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Report 1902: A Quick Scamper Round Nova Scotia

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2010

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Page 15 of 16: Sherbrooke Village

photo by Michael

Greenwood Cottage, the family owned the General Store and part of a gold mine

We had decided to break journey along the Eastern Shore at Sherbrooke so we could visit Sherbrooke Village the following day. We were booked into Days Ago B&B, which was built on a large plot of land off the main road. It was a 1920s wooden building which had originally been a farmhouse and was surrounded by lawns and gardens with a vegetable patch and chickens. These provided eggs for breakfast and ate any leftovers. The large barn had been converted into a self contained unit.

The house had three bedrooms with two shared bathrooms. We were the only people booked in and had the house to ourselves, as the owner lives elsewhere. We had a large bedroom but it was cluttered with a lot of furniture so there was little room. There was a lounge downstairs with comfy chairs for guest use. We bought food from the well provisioned Clover Farm Supermarket and it was agreed we could eat in the kitchen as long as we didnít cook anything.

The French were the first settlers in the area in the 1655, followed by the British a few years later. A settlement grew at the head of navigation on the river and it became a major shipping route to the West Indies and USA.

The community prospered, supported by farming, fishing, ship building and the timber trade. Timber was cut and stored until winter (to protect the soil) when it was pulled by horse and sleigh to the river banks. It was floated down to sawmills in Sherbrooke once the ice melted. The mills produced deal, planks, laths, spars, and shingles for the British and West Indian markets. Return cargoes were coal, salt, molasses and rum.

Gold was discovered in 1861 and 19 mining companies arrived to make their fortunes. Boom times lasted for 20 years and the town declined. Lumbering continued as a major industry although is less important now. Tourism and salmon fishing are the mainstays of the economy.

In 1969 the old centre of the village was restored as a living museum and developed as a tourist attraction. It is closed off from the rest of the village by white gates across the road.

Sherbrooke Village Museum is made up of over 80 buildings of which 25 are open. Others are are still privately owned and lived in. It reflects Sherbrooke as it was during its industrial boom in the late 1800s and early 1900s when shipbuilding, lumbering and gold mining dominated the economy.

It was very quiet the day we visited with few visitors, although there was a group of school children going round in costume experiencing 1920s life. There was a high staff presence but apart from the postmistress who knew her stuff, staff tended to give the prepared spiel and werenít very good if you asked questions. Houses and shops were open but there was an 'end of season' feel to the village and a general lack of enthusiasm.

The self guided tour begins with a 15 minute video in the Visitor Centre and explains the development of Sherbrooke from a ship building centre to a logging centre to gold mining. We were given a leaflet with a plan of the site and brief notes about the different buildings.

The Blacksmith was busy making door hooks to fulfill an order. Although these are a popular seller, there were none for sale in the shop.

It is a short drive to the sawmill, gold stamp mill and short nature trail through the trees to the lumber camp. There was an information board in the Royal Oak Stamp Mill but no staff around to answer questions.

The McDonald Brothers saw mill was working and logs had been floated down the river and waiting in a pond above the mill to be sawed. Power was provided by a large waterwheel. This was only run for short periods as there wasnít enough water available to run the wheel for long. Staff were on hand to work the saw and answer questions.

Overall, we found it an unsatisfying visit and were disappointed by it.

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