In this photo of Morien Bay, the red sides of the fish processing plant at Port Morien, sited on the shore of Morien Harbour, immediately draw the eyes. According to this web page profile, it employs approximately 75 people and has sales of from $10–20 million each year. A good number of the 47 vessels in the local fishing fleet were still out fishing when this photo was taken about 14h in the afternoon, but several colourful boats can be seen moored in the harbour. The white specks in the water and along the breakwater in the foreground are gulls. Running across the background of the photo is Northern Head (formerly known as Cape Perce, sometimes spelled as Cape Percy), whose terrain rises above 40 m (132 ft). A portion of the picturesque village, whose population in 2001 was 647, can be seen at the left of the photo.
According to Hamilton’s Place Names of Atlantic Canada, Morien “may be a corruption of the Portuguese for St Martin”. The name was spelled as Mordienne in French maps (Le Cap Mordienne and La Baie de Mordienne); this was first Anglicized as Morienne and later changed to Morien in 1895 by provincial statute. Settlers gave both the bay and the community with its harbour the name Cow Bay, after, so the story goes, a cow being transported to Sydney from Louisbourg escaped from a vessel and was later found in the area.
The coal mine at Port Morien is historic in several respects. It was North America’s first commercial coal mine, which began production in 1720 to supply the needs of the fortress at Louisbourg; the wharf was built to accommodate shipping coal from the mine to the fortress, accepting vessels of 100 tons “between June 1 and October 15, when the wharf must be taken down and rebuilt in the spring, the bay being so open and the drift ice so violent as to carry it away in the winter season”. It accounted for the first officially recorded export of minerals in Canada when a load of coal was shipped from Port Morien to Boston in 1724. The French built a blockhouse here in 1725 to protect the valuable coal reserves. After the defeat of the French in 1758, the mine was exploited illegally, as the British did not want competition with the motherland’s coal industry. In the 1850’s, commercial interest in the mine revived and mining operations resumed there in 1863. The first coal miners’ strike in Canada occurred here in 1868 and lasted a total of three months, following which the mine experienced a series of setbacks from which it never recovered; it closed for the final time in 1888.¹
Port Morien is also celebrated as having established the first boy scout troop in North America: from this web page, one learns that “[i]n 1908, just one year after Lord Baden Powell began England’s Scouting Movement, William Glover, a coal company official, organized a troop of 10 young boys at Port Morien.” The 100th anniversary of this event was celebrated with a special scouting camp in 2008.
¹ This information is a summary of the more detailed information, accompanied by photos, found at the Nova Scotia Museum’s web page for the Port Morien mine.↩