Eldon George was born in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia on May 10, 1931. This was a time when Parrsboro Harbour was a busy port, and Eldon spent his youth surrounded by sailing ships and coal.
Ships and Coal
Parrsboro Harbour was a busy place in the early 1930s. The Harbour was filled with three-masted schooners, picking up coal from the railway dock that lined the western shoreline. Eldon’s father was a respected Captain of one of these majestic ships.
The trains brought coal from the Springhill mines located just 40 kilometers north of Parrsboro. The railway line between Springhill and Parrsboro had was opened in July 1, 1877. Approximately 900 ships loaded coal in Parrsboro Harbour that first year. In 1930s the ships continued to pick up coal from the long docks that lined the shore.
Jumping the Train
Eldon was a curious and adventurous boy. Eldon shared a story about the time he jumped the train when he was about seven years old.
The train used to come along the shore often, with loads of coal from Springhill. Eldon would wait until the train was moving, and when the last car was going by Eldon would hop on and ride it for a couple miles before hopping off. He did this for several months.
Then one day the RCMP officer and Conductor came to his home and knocked on the door. Captain George (Eldon’s father) answered the door. They wanted to speak to Eldon to see if it was true that he was riding the train into town. His father spoke to Eldon later that night. Eldon was not to ride the train again.
Eldon tells this story with a twinkle in his eye. This was a time from before the accident that would dramatically change the course of his life.
Falling Through the Floor
When he was just eight years old – Eldon and his brother were exploring an abandoned building near their home. While exploring the second floor, the rotten floor collapsed and they both fell to the basement below. His brother fractured both his legs, but Eldon landed with his right arm stretched out. Eldon broke his arm and in several places. It was a very bad injury that did not heal properly.
The injury to his arm was traumatic but Eldon’s mother encouraged him to pursue his interests in collecting shells and art. Eldon’s mother asked him to visit a nearby farm, and ask the farmer for some “hair from behind the ear of a pig and hair from a horse’s tail“. When he returned, she made Eldon his first brushes which he used to paint scenes of the local area.
Collecting shells and art would remain an interest throughout Eldon’s life. However, it was a short time after the accident that he would discover his lifelong passion for fossils and minerals from the Bay of Fundy Shore.
Winds of Change
As he grew up, Eldon witnessed the changes that Parrsboro experienced with the decline of the coals shipments from Springhill. The Springhill Mine explosions of 1956 and 1958, resulted in a decrease in coal shipments, and eventually the the last train departed Parrsboro on June 14, 1958. Eventually the schooners disappeared from the Harbour’s shore, and the railway wharf began fading away due to the erosion of the constant Fundy tides.
Eldon opened the Parrsboro Rock and Mineral Shop and Museum in 1948, before the decline in the railway and shipping had occurred. He collected minerals and fossils, and inspired any visitors to his rock shop to learn more about the geology of the area. Eldon recognized that the area was rich in zeolite minerals, agates, amethyst, fossil footprints and bones.
Eldon would be featured in a National Geographic article (August 1957) titled “The Great Tides of Fundy”. The article provided an opportunity for increased tourist visitors, and Eldon’s shop and guiding business became very busy. Just as the coals shipments were declining, Eldon was drawing attention to the region’s mineral and fossil treasures.
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- Explore what Parrsboro Harbour looked like in 1931 by zooming into an aerial photograph taken by Richard McCully at the Nova Scotia Archives.
- More information about the Springhill Mining Disaster – on Wikipedia.
- Watch media history of Springhill Mining Disaster, on CBC Archives.