Town History

The Town of Mulgrave was first settled in 1800 by European Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution. Mulgrave was at that time known as McNair's Cove and became a part of the lumber trade with the English government.

When the lumber trade ended in 1818, the fishing industry began to take hold, and by 1830 it was the major source of employment for the residents of Mulgrave. Ferry services were also established in Mulgrave in 1833, carrying passengers from Mulgrave to Port Hawkesbury. This service provided rail and road gateways for traffic from mainland Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada to Cape Breton and Newfoundland. Steam ferries were introduced to the area in 1863, boosting the amount of traffic ferried in a day. However, in 1870, all trade agreements in the fishing industry were cancelled to protect the American fish market, and the industry collapsed. Depression set in the area, and by 1880 over 1/3 of the population had migrated to the New England area in search of employment.

By the 1900's the economy was in a state of improvement as the government railway was hiring local people, a new lobster factory was built, and a new rail ferry had arrived in the area. The railroad industry was now the industry of the times, and Mulgrave was quickly becoming a bustling terminal, equipped with freight sheds, marshalling yards, and all the necessary auxiliary services of an efficient railway centre. By 1915, Mulgrave was considered a prosperous town and in 1923, the town became incorporated.

Mulgrave's prosperity grew from the late 1920's until the early 1950's. During this time, the town saw the formation of a branch of the Canadian Legion of British Empire Services (later known as Branch 37 of the Royal Canadian Legion) and the fire brigade (now the volunteer fire department), employment of over 400 people at the Acadia Fisheries plant and the opening of the Mulgrave Memorial school. However, with the opening of the Canso Causeway in 1955, the ferry services between Mulgrave and Port Hawkesbury were no longer needed. This loss in traffic through Mulgrave resulted in another economic depression for the town, but the residents remained optimistic about their future. This optimism continues to grow today.

History of Mulgrave's Incorporation

In 1907, the citizens of Mulgrave held a meeting to pass a motion in favour of incorporation. They felt that the economic times in Mulgrave demanded better and more adequate services than what the Guysborough Administration was providing.

After a few false starts and protests from a couple of citizens that felt who Mulgrave was too few in numbers to survive on its own, a vote was held on November 5, 1923. The results of the 148 voters found that 121 votes were in favour of incorporating the town & 26 were opposed, and 1 poor ballot was spoiled.

On December 1, 1923, Mulgrave was officially incorporated as an independent body, and the first town council took the helm on January 15, 1924.

Early Names of Mulgrave and Surrounding Areas

  • Early Native People referred to Mulgrave as Wolumkwakaguncek (The Lobster Ground)
  • 1677 Harve de Fronsac, found on a map of Nicholas Denys.
  • 1800 McNair's Cove
  • 1859 Mulgrave, named after Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, George Augustus Constantine Phipps, Earl of Mulgrave
Venus Cove
  • 1733 Whalemen's Cove
  • 1820 McNair's Cove
  • 1860 St. George's Cove
  • 1960 Venus Cove
Pirate Harbour
  • 1750 Pirate Cove
    1859 Pirate Harbour
McNair's Point

1860's was known as St. George's Point, but was changed back to avoid confusion with Cape George, Antigonish Co.

Time Line of Significant Events in Mulgrave's History

1800 First record of settlers in the area Given the name McNair's Cove
Lumber trade with England begins; ends 1818
1820 First record of employment fishing for US vessels
1833 Ferry system established between Mulgrave and Port Hawkesbury
1838 First church built
1847 School being taught in private buildings and churches
1856 First telegraph office established (Nova Scotia Electric Telegraph)
1859 Name changed from McNair's Cove to Mulgrave
1863 Steam ferries start being used
1880 Over 1/3 of population migrates to New England area to seek employment
Rail line reaches Mulgrave; first railway ferry arrives
1890 First trains ferried across the Strait
1914 Scotia II ferry added to service
1923 Town of Mulgrave is incorporated
Great fire of '23 destroys a few local establishments
1924 First town council elected
1926 HydroElectric Plant built Government ferry service starts, ending privatized ferry services
1939 New paved road built to ferry wharf
1952 Acadia Fisheries purchased Old Loggie Fish Plant, employing 400
1955 Official opening of the Canso Causeway; causes economic turmoil for Mulgrave.

Disclaimer: all dates are approximate and accurate to the best of my knowledge. Further information about Mulgrave's history can be found at the Mulgrave branch library & the Town's churches.