The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

May 7th, 2014

April 27, 1939Springhill Record
Springhill Celebrates Its Incorporation and Many Anniversaries This Year – Part 1 - By Bertha I. Scott

     In this year of 1939, Springhill celebrates a number of anniversaries of important milestones in our history:

     70th Anniversary of the first mining operation in the new Springhill

     60th Anniversary of the first Miner’s Union

      60th Anniversary of Springhill’s first newspaper

     50th Anniversary of Incorporation of the Town and Court of Springhill

     50th Anniversary of Junction Road School

Our town has the most interesting history dating back to the post-American Revolution period; although the present industrial centre dates only from 1873.  We might touch in the briefest way upon outstanding features.  In 1790 three soldiers, United Empire Loyalists, late of Virginia, crossed over from the Loyalist settlement of Sackville and followed it along the Maccan River and broke the trail over the Athol Plain, settling in what was later called Old Springhill.  These were John and Charles Boss (brothers) and David Herrett, progenitors of the Boss and Herrett families.  Their homesteads “The Cradle of Springhill” lay about two and a half miles from the western line of the present town.  Other settlers came in, moving toward the east, some, the Hunters and Gilroys settling at the “Syndicate”.

     The history of Springhill, it must be remembered, is really two-fold – the history of the township and the history of the industry.  We shall follow the former more closely today.

     Around 1825 the hilltop now covered by the Town of Springhill and the surrounding districts was laid off in grants.  One of the grants, that of Lodewick “Lod” Hunter, bears the date of March 23, 1827.  In 1834 we hear the Hunters offering coal extracted from the side of the book seam for sale to the blacksmiths.  The “Syndicate” people knew of the existence of coal and used a small amount for barter.  There is no authentic date of the discovery of coal here.  For many years surveys were carried on by the old G.M.A. Company which held large holdings in the Springhill district and by numerous private companies, confirming their belief in the rich and extensive deposits in the locality.  Identified with the early prospecting operations were Richard and Thomas Colburn of River Philip; While Thomas and Robert Dickson of Clairmont tapped a seam on the present plant.  Through an error of a G.M.A. representative about 1895 the nucleus of the Springhill coal basin was located at Miller Corner at a point bearing too far to the north-west.  In the belief that the town would be at Miller Corner, a settlement sprang up during the ‘sixties.

First Operation 1869Mr. John Anderson came to Springhill in 1869 from River Hebert where he had been operation a small mine.  Coming originally from the Clyde coalfields of Scotland his experience was of great value at this time in the opening and prospecting of coal seams.  With Mr. James Hickman he opened the “Anderson Shaft” into the main seam of the west slope in the vicinity of the Draeger House.  Coal was raised by means of a gin operated by a horse.  The shaft was of inconsiderable depth as moving lights at the bottom could be seen from the surface. Mr. Anderson’s work in this locality was preliminary to the opening of the Springhill mines at this point.  How astonished he and early prospectors would be at the marvels of the present day industry after seventy years!

     In June 1873 the Springhill Mining Industry, around which was to be built up a new Nova Scotia town was formally instituted with the opening of No. 2 mine under the old Springhill Mining Company with proposed railways with shipping to Parrsboro (built by the Springhill and Parrsboro Coal and Railway Company and the short length to connect with the I.C.R. at Springhill Junction’s Springhill Mining Company.  The first car of coal was taken to the Junction Dec. 6, 1873 in the year following the completion of the main line from St. John to Halifax.

     The Springhill and Parrsboro line was completed in 1877, the first coal being shipped over it in March of that year; the Springhill Mining Company granting a right of way over their short line to the Junction.  There were, thus launched, simultaneously, the opening of the mines, the building of the railways and the settlement of the town.

     In the year of the opening of the mines the Company’s Rows were built to accommodate the incoming settlers, about forty families at first of Old Country people, mostly from Pictou County, and others from other parts of the surrounding country.  Up to this time the district had remained agricultural, there being, up to 1871, there being only five farm houses in what is now called Springhill.  Churches, Schools, Lodges and Stores of various kinds followed and many more settlers came in.  There was plenty of work in clearing away the forest and laying out streets.  The country road which forms our precipitous Main Street divided the “Company” side on the north with the “Village” side on the south.

P.W.A. and Trades Journal 1879 – The present year marks an important anniversary in the history of Provincial Labor – the founding of the Provincial Workingmen’s Association in Springhill, sixty years ago in September 1879.  Robert Drummond, an official of the Springhill Mining Company and Wm. Madden, later Inspector of Mines for Nova Scotia were instrumental in organizing the Association – the first Miners’ Union in Nova Scotia.  Some eighteen months after its organization the Society had a Bill entitled “An act to amend Chapter 10 Revised Statutes of the Regulations of Mines”.  The Bill was heard before an Assembly Committee of Mines and Minerals, reported favorably and passed the Assembly and the Legislative Council.  The Chairman of the Committee was Sir John Thompson – Mr. Drummond and Mr. James B. Wilson of Springhill sponsored the Bill.  The owners were represented by Messrs. Simpson, Henderson and Pool.  The Act of Incorporation gave the Society legal standing and also committed the P.W.A. to responsibility for the acts of its members.  Later amendments were prepared and passed, the most important of which were measures for the Mining School and the Benefit Fund; all of which resulted in better and safer conditions of work and better living conditions.