The following is reprinted from the March 29, 1962, issue of The Oxford Journal.
In response to The Oxford Journal editor’s request for the information regarding former industries in Central and Eastern Cumberland, Mr. Ira BROWN of Wentworth gave us considerable information regarding former business in the Wentworth district. Prior to the days of steam engines, water power was the only source of power and the rivers were the most important means of communication. This, and the fact that fertile land was usually to be found along river valleys, was no doubt the reason that early settlers preferred to establish themselves near streams or rivers.
Like most other districts in this heavily wooded province, Wentworth had sawmills on every little brook, as well as on the Wallace River.
Some of these recalled by Mr. BROWN were: a sawmill on Hart Brook, operated by Washington HART; one at Wentworth Valley owned by Burpee BLAIR; one on Whilstone Brook, owned by Rufus PURDY; one at East Wentworth, owned by Wm. SWAN & Sons; one at Florida Road corner owned by BEEBE Bros.; one on Wallace River owned by Amos PURDY; another on Wallace River, operated by MACLEAN Bros. (this included a sawmill, grist mill, wool carding mill and undertaking business). There were sawmills on the Tedd and Gough Brooks. A mill on West Branch was operated by a Mr. MORRIS; one on Drennen Brook (now Mahoney Brook) by Wm. DRENNEN and other on the same brook by OGILVIE Bros. Lemuel BIGNEY and James BIGNEY each had sawmills at Lower Wentworth, while Squire Wm. CHISHOLM and Malcolm CHISHOLM both operated mills at West Wentworth. Ephriam HOWARD had a sawmill at Middleboro, while Carr’s Mill, the head of the tide, was the first above salt water. Cornelius CROWLEY had a mill on the Crowley Brook and James HENDERSON had a sawmill at West Wentworth (on the Plain Road). Banford MIERS had a mill at Wentworth.
All the above operated with water power and many of the sawmills also had flour mills as well. Prior to the building of the Short Line Railway from Oxford to Pictou, Wentworth Station was the railway center for a large section of the Northumberland Strait shore. There were 5 stores at the station, as well as three hotels and livery stables. A stage coach ran from Wentworth Station to Wallace, by way of the old Purdy Road. This road (now closed) left what is now the Trans-Canada highway near the new Wentworth Elementary School and came out on the Coulter Road near Wallace Station. Mr. BROWN tells us that the Purdy Road was built in as nearly a straight line as possible. When laying out the route the builders started at the Wallace end and kept heading directly for the high point on the mountain, only leaving the direct course to get around bogs and steep hills. Stores in the Wentworth district included REED’s, at the corner of the Florida Road; James WELSH’s at Wentworth; and stores at Lower Wentworth operated by Lemuel BIGNEY and William CHISHOLM
James BIGNEY operated a carriage shop at Lower Wentworth and there were blacksmith shops at Wentworth. Robt. MCNEIL operated a tannery and shoemaker shop at Lower Wentworth. Mr. MCNEIL was the father of the late C.C. MCNEIL who years ago was a well known lumberman of Oxford, and at one time part owner of the Oxford Foundry & Machine Co.
Copper Smelter Once Operated at Wentworth
Two copper mines once operated in the district, The PALMER mine was located at West Wentworth. A copper mine at Lower Wentworth in the farm now owned by Harry FEELEY, was operated by the Copper Crown Co., Cumberland Copper and Wentworth Copper Co. It was American financed and the last man in charge was a Mr. HOWARD. A copper smelter was built on the Wallace River by Heber TRATTS and Mr. BROWN recalls that is operated all the winter of 1906.
The Crown Copper Company built a big hotel at Wentworth around 1900-1902. This for many years was OGILVIE’s store, now operated by Lorne HENDERSON.
There were two blacksmith shops at West Wentworth, one operated by Herbert OGILVIE, the other by Robt. HENDERSON, who also made butter tubs.
The Maritime Handle Factory was operated by Wm. SWAN and Sons. This factory was originally located at Collingwood but it was moved to Wentworth about 1917. It was twice burnt out. After the first fire, the plant was rebuilt, but it ceased operation in the early twenties when it was again destroyed by fire.
A small quantity of bricks were made by TEEDS. The clay was obtained across the road from Roy SWALLOW’s, where Don WOOD recently built his new home.
Mr. BROWN also gave us the following bits of history concerning the Wentworth district. TUTTLE & ALLEN received the first grant of land on the Wallace River (900 acres). What was known as “the Bacon Clear” was the first cleared land at Wentworth (now the Ira BROWN farm). HERLEYS settled the first farm on the river at Lower Wentworth (now Mr. Will WHIDDEN’s farm).
Wentworth was first settled in 1771. The first frame house was built by Secord BEEBE. This house had a solid wood wall 10″ thick, said to be bullet-proof, and built in this manner as protection against the Indians. This house was built on the farm now owned by Percy and Audrey TUTTLE, on the road to Westchester.
Richard LETCHER had the first car (a model T Ford); Tuttle Bros. had the first truck (also a model T Ford).
It is said that a young couple named MIERS walked all the way from Massachusetts to Wentworth. They cleared land and built a home on what is now William BETTS’ farm. Mr. and Mrs. MIERS are buried across the road from the BETTS home near the bank of the river.
A MCKAND family, with several grown-up children decided to leave their home in Scotland and settle in Nova Scotia. As the boat was leaving Scotland Mr. MCKAND changed his mind about leaving, but Mrs. MCKAND was more determined and set sail with her children. They travelled from Wallace to Wentworth where they built a log cabin on the Plain Road, West Wentworth, where the family grew up.
Editor’s Note–Perhaps other readers of The Oxford Journal will be able to give us similar information regarding the early days in their home communities and list some of the former industries that formerly flourished in this part of Nova Scotia.
(Source: The Oxford Journal, Thursday, March 23, 1972 – MANY WATERMILLS AND TWO COPPER MINES ONCE OPERATED AT WENTWORTH)