Inverness Miners' Museum
Inverness, Nova Scotia

Gallery Thumbnail Gallery Stories Contact Us Search

The Broken Ground: A History of a Cape Breton Coal Mining Community



The February 19,1891 edition of The Casket published in Antigonish, Nova Scotia provided as. historical sketch of the region north of the Big River. The article discussed the pioneers who first settled the lands of Broad Cove: (Broad Cove Chapel, Dunvegan, Inverside, and Broad Cove Marsh).

Following is a copy of the sketch, as it appeared in 1891:

"...The first who talked bottom, here (Broad Cove) was Hector MacKinnon, -who came, I think, from the Island of Eigg, Scotland took up a large tract of land at the Big River of Broad Cove. The land was good and the man carefully worked, and in the course of years he acquired a handsome competency in his new home. Next to him was Donald MacIsaac, whose son Alexander, with his family, left Broad Cove for New Zealand about 28 years ago (1863 ) . Latest reports gladden us all with the intelligence that they are doing well in the distant Isle of their adoption .Ronald Mac Donald ( Sandy ) adjoined the MacIsaac lot. His son John died a few years ago , one of the eldest men in the parish of Broad Cove . Poor old Ian Mac Roadhail! Who that has been accustomed to attend service in the Catholic Church at Broad Cove can forget the neat, cleanshaved old gentleman with the beaver hat, who used to say his prayers so audibly and devoutly? Adjacent to Ronald MacDonald on the shore range was Angus Smith (Ban). A part of the lot which he took up is now on the Glebe farm at Broad Cove. The first land bought by the Parish was a tract called the Gusset, now occupied by Archibald Gillis. This tract did not seem suitable for parochial purposes and it was therefore sold and the present farm was bought from a son of Angus Smith (Ban). Next to Smith towards the North were located Donald Kennedy and his brother John. John Kennedy was a miller and a well-to-do farmer. Sir William Young ( elected MLA 1837-55 for Juste Au Corps, later Inverness County; Premier of Nova Scotia 1854-57/1860) was struck one day, on calling therefor dinner, to find that everything on a well laid table- meats, vegetables, flour, meal, butter, cheese, eggs, cream, sugar, etc.- had all been raised on the farm. Even the whiskey was made from Mr. Kennedy's own barley. To the North of the Kennedy farms were those of Alexander Gillis and Hugh MacDougall, some of whose descendants still occupy the ancestral buildings. The next was Alexander MacDonald (Big), a native of Moidart, Scotland and the grandfather of that moving marvel, of intellectual power- our own familiar and forensic Juvenis, (a literary pen name of Alexander MacDonald, barrister and later a member of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia). Then there was Donald MacLeod who selected a farm at Broad Cove Marsh, and whose children and grandchildren have been leading figures in this district ever since. Mr. MacLeod came to America from the Isle of Eigg (his people and ancestors originally belonged to the Isle of Skye) and landed with a number of acquaintances of Parrsboro, Nova Scotia. He was well off in the Old Country and would not have come here but for the difficulties and disabilities which were at that time, imposed on Catholics in Scotland. After spending some years in Parrsboro he removed to Broad Cove Marsh. He had some means coming there and was thus enabled to make a good start which was well sustained throughout his life. He drove six heifers and a horse all the way from Parrsboro to Broad Cove. His two sons, John and Duncan, lived after him in Broad Cove and were always counted among the foremost yeomen of their time. Duncan was 16 years of age coming here, and spent 22 years at the Marsh, where he died. It was after he got married that he learned to read and write, and before he died he was one of the best read men of his day, particularly in Scripture. His wife, Christena MacLennan, was an educated and intelligent woman, and it was she who gave him his first lesson in English reading.

With regard to the men who took up the rear concessions of lots in this district, I have only space to give their names without any comment. They are as follows: John MacLellan (Farquahar) and his brother Donald Farquahar MacLellan (Gold), Allan MacLellan (Big), Neil MacLellan Esq. (Ban), Donald MacEachern (John Ban), Angus MacLellan (Taylor), this man was a bleeder and general doctor to the community for many years; John MacLennan and Roderick Kennedy first lived on the farm afterwards owned by Martin MacPherson, Esq., as in other districts, the land grants first issued here contained large quantities of land. It was seldom a grant comprised of anything less than a thousand acres, but frequently included more. As the years rolled by, the occupants found they did not require, or could they profitably handle so much land. Accordingly, a part of nearly every lot was sold, and in this way many excellent people came into the district besides those I have named....

The early businessmen of the place (Broad Cove Regions) were Angus McLellan (Donald Og), Martin MacPherson, Angus MacDougall, Rory MacLennan, Ronald MacLellan , and Donald MacLeod of whom I have spoken. All traces of the business of these men except MacLeod's have long since disappeared. At present there are but three men engaged in active mercantile pursuits in the district. There are Alex R. MacLellan, B.C. Chapel, Michael Gillis and Donald MacLellan (Farquahar), both of Broad Cove Marsh. The first named is the oldest and has been in business for quite a number of years. A quiet, honest, easygoing man, he is exceedingly popular with his partons. He commenced on a small scale and by care and economy worked up to a position distinctly above want. He is now deservedly well- established. He made one mistake though- he forgot to get married. But I have no doubt that there are many young ladies in the county who would be glad to cheer him with old adage "better late than never". The other two, Gillis and MacLellan, are comparatively young in trade. They are both fine men, but their fortune is yet in the future.

This district turned out a very many clever men. During the first few years of the present school law, nearly all the teachers from the County hailed from Broad Cove. This was due, first, to the talent and energy of the young men of this district and, secondly, to the advantage of having better teachers in early days then fell to the lot of neighbouring communities. The late MacLellan brothers, Malcolm and John, taught for many years within this district. They never taught anywhere without leaving a lasting mark of their learning and genius. Many there are in the Province who owe positions of repeatability and ease to the scantily recognized tutorship of Malcolm and John MacLellan. Poor fellows! They are both gone, What a cold, cruel concern the world is, when such men as they, be in life almost ignored, and in death totally forgotten. The first young man of note raised in this district was the late Rev. Joseph MacLeod, who died at S. W. Margaree some ten or twelve years ago. I remember him well - his friendly disposition, his unassuming piety, this commanding gift of speech, his depth of thought and generous breadth of views . . . The next young man who came to the surface was the late Peter MacLellan, who died about 18 years ago, just as he was after completing his course of legal studies. He was a good man of thorough education and particular gifts. Those who knew him well will never forget him. Then rose Dr. Angus MacLennan, one of the most talented and successful medical practitioners on the Island of Cape Breton. After Dr. MacLennan came Alexander MacDonald, Esq., one of the leading lawyers of Nova Scotia. On new and really difficult questions Mr. MacDonald stands, perhaps, without peer in the profession in this Province. Following Mr. MacDonald came the Rev. John MacLeod, the far-famed priest of Thorburn, and Rev. Francis MacRae, of Pomquet, Antigonish...

The first man born in Broad Cove was Donald MacKinnon, son of Helen MacKinnon.

Among the early settlers in the rear lots of Broad Cove, I forgot to mention the name of Mr. John Gillis (Red). He came across form Morar, Scotland in the ship "Tumerlin" in the year 1826. Mr. Gillis, who is yet living, is an exceedingly intelligent, well read man, raised a large family of boys of more than ordinary talents.

The MacLellans of Rear Broad Cove, came to America in the ship "Harmony" in 1821.


Print Page

Important Notices  
© 2022 All Rights Reserved