The SS Atlantic disaster of April 1, 1873 took place in the waters off Terence Bay and Lower Prospect. In route to New York after leaving Liverpool, England on March 20th and anticipating an 11 day voyage, Captain Williams turned the steamship passenger liner back towards Halifax to get more bunkering coal and food. Passing along an unfamiliar shore in stormy weather while going too fast, the ship grounded.

Operating at a speed of 12 knots in the dead of night, in strong winds and heavy seas, the steamship struck an underwater rock on Marr's Head. The ship's bow hit the rocks and then her stern swung at more rocks tearing the hull before grounding. On board were 957 people, 833 of them steerage passengers, some from Chicago, some Norwegian emigrants from Oslo, 200 English subjects and 70 Irish. Of these, 150 were women.

In the cold morning hours, survivors climbed onto nearby slippery rocks, holding on against a rising tide. Enormous waves swept many into the sea while others still on board and trapped below in steerage, drowned. Shivering crewmen swam through icy waters to rig lifelines to nearby rocks. Only the healthiest young men in their early twenties managed to survive. No women and only one child, young John H. Hindley, lived.

From Upper Prospect further down the coast to the west, residents watched the disaster unfold and joined rescue efforts. Villagers in their open boats braved the turbulent sea and freezing cold morning to rescue the drowning. Fisher families in the villages fed, clothed and housed the survivors. Some 336 of them were later on taken to Halifax in steamers sent from the city for eventual transportation to Maine.

An investigation into the disaster made this ruling: "The conduct of Capt. John Williams in the management of his ship during the 12 or 14 hours preceding the disaster was so gravely at variance with what ought to have been the conduct of a man placed in his responsible position." The court censured him by suspending his certificate for 2 years for his mismanagement.

Entire families were among those buried from the wreck on the shores of Prospect Bay. A marble plaque on the SS Atlantic stone obelisk at St. Paul's Church in Sandy Cove reads: "Near this spot was wrecked the SS Atlantic, April 1st, 1873 when 562 persons perished, of whom 277 were re-interred in this churchyard." The Memorial is a tribute to the dead of the White Star steamship.

It is rumoured that much of the wreck still rests on a slope between 20 and 75 ft. below the surface buried in the sand at the bottom of the slope.

THE DEPRESSION: 1929 to 1939

In 1929 the stock market crashed and a world wide depression began bringing unemployment, worsened living conditions and frustration. Cash was in short supply in Nova Scotia and few jobs were available. Unemployment peaked in 1933 when one out of six could not find work. Fishing, farming and forestry suffered most. Lumber and dairy industries hit bottom in 1932-1933. World prices for primary produce fell to the lowest recorded levels. People had to be self-sufficient growing their own food and livestock feed.

Burdens were imposed on local government and County Council had to provide relief funds. Poor rates soared because of layoffs. Poor rates provided welfare to those in need but were paid by the recipients neighbours, not a happy situation.

Daily wage for forestry workers was about $1 a day plus room and board. The COOP movement helped solve the economic problem in many communities including Terence Bay.

In 1938 the Hon W. H. Dennis supported the idea of self-help and he planned to establish handcrafts, woodcraft and weaving to supplement fishing in Terence Bay. The operation was entrusted to Sister of Charity members Margaret Patrice and Elizabeth Clare. In a few years, a flourishing business generating employment for the residents. The workers created the crafts and prepared shipments. All the profits from the industry belonged to the workers and pride of workmanship produced fine wools in lovely colours and fine woodworking. The craftwork of the young men was interrupted permanently by World War II. Other crafts continued to be made at the Star of the Sea Handcraft Centre.

By the end of 1939, the first Canadian contingent had gone to Great Britain. The great use made of Nova Scotia's ports by the Atlantic convoys carrying men and supplies to the war fronts brought an economic upswing.


During World War I, Halifax was an important harbour. On December 1st, 1917 a French ammunition steamer, the Mont Blanc left New York heading to France loaded with 2,622 tons of explosives. Arriving at the mouth of Halifax Harbour on December 4th, she dropped anchor near McNab's Island. On board were tons of picric acid, TNT and a deck of benzol drums.

On that fateful Thursday, December 6th, a Belgian Relief vessel, the Imo left without permission of harbour authorities, heading for the open sea directly in the path of the Mont Blanc. The Imo hit the Mont Blanc. At first thick black smoke and then flames quickly rose from the Mont Blanc as she drifted toward the Halifax piers.

The crew of the Mont Blanc escaped in lifeboats without giving any alarm that she was loaded with explosives. The abandoned ship reached the Halifax shore and set fire to one of the piers. A huge explosion came just after 9:00 a.m. sending water and boulders into the air and parts of the ship crashing all over the area. A tidal wave rushed onto the shorelines. Buildings were flattened and flames wrecked the city. It caused the world's largest manmade explosion prior to the A-Bomb in 1945. More Nova Scotians died in that single disaster than had in World War I.

As many as 1,600 people were killed, an estimated nine thousand injured and thousands left homeless. Many of the injured suffered blindness because pieces of glass flew through the air. A Mi'kmaq community on the shores of Dartmouth was wiped out.

Heavy snow fell the next day following the fatal event, leaving sixteen inches of snow which melted on the following Sunday, then froze again on Monday. This weather made clean up even more difficult.

Connie Slaunwhite of Prospect remembers that her father was on the way to market in Halifax at the time of the Explosion. It hit when he neared the rotary at Armdale causing him to turn back for home.

Alice Thomas of Terence Bay was in school when the shipload of ammunition exploded in Halifax Harbour. All the villages heard the blast and saw the smoke. Alice's future husband was in the city looking out a school window when the glass exploded, scarring him on the forehead. He ran home which was right on Veith Street by the water, an area with the highest fatalities in the entire city. He found his home on fire, everything burning. He and his father who was also just coming home started to look for his mother and little 2 year old brother but couldn't find them. They found his mother with neighbours on Kempt Road. badly burned. She died just before Christmas.

