A Brief History of Guysborough
The Native Period
Many of the place names of Guysborough County are the original names used by the Mi'kmaq people and many others were dropped for French or English names.Mi'kmaq Place Names
The French Period
The founding of the settlement dates from 1636 when Nicholas Denys, a French trader established a fishing station here and called it "Chedabouctou", after the Micmac name for the area. By 1683 Fort St.Louis had been built, and Chedabouctou had become a major center in Acadia, boasting a population of one hundred and fifty Acadians.
In 1690 New England privateers sacked Fort St.Louis, which diminished strong Acadian presence at Chedabouctou, and by the signing of the treaty of Utrecht in 1713, Port Royal, Minas and Canso were the main settlements with Acadian presence. The Acadians continued to lived in the area farming, trading, and boat building until after the Expulsion in 1755.
English presence at Chedabucto started by the 1760's with the arrival of the "Nine Old Settlers". Captain Joseph Hadley received a grant of land at Chedabucto for his role in the Seige of Louisburg. Others who came from New England including the Callahans, Cooks, Godfreys, Hortons, Ingersols, Pearts, and Tobys settled on a piece of land at the head of Chedabucto Bay bordered on one side by Cook's Cove and on the other by Ingersol's Cove. To this settlement they gave the name Milford and to the harbour just inside Hadley's beach the name Milford Haven was given. Today it is known as Guysborough Harbour but the river flowing from the Intervale is still called the Milford Haven River.
The largest group of settlers came at the end of the American Revolution. Lands were granted to soldiers of disbanded regiments and to settlers from former American colonies who had remained loyal to the British crown. These loyalists both black and white are the ancestors of many of the residents in the county today. These groups included The Duke of Cumberland's Regiment, The Associated Departments of the Army and Navy, The Sixtieth Regiment, The Hallowell Grant Settlers, and The St. Augustine Loyalists. On the west side of Milford Haven a town was laid out by the surveyors and many of the loyalists were given a town lot and a country lot. The name Guysborough was given to this settlement in honour of Sir Guy Carleton, commander-in-chief of the British forces in America and the governor general of Canada during the 1780's.
The Black Loyalists arrived with the Associated Departments of Army and Navy on June 21, 1784. Some were servants of the white Loyalists and some were Free Blacks holding certificates. However, free or not the Black Loyalist was at the bottom of the pecking order for the British land and supplies and many perished during the first winters in their promised land. Despite the unfair distribution system, poor land, few tools, no guns and scant wages, the Black Community at Guysborough rebounded from around 200 souls in 1786 to over 900 in 1872. These numbers populated settlements in Sunnyville, Birch Town, Cook's Cove, Canso, Country Harbour, Old Guysborough Road, Upper Big Tracadie, Rear Monestary, and along the Tracadie River.
Throughout the 1800's Guysborough developed as an administrative and service center for the surrounding agricultural and fishing community. The town's fine harbour encouraged the growth of shipping, shipbuilding and lumbering. Merchants from Halifax came and set up business, trading schooner-loads of merchandise, for cured fish and other foods to take back to Halifax in the fall. As late as the 1940's and 50's this practise continued in many of the coastal communities.
The Modern Period
Although Guysborough has gone through much change since the turn of the century, many of the changes were no different than in other areas of the province.
The school system evolved from the one room school house with a pot-bellied stove, slates, an outhouse and a teacher paid with chickens and yarn, to a modern academy with the latest in telecom, audio/video, internet computer courses and teachers paid with automatic deposits, and retirement pension plans.
Light and power was first provided for by the towns own power company using a coal fired generator. This system was eventually taken over by the provincial power company and a hydro system built at Dickies Brook.
Although traditional employment opportunities like shipbuilding, fishing, farming, and lumbering are quickly disappearing, our area may have been blessed with the fact that these were not replaced with smoke stacks and industrial plants. We have one of the cleanest, unspoiled, beautiful areas of the province and recent indications predict that tourism will become a vital factor in the economic well being of Guysborough.
The development of modern highways provided a cheaper and faster means of transporting freight and people but it also brought an end to the commercial usage of our harbour. Gone are the days when schooners and later the steamer's horn would bring the townsfolk running to the wharf to unload goods from Halifax and Boston or to greet friends and relatives who came to visit for the summer. This romantic period is only seen now in collections of old photographs and in the minds eye of our most senior residents.