Cat­a­lyst for growth

Lo­cal au­thor to talk about Pic­tou County’s role in the in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion of Canada

The News (New Glasgow) - - PICTOU COUNTY - BY ADAM MACIN­NIS

John Ash­ton loves to trek deep into the woods in Pic­tou County along rivers and streams. It’s there he finds the rem­nants of Pic­tou County’s in­dus­trial past — woollen mills, fur­ni­ture fac­to­ries and so much more.

On Nov. 5, Ash­ton will be shar­ing a bit about that his­tory as he speaks about Pic­tou County’s role dur­ing the in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion at the Mar­itime Mu­seum of the At­lantic, 1675 Wa­ter St., Hal­i­fax, at 7:30 p.m.

With Pic­tou County of­ten re­ferred to as the in­dus­trial cen­tre of Nova Sco­tia, Ash­ton has plenty to talk about dur­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion.

One in­ter­est­ing story he hopes to share is how the French had a forge on what now known as Big Is­land dur­ing the 1730s and 1740s.

At the time, the French peo­ple at Big Is­land were work­ing with Louis­burg and were cut­ting a lot of oak trees used in ships and masts. Ex­ca­va­tion on the is­land has found there was also a forge back then and items such as tongs and ma­te­rial that would have been used by a black­smith have been un­earthed.

“That’s prob­a­bly the first ref­er­ence to some sort of iron mak­ing or forg­ing in Pic­tou County,” he said.

From the time of the early set­tlers, though, there were black­smiths and far­ri­ers that worked at each of the vil­lages in Pic­tou County to sup­ply horse­shoes as well as the ba­sic need of metal in those com­mu­ni­ties.

A key fig­ure in Pic­tou County’s in­dus­trial her­itage is Rod­er­ick (Rory) MacKay, who trav­elled to Pic­tou on the Ship Hec­tor in 1773. He was a black­smith and, af­ter ar­riv­ing, moved to Hal­i­fax, where he built a chain that crossed the Hal­i­fax Har­bour to pro­tect it. He later re­turned to Pic­tou County and passed the trade on to his son, who in turn, passed it on to his son, For­est MacKay, who started Hope Iron­works in 1872 in New Glas­gow. The busi­ness later moved to Tren­ton, be­com­ing the foun­da­tion of what was to be­come the Tren­ton Steel Works plant.

“It grew into a mil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try,” Ash­ton said.

The ef­fects would be felt across the na­tion.

“Tren­ton steel­works and the coal mines in Pic­tou County were a tremen­dous cat­a­lyst for growth, not only in Pic­tou County but Nova Sco­tia, too,” he said.


Pour­ing of steel at the Nova Sco­tia Steel & Coal Com­pany, Tren­ton, where the first in­got was poured in Canada in July 1883.

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