Our Town’s History

The Town of Mahone Bay partnered with the Mahone Bay Museum to create and display the following signs regarding our local history in various locations around Mahone Bay with the following text.

German translations are available to download here. Deutsche Übersetzungen finden Sie hier.

CLICK HERE to download the Town of Mahone Bay’s General History Panel including the history of the 1754 settlement and the 3 churches – this sign is located at the Visitor Information Centre or read the text from the sign below.

French translations of our Town’s history: Cliquez ici pour voir une traduction française de l'histoire de Mahone Bay

The Town of Mahone Bay is part of the Mi’kma’ki territory of the Mi’kmaw who have inhabited their traditional lands for over 13,500 years.

For more information on the history of the Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia, please download our 5 page “Introduction to the History of Mi’kmaq” here: Mi'kmaw Exhibit 2022 Mahone Bay Museum

Prior to arrival of the Europeans, Mi’kmaw lived in and around what
is now Mahone Bay. Indian Point, just outside the town, was an
important summertime settlement where the Mi’kmaq could enjoy
the sheltered waters and plentiful food sources. In the winter, they
would move inland from the coast using the rivers that flow into
Mahone Bay harbour. There are many Mi’kmaq who live in the area

Msit no’kmaq is a Mi’kmaw construct which roughly translates
into “All My Relations.” Msit no’kmaq speaks to the relational
interconnectedness between every human being and all forms of life
and is one of the reasons that early settlers were welcomed when they
arrived in Mi’kma’ki.

During their early encounters with the French, the Mi’kmaq traded
animal furs and pelts for manufactured goods. This, as well as the
Mi’kmaw belief that no one, not even them, owned the land, led to an
alliance between the Mi’kmaq and the French, which resulted in the
French Acadians settling the area (which they called Acadie) in 1605.
Acadie incorporated many parts of Mi’kma’ki which today are known
as Nova Scotia, PEI, as well as most of New Brunswick. However, this
all changed with the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, wherein the French
granted possession of most of Acadie, land that was not theirs to grant,
to the British.

To attempt to keep control of the land, the British government decided
to develop a new naval centre for the colony in Halifax. In these
discussions, little or no thought was given to the concerns of the
Indigenous Peoples living in this region and it wasn’t long before the
Mi’kmaq regarded the founding of Halifax, without their consent, as a
breach of the terms of the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship” they had
signed with the British Crown in 1725. However, the British continued
to expand in order to support their new naval establishment at Halifax.
They recruited protestant farming settlers from Europe, starting in
1750, to counter the existing Mi’kmaw and French Acadian Catholic
population. For more information about the Mi’kmaw history of the
area, visit the Mahone Bay Museum at 578 Main Street.

British officials placed public notices in Germany, southern France,
Switzerland, and the Netherlands stating that those willing to move to
their planned settlement in Nova Scotia would receive grants of land,
food for a year, and a few farm animals. Between 1750 and 1752 more
than 2,200 such “Foreign Protestants” made the long journey from
Europe to Halifax. To view the list of these settler families, visit https://mahonebaymuseum.com/research/settler-families-of-mahone-bay/

In 1753, most of the new immigrants were brought from Halifax to
Lunenburg, which was to be the centre of the planned settlement.
Mills were established at the mouth of each of Mahone Bay’s two
rivers and over the decades a separate community evolved at Mahone
Bay with blacksmiths, merchants, a large school, churches, and
shipyards. For more information on shipbuilding in Mahone Bay, visit https://mahonebaymuseum.com/research/ship-database/

In the early days of the colonization of Mahone Bay, the Mi’kmaq and
the British Crown signed various Peace and Friendship Treaties. The
purpose of these treaties was to outline solemn agreements that set
out long-standing promises, mutual obligations and benefits between
the Mi’kmaq, the British crown and settlers, so that everyone living in
Mi’kma’ki could live peacefully together. Even today, the source of the
Town of Mahone Bay’s authority over land remains connected to the
Peace and Friendship treaties that were signed with the British over
250 years ago.

In 1833, the Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian
denominations joined to build a Union Meeting House in Mahone
Bay on Edgewater Street. When their congregations grew, separate
churches were built. The first church erected was St. James Anglican
Church, built in 1833 above Bayview Cemetery (then the burial ground
at Mush-a-Mush). The Presbyterians soon followed, building a church
in the same cemetery in 1861. St. John’s Lutheran Church was built in
1869 on Edgewater Street, making it the first of the “Three Churches”
in their present-day location. By 1885, St. James Anglican Church was
too small, and the Anglicans built a new church at Edgewater Street
next to St. John’s Lutheran Church. The Presbyterians also decided
in 1885 that they too wanted a location on Edgewater Street. They
had their building lifted and set on logs to be moved down the hill to
Edgewater Street. In 1925 the Mahone Bay Presbyterian and Methodist
congregations combined, and the Presbyterian Church became
Trinity United.

Scenic views focusing on the three side-by-side churches began
appearing on postcards as early as 1900. By 1934, people referred
to Mahone Bay as a tourist attraction and the town already had a
Mahone Bay Tourism Association in place. In an essay contest that
year about Mahone Bay’s tourism potential, one grade 9 student,
named Vera Mae West, stated that “Those who spend their vacation
here will return to their work, invigorated, refreshed, and rested”. We
hope you agree!

CLICK HERE to download the Town of Mahone Bay’s Incorporation History Panel with Information about the Town Hall or read the text from the sign below.

French translations of our Town’s history: cliquez ici pour voir une traduction en français sur l'incorporation de la ville de Mahone Bay

The Town of Mahone Bay was Incorporated
in 1919 under Chapter 4 of the Acts of 1918.

Prior to Incorporation, the community of Mahone Bay was a part
of the Municipality of Lunenburg. The townspeople had come
together to organize the building of a new, modern school in 1914.
This work brought them to the realization that they could
also organize to form their own government, complete with local
services such as electricity and water. On the 20th of February
1919, a poll was taken. The number of votes cast was 210; 165 were
in favour of Incorporation and 45 were not. Mahone Bay would
form their first municipal government.

The first election was held on April 30th, 1919 with nine
candidates in total. Of these nine, six were elected as Councillors:
Wilfred N. Cochrane, Harry H. Smith, Fred A. Penny, Charles B.
Begin, William D. MacLean and David A. Fancy. Arthur L. Ernst
was elected Mayor by acclamation. The first Council meeting
was held on May 9, 1919. The first order of business was the
appointment of a Town Clerk. Orren Snyder Joudrey was the
successful applicant and would go on to serve as Town Clerk and
Treasurer until 1949.

Town Council business was conducted in this building (then
Aberdeen Hotel) until a building could be purchased; the
Aberdeen Hotel was owned by Councillor Fred A. Penney. The
Council purchased a property behind the current 534 Main
Street (Canada Post) in 1920, which was used as Town Hall until
it was deconstructed in the 1930’s. Two sections of this original
Town Hall building still exist as residential homes in Mahone Bay
today. The Council then returned to this building, purchasing it
for $3,400 in 1934. Built in 1848, 493 Main Street served as a Hotel,
under many different names, for over 50 years before being
purchased by the Town.

The last 100 years have been very successful ones for the
Town of Mahone Bay. Though the population has not grown
much over the century, the Town now provides residents with
a significant range of services, such as an independent electric
utility, municipal water and wastewater services. Traditionally,
shipbuilding was the claim to fame for Mahone Bay but over
recent decades Tourism has become the key industry as visitors
spread the word of the beauty of our little seaside town. 2019
marks the Town of Mahone Bay’s Centennial year. This sign was
designed and erected as part of centennial celebrations.