Eva Coolen of Upper Prospect had an aunt, an uncle and a first cousin who died in the Halifax Explosion and were never found. Another of Eva's aunts was put on a train to Truro and couldn't be found for three days. Another aunt of hers who was living at the time at the foot of Duffus and Barrington Streets in Halifax, had been hanging out laundry when the blast came. It knocked her unconscious and when she came to she was in the basement of the house with a beam on top of her. The aunt, who lived to her 70s, continued to pick shards of glass out of her face all the rest of her life.

Fred Slaunwhite of Terence Bay was in Halifax at the time of the explosion down on Water Street. He had travelled there by boat with two others collecting fish for Arthur Boutillier. He says, "when the dynamite went, windows and doors were blown off...There was a snowstorm and we had to walk all the way home........21 miles." They didn't get home until about 11 p.m.


Less devastating than the Halifax Harbour Explosion in 1917, another potentially disastrous explosion occurred in 1945 when the Bedford Magazine blew-up. Luckily only one person died and he was a serviceman who battled the flames at the Magazine. Few suffered injury but many found themselves homeless. Thousands were evacuated to the villages surrounding Halifax and Dartmouth. The hardships were severe.

This explosion resulted from a buildup of ammunition stored at the Bedford Magazine. Many ships left their depth charges, shells, torpedoes, pyrotechnics and other lethal materials at the Magazine. Since 1927, the Magazine on the northeast shore of Bedford Basin had been used by the Army, Navy and Air Force for storage of explosives.

On the hot summer evening of July 18th an ammunition barge blew up at the Magazine jetty, shaking the whole area for miles around. A huge mushroom like cloud rose that could be seen great distances away. Minor explosions continued throughout the night until the next day when a huge blast shook foundations, blew off roofs and shattered windows not only in the city but as far west as the Dovers.

Explosions continued for more than 24 hours. Almost half of the ammunition dump, covering about 400 acres, was ruined in explosions that seemed to some just like a fireworks display.

Bernadine MacMillan of Prospect remembers the event. The Mount St. Vincent College was damaged. Facing the Bedford Basin, the Chapel's large glass dome was demolished. Bernadine saw multi-coloured clouds in the sky caused by the explosions.

Alice Thomas of Terence Bay remembers being in Sambro when the explosion occurred. She saw the explosions and the people who were being evacuated. Every road, every access out of the city was clogged with people and they stayed wherever they could. Alice's family cottage was full of those who had been evacuated. Thousands of people left the city to destinations along the St. Margaret's Bay Road. Refugees were forced to spend the night in local parks or on lawns.

Fortunately, a repeat of the devastation caused by the Halifax Explosion of 1917 never materialized, though fear of such happening caused untold stress on residents of the area.


Numerous sightings of ghost ships include one from the South Shore whispered to have been seen travelling from Tancook Island towards Halifax. It is said to look like a sailing ship on fire. The supposed phantom continues to be seen to the point of sinking. Sightings usually occur around the full moon. Some claim the apparition to be the Privateer schooner Young Teazer which was deliberately blown up by an American officer rather than let her be captured by British warships in 1813. The vision is referred to as the "Teazer Lights."

Joanne Noonan of East Dover recounts ghost stories that she has been told by area residents. One tells of a light that at times could be seen going from Whistler's Cove over to Larry's Cove. Another one tells of a horse and wagon that could be heard coming, but was never seen, although it could be felt as a rush of the wind going by as it passed.

George MacKenzie Collier of Shad Bay was told a story by his father about a ghost ship in the bay. It was supposed to have been a ship that sunk and whenever someone was out in their boat in a fog, they would see this ship coming out of it. Mr. Collier said that the apparition ceased appearing when the local priest went out and blessed the waters.

All along the coasts of Nova Scotia there are stories of hidden treasures of gold, silver and jewels. The legendary pirate practice of killing someone to protect treasures has given rise to tales of ghostly guardians and the superstition that hidden treasure will bring its discoverers bad luck.

Rumored buried treasure in Shad Bay brought American Charles Ganton in 1892 to search for it off Cochrane's or Big Island but he didn't find it. Ellen Ryan of Prospect remembers tales of pirate treasure being buried on Betty's Island, hearing stories about boots being found one time, and that it was a secluded place where the Spanish ship may have hidden from the British.

Another treasure hunt story was about a place called Pottie's Piece on a hill in Terence Bay rumoured to be where pirate's had buried their treasure. Glenna Slaunwhite told about a gold mining operation in the hills of Terence Bay one time when crews were led by the Reverend who believed there was gold in the hills. Mine shafts are still there. The two stories could be related.

One frequently repeated famous ghost story comes from a West Dover man named Ben Smeltzer. He told it to Helen Creighton and she recorded it in her book Bluenose Ghosts. Once when at sea fishing, he found a strange man sitting at the chart-table writing on a slate. He reported this to his captain and ultimately they found a message left by the unknown stranger reading, "Change your course to nor'nor'west and steer so many hours and you'll come to a vessel turned on its side with the crew hanging to it." The captain did change course and found not far away an upturned vessel with men still clinging to the hull who were saved by Ben Smeltzer and other seamen on his ship. They supposed that the stranger who had appeared in the cabin had been one of the first to drown and had appeared to Ben Smeltzer as a means to save his fellow seamen.

Ron Slaunwhite of Terence Bay recalls Harold Harrid who ran a grocery store and "Roadhouse Ned" who ran the post office, both were great storytellers especially about local ghosts.