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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada


Extracted from © The Seagull

Louisbourg Heritage Notes

January 2001

Town of Louisbourg

If the municipality of the Town of Louisbourg had survived it would be 100 years old this month. So Happy Birthday to us.

The Town of Louisbourg ( spelled Louisburg then ) came into being in 1901. On January 8 the ratepayers of Louisbourg voted 111 to 57 in favour of incorporation. The first council included Mayor William W. Lewis and Councillors Neil Townsend, Joseph O’Toole, John E. Tutty, Fletcher Towndsend, Dan J. McInnis and W. P. Cann. Joseph O’Toole resigned in the summer and was replaced by James MacPhee. According to the newspaper, the Louisbourg council had a Liberal mayor, three Conservative councillors and three Liberal councillors.

The first council meeting was held in the Lewis home on Lower Warren Street. The first official town hall, between 1901 and 1916, was the old County Building. The County Building stood on Main Street between Alex Storm’s house and the Fire Hall. When Aberdeen Street was opened in 1902 the town hall/lockup was moved the vicinity of Rovie’s Pizzeria. The location for the Town Hall, from 1916 to 1968, was in what is now the Mighty Fortress Church of God. Before 1916 the building was Louisbourg’s elementary school. From 1968 until 1982, the Town Hall was located in the old school on Main Street between Minto and Mitchell Streets. This building, which was constructed in 1916, burned in a fire on July 21, 1982. While a new building was under construction the town offices went to St. Bartholomew’s Rectory. A Town Hall was opened in February 1984 by Prince Michael of Kent and served as the Louisbourg Town Hall until August 1995. It is presently a Citizens Service Centre and owned by the Regional Municipality of Cape Breton.

Mayors of Louisbourg included the following people: W.W. Lewis, W. E. McAlpine, A.A. Martell, M.S. Huntington, Guy B. Hiltz, Dan Johnson, George D. Lewis, Guy M. Hiltz, Harvey Lewis, George Wheeliker and Victor Hanham.

The last Town Council for Louisbourg from 1991 to 1995 included Mayor Victor Hanham and Councillors Bill O’Shea, Charles Burke, Stewart Whynott, Gerry Gartland, Bill Bussey and Allister MacDonald.

St. Bartholomew’s Church

You may have noticed work being done at St. Bartholomew’s Church. The congregation is extending the vestry to create an office and committee meeting space. I was there on Saturday January 6 and spoke briefly with Donnie Eisan, Bill Barter and Ben Fudge. Others working on the building are Lester MacDonald, Harold Fudge, Mont LeMoine and Phil Power.

St. Bartholomew’s is one of Louisbourg’s treasures. It has been in continuous use since 1877. Its design seems to be based on architect Richard Upjohn’s plans for a small wooden rural church. Upjohn published books of plans for churches to permit small communities, with limited funds but skilled craftsmen, to construct attractive places of worship. Originally St. Bartholomew’s had vertical board and batten siding and a slender spire. The bulkier spire and the shingle siding were added a between 1901 and 1903.

The St. Bartholomew’s Rectory was constructed in 1887. It was originally a flat-roofed building and didn’t take on its present shape until 1903 when the gable roof and dormers were added. The Rectory was used as residence for the minister of St. Bartholomew’s until the early 1970s. The building was rented briefly and then it was restored by the Planning Commission and used as the Draper Art Gallery for several years. After the town hall fire in 1982 the Rectory became a temporary town office. By 1986 it was facing problems again and the Louisbourg Heritage Society undertook restoration and used the building for several exhibits dealing with church history and the first of the Heritage Christmas evenings. In the early 1990s the Planning Commission took over operation again and the Rectory became the headquarters of the Louisbourg 1995 Commemoration Society and a Tourism Cape Breton distribution center. Until the fall of 2000 it was a shop for antiques and art with offices for Louisbourg Association of Women. At present, the building is empty.

Until the 1980s St. Bartholomew’s Hall was a landmark on the north side of Main Street. The cornerstone for the building was laid by Archdeacon Smith in June 1909. There are many fond memories associated with the building. There is a story that Archdeacon Draper permitted dances in the hall in the early 1900’s and was criticized by the Bishop for doing so. In his defense he said that at least he knew where the young people were when they were in the building. I remember the early 1980s when, as a Cub leade,r I attended Thinking Day in the hall. The youngsters were making a great deal of noise when the Reverend Margaret Collins called them to attention and pointed out very gently that they were supposed to listen with their ears, not their mouths.

