddington 150 acres, Alex Henderson 150 acres, Alex Cummings 150 acres. In 1794 and 1975 known lots were sold to John Stuart 110 acres, Thomas Cutler 90 acres, Lee Hart 150 acres, John Peart 150 acres Alex McKay 186 acres, John Demas 140 acres, Robert Carr 100 acres and James Bruce 150 acres.

Avery interesting story is told of the Cutlers, Thomas and his wife (Elizabeth Goldsbury married Thomas Cutler in 1793 on the 3rd of March). They spent their first winter here in a hastily built hut erected on one of the islands between Guysborough Harbour and Boylston Harbour. Shortly after the arrival of their first baby Robert, (Robert Mollison born 9th Oct. 1784), Mrs. Cutler was alarmed one day to see approaching canoes filled with Indians. Their intentions were only too apparent. She was alone, her husband being in the forest on the mainland. She ran to the cradle where Robert lay, picked him up, daubed his face with molasses and flower, then held him up at the door and called “Smallpox”. That was a dreaded word to the Indians as well as the Whites. The savages at once withdrew leaving the Cutlers unmolested. But not some members of another family nearby. Their son Robert was important in later community affairs. Their other four children were daughters.

Another important man was Judge Marshall, also John J. Marshall, politicians and member of the Executive Council in 1865, and Speaker of the House in 1868. He and his family are buried in the Boylston Anglican Cemetery.

Campbell seems to be another important name. Judge Stewart Campbell is said to be one of the first Dominion Members after Confederation in 1867.

I will make note here that one of our citizens still living in Boylston was awarded the Carnegie Medal. He is Frederick C. Brown who saved Alivia Heal from drowning at Harts Cove in Guysborough Harbour New Years Even in 1914. “Greater Love Hath No Man Than This, That He Lay Down His Life For A Friend”

In early days the settlers got their supplies from Halifax by sailing vessels, later powered vessels. From 1846 to 1876, Captain J.W. Hadley of Guysborough, operated a Schooner Packet between Boylston and Halifax and carried in that time 1463 paying passengers. (Hadley was on the First Names in Guysborough). In 1904 one record has this to say, “We have three steamers call at Boylston each week, so this is a pleasant place to live.” A few later boats that made this run every two weeks were: The Strathcona, The Scotia (burned of Drum Head) and The Chedabucto (a war boat). Another boat ran twice a week from Boylston to Mulgrave. A couple of known boats on this run were Malcolm Cann and The Westport. By the early 1960’s this means of communication went out of existence. There then was no further use for the wharf, and the old wharf was sold to Howard Hart and he moved it away.(1)

Before the Milford Haven Bridge was constructed at the lower narrows, a scow fastened to the bank by ropes was used to carry the people and their goods over the river. The first bridge was a wooden one. Then in the spring of 1902 an iron one was built, just above the location of the wooden one. The man in charge of building this bridge was David Bell. This bridge had a “Draw” in it to enable it to be opened so large boats could pass through. This same bridge is in use today but the “Draw” is no longer in use.

In 1939 the road from Monastary to Guysborough was paved and a few years later it was paved through to Canso.

In years gone by there was quite a business in Ton Timbers. This hardwood was in pieces of at least ten feet long and squared anywhere from 24X24 inches to 54X54 inches. Any person travelling our woods at the present would wonder how and where they could find trees to make sticks that size. They also got long spars and booms for their vessels in our forests.

In the early 1920’s the Sonora Timber company came to Boylston. They were of a pulpwood concern, they erected a mill for peeling pulp and at one place built a long overhead conveyer across the main highway, this connected Broad Cove with Boylston Harbour. Most of their pulpwood was brought down the river in Drives, then boomed and brought the rest of the way with little tugboats. After it was peeled, this wood was loaded on pulp boats in the harbour and shipped away. In 1961, a pulp mill was built in Port Hawkesbury giving work to people of this area.

Mr. B.A. Morrow operated a mill in Boylston for many years. At first he operated a saw and gristmill, then saw and carding mill, later a saw and shingle mill, and he also had a planer and matcher.

