In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A visit to the McNutt cellar, part two

The ownership of the property passed through several families in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. During the second half of the nineteenth century it was owned by members of the Muir family, a substantial Shelburne family of merchants and shipbuilders who kept a farm on the island.
In the first part of the twentieth century, from about 1911 until about 1941, a fish plant on the property provided work for the women of the island, whose wages helped their families' meager incomes. After the Second World War the house may not have been used or occupied any longer. By then nearly all the inhabitants had left the island, except the lightkeeper families.
In 1991 and 1992 Pat Randall used site inventory forms created by the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism and Culture to compile an inventory of the historic structures still existing on the island. She used wills and deeds to trace the conveyance of these buildings, and she interviewed people who knew about the island's past.

When we first visited Shelburne in the fall of 2006, I went to the municipality building to see what I could learn about the history of the old house we thought we might buy. Somebody there handed me a three-ring binder. As I looked through the binder I realized there was a lot of great information about the island's past. They let me photocopy as much material as I wanted.

Somebody in that office told me that Pat Randall had lived in Shelburne for a while and been very interested in documenting the historic buildings on McNutt's and around the municipality and so had made it her project. I don't know where she is today, but we are lucky that she did all this work. It can be so easy to let knowledge of these old places slip away.

There are probably other photographs and memories about this fascinating old place, still waiting to be collected and shared. This is when living on an island has its drawbacks. Online research is easy to do, but actually visiting people and hearing their stories is a more difficult. Eventually I will do it, though.

Soon I will write about how the house came to an end.

The black and white photograph, courtesy of Jean Williams, is attached to the inventory documented by Pat Randall in 1992 for the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism and Culture, and available at the Municipality of Shelburne.

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