October 10, 1786 – His Majesty’s 28-gun frigate HMS Pegasus commanded by His Royal Highness Prince William Henry (1765-1837) – the future King William IV – arrived in Halifax from St. John’s Newfoundland, en route to the West Indies, where he would serve on the North American Station under Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson. The Prince was the first member of the British Royal Family to visit Halifax and subsequently called at the port several times during his naval service.
Arriving in Halifax for the first time, the Prince, “…was received at the King’s Slip by Governor Parr and Major-General Campbell, then commandant of the garrison, and conducted to Government House, which stood in the square now occupied by the provincial building, where he was expected by the military and the main inhabitants.
The prince expressed a desire that all display be put aside, but people lit up their homes and by 8 a.m. the whole city was lit up and the streets packed with people.
The prince had also served in New York during the American Revolutionary War, the only member of the British royal family to visit America up to and through the American Revolution. Later, as King William IV, he would reign from 1830 to 1837 and be succeeded by his eighteen-year-old niece, HRH Queen Victoria.
(Reference: Thomas B. Akins. History of Halifax. The Nova Scotia Historical Society, 1847. Canadiana Reprint Series No. 52. Belleville, Ontario: Mika Publishing, 1973. p.89.)
October 11, 1784 – The Port Roseway Gazetteer and the Shelburne Advertiser began their first issue in October 1784. Published by James Robertson Jr., who came from a family of publishers, with his father, Alexander Robertson, and uncle James Robertson Sr., being the editors of The Royal American Gazette, based in New York.
After the end of the American Revolutionary War (1781-1782), Robertson loyalists brought The Royal American Gazette to Port Roseway (later renamed Shelburne). But shortly after Alexander Robertson’s death, it ceased publication.
Robertson Sr. helped his nephew use the printing press he had brought from New York to begin publishing the Port Roseway Gazetteer.
However, it is believed that the Gazetteer later ceased publication shortly before the Robertsons left for Scotland in 1810. There they would continue to work as printers and booksellers in Edinburgh.
A second competing newspaper also started in Shelburne the following year (1785) with the first issue of the Nova Scotia Packet and General Advertiser in April. Published by James Humphreys, who had been the former publisher of The Pennsylvania Ledger (Philadelphia, PA.).
When Humphreys’ Philadelphia office was sacked due to his loyalist sympathies, he left the state for New York and, like the Robertsons, sailed to Shelburne. The Nova Scotia Packet…continued to appear until about 1796, after which Humphreys decided to return to Philadelphia in 1797, where he died later in 1810.
(Reference: For those wishing to undertake further research on Loyalist settlers in Nova Scotia (including Black Loyalist refugees), as well as Loyalists in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, in Quebec and Ontario, consult the various online links at Library and Archives Canada: https https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/decouvrir/patrimoine-militaire/loyalistes/Pages/introduction.aspx).
October 12, 1749 – On this date, the South-Carolina Gazette of Charleston reports a brief account of Halifax’s first murder committed aboard one of the ships which had brought settlers to the British colony of Nova Scotia while at anchor In the harbour.
In August, the first criminal trial took place in the new British colony of Halifax. Peter Cartcel, “a settler of Swiss origin, was tried and convicted for the murder of Abraham Goodsides, a companion of the Beaufort transport.”
Cartcel was hanged two days later. He “…was the first of at least 133 men and women, mostly men, who were brought to trial in mainland Nova Scotia between 1749 and 1815 for allegedly killing or aiding in the killing another human being.
(Reference: May, Allyson N., Jim Philips. Homicide in Nova Scotia, 1749-1815. The Canadian Historical Review, vol.82, no.4, December 2001, pp.625-661).
October 13, 1809 – On this date, Edward Jordan, committed piracy and murder aboard the Three Sisters off Cape Canso. He had arrived from Ireland earlier in the fall in northern New Brunswick and had booked a passage with his wife and four children from Gaspé to Halifax on the schooner Three Sisters. But Jordan decided he’d rather be a captain than a passenger.
Aided by the ship’s first mate (a man named Kelly) and Jordan’s wife, Jordan killed two crew members and took control of the ship. The captain, John Stairs, claimed he was attacked by Jordan’s wife with “a goof”. He had escaped by grabbing a hatch cover and jumping overboard, surviving many hours in the freezing water until he was picked up by a passing ship, the Eliza Stoddard.
Jordan was then captured and brought to Halifax for a trial on November 15. He was found guilty of murder and piracy and was later hanged on November 23 near the beach “some distance below Freshwater Bridge, and the body was then gibbeted on the shore….” Jordan’s wife was acquitted and with funds raised through subscription she was returned to Ireland.
(Source: The English Regime in 18th Century Nova Scotia, http://www.acadiau.ca/~thomson/prison/2-18thcenturyns.pdf).
October 14, 1942 – Shortly after 3:14 a.m., Nursing Sister 2nd Lieutenant Margaret Brooke (25) and fellow nurse 2nd Lieutenant Agnes Wilkie found themselves on the dimly lit deck of the steamer SS Caribou from Newfoundland North of Sydney. witness to a “terrified crowd” – the ship had just been torpedoed in the Cabot Strait by a German submarine while carrying 237 passengers en route to Port aux Basques, Newfoundland.
As the SS Caribou began to sink, passengers sought safety either in the remaining lifeboats or by donning lifebelts and jumping into the freezing waters. Although the minesweeper HMCS Grandmère escorted the steamer, in accordance with naval orders, she immediately pursued the submarine.
Margaret and Agnes decided to jump off the ship, but not far enough and were sucked in when it fell. Brooke would later recall in a letter to her brother, “How we got away from her, I don’t know, but we hung on somehow the whole time we were under and when we finally reached the surface, we managed to grab a piece. of wreckage and cling to it.
Later they were able to cling to the ropes of an overturned lifeboat, but soon Agnes would develop hypothermia and die. She was the only Nursing Sister to die due to enemy action during the Second World War – a war in which 4,480 Nursing Sisters enlisted in the three services of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Margaret and her surviving companions (101) were rescued two hours later by the returning HMCS Grandmère. One hundred and thirty-six people died in the sinking. Margaret was later awarded an MBE for showing “great courage while in the water trying to save the life of another nurse”.
In 2015, at the age of 100, Margaret received a call from the Minister of National Defense informing her that the second of six Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessels would be called HMCS Margaret Brooke, which was then launched on November 20, 2019.
(Reference: Boileau, John. Margaret Brooke, 20 May 2020, Canadian Encyclopedia online.)
October 15, 1932 – The new Cabot Trail opened on this date and the west side route from Pleasant Bay to Cape North is complete. Much of the trail had been built as part of an unemployment plan to employ the unemployed coal miners of industrial Cape Breton.
In addition to opening up new opportunities for residents who lived in the Cape Breton Highlands, the Cabot Trail would also usher in a new era for tourism in the province.
(Leo J. Deveau is an independent researcher, commentator and author of 400 Years in 365 Days – A Day by Day Calendar of Nova Scotia History. His most recent book is Fideliter The Regimental History of The Princess Louise Fusiliers. He can be reached at [email protected]).