What is now the District of Guysborough has a rich, fascinating history. Since before the first Europeans arrived on our shores, the people of this area recognized it was something special. The Indigenous Mi’kmaq people called the region Chedabouctou, a name that lives on in the beautiful bay that borders much of the eastern side of the District. Many place names in Guysborough County are original Mi’kmaq names, while others originated with early French, English and Black Loyalist settlers.
Like much of eastern Canada, the area passed through French and English hands until English dominance took root in the 18th century. The District has retained a significant Acadian population and its rich heritage.
United Empire Loyalists
The largest single group of settlers came as Loyalists at the end of the American Revolution. That’s when Guysborough got its name, in honour of Sir Guy Carleton, commander-in-chief of the British forces in America and the Governor General of Canada during the 1780s.
Perseverance of Black Loyalists
Black Loyalists arrived at this time but promises of prime and seaside land were not kept. Yet the people persevered and the first North American settlements by Free Blacks were established. Despite the unfair distribution of land, tools and other supplies, the Black communities grew from around 200 people in 1786 to over 900 in 1872. The descendants of these courageous and resilient people continue to be a vital part of our communities today.
The District grew and thrived as a shipping, shipbuilding and mercantile centre, a source of high-quality lumber and a seemingly endless supply of fish. Gold was discovered along the Eastern Shore in the mid-19th century. Commercial mining taking place here from the late 19th century to well into the 20th century.
Through the years, the District grew, modernized and thrived in good times – and persevered during the bad.