In the 1940’s, B.A. Morrow, R.A. Simpson and E.W. Sceles of Boylston owned sawmills and sawed for overseas markets. These mills are not in operation today.

Some of the black smiths of Boylston were WM. Brown, his sons Charlie and Bert Brown. About this time Levi Hart and WM. Leet also owned black smith shops here.

The remains of an old cheese factory can be found on what is today the Charlie Pyle property. I suppose they used the falls there for power. A. Hughie Macdonald was in charge of this factory and industry.

In the last part of the 1800’s there were three fox ranches here. One owned by A.J. Bruce, One by Burton Anderson and the other by C.J. Atwater.

Also worth mentioning was the finding of iron ore in the vicinity. There was a good find in Manchester. A sample of this ore was sent to the Worlds Fair in Paris and won First Prize, but unfortunately the certificate has been lost.

Where MacMaster Brothers have their store today was the original site of the old Sam Pyle Store, but that building was burned while the store was being operated by his son, Stephen Pyle. Where D.W. Connelly has his store and house was the original store and home of Jacob Anderson. Mr. Anderson’s son John operated this store during his lifetime. Mr. Connelly made major repairs to the building. (Unfortunately, this store and house also burned down in June of 1999.) The community Hall was the Original Store Built by Lothropet Whitman. Where H. E. Morrow’s garage is was also the site of the old James W. Pyle Store, the store was torn down. The stores of Burton Anderson and C.J. Atwater have fallen into disrepair.

The first mails were brought here by vessel, later by stagecoach. The first Post Office was kept in the home of Mrs. Whitman and she was the first postmistress. The people received mail only once a week. Later WM.G. Simpson was postmaster and after him Mrs. Anna Bell Brown. She held this position for forty years. The first Post Office built by the federal government in Boylston was opened June 21st, 1965. John Hayden was the postmaster.


The first school was built on the backlands and served the children of Boylston and Manchester, but this building was burned. The first school built in Boylston was a one-room building and it was built in 1858. Later the James Pyle Property and owned by Edgar Sceles, who along with WM. Campbell present owner of the property donated the land for the school. This school was in use and served the children from primary up to and including grade six. The students from grade seven to twelve were taken by bus to the Guysborough Municipal High School. This high school was opened in 1960 on the site of the old exhibition grounds. Today both the Chedabucto Elementary School (grades primary to six) and the Guysborough Municipal High School remain on the site of the old exhibition grounds.

The first record of a church in Boylston tells of the destruction of the building by a gale in 1811. The community windmill was also blown down by the fury of the blast. The next account of a church in this township reveals that one was built at Clam Harbour in 1822. A Congregational Church.

On august 23rd, 1873 there was another terrible gale. The Anglican Church was moved on its foundation. There was also a bad gale in October 1900. The Anglican Church was burned down and rebuilt around 1895 or 1900.

There was an earth tremor of great intensity felt here on 17th of November 1929.

There are entries of births, baptisms and marriages from Boylston in the Anglican Church Register, Guysborough as early as 1784. Saint Paul’s Anglican Church built here obtained its own statistical register under the direction of his Lordship the Bishop John Inglis at the end of the year 1847, according to a note under the hand of the reverend W.T. Morris, Deacon in charge. Deacon Morris was the first resident missionary of Saint Paul’s. Following him was the Rev. Henry H. Hamilton; he entered his first service of baptism of the parish on May 1st, 1897. Saint Paul’s Church was burned to the ground. On November 9th, 1897 the new Saint Paul’s Church opened for service. One of the principal gifts to the new church was a stained glass east window given by the widow and children of the late Rev. H. Hamilton. This beautiful window is still enjoyed by the worshippers today. Another donation was the pulpit, it was made and hand carved by Levi Brymer. Among the first to be baptized in the new church were the twin daughters of Levi and Matilda Brymer, Bessie Manfy and Emma May September 21st, 1898.

