Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia

Tatamagouche (2001 pop.: 738) is a Canadian village in Colchester County, Nova Scotia.

Tatamagouche is situated on the Northumberland Strait 50 kilometers north of Truro and 50 kilometres west of Pictou. The village is located along the south side of Tatamagouche Bay at the mouths of the French and Waugh Rivers. Tatamagouche derives its name from the native Mi'kmaq term Takumegooch, roughly translated as 'meeting of the waters.'

Early history

The first European settlers in the Tatamagouche area were the French Acadians, who settled the area in the early-1700s, and Tatamagouche became a transshipment point for goods bound for Fortress Louisbourg. In 1755 the British expelled the Acadians from Nova Scotia and the village was destroyed. All that remains from that period are Acadian dykes and some French place names.

Ten years later, on August 25, 1765, the land that became Tatamagouche was given to British military mapmaker Colonel Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres by the British Crown. DesBarres was awarded 20,000 acres (81 km²) of land in and around Tatamagouche on the condition that he settle it with 100 Protestants within 10 years. Low land prices in other colonies made attracting tenants difficult, but an offer of six years free rent to dissatisfied residents of Lunenburg was a success. Protestant repopulation also grew considerably before the end of the century with a flood of Scottish immigrants following the Highland Clearances.

Ship Building and Lumbering

In the nineteenth century, like many other villages in the area, Tatamagouche had a sizable shipbuilding industry. Trees were plentiful and sawmills started appearing on area rivers, producing lumber for settlers. Builders needed the lumber to produce the ships and it was common to send a completed vessel overseas loaded with lumber.

The first known lumber mill in Tatamagouche, a small water-powered mill on Mill Brook, was built by William Waugh. As the ship building industry grew, other settlers followed his example and erected their own mills. Eventually, more than 17 mills dotted the local river banks.

The age of ship building in Tatamagouche was a prosperous time. Although the first ship was built in 1790 the shipbuilding industry was not really significant until the 1830s when Tatamagouche Bay would see four or more ships leave for the Northumberland Strait each year. Some of the families associated with ship building were Purvis, Chambers, Logan, Kent, and Langille, with the Campbell family perhaps the most prominent.

Generally, there were five types of vessels being built at Tatamagouche: the schooner, brig, brigantine, barque, and clipper ship. Of these, schooners were by far the most popular. There is also one barquentine on record as being built at Tatamagouche, the Yolande in 1883.

Many of the larger vessels, such as the brigs, barques and brigantines, were loaded with lumber from the area and sailed to Britain, where first the cargo, and then the ship itself, were sold. Some of the ships sold immediately, while others could take years to find a buyer. Often, the owner would sail the ship over to arrange for its sale personally, other times they would be sold through a firm such as Cannon, Miller, & Co., who sold most of the Campbell brothers' ships.

The age of steam ended ship building in Tatamagouche.

The Campbell Brothers

On May 17, 1824, Alexander Campbell and partners William Mortimer and G. Smith launched their first ship on the French river, a schooner named Elizabeth. They launched several more ships together, until Alexander went into partnership with his brothers, William and James, in 1830. Their partnership ended in 1833 following a disagreement between Alexander and James. The brothers went their separate ways, each building ships for some time afterwards, but the list of ships built in Tatamagouche shows Alexander Campbell to be the most active of the three, with over 70 ships to his name.

Following the break up, James built a few more ships. One of these was the Colchester, a 418 tonne barque, launched in October 1833 and carrying a load of lumber bound for sale in England. The Colchester was the first barque and largest ship of any type built in Tatamagouche up to that time, but fate conspired against James Campbell and she was wrecked shortly after leaving England.

William built about a dozen ships after the break up that varied in quality, size and type. Several of them were loaded with timber bound for the British Isles. His last ship was the Trident and in 1842 she ran aground off Newfoundland on her maiden voyage, leaving him near bankruptcy. He died a poor man in 1878, despite having held several other jobs.

When William stopped building, Alexander took over his yard and attacked the market in full force. At the height of the ship building days he employed about 200 men. In 1850 he turned out eight ships.


The Intercolonial Railway constructed its "Short Line" from Oxford Junction to Stellarton through Tatamagouche in 1887. The ICR commissioned the Rhodes Curry Company of Amherst to build a passenger station in the village immediately east of the creamery. The ICR was merged into the Canadian National Railways in 1918 and CN operated this line as its "Oxford Subdivision", servicing mainly agricultural communities, as well as the salt mines at Malagash and Pugwash as well as a quarry in Wallace. Passenger service through Tatamagouche was discontinued in the 1960s and the station was used as an office for railway employees handling freight until 1972 when it was closed and sold in 1976. CN discontinued freight service on the line in 1986 when the Oxford Sub was abandoned; the rails were removed in 1989.

Today the passenger station is a bed and breakfast with restored historic rail cars located on the property. The rail line through the village is a recreational trail, designated as part of the Trans Canada Trail and the point where the Nova Scotia portion of the trail branches south to Truro, Halifax and southwestern Nova Scotia, making Tatamagouche a good starting point for a short waterfront walk or a major biking expedition.

Landmarks and Attractions

  • One of the most famous landmarks in the village is the Tatamagouche Creamery, begun by Alexander Ross in 1925. Over 1000 local farms supplied milk to the Creamery in order to produce its famous Tatamagouche Butter, which it did daily, making almost . In 1930, J. J. Creighton purchased the Creamery. After his death in 1967, Scotsburn Dairy Cooperative acquired it. Scotsburn kept the Creamery operational from 1968 until they closed its doors in 1992. The one-acre lot and two buildings were donated to the village with the stipulation that no structural changes were to be made to the building’s exterior, including the name and colour. However, a community cannot hold a deed, so the Creamery Society, a community-based organization, was formed to take over the building. The Creamery Square Association was formed to develop the Creamery Square project. A new Farmers' Market building opened in May 2006, and the Creamery building is now home to The North Shore Archives and the Giantess Anna Swan Museum. The Sunrise Trail Museum and Brule Fossil Centre will be components of this new heritage development.
  • The principal historical museum in the area is the Sunrise Trail Museum.
  • The Fraser Cultural Centre acts as a visitor information centre, art gallery, and has an exhibition about the "Nova Scotia Giantess" Anna Swan.
  • In late September, Tatamagouche hosts the second largest Oktoberfest in Canada.
  • The Sutherland Steam Mill Museum is in nearby Denmark.
  • The Dorje Denma Ling, a retreat centre in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition in The Falls (10 km south of the village) attracts visitors from around the world.
  • The Barrachois Harbour Yacht Club <"http://www.angelfire.com/ns/BarrachoisYachtClub"> just east of Tatamagouche offers an excellent cruising and racing program as well as online resources for powerboats and sailing vessels.
  • Drysdale Falls, a picturesque 10 meter waterfall, is located 10 km south of the village in the community of The Falls. The waterfall is located on private land and access by the general public is prohibited following several fatalities and repeated high-angle rescues. The current owners of the land as well as local police have advised the public through the media that trespassers will be charged.


In September of 2008, Paperny Films of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada selected Tatamagouche as the venue for the second season of "The Week The Women Went" to be aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, (CBC) beginning January 22, 2009.

External links


  • Frank Harris Patterson. History of Tatamagouche. Halifax: Royal Print & Litho., 1917 (also Mika, Belleville: 1973).

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