From the Brow to the Bay

Wendy Elliott
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A community history of Burlington

By Wendy Elliott

Some books are labours of love.

From the Brow to the Bay would not be having its launch July 15 without a lot of love.

The community history chronicles the families and documents the past in Woodlawn, Burlington and Viewmount on the North Mountain of Kings County, say project leaders Pat Kemp and Anna Osburn.

The two women freely admit to being “come from aways”, who arrived in the 1970s during the “back to the land” era. They say they were always impressed with their neighbours for their acceptance of and interest in outsiders.

Kemp and Osburn said they believe the quiet and a sense of freedom in seaside Burlington “is hard to find in an increasingly more complicated and crowded world.”

The community’s built heritage is described and inspires a fresh appreciation for those few early houses still standing.

Kemp and Osburn’s fascination with their own old houses was what got them started on the project. Kemp recalled buying her property for “$3,500 to $4,500 in cash and now we’re spending the rest of our lives fixing it up.”

In 2001 the two women began researching the three one-room schoolhouses that served the area. Once they had collected photos and artifacts, the pair invited the community to the Burlington hall to share reminiscences and identify faces.

The response, Kemp said, was “flabbergasting. The hall was packed.”

Before long Kemp and Osburn were looking into the history of more than 40 families. Many residents, some now dead, contributed to the project. The entire history project team includes 19 people, many of who gathered on Thursday evenings to volunteer.

Garnet Misner, Chipman Brook, the women said, was generous in sharing his painstaking research at the Registry of Deeds. Cartographer Monica Beaton assisted with accurate mapping and computer skills. Thanks to Beaton, some original maps grace the book. They were traced from a painstaking study of the old deeds and illustrate land transactions that took place over time. There are also a remarkable number of photographs. The 400-page book features 800 interesting images of people and places and times gone by.

People of Burlington

Settled in the early 1800s, the earliest families were immigrant Scots, Turners and Ogilvies.

“What did they see?” asked Osburn. “Wilderness.”

In the beginning, the Bay of Fundy was the highway that linked the region.

“The wharf was the centre of the community,” Osburn said.

She pointed out descendants of some of those early settlers still make their living in the spirit of their ancestors: with sheer determination and admirable independence, employing the farming, fishing and forestry skills they acquired from their forefathers.

From the Brow to the Bay also tells the story of the churches, schools and community life, with many anecdotal contributions taken from interviews of former and life-long residents. Local industries are not neglected either.

Veterans from the community are given special honour in a chapter recounting their individual contributions and sacrifices.

“Jim Knapp is veteran who really went the extra distance on that chapter,” said Kemp. “We’re really proud of it.”

The story of the infamous 1904 murder of Theresa McAuley is retold in a new light that pays tribute to a determined and unfortunate lady. Kemp and Osburn say they hope to create a memorial to McAuley, who was a victim of domestic abuse, but also a vibrant community member and correspondent for the Berwick Register.

“She brought our community to the outside world and her loss wounded it deeper than you can imagine,” said Osburn.

Finally, From the Brow to the Bay tells about the community today, the diverse population and all the good reasons for making Burlington home.

A sense of community persists. One example is the refurbishment of the disused community hall in the 1980s, which drew local residents together. Brian Hirtle spearheaded that work, going door to door for funds to reshingle the roof. He continues as president and has been helping with advance sales of the book. Call Hirtle, 538-7192, or visit Wilson’s Drug Store, Berwick, to purchase a $40 copy.

More about Burlington

Burlington is described as a rural area located two miles south of the mouth of Minas Channel in west-central Nova Scotia..

The community, probably named after Lord Burlington, was part of Cornwallis Township, granted to immigrants from New England in 1759 and 1761.

By 1922, the village contained a Methodist and a Baptist Church and a post office. A postal way office had been established in 1870 with Charles Hall as office keeper.

The Baptist church was probably built in the 1860s or 1870s and the Methodist church in the 1890s or early 1900s.

A new school was built about 1885; a community hall was opened in 1956 when the local population was 83.

All the details…

What: Book launch for From the Brow to the Bay

When: July 15, 2 to 4 p.m. 

Where: Burlington Community Hall, 2222 Long Point Rd.


Organizations: Baptist Church, Berwick Register, Drug Store Cornwallis Township Methodist church

Geographic location: Burlington Community, Woodlawn, North Mountain Kings Bay of Fundy Long Point West-central Nova Scotia New England

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Recent comments

  • Terry Lou Simpson
    January 09, 2015 - 17:39

    i have your book on hold at the library and very excited to start to read..the reason for my interest is because my mother is originally from this area.. she was born in 1917 to Clarence and Edith swindle they had 3 girls Clarence died when my mother was 6 mths old.. Edith gave her her children up for adoption.. my mother was then raised in aylesford by J.F McMahon .. she did meet her birth mother .. that is how we know her heritage.. my family is very interested in knowing who the swindell and parks were, since they are blood relatives.. i am hoping the book will give us some leads sincerely Terry

  • Jan McAuley Dubinski
    July 18, 2012 - 06:46

    There's no doubt this was a labour of love. Can't wait to read it!