Guysborough County Genealogy

Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Canada

Isaac's Harbour and Goldboro

Before the first white settlers arrived at Isaac's Harbour, the area had been home to first, a group of Micmac Indians, and then to a black family, of whom the patriarch was Isaac Webb. Isaac's Harbour takes its name from this Isaac, whose homestead was on the east side of the harbour (later called Goldboro with the opening of gold mines in that area). The small cove there is still known as Webb's Cove.

Isaac's Harbour

The Webb extended family also included the surnames of Clyght (Clyke), Harrigan, and Paris. This small community of black families eventually migrated to other larger centers. The last surviving descendant of the original settlers was Henry Webb, who died in 1935, and is buried in the little cemetery at Red Head at the extreme southern end of Goldboro. The only marker in the cemetery is for Henry Webb, although there are many older graves, some of which are being washed away with the erosion of the hillside, which faces the sea.

In the early 1830's, the first white settlers arrived. Brothers John and Allen MacMillan, and Simon and Ira Giffin left Louis Head, Shelburne County and settled at Isaac's Harbour, receiving the first land grants in the area.

By the 1850's many other families had migrated to the area, becoming involved in sawmills, shipbuilding, farming and fishing. Some of the families of the Stormont Loyalists moved overland to Isaac's Harbour, where it was by far a more prosperous and sociable place to live.

The first church services were held in private homes until the Baptist Church was built in 1840. Then when the new Baptist Church was built in 1873-74, the old Church building was used as the schoolhouse. From 1852 until this time, school had been held in a room of John MacMillan's store. A new school was built on the same site in 1921, and was operational until its closure in the 1970's. Within a few years, the Isaac's Harbour school building was turned into a medical center which serves the area well. In Goldboro, the first school was built on Richardson's Point in 1854, with several newer school houses being built over the next twenty years. In 1904 a four-room school was built, which served the community until the 1970's. In recent years, the school building has been turned into a community centre.

Names of the first members of the Isaac's Harbour Baptist Church from its formation in 1840 were:
Simon Giffin
Henrietta Giffin
William Langley
Elizabeth Langley
Theresa Langley
Mary MacMillan
Mary Ann Richardson
Susan Harlow Giffin
John Richardson
Mrs. John Richardson
Amelia Webb
Rev. George Richardson
George Webb
John Fanning
James Davidson
Jamina O'Hara
Charley Davidson
Sarah MacMillan
John Langley
John F. Silver
Eliza Silver
William Lawler
Glem
James Webb
Francis Webb
Timothy Webb
Benjamin Bezanson
Mary Ann Bezanson
Peter Bezanson
James Holly
Isabelle Davidson
Sybellie Holly
Andrew Pringle
Edward Holly
Edward Giffin
Rachael Giffin

In 1899 the Goldboro Baptist church was organized, and soon a large new church was built on the east side of the harbour. One minister served both Churches, holding services alternately mornings and evenings.

In the early days of the communities, travel was conducted by boat or on footpaths leading from one end of the harbour to the other. An early road led from Country Harbour to Isaac's Harbour, but it was not until the 1860's that a road was begun from Isaac's Harbour to New Harbour.

The first lighthouse in the area was erected in 1874, and lasted until 1929 when the current lighthouse was built. The lighthouses were maintained by various Lightkeepers over the years, until 1966, when automation came about.

Isaac's Harbour Lighthouse c1900

In the 1860's the discovery of gold in the area turned Isaac's Harbour and Goldboro into booming mining towns. Many newcomers arrived to work the mines; some remained in the area after the gold petered out. At the peak of prosperity, there were at least a dozen stores and more than a dozen wharves. There was even a railway which carried coal, brought by ships, into the mines to supply the boilers there. The village of Goldbrook quickly sprang up around the mining operations, with homes, shops and other businesses. It disappeared just as quickly when the gold mines shut down.

Isaac's Harbour and Goldboro suffered a serious economic decline with the closure of the various mining operations in the 1940's. Some of the miners moved to other mining towns in Cape Breton, Pictou County, and Ontario. Some chose a different line of work, and became seamen on the ships of the Great Lakes for part of each year, returning to their homes and families each fall. Others fished and/or worked cutting pulpwood.

The present is a time for new growth in the area, with the Sable Offshore Energy Project offering employment for many local residents.