New Waterford

 

New Waterford is a rarity in Atlantic Canada, a community of the 20th
century. 

The village of Lingan (its name is a corruption of the French word
"l'indienne") is one of the area's earliest settlements. In the early
1700's, French explorers from the Fortress of Louisbourg settled there and
extracted coal from cliff side seams at the ocean's edge. Large scale
mining operations at Lingan started in 1852, however, the first
tangible signs of community life did not appear until the period
1907-1911 with the opening of four collieries at New Waterford. Over
the years a total of 11 mines were in production. Today there is
only the Cape Breton Development Corporation's Phalen Colliery.

The coal mining centre on the Atlantic Ocean at the southern edge of
Sydney Harbor was incorporated in 1913, just six years after
largescale coal mining began in the area.

The settlement was orignally called Barrachois with but a handful of
homes there in 1874. The first coal mine in the area opened in 1867,
but closed seven years later.

It wasn't until Dominion Coal Company began mining operations in
1907 that the settlement blossomed. The company opened four pits:
Nos. 12, 14, 15 and 16 - in quick succession and a booming "workers
camp" soon developed.

The name "New Waterford" was chosen by some of the Irish-born
settlers in honor of the Irish seaport Waterford from where many of
the pioneers had come. And Sept. 8, 1913, New Waterford became the
40th incorporated town in North America and the sixth in Cape Breton
County. 

Schools and churches soon followed. St. Agnes in 1913 and Central in
1913, joined Mount Carmel School, built in 1912.
Mount Carmel and St. Agnes parishes served the mostly Roman Catholic
residents.
New Waterford's Calvin United Church was one of the first in all of
Canada having united the Methodist and Presbyterian congregations in
1918, seven years prior to national church union in 1925.

The town quickly settled into the routine of a busy coal-mining
community with the sharp whistle of the collieries announcing shift
changes at 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or sounding the alarm when an accident
occurred. 

The morning of July 25, 1917, the mine whistle at No. 12 blew at 7:30
a.m. An explosion had rocked the pit, 2,000 feet below the surface.
Twenty-five men were later rescued, but 65 had perished in the blast.

A miners' memorial on Baker Street lists the names of those who were
killed in the explosion. It also tells the story of the infamous
strike of 1925.

Three months into the strike, with emotions running high, a group of
miners marched on the Waterford Lake Power Plant which controlled the
supply of water to the town. In the ensuing melee with company
police, one miner - Wiliam Davis - was shot and killed. The day of his
death, June 11, is now honored as Miners' Memorial Day and the coal
mines of Cape Breton are idle in memory of all miners who have died. 

The advent of oil as heating feul in the 1950s and '60s spelled the
end of New Waterford coal mines reaching many miles under the sea.
No. 16, one of the biggest and best mines in Canada, shut down in
1963. No. 12 closed in 1973 after a fire claimed two lives. No. 14
had closed in 1932 and No. 5 shut down in 1925.

Today, there are no coal mines in town, although Phalen Colliery on
the outskirts, still mines the rich Phalen seam that has produced
millions of tons of coal over the century. The Nova Scotia Power
Corporation's coal-fired Lingan Generating Station is located near
the mine site. Phalen is highly mechanized and produces a daily 
average of 10,000-12,000 tonnes with a work force of about 900. 
Its working face is located out under the Atlantic Ocean, about 
5 1/2 km offshore.

The ready work in the coal mines attracted a number of European
immigrants to New Waterford including Italians, Hungarians and
Belgians. Jews from Russia came in large numbers large enough to
construct a synagogue used for around 60 years.

There was a group of black miners and steelworkers who came from
Barbados. Their descendants still alive in town and one - Ines
Francis - was the first black nurse to become a supervisor of a
hospital in Nova Scotia.

The immigrants brought their language, culture and sports to the new
town. Over the years, New Waterford became a hotbed of competition
with teams in rugby, soccer, baseball and hockey challenging for
regional and national titles.

But it was the sport of basketball where New Waterford athletes
excelled. 
Three New Waterford basketball teams won national titles - the
Canadian Juvenile Championships in 1932 by St. Agnes; the Canadian
Intermediate Championship in 1947 by New Waterford Strands and the
Canadian Juvenile Championship in 1961 by Central High.

Today the town maintains its basketball tradition by hosting the
"The Coal Bowl," a week-long, mid-winter tournment involving
high-school teams from across Canada.

New Waterford with a population of about 8000 offers a variety of
visitor services including stores, service stations, banks,
restaurants, hospital, town police, swimming pool and playing fields.

DAVIS SQUARE

Davis Square is located on Plummer Avenue in the town's business
sector. It is dedicated to the role which trade unionism played in
New Waterford's history and is named for Bill Davis, a miner killed
by coal company security forces on June 11, 1925. 

A monument in the square tells the story of the 1925 strike. Also
there is the town's War Memorial and a monument to the memory of the
65 miners who were killed in an underground explosion in No. 12
colliery on July 25, 1917.

COLLIERY LANDS PARK

Colliery Lands Park is located on the site of two abandoned coal
mines, Nos. 12 and 16.

A mine fatality monument serves as the focal point of the park and
remembers some 300 men who met their deaths in the New Waterford area
collieries. Their names are inscribed on eight granite tablets which
are centered by a large mural depicting scenes associated with a
fatal mine accident. To the rear are 15 national flags representing
Canada and the victim's countries of natural origin.

Also on the site is a memorial to coal miner Earl Leadbeater who is
entombed in No. 12 Colliery, trapped there by an underground fire in
1973. Another display features seven rail hopper cars which were used
to haul the coal to market. A representative mine slope, complete
with man rake cars and coal boxes, is located near the original mine
entrance.

The New Waterford and District Historical Society's offices are
located on the grounds. The society maintains an excellent collection
of photographs, documents and artifacts related to the area's
history. 

FORT PETRIE

Sydney Harbor played an important role during World War II as an
assembly point for supply ships prior to their crossing the Atlantic.
A coastal defense network was established to protect the port and its
fleet from enemy attack. One of these, Fort Petrie, was placed at
Victoria Mines.

SCENIC DRIVE

The Colliery Route continues on to Sydney's Whitney Pier where the
coal docks of the International Coal Shipping Piers are located.

The drive is a very scenic one which affords a beautiful panorama of
Sydney Harbor and the shores of North Sydney and Sydney Mines. It
offers an excellent vantage point to view the Newfoundland ferries as
they enter and leave port.

COAL DUST DAYS

The emphasis is on fun and participation during the annual Coal Dust
Days celebration in New Waterford.

The nine-day festival in mid-July involves a wide variety of events
and activities for all ages at locations around the town.

There are sports tournaments, dances, a bike rodeo, casino night and
musical entertainment.

New Waterford has long been known as a town with spirited involvement
in politics, sports and entertainment. The town's motto is "It is
Better to Try."

New Waterford was incorporated in 1923 and developed into a busy coal
mining centre with, at one time, four collieries operating.

A parade along historic Plummer Avenue to begin Coal Dust Days
features floats reflecting New Waterford's mining heritage.
Other activities during Coal Dust Days include a fish cake supper at
All Saint's Hall, Gibbon St. and a pancake breakfast the following
morning at the Lion's Den.
There's an ice cream eating contest, a sub-eating contest and a
strawberry festival for residents and guests of Maple Hill Manor.
Family Fun Day takes place in the middle of the week at Breton
Education Centre gym and the doll carriage parade is held on the
final Saturday. Coal Dust Days end with entertainment and fireworks
display, the final Sunday at Colliery Lands Park.