Boylston, 1895

The organization of Baptist church in the village of Boylston did not occur until 1887, but it is said that the activities of the congregation may be traced back many years beyond that date. With their Brethren across the harbour in Guysborough, the Baptists of Boylston owe their beginning to the early missionary efforts of the pioneer ministers, one Mr. Dimrok whose role is best described as organizer was followed by Mr. David Nuttir who was an Evangelist and teacher. The records show that on Sunday Dec. 14th, 1890 the worshippers were summoned that day by a fine bell, a gift of the sons of James Pyle. When Rev. A. McDougall came to the charge in 1904 he wrote that he was “comfortably situated in the new parsonage”. Among the early Methodist preachers to visit Boylston was a minister from England, John Fishpool. He was sent to Manchester and the eastern part of the province in 1816. A successor Arthur McNutt came to Guysborough in 1827. During his two year ministry, he came often to the community at the head of the harbour. Some time during the summer out door services were held. The Methodist Church in Boylston was built in 1847. The circuit name of Manchester first appears in the minutes of the Methodist Church conference of 1865. In 1887 the circuit name was changed to Boylston and a parsonage was built in the community. Their regular minister of this charge was the Rev. William McCarthy, (1851-1852).

Some of the first ministers of this charge 1865 were: Rev. J.C. Bigney to 1868, J.E. Thurlow to 1871, Rev. Edwin Mills to 1873, Rev. Thomas Hart to 1876, rev. W. Nightingale, Rev. WM. Alcorn, Rev. H. Bigney Burgress to 1888, Rev. R.B. Mack to 1891, Rev. F.J. Pentelow to 1893, Rev. J.C. McNeil to 1896, Rev. Sam Ackman to 1897, Rev C.F. Day to 1900, Rev. H.D. Townsend to 1904, rev. D.K. Smith to 1907, Rev. W.R. Tratt to 1910, Mr. Harry Rackham to 1912, Rev. F. Mitchell to 1922, Rev. Arthur Armitage to 1924, Rev Wilfred Hird 1925 to 1929, Student B. Chandler 1929 summer, Mr. W. Nicholson to 1930, Mr. C.W. Whitman to 1931, Rev WM. B. McLean to 1937, Rev. Fred J. Cooats to 1941, Rev. W. Webb to 1942, Mr. C.O. Stewart to 1944, Mr. Murry gardner to 1945, Student Mr. Angus MacDonald to 1945 summer, Mr Harold O’Brien to 1947 summer, Mr. J.H Bryan 1948 to 1956, Mr. John T. Wldron to 1958, Rev. George Tfskey to 1960, Student Mr. Samuel F.Bowan to 1963, Student Mr. Lawrence Lewis to 1965, as well as Mr. Smith. In 1890 the church was turned and moved slightly from its old site. When union came on June 10th, 1925 this church became known as the Boylston United Church of Canada. The first minister after union was the rev. W. Hird.

Although times have changed greatly the ways of living in Boylston, it is still one of the beauty spots of our province. To me it is the one spot where we have been fortunate enough not to have been spoiled by commercial industries, at least to this date.

Note 1:  I grew up right beside the wharf. When it became a danger, the government brought in an early type of backhoe and tore it down. As a kid I watched it happen. They left the rocked up portion, just tore out and removed the old rotting part that was up on wooden piles, along with the old freight shed. The remains of the wharf and the road leading down to it from Route 16 remained government property and many years later the local Fire Department worked with then "Lands and Forest" to gain control of it as a resource to get water for fighting any local fires. That seemed to be going ahead, then quietly, unknown to the Fire Department, the then owners of my grandparents property that butted on the old wharf road, gained control and blocked the Fire Department from using it. Today the rocked remains of the old wharf is considered part of the property my grandparents once owned. Also, regarding the list of United Church Ministers, there was a Mr Brian, well after Mr O'Brian and Murry Gardner who was my Uncle through marriage, Roughly in 1955 the post office was in what was then Bell Brown's house across from the present Post Office, and in those days there was an older kid, a bully who on his way to school in the mornings would walk well out of his way to meet me by the then Post Office to put poundings on me, a much smaller and younger child. Mr Brian came out of the Post Office one morning, caught him red handed and gave him a strict talking to, after which he left me alone. (submitted 9 Jun 2017, Wayne Simpson)