Quarry Island, Pictou County

It's not hard to guess how Quarry Island got its name!

It was one of a number of sites in Pictou County that were quarried for grindstones in the 1800s and 1900s.

Nova Scotia grindstones – round pieces of sandstone used for sharpening tools – were first extracted by Acadians starting around 1750 in Lower Cove and other sites on Chignecto Bay. They were the first grindstones extracted in Canada.

Lower Cove became the province’s biggest exporter of grindstones in the 1800s but between 1840-1865 Read, Seaman and Company operated numerous sandstone quarries in the vicinity of Pictou and Merigomish harbours.

Sites included the west end of Big Caribou island, the southwestern and eastern shores of Pictou island, the west end of Roy island, several quarries on the northwest and northern shores of Merigomish Island and Quarry Island.

About 1865, Read, Seaman and Company was taken over by Robert McNeil, who focussed on quarries bordering on Merigomish Harbour.

Quarrying on Quarry Island started shortly after, around 1867. The southeast shore of the island (by Quarry Lane) was easy to work because the sandstone was exposed at surface and easy to access. (The sandstone deposit dips into the bank to the north, which would have made extraction there more difficult.)

Records show average annual production from 1870-1914 of 200 to 300 tons of grindstones from Quarry Island and the immediate vicinity.

In 1890 some of the Merigomish Harbour quarries passed into the hands of James Stevenson (last name Sutherland in some records), a partner of the Read Company. He supplied grindstones to A.M. Bell & Company Ltd of Halifax. (A.M. Bell was a retailer that was once based at 1861 Granville St. where the company’s name is still seen on the building, picture below. In 1903 they built Halifax’s first concrete building which ran between Granville and Hollis streets at Duke Street.)

Quarries around Merigomish Harbour also supplied significant manufacturers like the Stanley Rule and Level Company of Connecticut, which eventually became part of Stanley Black & Decker.

The Mic Mac Grindstone Company was the last to operate the Quarry Island site before it closed in 1941.