In 1783, the Village of St. Martins was established by a group of King’s Orange Rangers, Loyalist soldiers from Orange and Duchess Counties in New York. This detachment had been assigned to garrison duty in Nova Scotia following the end of the American Revolution of 1776.
Originally known as “Quaco,” the community’s name is derived from the Akan word Goolwagagek, meaning haunt of the hooded seal. The area west of the village still bears the name West Quaco. In 1604, Samuel de Champlain called the rising land formation Cardinal’s Cap. Governor General Carlton named the village St. Martins in 1786, with St. Martin of Tours being the Patron Saint of Soldiers.
St. Martins was the second largest producer of wooden sailing vessels in New Brunswick and the third largest in the Maritimes. Notable shipbuilding milestones include:
In 1803, the first vessel, the schooner RACHEL (78 tons), was built and launched in St. Martins by the Vaughans.
In 1804, the 59-ton schooner THISTLE was launched, built by the Morans.
St. Martins was among the first shipbuilding communities on the Bay of Fundy. From 1803 to 1900, over 500 vessels were built and launched along the beaches, coves, and rivers in and around St. Martins. Other shipbuilding locations included Tynemouth Creek, Gardner’s Creek, Black River, West Quaco, East Quaco, Vaughan Creek, Giffin Pond, Irish River, Melvin’s Beach, Fownes Beach, and Salmon River.
The Moran shipbuilding family constructed the Beau Monde. Mathias Moran, an original settler of St Martins (formerly known as Quaco), arrived in October 1783 after the King’s Orange Rangers were disbanded at the end of the war. As a reward for his loyal service to King George III, he received a land grant, a portion of which housed the Moran Family Shipyard. This land remains in the possession of his direct descendants.
Mathias Moran’s son, James Moran Senior, born in 1781, inherited his father’s property and carried on the family tradition of farming and building small vessels. He constructed his first ship in 1805 and passed away in 1860 at the age of 79.
James Hamilton Moran, born in 1816 and son of James Moran Senior, remained in St. Martins to continue the family shipbuilding business. His older brother, Robert Greer Moran, had already relocated to Liverpool, England, in 1852 to establish the Moran Galloway Shipping Company.
James H. Moran constructed the ship Prince Victor in St. Martins in 1870. In 1874, he relocated to the city of Saint John in search of larger timber resources and a bigger workforce. He continued shipbuilding at Marsh Creek, with J. K. Dunlop acting as foreman. James H. Moran passed away in September 1879 at the age of 62.
The Prince Victor was named after Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, the Duke of Clarence and Avondale. With a registered tonnage of 1,221 and a length of 188 feet and 6 inches, the ship embarked on its maiden voyage in 1870. It was later sold in 1887 and subsequently ran aground on the Severn River in the United Kingdom that same year.
The figurehead of the Prince Victor has since been returned to the Quaco Historical and Library Society in St. Martins. Today, it is located less than a quarter-mile from where the ship was initially built.
Lumbering was also an important industry locally and a great deal of it was required to construct vessels of the size turned out by local shipyards.
While modern-day St. Martins has a smaller population compared to its bustling shipbuilding peak in the 19th century, the village has managed to preserve much of its historical charm. Ships built in St. Martins sailed worldwide, inspiring captains, affluent shipbuilders, and mariners to incorporate various architectural styles and designs into their homes. Many of them hired skilled artisans from abroad to paint intricate murals on walls and ceilings. At the height of the shipbuilding era, St. Martins was often dubbed “the richest village in the British Empire.”
In July 1978, the Quaco Museum and Library opened its doors. The museum houses a permanent collection of artifacts and materials reflecting the history and heritage of the Quaco-St. Martins area.
You can find the Quaco Museum and Archive at 236 Main Street in St. Martins.
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