The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

July 16, 2008

Wed. July 16, 2008 – Short History of Springhill

The following article is a short outline history of the Town of Springhill written in the late 1800’s by Dan McLeod. The story first appeared in the New Glasgow Evening News back in 1924.


Were it not for an incident in the life of the writer some two decades ago, it is not likely that you would ever be asked to publish this manuscript. It was referred to at the time by a jealous rival as a new light in the newspaper firmament, which appeared on one of the high places in the County of Cumberland meaning a weekly Newspaper called “The Cumberland Star.” It had a circling orbit of four or five hundred debits, a few advertisers at four and one half cents per inch, single column, and it was the dream of the Publisher that by it he would be able to wield the scepter of a King in public affairs, particularly in this rural bailiwick called the Town of Springhill, and perhaps acquire wealth.

Alas for the best laid plans, within less than a year distress calls were heard and he was forced to hand over the whole business to another, hardened by experience as Newspaper men must be, as a going concern, his scant savings were going so fast trying to keep it going. The only relic of the adventure are some essays of the history of Springhill written by pupils of the High School at the time, some other copy preserved for its lofty flights of fancy and press photos of some old friends who have since passed away, all the rest is only a memory.

My purpose is to rewrite one of these essays with variations and additions and send to you in the hope it may be of some interest to our many kinship, friends and others in the mining towns of Pictou County .

One beginning in the style of MacAulay’s history of England . The Town of Springhill dates from a period within the memory of many of its citizens still living and coincides with the opening of the I.C.R. in 1873.

Coal was discovered in 1845 by an early settler named Lodwick Hunter, exposed in a brook and some of it dug out in a primitive way and used for blacksmith purposes from time to time. The mines and miners of the Province were at that time the property of the British Crown, and under lease to the General Mining Association Co. of London, operating on a limited scale at Sydney and Albion Mines.

In 1857 a delegation consisting of Hon. J.W. Johnston, and Dr. Tupper, as he was then called, went to London press for the restoration of the mines and minerals to the Province. (Dr. Milner, Archivist for the Province writing in the Presbyterian Witness lately says it was in 1856 and that Sir A.G. Archibald was Johnston’s colleague). It is quite likely that he is correct, as he has access to the record, but one year does not make much difference and anyway they were three of a kind. The important thing is that they succeeded upon conditions thereof to stake claims reserved to the London Company at Sydney, Albion Mines and at Springhill.

A mining expert named Smith was sent over from London to put down the stakes so as to cover, if possible, the coal basin at each place. There were only one or two crop exposures at Springhill and in locating the four square mile area, he placed it too far to the North and West to cover the coal basin. In the meantime application was made by several different parties for leases to the South East of the reserved area. A syndicate of gentlemen belonging to Amherst , who afterwards organized the Springhill Mining Company got the first choice, three square miles lying to the South and East.

Another group two miles to the West of the latter afterward known as the Hibbard areas and Halifax Capitalist three square miles to the North of the first group called the Black areas, and the writer at a later date the shreds and patches.

To locate the Coal seams outside the reserved area, the Company that was to be engaged a man of experience in the Clyde coal fields of Scotland by the name of John Anderson whose photo I have.

He succeeded beyond the most sanguine expectations, and traced the then known main seams for a considerable distance from the reserve area. The demand for coal for the use of the I.C.R. and the coal royalty that would ensue to the local government brought assistance and encouragement to the Company and a contract was at once entered into with the noted Railway Contractors Scriber and Burpee to construct a branch line from Mines to Springhill Junction five miles with all possible haste. It was completed in the course of a few months and the first car of coal delivered at Springhill Junction on Dec. 6 th, 1873 .

On account of his age and feeble health Mr. Anderson did not wish to take the operating Management of the Collieries and was afterward appointed Postmaster and is now succeeded by his son Captain David Anderson. A well known citizen of the Albion Mines, a native of Durham , England , at the time a foreman of the Ford Pit, was engaged to manage the Springhill Collieries, William Hall, and after a period of about fifteen years of successful service, he retired to private life. A first rate citizen, a genial companion, a member of the Methodist Church and was elected to the office of Mayor when the Town was incorporated. William Conway was engaged as assistant Manager and John Murray as foreman Blacksmith also old residents of Albion Mines, and about forty miners, a majority of them belonging to Westville, all came to Springhill in May 1873, their families following as soon as houses could be built, and nearly all became permanent residents.

The conclusion of The Short History of Springhill will appear in next week’s column.