The LaHave River Valley has been inhabited by Mi'kmaq for several millenia, with their ancestral settlements long pre-dating the arrival of European colonizers in the region, which began in the 17th Century.
It's believed that Mi'kmaq settlement in this area has spanned more than 60 centuries. The Mi'kmaq name for the LaHave River, Pijinuiskaq, means "river of many streams or branches" -- the name was given to a riverside park in Downtown Bridgewater in 2017, in recognition of the longstanding Mi'kmaq presence in the LaHave River Valley and that the descendants of settlers live on the traditional unceded territory of the Mi'kmaq, known as Mi'kma'ki.
The phoenetic pronunciation of Pijinuiskaq is "Be-jn-oo-is-gah" -- information provided by our friends at Acadia First Nations.
The period of European settlement in this region began in 1604, when Samuel de Champlain sighted "Cape LeHeve" at the mouth of the LaHave River -- the area was the first capital of New France from 1632 to 1636. Isaac de Razilly led an expedition to establish a permanent civilian colony in Acadia in 1632, after Acadia was returned to French control. He chose the site at "LeHeve," today known as LaHave. Land was cleared, houses built, livestock imported, and settlers arrived in 1634. These French settlers at LeHave, Foreign Protestants at Lunenburg (1753) and subsequent British colonists have all influenced the development of our town.
Bridgewater, located about 20 kilometres inland, was an ideal settlement location. The numerous streams in the area provided ample power for the operation of industrial mills to harvest the hemlock and pine.
The first house recorded on the west side was built by Ralph Hotchkiss in 1812, at the site of the corner of King and Phoenix Streets. The oldest home still standing in Bridgewater is the "Ramey House", on the east side, perhaps built before the turn of the 19th century. Even then, these two emerging settlements were not joined by a bridge until about 1825.
The Confederation period saw the settlement at Bridgewater develop schools, industries, newspapers, and a fire brigade. Before the turn of this century, the town was being serviced by a regular stagecoach, steamship, a railroad center and a Board of Trade.
In January 1899, this growth was dealt a blow by the "GReat Commerical Street Fire," which completely destroyed the downtown core. One month later, the community came together and, after a successful vote, became an incorporated town on February 13, 1899. Five months later, a new streetscape greeted visitors to downtown Bridgewater.
After WWI, the growth of industry, automobiles, pavement and public transit made Bridgewater a town in which many people of today would feel at home.
Post WWII saw our town develop improved recreational facilities, including hockey, figure skating, tennis, curling, golf and baseball. A new park, home to new facilities for the DesBrisay Museum, added to the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.
How Bridgewater Got Its Name
Bridgewater is nestled in the LaHave River Valley. Tree covered slopes and fertile drumlin hills made this an ideal location for settlement to grow and prosper.
There is no record of an event or point of reference as to how this community was named. It is located at the head of navigation at the first point where a bridge was erected to cross the river. It is deduced that the community got its name from being the place where the water was bridged.
At least five bridges have spanned the LaHave at Bridgewater. DesBrisay reports the first bridge having been built about 1825. In 1845, a draw bridge was constructed. Even though there were shipyards up river from the bridge, it is alleged that the bridge was never raised.
In 1869, the bridge was replaced with another wooden bridge. Late in 1891, the first iron bridge was constructed along the north end of the wooden bridge. Although repaired in 1971, when ice took out the east end section, this bridge "built to last 100 years" is still in use in 1999.
Veteran's Memorial Bridge, a concrete structure was constructed up river from the "old bridge" in 1983.
|1765||22,000 acres on west side granted to Pernette|
|c1765||Land granted on east side|
|1796||Land purchased, Wiles, north end, west side|
|1812||First recorded house. west side|
|c1810||Land purchased, Hebbs, south end, west side|
|c1825||First bridge across LaHave River|
|1832||First free school|
|1858||Mail service and first road from Halifax, via Mahone Bay|
|1863||First local newspaper|
|c1865||E.D. Davison Lumber Manufacturers|
|1874||Town lot surveyed, west side|
|1876||Fire Brigade formed|
|c1880||DesBrisay opens private museum|
|1888||Bridgewater Bulletin founded|
|1889||First train to town, from Middleton and Tennis Club formed|
|1891||Old Bridge constructed (4th)|
|1892||Agricultural exhibition established, Music Hall constructed, and Power company formed|
|1893||"Controversial" courthouse erected|
|1899||The "Big Fire" (January 12)|
|1899||Town incorporates on February 13|
|1901||East side surveyed into town lot|
|1902||Town acquires DesBrisay Museum|
|1907||Curling club founded|
|1917||LaHave Motorized Transport operated|
|1920||Main Street paved|
|1919/20||Original "Dawson Memorial" Hospital erected (used from 1920 - 1966)|
|1947||CKBW radio officially goes on air, December 24th|
|1948||Hockey Rink constructed|
|1960||12 King Street businesses lost to fire|
|1964||Figure skating club formed|
|1965||"Old Home Week"|
|1965/66||New/Replacement "Dawson Memorial" Hospital erected (used from 1966 - 1988)|
|1971||Michelin Tire Plant opens in Industrial Park October 15, employing up to 1,100 people in Lunenburg County|
|1983||Veterans' Memorial Bridge opens to traffic|
|1988||South Shore Regional Hospital opened (on a new site, across the LaHave River - still in use)|
|1994||Shelter erected for Farmers' Market|
|1998||Shipyard's Landing Park developed on former Acadia Gas Engines site, south end King Street|
|1999||Bridgewater celebrates its centennial|
|2004||Mariners' Landing Park opens, south end of LaHave Street|
|2005||Veterans' Memorial Park dedicated August 14, during the Year of the Veteran, corner of York & Victoria|
|2006||Bridgewater Fire Department erects new Bandstand at Shipyard's Landing Park, south King Street|
|2009||New Bridgewater Justice Centre opens on High Street|
|2009||Saturday Farmer's Market rejuvinated on King Street|
|2010||New Post Office opens on North Street|
|2010||CKBW and HANK FM move to North Street|
|2010||Sperry Park opens at the corner of Pine and King Streets|
|2010||Aberdeen Green Park (Hodge Podge Community Garden) opens on Elm Street and Aberdeen|
|2010||Electric fountain installed in river between the two bridges|
|2010||King Street Court undergoes improvements|
|2010||14 historical interpretive panels installed along town's river front|
|2012||16 historical banners installed along riverfront streets|
|2012||Brookside Cemetery is designated a municipal designated heritage property|
|2012||Town installs shared bicycle lanes|
|2013||Wile Carding Mill Museum designated a municipal designated heritage property|
|2013||Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre opens on North Park Street|
|2014||Town of Bridgewater celebrates 115 years of incorporation on February 13|
|2014||Bridgewater Marina opens on LaHave Street on July 17|
Wile Carding Mill celebrates 40 years as a provincial Museum
Visit DesBrisay Museum for more information on the history of Bridgewater!