The LaHave River Valley has been inhabited by the Mi'kmaw people 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'kmaw settlement in this area has spanned more than 60 centuries. The Mi'kmaw name for the LaHave River, Pijinuiskaq, means "having long joints or branches" -- the name was given to a riverside park in Downtown Bridgewater in 2017, in recognition of the longstanding Mi'kmaw 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". To learn more about this beautiful park and to hear an audio pronunciation of the name, click here.
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 Protestant settlers at Lunenburg (1753) of German, Swiss and French origin, 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, believed to have been built just after the turn of the 19th century.
The Confederation period of the 1860s 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 decimated 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 newly developing streetscape greeted visitors to downtown Bridgewater.
After World War I, the growth of industry, automobiles, pavement and public transit made Bridgewater a town in which many people of today would feel at home.
Post World War II saw our town develop improved recreational facilities, including hockey, figure skating, tennis, curling, golf and baseball. A new park named Woodland Gardens, home to new facilities for the DesBrisay Museum, added to the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.
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.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?
Visit DesBrisay Museum for more information on the history of Bridgewater!