LaHave, once the capital of Acadia/ Nova Scotia, is located across the river from Riverport and approximately 15 kilometres from the town of Bridgewater. It is now a small scenic village located on Highway 331 at the mouth of the 97 km long LaHave River in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia.
Mi’kmaq Settlement and French colony
La Have was an important centre for the Mi’kmaq people, who traded with Europeans. Messamouet, a well-known sakmow, or Chief, of the Mi’kmaq Nation, is reported to have been from the La Have area.
Samuel de Champlain called there in 1604 on his first trip to Acadia. Henry Hudson made landfall there in 1609 on his voyage on behalf of the Dutch East India company. Despite being shown hospitality by the Mi’kmaq, Hudson’s crew staged an unprovoked assault on the Mi’kmaq settlement. As a result, the Mi’kmaq staged a raid on the next Dutch ship to visit in 1611.
LaHave was the capital of Acadia from 1632, when Isaac de Razilly settled on a point of land at the mouth of the LaHave River, until his sudden death in 1636. Razilly established a colony of 300 and built Fort Ste. Marie de Grace. Razilly reported that the fort was capable of standing against all enemy action, and that he had the military supplies necessary to withstand a six-month siege. There was also a chapel, a store and houses for the workmen in the village. Within twelve months of Razilly’s arrival, La Have was a thriving trading post, the centre for a small farming community in the area, and a major port of call for the large fishing fleet. At one point there were five hundred transient fishermen in the settlement. Upon de Razilly’s death, the new Governor Charles de Menou d’Aulnay moved the Acadians from LaHave to Port Royal, Nova Scotia, which had been given up by the Scottish also in 1632 . His wife Jeanne Motin, “daughter of Louis Motin, Sieur de Courcelles, who in addition to owning shares in the Razilly-Condonnier Company, was the controller of salt stores located at one of France’s colonies, perhaps in the Caribbean”, was of great strategic value in the subsequent struggle with La Tour. Ironically, she became Lady La Tour in 1653 after d’Aulnay’s death and La Tour’s triumphant return with Letters Patent as governor of Acadia. Nicholas Denys and his brother Simon, who had come over with de Razilly, in 1632, set up a “wood working plant” near present day Riverport, Nova Scotia and a fishing station at Port Rossignol (now Liverpool, Nova Scotia). They stayed neutral in the war between d’Aulnay (at Port Royal) and La Tour (at Fort La Tour on the Saint John River).
In 1652, LaHave was still a trading post and was raided by Emmanuel Le Borgne.
During Queen Anne’s War, New Englanders raided the community taking 3 Acadians prisoner (1705).
During King Georges War, two French officers, in a letter from Quebec, reported to the Comté de Maurepas that “the English do not dry any fish on the east coast of Acadia since the war, through fear of being surprised there and killed by the Micmacs.” This fear was well founded as these same officers also advised “… a boat belonging to an English merchantman having landed at La Hève for wood and water, these Indians killed 7 of the crew and brought their scalps to Sieur Marin,…”.
The site of Fort Sainte-Marie de Grace was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1924.
It was, at one time, the economic centre of fishing, trade and shipbuilding for the surrounding area. The many vessels built in the area include a famous clipper, the barque Stag.
In 1874 LaHave Light Station was built and assisted ships navigating into the LaHave River until the 1950s, when a new lightkeeper’s house was built to replace the aging light station. The light was decommissioned in the 1960s and replaced by a mechanical light on the opposite side of the river. In 1969, the Lunenburg County Historical Society was established to manage this historic site and turned the vacant lightkeeper’s house into a community museum and gift shop. In 2006, the society completed a Renaissance Project, which included the construction and attachment of a new building resembling the original 1874 LaHave Light Station, to the lightkeeper’s house. The new museum is heated and cooled by a geothermal system, one of the first museums in Canada to utilize this technology. The Museum hosts many community events during the year, including the Acadian Mi’kmaq Festival, the LaHave River Folk Festival and a wide range of artistic exhibits.
Lahave River cable ferry
Since the late 19th century, LaHave has been connected to East LaHave, located on the opposite side of the LaHave river, via a cable ferry.
Today LaHave is home to a 14 car cable ferry that crosses the LaHave River from LaHave to East LaHave. The Ferry is Operated by The Province of Nova Scotia and costs $5.50 for a one-way ticket. The trip lasts about five minutes one way.
On Friday, January 3, 2014, the Ferry broke free from its cable and drifted towards the open ocean, running aground at Oxners Beach.
A volunteer LaHave and District Fire Department provides fire and first responder service to LaHave and the surrounding areas. A federal post office, Saint James Anglican Church and LaHave Seafoods are all located in LaHave.
A longstanding turn of the 20th century riverside chandlery landmark, has in recent years become the LaHave Bakery, which operates as a year-round bakery and cafe. The bakery houses a Craft Co-Op during the summer, where local artists sell their crafts. It is also home to a small custom manufacturer, Homegrown Skateboards.
Further down Highway 331, one will find Crescent Beach, a 2 kilometer long beach (only beach in NS that allows you to drive your car on the sand the length of the beach as if it were a road), the LaHave Islands and Risser’s Beach Provincial Park.
The LaHave Islands Marine Museum (c. 1913), located on the LaHave Islands, is on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.