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McNabs History: Section 13

McNABS ISLAND, Halifax Co, Nova Scotia: An Historical Overview

Brian Kinsman / Parks and Recreation Division, NS Dept of Natural Resources: April '95

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A number of strange tales have been associated with McNabs Island over the years. A few are plausible, while others require liberal use of one's imagination.

13.1 Buried Treasure

About 1845, island residents saw two men walking near the head of Finlay Cove with a mineral rod. The men soon left, however, claiming they could not find what they were looking for. Several nights later, though, strange noises were heard and the next morning a hole, with the appearance of something having been taken out, was found near where the men had earlier been seen. Over the hole was a cherry tree and the spot was marked by five stones which had been placed one in each corner and the fifth in the middle. The men were believed to be from an American vessel.

In 1905, further evidence of buried treasure on McNabs Island was reported. Renewed searches proved unsuccessful, however.

13.2 Sea Serpents

In August, 1853, Peter McNab, Jr., (Peter IV) saw a sea serpent off Ives Point.

At 6 1/2 o'clock this morning, when returning from McNab's Island I saw a Sea Serpent over 20 feet long, between the Red Buoy [Ives Knoll] and the NW point of the Island moving very rapidly. It greatly resembled a large eel - had a very small head, raised 2 or 3 inches above the water, and it moved in an undulating motion.
Peter McNab, Jr., watched the sea serpent for upwards of one-half hour and was twice within one hundred yards of it. Ironically, twenty years later, on November 18, 1873, Peter McNab, Jr., was tried on the charge of "feloniously cutting and wounding and doing grievous bodily harm." He was found insane or went violently insane while in jail and was committed to Mount Hope Asylum where he died shortly afterwards.

13.3 Lost Gold Mine

Rumours persist of an old French gold mine on McNabs Island even though the French have not occupied that place for almost three hundred years. While initially sounding far-fetched, a portion of McNabs Island is underlain by the same geological formation which produced famous gold mines at Moose River, Caribou and Rawdon.

13.4 Ghosts

According to some, Devils Island is the location of one of metro's most famous legends.

... many years ago one of the residents [of Devils Island], old Casper Henneberry, invited some friends for a party on the island. During the festivities, Henneberry went outside for a few moments then came back looking white and shaken. He told his friends that his time was up; he'd seen the Devil "in the form of a halibut." The next day he was rowing back to the island from Halifax. He was found drowned, his head and shoulders hanging over the side of the boat. Another version of his strange death has it that there were signs of a fight or scuffle on the beach, and that one of the people involved had "cloven hooves," judging by the prints in the sand.
A second story about Devils Island concerns another of her residents.

... Charles MacDonald , the lightkeeper from 1956 to 1967, awoke one night in his house on the island to find the ghost of his late grandmother standing by his bed. The spectre reached out and seized him by his arms and started pulling. MacDonald, who had a wooden leg, said he put out his good leg to brace himself against this apparition, but his limb went right through her.

13.5 Captain George

Every ship which passes in and out of Halifax Harbour passes between the legs of "Captain George," a former lighthouse keeper on the island. Captain George had a leg amputated as a result of an accident and this appendage was buried near Fort Redoubt, on the Halifax side. When the Captain died, he was buried on the island. So no boat can avoid passing between his legs.

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This Internet version of McNabs Island: An Historical Overview is provided by the Federation of Nova Scotia Naturalists (FNSN) as a contribution to the park planning process.