Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is best-known in Nova Scotia as the author of the poem “Evangeline,” but he was also an investor in Glace Bay coal mines.

According to Colin Ochiltree MacDonald’s 1909 book, “The Coal and Iron Industries of Nova Scotia,” Longfellow was among a group of American investors who founded the Little Glace Bay Mining Company in 1861 (later just called the Glace Bay Mining Company).

The company operated the Roost coal mine in Glace Bay until a fire in 1872 forced the mine to shut down. In 1873 a slope (decline tunnel) was sunk to get around the area with the fire and allow mining to continue, but it did not work as we all as hoped and the area was flooded in 1875 to extinguish the fire.

The mine was re-opened 20 years later by the Dominion Coal Company and eventually came to be known as Dominion No. 7. (See the mine’s full story at https://notyourgrandfathersmining.ca/glace-bay).

The Glace Bay Mining Company also operated the Harbour Pit, the Sterling Mines and the Hub Mine in Glace Bay. The company’s properties on the Hub and Harbour coal seams are shown on the map below.

Colin Ochiltree MacDonald, a mining engineer and coal mine manager, wrote that the Glace Bay Mining Company was very successful. It “declared dividends of 25 per cent, on capital, doubled that capital and paid 15 per cent., added again one half making a $600,000 stock list and then paid 12 1-2 per cent…The stock of this company had previously reached considerably over 200, in the open market, but little changed hands.”

It had also built up a reserve fund of about $80,000 by the time Canada’s Reciprocity Treaty with the United States ended in 1866, according to MacDonald. Many coal companies struggled after the free trade agreement expired because of duties imposed on coal exported to the US. However, the Glace Bay Mining Company thrived because its “conservative management enabled it to pull through free from encumbrances, to take advantage of the revival then setting in. During even the very worst period in the coal history of the County this Company paid its shareholders a dividend, small at times, but without serious embarrassment.”

According to MacDonald, the American investors in the Glace Bay Mining Company withdrew from the company in 1865 and opened the Caledonia Colliery in Glace Bay, which would later be known as Dominion No. 4 (https://notyourgrandfathersmining.ca/dominion-no-4).

Longfellow (1807–1882) was from Portland, Maine, and he became one of America’s most famous and successful writers. The epic poem, “Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie,” was published in 1847 and is considered one of his greatest works. It tells the fictional story of two lovers separated when the British expelled the Acadians from what is now Nova Scotia. It became a symbol of the Deportation and the perseverance of the Acadian people.

The poem became a part of the school curriculum for generations of Americans and it has brought tourists to Nova Scotia for a century and a half.