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The building of Yarmouth Bar: history uncovered for forgotten community

Doris Watkins and Mike Cunningham with a photo of the Yarmouth Bar in 1885.
Doris Watkins and Mike Cunningham with a photo of the Yarmouth Bar in 1885. - Carla Allen

Open house at Fish Point memorial on June 22

YARMOUTH BAR, N.S. —

A research project on the history of the Yarmouth Bar/Stanwood’s Beach area is uncovering fascinating details.
Mike Cunningham, chairman of the Yarmouth County Historical Society’s Historic Sites committee, was recently notified of an historically significant photo that shows how the Yarmouth Bar was built.
Cunningham says prior to 1873 the Yarmouth Bar, which connects the mainland to Cape Forchu, did not exist. 
“If not for the current project and the contacts we have made looking for pictures and info, this picture may not have ever been uncovered,” he said.
Early maps depict the Yarmouth Bar as a stony beach and an 1871 map indicates boats could pass through the area at high water.
Cunningham says newspapers from 1873 reported work completing the breakwater at the Bar was progressing. 
Doris Watkins, who grew up in nearby Lower Overton, showed an 1885 photo from her collection to Cunningham. The picture shows the wharfs and structures built at the Bar by the Parker-Eakins company, (known locally as The Firm) in 1880. 
It also shows a series of cribwork retaining walls along the eastern side of the bar. The western side had a wall built of vertical timbers and between the two sides hundreds of loads of beach rocks taken from the area to the north of the bar were hauled in to the site to fill it in. This work was done by hand, employing many residents of Stanwood’s beach, located between Fish Point and Yarmouth Bar. Oxen hauling carts were used to transport the beach stone fill to the site.
Cunningham says local fishermen who have done construction and excavation in different areas of the Bar have confirmed that despite how deep you dig all you find are beach rocks.  
Watkins is pleased to see efforts are underway to bring the history of Fish Point, Stanwood’s Beach and Yarmouth Bar to light.
“I think it’s fabulous that they’re bringing to life a place that was a whole community full of people – children and older people, all ages, living their life. Now it’s just a strip of land and the younger generation drive by and say, ‘look at all the boats.’” 

CONTRIBUTED This 1885 photo shows wharfs and structures built at the Yarmouth Bar by the Parker-Eakins company in 1880.
CONTRIBUTED This 1885 photo shows wharfs and structures built at the Yarmouth Bar by the Parker-Eakins company in 1880.


Stanwood’s Beach was once lined with homes built right on the rocks. A dozen houses on each side.  There were also two stores, a church and an inn (the only site with a freshwater well).
Watkins remembers the residents being very poor. 
“There was no insulation and it was very cold in the winter. Most of the residents didn’t have any education as far as high school goes. Mom used to do all their government papers for pensions and things like that. They were a hardy bunch and they managed,” she said. 
She adds with a chuckle, “One resident, Benny Penney, sold half his house. He sold it to Jim Dugas because he couldn’t afford a whole one.” 
In 1954, Hurricane Edna took out many of the houses. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, says Cunningham. The community shrank to a shadow of its former self. 
The three-phase project that the Historic Sites committee is working on for the Fish Point memorial (located just before Yarmouth Bar) and area will see interpretive panels installed this year; elevation of the memorial parking area with fill and gravel to prevent flooding problems experienced in the past in phase 2, and the pursuit of historical site designation for Fish Point and the road from there to the Cape Forchu Lighthouse declared an historical route for phase 3.
Cunningham says the committee welcomes additional information and pictures related to the area. 
An open house with a “four B theme” will be held from 1-4 p.m. at Fish Point on June 22 (rain date June 23). Books, baked goods, barbecued food and boiled lobster will be available. 
“The local fishermen are donating lobsters for us to sell,” said Cunningham.

For more information

Contact the Yarmouth County Historical Society – 902-742-5539 

Background article: May 9, 2019 Improvements on the way for Fish Point memorial site

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