Clifton Quarry

We love examples of former mines and quarries that operated in what are now the middle of towns!

The Clifton gypsum quarry in Windsor, Hants County, was on the estate of author Thomas Chandler Haliburton, who was best-known as the author of the Sam Slick books. The site is now the excellent Haliburton House Museum.

The quarry opened in the 1820s and operated until about 1911. It was one of a number of quarries on the Haliburton estate, evidence of which can still be seen in depressions on the grounds.

The Clifton Quarry is the estate’s most easily-recognized former operation because it is now a lake between Lakeview St. and Clifton Avenue. The quarry used to cross over what is now Clifton Avenue but it was filled in on the eastern side of the street and houses were built on it. The lake is on the western side of Clifton Ave.

According to Henry How, who in 1868 wrote one of the first books about Nova Scotia’s mineralogy, the Clifton Quarry was about 800 feet long, 150 feet wide and an average of 40 feet deep. The quarry’s production up until that time had been 10,000-30,000 tons of gypsum per year. In the 1860s, the largest amount of gypsum shipped from Hants County came from the Clifton Quarry.

In total, it is believed that the Clifton Quarry produced about 500,000 tons of gypsum.

The Clifton Quarry also shipped sand in 1866 to the American Tube Works Company in Boston, which produced brass tubing from 1851 until the 1930s. The company sourced its sand from Birmingham, England, and Baltimore, US. The Baltimore sand cost $10 per ton and American Tube Works was looking for a cheaper supplier. After testing several different types in Nova Scotia, the company bought 250 tons from the Clifton Quarry where the sand lay in a bed about eight feet thick above the gypsum. The Clifton sand only cost the company 50 cents per ton. Henry How suggested the Clifton sand should be sold for 75 or 80 cents per ton for any future shipments – still a lot cheaper than the $10 per ton for sand from Baltimore!

James P. Pellow bought the Clifton estate and its quarries from Haliburton in 1856. Pellow had been Haliburton’s handyman but he went to California during its 1849 gold rush and clearly did pretty well! Pellow lived at Clifton until his death in 1871.

Pellow also owned two other quarries in the area after he returned from California. He owned a gypsum quarry on 150 acres in the Currys Corner area, just south of Windsor. Before he took that quarry over, it had already produced 100,000 tons of gypsum.

Pellow had a third quarry in what Henry How referred to as Three Mile Plains but it was likely by Pellow Road in what we now call Five Mile Plains. In 1868, a railway was being built to this quarry’s working face, which was about 30 feet tall and from which 1200 tons of gypsum had been extracted.

We were not able to confirm the exact locations of Pellow’s Currys Corner and Five Mile Plains quarries because Hants County had so many historical gypsum operations that records are sometimes unclear about quarry details like locations and ownership, especially for smaller sites. This challenge is made more difficult by the fact that mines and quarries are usually named after whoever operates them in a given time period, so long-running sites are often referred to by multiple names in records. The partial map below, with its many gypsum quarries, illustrates the challenge.

In the “Nova Scotia Directory of 1865-1871,” Pellow was listed as a “gypsum plaster dealer” (gypsum often used to be called plaster because it is the key ingredient in plaster of Paris). However, he diversified his business interests when built the Clifton Hotel in Windsor around 1860 (later renamed the Dufferin Hotel). The hotel was located next to the railway station and the shipping docks and was popular with the passengers in transit between the trains and the ships waiting for ships to sail at high tide. In that era, there were many ships taking passengers and cargo, including gypsum, from Windsor to places like Boston and New York.

The hotel survived the Great Windsor Fire of 1897 but burned down sometime between 1900-1910 and was not rebuilt.

James Pellow died on December 20, 1871 at age 49. He is buried in Windsor at the Old Parish Burying Grounds.

Learn more about Thomas Chandler Haliburton and his involvement in Nova Scotia’s early gypsum industry at https://notyourgrandfathersmining.ca/thomas-chandler-haliburton

Windsor - Clifton Hotel by James Pellow (later called the Dufferin Hotel)
Haliburton Clifton Quarry Windsor
Hants and Windsor area gypsum quarries