The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

February 8, 2006

Feb. 8, 2006 - Early Settlers

The first settlers in Springhill were David Herrett, a Loyalist and brothers John and Charles Boss, who were a Yorkshire family, who were given grants in other parts of Cumberland County . They settled about two and one half miles from the western boundary of the present town of Springhill .

Shortly after these settlers had built their homes and settled in they were joined by John and William Hunter. They established their homes on Syndicate Road .

Some of the other early settlers, who were of Loyalists descent were The Herretts, Hunters, Gilroys, Browns, Greens, Mills, Smiths, McNutts and Dodsworths. Many of their descendants are still found here today.

These settlers, after building their homesteads, went on to plant grain and roots and some had handmills for grinding their grain while others took their grain to the grist mills in Maccan, River Philip and River Hebert. Their furniture was usually homemade and their mattresses were straw or feathers. Their food for the winter consisted of potatoes, salt pork, beef and herring. They got their sugar by boiling the syrup from the maple trees and if they wanted vinegar they had the sap from the birch tree set all summer until it soured. The salt they got from the Saltspring Brook.

The first child born inside the new town limits was, the son of Nathan Gilroy, Thomas Gilroy, born in 1825.

The centre of the early town of Spring Hill (as it was first called) was Miller Corner. This is where the first schoolhouse, first hotel and first church were erected.

With the opening of the coal mines many new settlers arrived, new buildings erected, new businesses were opening and the center of the town was moved closer to the mines. Things were looking up for Spring Hill or Springhill Mines as it was later called. It went from a rural district, to a village and then to a town.

Finally it was decided that the town should be incorporated and in May 1899, the council met to discuss this. A majority of 15 votes was recorded in favor of the move. The first council meeting was held on May 3, 1889 with James E. Fraser as Mayor and the councilors were Ross H. Cooper, Alex D. McPherson, Fred Noiles, Soloman Keiver, Charles Simpson and E.B. Paul. Daniel McLeod was the Town Clerk and Treasurer, a post he held until 1923.

Ross H. Cooper was the first Chairman of the School board. R.B. Murray and A.S. McKinnon were auditors and Richard Bennett as the first Magistrate. Also that year there was a Cemetery Committee incorporated. The trustees were John Murray, Samuel Russell, Alex J. Munro, Rod McKenzie and Simon Fraser.

There were about 1400 miners employed in the mines and Mr. Cowans was the Manager.

The financial position of the town in 1889 was as follows: Schools $3500; Streets $1200; Poor $800; Police $630; Joint Expenditures $1000; Salaries and Printing $800; the tax rate being set at $1.33. 1000 poll tax payers were recorded and a total of $255.00 being outstanding at the end of 1889.

At the time of incorporation according to the McAlpine Gazette, Springhill had the following: there were 30 stores, 5 churches, 1 hotel, 3 newspaper offices, Canadian Express Office, N.S. Telephone, Western Union Telegraph, P.O. Savings Bank and a Branch of the Halifax Banking Company. Also the following firms: J.W. Cove, M.D. and Druggist; W.I. Goodwin, Dentist; Glendenning and Co. livery stable; Insurance Agent R.B. Murray; Cumberland Rail and Coal Company; A.W. Foster, barrister - at- law

George Ross, Justice of the Peace and Insurance Agent, and Rogers and Soley general merchants.

In 1891 William Hall was elected Mayor and the Town Council wanted to supply the town with water and made preparations which lead to the realization of the water system. With a committee of F.L. Peers, Martin Black, Mr. Burnett, Joseph Hayes, A.E. Fraser, A.G. Purdy and Malcolm McPherson and engineers Mr. Picketts and Mr. Yorston, prepared specifications suitable to the town, the system was completed. The cost of the system was $$149,000. Debentures were sold and there was faulty financing in the early stages and it ended costing the citizens $325,000.

1891 proved to be a memorial year as 125 men lost their lives in a mine explosion which occurred in February of that year.