For a little town, Clark’s Harbour has, without a doubt, a colourful and storied past, with a history that spans more than a century before its incorporation on March 4, 1919.
Clark’s Harbour resident Donna Nickerson has been creating a trip down memory lane on social media commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1919 incorporation of Clark’s Harbour that paints the scene of a bustling island town, with shops, restaurants and hotels dotting the main thoroughfare, a thriving waterfront with numerous wharves, and place-nicknames like California Hill that inspire the imagination.
For Nickerson, a lifelong resident of Clark’s Harbour, the project is a labour of love.
Using resource materials, including a series of books written by the late Margaret Messenger for the Archelaus Smith Historical Society about Cape Sable Island and Clark’s Harbour, as well as other sources, “I find it so interesting,” she said in an interview.
Nickerson has a keen interest in history and genealogy and says she has always been interested in taking pictures and collecting pictures.
“My grandmother Olive Symonds gave me a Brownie camera when I was 10 years old and I went around taking pictures of everything.”
Her own collection of photos, along with photos from the Archelaus Smith Museum collection and from the personal collection of Rudy (Buster) Link, accompany the fact-based accounts about the town she has been posting since the first of the year.
“What amazed me most was if you look at the first facts to do with the name when it was incorporated in 1919, the town was already 150 years old or so,” she says.
Back then, every community on Cape Sable Island had their own stores and shops.
“There were two or three in South Side, even the Hawk Road had a couple,” says Nickerson.
In town, there were at least eight stores between Swims Point and West Head selling everything from groceries to caskets. In some cases, there were two stores beside each other carrying the same thing, says Nickerson, noting that unless someone had a horse and buggy, walking was the only mode of transportation for the early residents of Cape Sable Island, and if their goods were very heavy, they would be hard to carry very far.
“I find it all so fascinating,” she says.
Swims Point was the location of one of the first wharves in Clark’s Harbour, says Nickerson, but there were also wharves behind the Vimy Block building, which is still standing and now used as a lobster pound, the Kenny Wharf, still in use and expanded, and on the shore behind the F.A. Brannen Memorial Ball Park, which was nicknamed California Hill because of a ship of the same name that had sunk there. Freighters carrying cargo and passengers would berth there, said Nickerson.
“When you used to come to town, there was a couple of hotels, all the shops, restaurants, a lot of stuff,” says Nickerson.
“Cars and the causeway changed things. We’ve got one grocery store in town now. There used to be three garages in town, now there’s one. It’s not going to get any better that I can see,” she says. “People are buying houses and fixing them up, which is good for the town, but as far as businesses, I don’t think it will ever be like years ago.
“The years I grew were the best years,” Nickerson adds. “You didn’t have as much as today, but you still had more.”