Halifax History - Railway and Mining Boom



Warehouses in the Historica Properties Nova Scotians considered the question of a union of the North American Provinces as early as 1857 and approved it in their legislature in 1861. In 1864, the Fathers of Confederation met in Charlottetown, PEI to discuss the union of the colonies at the Charlottetown Conference and included the colonies of Upper and Lower Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island under one government. This led to the formation of Canada on July 1st, 1867 (under the British North America Act) to include New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Upper Canada, and Lower Canada. (PEI joined in 1873, and Newfoundland finally in 1949).

CN Railway cut through southern end of Halifax Peninsula In 1876, Nova Scotia built a railway connecting it to Central Canada, and added a provincial rail line in 1881 to connect major towns. Ocean-going trade led to a boom in shipbuilding and trade in Yarmouth and Halifax. Coal mining to support steam powered ships and railways began near Springhill, near Amherst, in 1872 with a 1,220 metre deep shaft being Canada's deepest. At the end of the 19th century, Joshua Slocum of Westport became the first man to sail around the world solo.

In 1913, the great White Star Lines steamship Titanic, then the largest ship in the world, hit an iceberg on her maiden voyage. After the sinking, Halifax sent two cable ships out for the rescue and recovery efforts, and 150 of the 328 bodies recovered were buried in Halifax. You can see the small black headstones in the Fairview, Olivett, and Baron de Hirsch cemetaries.

Ship at Wharf During the First World War (then called the Great War), Halifax was the assembly point for shipping convoys, which enabled the navy to protect trans-Atlantic shipping form the fleets of German submarines (U-boats). The Halifax Explosion occurred December 6, 1917 when the French Steamship "Mont Blanc" and the Belgian Steamer "Imo", carrying 400,000 pounds of TNT, collided in the Halifax Harbour and caught fire causing an explosion where over 1900 people were killed instantly, and over 9000 injured, many permanently. It was the largest man-made explosion in history, prior to the atomic era. The explosion destroyed 1600 buildings, with the explosion felt and heard in Sydney, Cape Bretton, 420 km away. By 1920, the post-war Halifax economy collapsed.

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