Gypsum quarrying started in Cheverie, Hants County, in the 1800s. By the early 1900s, there were two main quarries in the area.

The Cove quarry extended from Cheverie’s wharf southwards for 600-700 yards to route 215. The quarry had numerous working faces over the years. The area also had many sinkholes which made it impossible to obtain a working face of significant length. The working face being quarried in the 1910s, at the time several government reports described the quarry, was 40 feet high and 200 feet long.

Sinkholes are common in gypsum deposits because the rock is water-soluble and groundwater naturally erodes it, leaving an underground cavern. Eventually, the weight of the rock and earth above the cavern causes it to cave in, creating a sinkhole.

The gypsum along the shore at the Cove quarry had been eroded by sea water to such an extent that large caves had formed and these natural openings were used as tunnels to access the gypsum that lay under and on the far side of route 215.

The gypsum was drilled by hand augers, loaded onto carts and hauled to the stockpile. It was later loaded onto barges at the wharf, the remains of which can be seen in the aerial picture below.

The Cove quarry shut down in 1915 because further work would have undermined route 215 (see the picture below).

The Upper Head (now called White Head) quarry was on the shore, about 100 yards east of the wharf, where the white gypsum outcrops can be seen in the aerial picture below. The quarry extended several hundred yards in length. The quality of its gypsum was not as good as that of the Cove quarry but it was easily broken and hauled to the nearby stock pile.

In the 1910s, an average of 40 men were employed in the two quarries and their gypsum was purchased by J. B. King for his plaster mill on Staten Island, New York (

Between 1912-15, the Cove and Upper Head quarries produced a total of 105,000 tons of gypsum.

Both quarries were operated by Albert Parsons of Walton (1869-1948) who also represented Hants County in the provincial legislature from 1909-20 and again from 1925-33. In his long political career, he served as speaker of the legislature and on the executive council. Parsons was also involved in the lumber trade and shipbuilding and operated the Walton gypsum quarry (

In 1927, the Connecticut Adamant Plaster Company took over two new quarries called the “Foul Meadow Quarries,” which had been opened the previous year by Atlantic Gypsum Products, the operator of the Cheticamp gypsum quarry (

The name “Foul Meadows” was presumably a reference to the fact that the site was in a boggy area that flooded each night. Each morning a tractor had to clear the drains to empty the quarry of water.

The site was two miles inland from the Cheverie wharf. In 1927, it employed 88 men and produced 14,000 tons.

A gas-powered “shovel” (excavator) was used to remove overburden (the dirt and rock on top of the gypsum). The gypsum was broken down and taken by cart to a loading platform where it was dumped into 4-ton railway cars. Eight rail cars at a time were hauled along a narrow-gauge railway to the wharf by a gasoline locomotive and placed on a stockpile. When a steamer was at the wharf, horse-drawn carts hauled the gypsum from the stockpile to the pier. A 2,000-ton steamer could be loaded in two days.

The men at Foul Meadows reportedly worked by a “stint,” meaning they could quit any time of day if they had finished loading their quota of rail cars.

The Connecticut Adamant Plaster Company shipped the gypsum to its plaster mills in New Haven, Connecticut.

Some quarrying was still taking place at the old Upper Head quarry on the shore close to the wharf, which could only be operated at low tide. Some of the Upper Head quarry’s gypsum was being used as fertilizer by peanut growers in the United States. Gypsum fixes alkaline (high pH) soil. US inventor Ben Franklin learned this from the French and brought the idea to the United States in 1785. Nova Scotia’s original gypsum miners were farmers in Hants County who extracted it on their farms and exported it to the US for use as fertilizer.

The Foul Meadows quarries were worked continuously until 1948 with the exception of the years 1942-44. There were many mines and quarries in Nova Scotia that shut down during WWII due to labour, material and transportation challenges.

Gypsum quarrying in Cheverie continued intermittently until around 1962.

Before wallboard/drywall became the most common way to finish walls, walls were usually made of laths (thin, flat strips of wood) with plaster spread over them. Nova Scotia has traditionally been one of the world’s biggest producers of gypsum, supplying many plaster, and later wallboard, factories on the US east coast. Today, the walls of most Nova Scotian homes contain gypsum quarried in the province.

Gypsum is used in wallboard for safety reasons. It is 21% water at the molecular level so it is fire-resistant.