The cemetery at the back of the church dates from 1860 and probably earlier. Prior to 1845 Anglicans and Roman Catholics were interred in the burial ground at Rochefort Point. The Old St. Bartholomew’s Cemetery has 60 stones marking 65 burials. There are actually 158 burials if you add to the headstones, the unmarked burials noted in the church records and the newspaper obituaries. The earliest stone is to Joseph Slattery and is dated 1866. Slattery was a Roman Catholic who on his death bed expressed a desire to be buried here. The mystery stone is the large grey granite pillar next to Slattery’s grave with the single word Mother carved on its base.

Archdeacon Thomas Fraser Draper ministered to Louisbourg Anglicans for the half century between 1882 and 1932. It was under his direction that the rectory was enlarged and many changes made to the church. He also oversaw construction of churches in Big Lorraine and in Main-a-Dieu. He came to Louisbourg from Halifax where his father was the superintendent of the military prison on Melville Island in the North-West Arm.

There is a story about his coming to Louisbourg – probably untrue but a good story nonetheless. The Bishop sent Draper to Louisbourg even though the young cleric did not want to come here, preferring the more active life in the city. Sometime later as the Bishop was walking along Barrington Street in Halifax he spotted a young man walking towards him and recognized Draper. He called him over and said to him, "Mr. Draper, I thought that I sent you to Louisbourg?" "You did, Bishop," the young man replied and turning around came to Louisbourg and didn’t return for 50 years. Stories aside, there was obviously something about Louisbourg that held Draper. The 1914 newspaper article announcing his elevation to Archdeacon noted that, "In spite of several enticing inducements, Mr. Draper has never been willing to leave the parish of Louisbourg where he is highly esteemed and respected by men of all creeds."

Maybe the history of Louisbourg had something to do with Draper’s attachment to the place. He was a member of the Louisbourg committee that helped organize the Society of Colonial Wars celebration at the Fortress in 1895. That was a magnificent event that coincided with the opening of the S&L Railway and attracted several thousand people. It is said that he encouraged J. S. McLennan to become interested in the history of Louisbourg. McLennan went on to write the classic history Louisbourg, from its Foundation to its Fall. In the 1920s, Archdeacon Draper was the president of the Cape Breton Historical Society. He delivered the first paper to the Society in March 1929. It was entitled "History of the Church of England in the Island of Cape Breton." He was also involved, at least peripherally, in some controversy. In September 1913 the author Beckles Wilson was in Louisbourg to spend time with Reverend Draper and visit the ruins of the fortress. While here, Wilson was interviewed by the newspaper. In the interview he chastised the Town of Louisbourg and the residents of the Island for failing to have an appropriate celebration for the 200th anniversary of the taking of possession of Cape Breton by the French on September 2, 1713. Those comments caused quite a stir in official circles around the island.

Some of Draper’s other interests were noted in a newspaper article written in 1932.

" As a sport he played on the Sydney cricket team for years. He organized and played on the Louisbourg Rugby-Football team. In 1901, in a game at Slatteries Head, the play was held up for an hour to send for a new football because one of the Archdeacon’s long punts sent the pigskin over the cliff into the harbour and the tide took the ball to Ireland.

He loved fly fishing and was prominent in the Fish and Game Society. He knew every stream on the Island and was the first each season to troll for salmon in the arm at Lorraine. He can tell some grand fish stories and some of them are on himself. One that I can remember was of a disaster at the arm with one of the Wilcox boys. The Archdeacon had hooked a large salmon, probably, a 25 pounder ( and that’s not stretching it as the Lorraine salmon are of a large run). He had played it well and was about to gaff it for the landing when the salmon took a freak to have another battle and hit the Archdeacon amidships toppling him into the water. The salmon got away, hook, line and rod, and the Archdeacon had to go home for dry clothing. He is a lover of horses (never owned an auto), has a kitchen garden and a flower garden and lot of hens and his house if full of blooming plants."

After many years of dedicated work in Louisbourg, Big Lorraine, Main-a-Dieu and Scatarie, Archdeacon T. F Draper passed away on October 21, 1932. His body was taken to Halifax for a funeral service in All Saints Cathedral. He was buried in Halifax in the family lot in St. John’s cemetery.

Bill O’Shea

Louisbourg Post Office

The following article on the Louisbourg Post Office by Allison Rogers, appeared in the Fall/Winter 2000 ( Vol 12, No. 2 ) edition of Heritage, a newsletter produced by Canada Post.

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