Acadia Powder Mills Company

Mining doesn’t just create jobs at mines and quarries. It also creates lots of spinoff jobs in host communities and at companies that provide services and supplies to the mining industry.

This has always been the case.

For example, the Acadia Powder Mills Company was established in 1863 to supply explosives for gold mining operations in Waverley, Halifax County. The company’s plant was on Rocky Lake Drive and it is where Powder Mill Lake got its name.

In mining, explosives are used to break rock off a rock face so it can be collected and processed. The mill originally manufactured black powder for this purpose and was one of only two powder mills in Canada at the time. Nitroglycerin, a key ingredient in dynamite, was also later produced at the site.

Over the years Acadia also sold belting and sporting powders, pellets and grained powder for coal mining, flameless explosives for mining, submarine fuses, linseed oil, household, industrial and marine paint.

Acadia was originally managed by Thomas Laflin, a member of the American Laflin gunpowder family. It was subsequently run by B. C. Wilson after Laflin's death in 1870. The company’s name was changed in 1869 to the Acadia Powder Company.

In the early 1880s the company manufactured dynamite for mining operations.

In 1883, Acadia expanded by purchasing the Pacific Powder Mills of Brownsburg, Quebec. Acadia was then purchased by the Nobel Company of Scotland. The Hamilton Powder Company later took it over but by 1899, Nobel had acquired a controlling interest in the Hamilton Powder Company.

In 1910 Acadia became part of Canadian Explosives Limited, a new company formed from the merger of the majority of the explosives businesses in Canada.

Production continued at the Acadia Powder Company until 1913 when its machinery was transferred to mills in Windsor, Quebec.

There were two explosions at the Acadia Powder Company. In 1883, three mills at the Waverley plant exploded, resulting in the deaths of three men. Another explosion, believed to have taken place on Christmas Day, 1905, occurred when powder in the dry house ignited and a powerful explosion resulted. The dry house reportedly contained 400-500 kegs of powder at the time.

One of Acadia’s presidents in its final years was Theron Gue, who was born in Ellenville, New York. He came to Halifax via Montreal where he had been secretary of the Hamilton Powder Company. He bought a large house at the corner of Victoria and Lucknow roads, pictured below with Gue sitting in a horse and carriage. Gue was president of Acadia from 1899 until his death in 1907.

In his years in Nova Scotia, Gue also got involved in a proposal to explore for coal in Cumberland County, south of the Joggins coal mines and west of Springhill’s (see the lettered and numbered squares in the map below).

As many such documents did in that era, a 1905 prospectus about the proposed project reads more like a marketing pitch than the strictly-regulated technical documents required of exploration and mining companies today. It suggested that “The tonnage of coal which should be found here is incalculable, and the property is bound in time to become by far the greatest in Canada, its size giving it exceptionally long life at any yearly output that may be made.” Unfortunately, this bold prediction did not come to pass and the area has never been seriously explored for coal.

In 1899, Gue also spearheaded the establishment the Dominion Electrical Works on land adjacent to Acadia’s Waverley plant. Dominion manufactured electrical blasting supplies.