The Lumber King of Nova Scotia

Edward Doran Davison, Sr. (1819-1894)

Edward Doran Davison, Sr. owned a large lumber operation in Nova Scotia in the nineteenth century. His business was so successful that Davison became known as Nova Scotia's "Lumber King." The Davison family played an integral role in the life of Bridgewater and its future development as a town.

Edward Doran Davison, Sr. (1819-1894) was a prominent businessman, caring philanthropist, devoted family man, Methodist, self-taught mechanical engineer, and avid politician. In 1837, at the young age of 18, Davison acquired large tracts of forest land and some fishing rights in Queens County plus a sawmill in the small, south shore town of Mill Village. Davison was innovative and powered his mill with steam – the first of its kind in Nova Scotia. Through Davison's management skills, he grew his company, E. D. Davison & Sons Lumber Manufacturers, into the largest lumber operation in Nova Scotia. In 1864, it was reported that Davison had purchased the Glenwood Mills in Bridgewater along the LaHave River on Bridgewater's east side. After Davison suffered losses from destructive forest fires, with the timber resources nearly exhausted by other operators, Davison decided to expand into new territory. In 1865, Davison sold his Mill Village mill and moved his lumbering operation to Bridgewater, taking his three sons Henry, Francis, and Edward, Jr. into business with him. When the Davisons arrived, Bridgewater was a village not much larger than his former home in Mill Village, with a sawmill, farms, churches, stores, a shipyard, post office, telegraph office, and carding mill.

The Davisons worked together as a family and the sons took over various aspects of the mill's operations. The mills were started in the spring, as soon as ice conditions in the river allowed. Operations were governed by the seasons, starting around mid-April and closing late December, depending on the river conditions. Logs were driven down river from their lumber operations upcountry and harnessed in log booms in the LaHave River. In 1871, the Bridgewater mills of E. D. Davison & Sons employed 80 men, 4 women, and 30 boys. Twenty years later, they employed 350 men and 50 teams of oxen to supply and run his now five mills, and had expanded to include not only the LaHave, but also the Medway and Nictaux watersheds. The annual average output in 1890 was twelve million board feet, which was shipped from nearby wharves on the LaHave to destinations overseas.

At the time of his death in 1894, Edward D. Davison, Sr. had earned the proud title of Lumber King, having the largest lumber business in the province and one of the largest in the Dominion. His once-vibrant and prominent business as well as his family are his legacies on the South Shore.



The former location of the E. D. Davison & Sons mill in Bridgewater