Local History of Ship Building
The Sherbrooke area was a natural place for the building of vessels, with its huge stands of timber and access to the ocean and foreign markets through the St. Mary's River. When or where the first ships were built on the St. Mary's River is not known but by 1813 it was reported that a schooner had been built. Ship building records were very poorly kept in Nova Scotia. John Cumminger was apparently in business by 1854. In that year the Court of General Sessions deliberated and wrote in their minutes:
The obstruction of the street at Sherbrooke by Ship Building was under the consideration of a Court of Special Sessions, and we therefore give it on our opinion that the vessel on the stock to be built and launched as soon as may be possible and thus for the future no encroachments of any description shall be tolerated on the said Street.
The building of a vessxel was a major undertaking that provided a great boost for the local economy. Lumbermen felled the trees and sawmills cut the logs into timber. Blacksmiths provided the iron goods, sailmakers sewed the sails and shipwrights and builders constructed the vessels. Local merchants also prosperd because supplies were needed for the crews.
The day the vessel was launched was a cause for celebration. People from near and far would come to watch the great event as the vessel slipped down the ways and splashed into the water.
There were no extensive systems of communication and transportation so the Village of Sherbrooke was dependent on ships in the late 1800's. The ships transported various goods such as food, mail, equipment, even people between Sherbrooke, Halifax and the world beyond. Merchants were dependent on these boats and their deliveries. At one time a vessel up to 700 tons could sail up the St. Mary's River to the back of the Cumminger Brothers General Store. The arrival of a vessel promised needed supplies, news from the outside world and the return of loved ones.
With time, the wooden sailing vessels were replaced with the faster and more powerful steel vessels that operated with steam. This ended the shipbuilding era in Sherbrooke and with it, the boom that shipbuilding had created.
[Vessels Built in Cumminger Shipyard][Go Back to Map]