In December, I wrote about how the Archibald family celebrated Christmas in old Cow Bay. I received many positive messages about the column and some people were interested in learning more about this family and their lives in the village.
Charles Archibald was the son of Thomas Dixon (T.D.) Archibald, one of the owners of Archibald & Co., based in North Sydney. They operated a shipbuilding yard, marine railway, woodworking mills and the Gowrie Mine.
T.D. Archibald was a Conservative senator and close friend of Sir John A. Macdonald.
Seventeen-year-old Charles Archibald arrived in Cow Bay in 1862 to assist in the operation of the recently opened Gowrie Mine. He soon enrolled in studies at the Boston Institute of Technology, and with this engineering training, would oversee the operation of the mine and shipping facilities.
He also represented the United States Consulate in Cow Bay, a position hard to imagine today.
In 1874, Charles Archibald married his second cousin, Edith Jessie Archibald. Their beautiful, newly built home called Seaview offered a commanding view of Morien Bay and was in close proximity to both the mine and the wharf. There was an orchard on the grounds, along with a tennis lawn, an icehouse and croquet grounds. Charles Archibald used ballast from boats to construct a rock garden.
The Archibalds lived at a time when one’s social status was determined by money and they were very well off. Their four children — Georgie, Tom, Charles and Brenton — lived a life of privilege.
The Archibalds employed household servants and the children were cared for by a nurse and educated by a governess. As they got older, they attended private schools. It was not unusual for the children to board a steamer headed to New York or later to London, England to visit their grandparents, Sir Edward and Lady Archibald.
In 1893, the Gowrie Mine was sold to the Dominion Coal Company and the Archibalds moved to a home on Inglis Street in Halifax. Within a few years, Seaview was torn down, and the marble mantelpieces and the handcrafted stair rails were stripped and transported to the new Archibald residence.
Charles Archibald became president of the Bank of Nova Scotia. He was actively involved in the community, serving on the Dalhousie University board of governors, and as director of the Halifax School for the Blind. He was an avid outdoorsman, and for 60 years made annual salmon fishing trips to the Margaree River.
Edith Archibald’s contribution to her community was remarkable. She was very active in the Women’s Christian Temperance movement and served as maritime chair when she lived in Cow Bay.
She was very much a feminist, decades ahead of her time. As a member of the Halifax Council of Women, she was a strong proponent of women’s voting rights. She was president of the Halifax Victorian Order of Nurses. She was vice-president of the Nova Scotia Red Cross, providing assistance for Canadian prisoners of war during the First World War. She worked hard to establish what would eventually become the IWK Children’s hospital. She authored a number of books as well as a play.
The family suffered great personal tragedy. Their son Brenton died at the age of 24 in 1909. A few months later, their 33-year-old daughter Georgie died of illness in British Columbia. To compound the heartbreak, Georgie’s husband, Capt. Peter Elliston, was fatally wounded in 1910 at the Esquimalt military base by a disgruntled soldier whom Elliston had disciplined. Their two orphaned children were sent to England to be raised by his family.
Charles Archibald died in 1929 at the age of 84, and Edith passed away in 1936, at the age of 82.
The Archibalds were remembered for using their wealth and influence to make a real difference in the lives of those less fortunate. In 1998 Edith Jessie Archibald was recognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada as a Woman of National Historic Significance.
In a letter written shortly before his death, Charles Archibald said that he and Edith had keen regrets upon leaving Cow Bay. He had high praise for the Gowrie workers in Cow Bay and was very proud of their accomplishments. He remarked that his 30 years in Cow Bay were the happiest years of his life.
Ken MacDonald is a retired school teacher and administrator, and a community volunteer. His family can be traced back seven generations in Port Morien, where he has lived almost all his life. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.