In 1908, Winfred Theodore Ritcey started the Acadia Gas Engines Company on the banks of the LaHave River in Bridgewater. The company was known the world over for its two-cycle gas engines. With the company’s rapid expansion, Acadia Gas Engines began exporting internationally, making them the largest manufacturer of marine engines in Canada. In 1918, it was reported that eight thousand Acadia engines were already in use and twenty-four hundred were being produced each year.
Winfred T. Ritcey, better known as “W.T.”, was born 17 August 1878 in Riverport, Nova Scotia, the only son of Daniel H. and Anna V. (Strum) Ritcey. The family moved to Colorado when he was only nine. Educated in Boston, Massachusetts, as a young man, W.T. worked in New England with his father in the lumber and building business, and he studied accounting. In 1903, he relocated to Newfoundland and built a mill. It was destroyed by fire, so in 1907, Ritcey moved to Alberta. In 1908, he returned home to Nova Scotia, bringing with him his wife, Bessie Blake from Maine, who he married in 1906. In 1914, Ritcey had a large home built at the corner of Park and King Streets in Bridgewater for his wife and three daughters, located across the street from his rapidly expanding marine engine business.
W.T. Ritcey was described as courteous, capable, and energetic. He set out to provide mechanization at a reasonable cost for many inshore fishermen in Nova Scotia with about 1,200 agents and dealers across Canada. Preferring to be on the shop floor with his workers, he was always thinking of new ideas. In 1918, the company employed nearly one hundred men on average. Ritcey had a natural bent for engineering and a solid academic background in accounting. In 1918, Ritcey secured the dealership for Chevrolet automobiles and became the agent for the Maritimes Smith Form-A-Truck equipment. Ritcey was known for his generosity with his workers, taking them on boating trips providing entertainment and refreshments and giving them gifts at Christmas. He believed in a happy work force. Ritcey was President and Managing Director of Acadia Gas Engines Company for over 35 years until his death in 1946 at the age of sixty-eight.
W.T. Ritcey also played a prominent role in his community, serving as Bridgewater’s 7th Mayor in 1919, and was president of the Board of Trade, Bridgewater Curling Club, and Lunenburg County Fish and Game Protection Association. In religion, he was a member of the Grace United Church. In his spare time, Ritcey was a champion tuna fisherman and enjoyed hunting and motor boating.
Eventually the Acadia Gas Engines plant declined and was sold. In the 1980s, the waterfront buildings were demolished, and in 1998, the area was designated as a town park called “Shipyard’s Landing.”