Summerville Quarry

Captain John Grant received a grant of land in Summerville, Hants County, in 1784 which contained gypsum outcrops at several sites. His son Michael opened a gypsum quarry on the land in 1800.

Captain Grant was from Scotland but immigrated to America in 1745 with the Black Watch Regiment. He served with the regiment during the American Revolutionary War and commanded British soldiers when they recaptured New York in April 1776.

He lost everything he owned when the British lost the war but for his military service to the British crown, he received a grant of 3,000 acres in Summerville, the largest grant to an individual in Hants County. The land grant included Loyal Hill, which Grant named.

In 1830, Daniel Kelly Hobart of Maine bought the Grant family land, including the gypsum quarry. Hobart had been the United States’ consul in Windsor, Ontario, before he came to Nova Scotia in 1874. Hobart also had lumber interests in Nova Scotia and was made US consul in Windsor, Nova Scotia, after he arrived.

Hobart also started a repair dock at the beach below the Grant land. His wharf was the largest repair dock in this part of Canada at the time. It became widely known and it was where J. B. King’s gypsum ships were repaired (https://notyourgrandfathersmining.ca/gypsum-queen). Remains of the wharf can still be seen at Hobart’s Beach.

Hobart built a boarding house to accommodate 25 quarry workers. As quarrying declined and ship repair picked up, the boarding house came to house caulkers and carpenters employed at the wharf.

Hobart also built a general store which catered to ships coming in for a load of gypsum or for repairs at their dock.

A tunnel was dug under the road, leading from the quarry to the beach. A plank road was laid down to run the gypsum to the shore for shipping.

Hobart expanded the quarry, which required moving the Grant family burial ground. The remains of John Grant, his sons and their wives were moved to the cemetery outside the Baptist Church on top of Loyal Hill. The church is no longer there but the Loyal Hill Cemetery is, including a monument marking Captain Grant’s grave.

It is said that Bennett Smith, a descendant of Grant’s and a shipbuilder in Windsor, obtained some of John Grant’s bones and teeth during the move and kept them in his home over the protests of his wife.

The Hobart quarry employed about 100 men. The operation was run by Hobart’s sons, Charles and Frederick.

The cellar of Captain Grant’s former home became the storehouse for black powder, fuses and explosives used in the quarry.

In the late 1800s, quarries that did not operate on a significant scale found it difficult to maintain profitability and the Hobart quarry ran into financial trouble around 1888. A notice in the Windsor Tribune on July 21 that year advertised the quarry, land, buildings and other items as being for sale. Edward W. Dimock, a quarry operator and partner of J. B. King, bought it all.

The land around the quarry is honeycombed with caves and underground streams. Drilling on the hill above the quarry in 1953 revealed a cave 50-feet deep. Such cavities 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 a cavern often causes it to cave in, creating a sinkhole.

327-342 million years ago, global sea levels rose and fell many times. This repeatedly flooded Nova Scotia with what we call the Windsor Sea. Nova Scotia was near the equator at that time so the sea evaporated repeatedly in the tropical sun.

Gypsum forms when water high in calcium and sulfate evaporates, leaving the calcium and sulfate behind as sediment. The flooding and evaporation of the Windsor Sea repeated for millions of years until the original evaporites/sediments were far below the earth’s surface. Subterranean pressures and heat compressed them into Nova Scotia’s huge gypsum deposits.