E. D. Davison and Sons nationally acclaimed
The lumber business during the late 19th century changed the course of history for Bridgewater.
The industry, headed by the Lumber King, E.D. Davison and his firm E.D. Davison and Sons, affected Bridgewater both positively and negatively over the years.
At the age of 18, E.D. Davison emerged in the business world, taking full charge of his family's farming and fishing business. For 28 years he prospered with his lumber, fishing and farming industry in Queens County, until forest fires drove him to move his business to Bridgewater along the beautiful LaHave. It was here that he founded the firm E.D. Davison and Sons.
In 1865, the firm was open for business, promising employment for many county residents. Men, with their families moved to the town to gain steady employment.
By 1871, there were 1,144 sawmills at work in Nova Scotia and 1,126 of them were water-powered. Of these water-powered mills the biggest producers were on the LaHave River at Bridgewater. Four gang mills manufactured 13,300,000 board feet in one year. Two of these mills were owned and operated by E. D. Davison and Sons. The Davison mills had a fixed capital value of $28,000 with a combined workforce of 114 employees and water-power rated at 200 horsepower, producing 7,800,000 board feet of lumber.
Mr. Davison was regarded as a very prominent businessman. His success could easily be attributed to his smart business sense, seen in many of his business transactions that led to vast improvements in his mills.
For instance, in the 1880s, Mr. Davison used separate waterwheels in one mill to drive the mill's gang saws, edger, lathe machine, trimming saws and their haul up gear. By 1886, a leffel turbine was installed in the LaHave mill. The turbine was taken from the Duffus and Company sawmill in Dayspring, after Mr. Davison bought it. The mill was dismantled in order to use its parts as an improvement plan for Mr. Davison's own mills.
Mr. Davison was the leader of gang mills and by the 1890s the firm was operating five water-powered gang sawmills, two at Mill Village on the Medway River in Queens County, two at Bridgewater on the LaHave River and a double gang mill at Alpena on the Nictaux River in Annapolis County.
Gradually, the Town of Bridgewater grew along with the prosperity of Mr. Davison's firm. Houses were built, new streets opened, ships sailed the river transporting lumber and bringing supplies to the stores.
Davison and Sons improved the navigation of the tributaries of the LaHave River in 1892 by creating an elaborate system of dams and sluices at Gulley Brook near the Lunenburg-Kings County border.
Unfortunately, the lumber business did not just cause prosperity. Around one of the Davison mills, a slum district grew. Many of those men who came to work stayed but could not afford to buy. For many years this slum grew and remained unchanged.
Despite Mr. Davison building sluices (a three-sided wooden trough) at his mills to carry sawdust away from the mill and the river for disposal, sawdust still gathered in the water. This problem resulted in the death of salmon and other fish which had frequented the water.
Over the years, the forests suffered from the prosperity of E.D. Davison and Sons. With no forests to retain the water, it became very high at times, then too low the rest of the year, preventing fish to pass up river to spawn and come down again.
On February 21, 1894, the residents of Bridgewater were shocked and saddened by the sudden death of E.D. Davison. The King of Lumber left his legacy in the hands of his sons.
Unfortunately around the turn of the century the business was sold to an American group who moved the operation to Lake Sixty. Crossburn flourished from the mill for about 20 years.
As to what happened with Bridgewater, a small town developed and grew. Railway lines were built, a theatre, bar, stores and houses developed for the company's employees.
Today, all that is left of Bridgewater's largest industry is the overgrown ruins of building foundations and the memory of its nationwide known success.