Whetstone Lake

There are no historical provincial government mining records about a mysterious quarry in Parkdale, Lunenburg County, but we still know it existed!

The fact that the provincial government’s mines branch does not have any historical documents about the quarry is only noteworthy because mines branch keeps fantastic records of Nova Scotia’s geological and mining/quarrying knowledge. Most of our posts about historical operations are based on government records and they are also a key source of information the industry uses today in prospecting, exploration and mineral development.

Fortunately, some non-government records and local knowledge give us the story of the Whetstone Lake quarry.

The quarry was at the southern end of Whetstone Lake, so-called because the quarry produced whetstones (sharpening stones). The type of rock extracted at the quarry was siltstone which, as its name suggests, is silt that was transformed into rock by heat and pressure.

A local resident, Mr. Rafuse, showed government officials the site in 2010. Rafuse, who operated a different quarry nearby at the time, played in the then-abandoned Whetstone Lake quarry as a child around the 1950s.

Older relatives told him the quarry operated in the late 1800s and it produced stones that were exported to the United States where they were formed into whetstones for sharpening tools. Some of the stone was also used locally.

An 1895 book by Mather Byles Desbrisay called “History of the County of Lunenburg” said the quarry was operated by George McFadden of Bridgewater. It also said the stone had been exported to Scotland as well as the US and that the stones “are considered a good article.”

While the site is overgrown today, to a trained eye, the historical quarrying activity is easy to see. The quarry was sunk in bedrock and was about 8-10 metres long by 4-4.5 metres wide. It is about 1-1.5 metres deep but may have been deeper – debris (i.e. leaves, sticks, etc.) has collected in its base over the years so the depth is unclear. Trenches, mounds and pits can still be found.

About 8-10 metres south of the quarry are remnants of the old road that used to be the original Parkdale to Farmington road. About 70 metres to the northwest this woods road meets the present-day paved highway and to the east it leads to the remnants of a bridge that once crossed Nelson Brook.

A 1922 book called “Nova Scotia Place Names” confirms that Whetstone Lake was named for the quarry: “So named because of the fact that whetstones (scythe and other stones) of a superior quality are made from the stones found near by.” The author describes the quarrying in the present tense which suggests the site may still have been active in the 1920s.

Interestingly, a similar book, “Place-Names and Places of Nova Scotia,” published by the Nova Scotia Archives in 1967, does not have an entry for Whetstone Lake and the book’s description of Parkdale does not mention the old quarry – perhaps a sign of the operation fading into history.