The Grand Manan Museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and showcasing artifacts that reflect the human and natural history of the Grand Manan Village and the islands within the Grand Manan Archipelago. Through public programs and exhibits, the museum fosters an understanding and appreciation of the local heritage, culture, and natural surroundings.
In 1961, L. Keith Ingersoll and other Grand Manan residents founded the Gerrish House Society, which later became the Grand Manan Museum on June 18, 1974. Moses Gerrish, a steadfast supporter of the British cause, was forced to leave his Massachusetts home during the American Revolution and sought refuge under British protection in the District of Maine. However, when the territory was ceded to the United States after the war, Gerrish had to relocate once more, ultimately settling on Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy. For 30 years, it remained unclear whether the Fundy islands belonged to Great Britain or the United States.
On December 30, 1783, Governor John Parr of Nova Scotia granted a license to John Jones, Thomas Oxnard, Thomas Ross, Peter Jones, and Moses Gerrish “to occupy during pleasure the Island of Grand Manan and the small Islands adjacent in the fishery, with liberty of cutting frame Stuff and timber for building.” Although the licensees aimed to secure a grant of Grand Manan by settling a certain number of families there, they struggled to meet the required quota, and their original plan never materialized. Gerrish and his colleagues arrived on the island on May 6, 1784, the same year New Brunswick became a separate province, and initiated a permanent settlement. Thomas Oxnard and Peter Jones never exercised their share in the license of occupation, and in 1786, John Jones sold his interests to others. As a sea captain, Ross spent much of his time away from home, maintaining commercial connections to the mainland and running his own shipping business. Consequently, Gerrish took on the responsibility of managing the civil affairs of the emerging community.
Appointed as a justice of the peace, Gerrish was an active community leader. In 1784, he introduced a pair of moose to the island, which quickly multiplied. By 1810, when the moose population was at risk of extinction, the provincial legislature passed one of the earliest game conservation acts in British North America to protect them. The law, which eventually lapsed, allowed only Gerrish or those authorized by him to hunt these large animals. However, by 1835, just five years after Gerrish’s death, the moose had become extinct.
Gerrish’s home was situated on Ross Island, near the main island. In 1830, while returning from officiating a wedding ceremony at Seal Cove village, his boat capsized, and he drowned. His body was recovered and buried in an unmarked grave on Ross Island. His wife, Ruth, passed away in Massachusetts five years later.
Gerrish dedicated 46 years of his life to attracting settlers to Grand Manan and fostering the growth of today’s thriving fishing community.
The Grand Manan Museum safeguards the island’s history and is home to the Allan Moses Bird Collection, comprising 300 birds gifted to the children of Grand Manan in 1951.
A 1967 centennial project, the original museum building was constructed through donations and with funds from the provincial and federal government.
In 1967, the Gannet Light house Fresnell lens was moved beside the Museum and in 1997 the new Gallery was built around it.
In 2013, the museum joined the United States Lighthouse Society. Visitors can now buy a Lighthouse Passport from the gift shop and have it stamped when visiting the Gannet Rock Light. This lighthouse is one of over 400 member lighthouses in North America, with only a few located in Canada.
In 1979, the historic Deep Cove One-Room School House was also moved to the grounds behind the museum.
In 1997, the Museum was doubled in size in order to store the many artifacts and the Archives.
The local community and industries of Grand Manan have consistently supported the museum, ensuring its continued vibrancy. The museum’s operation relies on volunteers, gifts, and donations.
Situated in the heart of Grand Harbour, the Grand Manan Museum is located at 1141 Route 776, across from the Community School, and is halfway down the island from the ferry landing.
Grand Manan Museum
Dictionary of Canadian Biography
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