Millstone Island

Many places in Nova Scotia were named for their connections to mining! The 1887 annual report of the Geological Survey of Canada tells us Millstone Island in Guysborough County is one of them.

It says granite extracted on the island was used as millstones - stones for grinding things like grain in a mill. Enough granite was extracted to fill “several ship-loads.”

The 1887 report says the extraction took place “some years ago.” An accompanying map shows the island’s location and says “Old Granite Quarry” next to it. We do not know when the quarrying took place but the report’s reference to it being an “old” quarry suggests it was done significantly before the 1887 report, perhaps in the 1800s or even earlier.

The nearby Canso area has a long history of European activity and the quarrying could have been associated with, for example, the British forts on Grassy Island, which were built between 1720-1745. The forts are a national historic site today. Europeans used the Canso Islands as a fishing and trading base as early as the 1500s, and archaeological evidence suggests their Mi'kmaq trading partners had been coming to the islands for at least 1500 years before that.

Millstone Island is a barren piece of land today and likely was in previous centuries as well. An aerial image suggests it is just rock with little vegetation. While it would have been easy to find stone to extract, landing ships on the island, or hauling the stone to nearby ships on smaller boats, would likely have been difficult. This may be why the island was quarried only briefly and why we cannot find more details about the activity.

There are actually two Millstone Islands in the southeastern corner of Guysborough County but the report is referring to the one near Raspberry Cove and Whitehead, not the Millstone Island 11.5 kilometres to the northeast, next to Little Dover Island. We have no information on whether quarrying took place at the other Millstone Island but given its name, it is likely that millstones were also extracted there at some point.