Killam Brothers

It Runs in the Family

Killam Brothers was one of Yarmouth's most prominent shipping businesses. For more than 150 years, five generations of Killam men owned and operated the company from an office on Water Street, which is now the oldest existing shipping office in Canada.

Yarmouth County has a rich history with the sea, and not surprisingly, the shipping industry was very important to the area for many years. During the golden age of sail, Yarmouth had several shipping-related businesses, one of the most prominent being the family-run Killam Brothers. Established around 1838 on Water Street, the Killam Brothers Shipping Office housed their lucrative company.

The Killiam Brothers building was originally a Mercantile and Wholesale for shipbuilding, shipping supplies, and storage. The shipping business ran deep in the Killam family, starting with John Killam who built his first schooner in 1788. In 1849, John's sons, George and Thomas Killam, together with John's brother-in-law, William K. Dudman, formed one of the earliest ship chandleries (a retail dealer who sells supplies and equipment for ships). The business partners dealt in shipping supplies, including cordage, canvas, as well as coal. They also traded goods. Between 1835 and 1869, they owned 57 vessels. In 1868, upon the death of Thomas Killam, his three sons, Thomas, Frank, and John H., formed a partnership. In 1869, they began operating under the name Killam Brothers. In addition to selling shipping supplies, the brothers became general insurance agents representing several marine insurance companies. This company would become one of the largest dealers in hard and soft coal in western Nova Scotia. Sadly, Frank Killam passed away in 1911, but John H.'s son, George, as well as Ernest Camber Killam, replaced him and became new partners in the business. In 1924, Ernest died, leaving George as the sole owner of Killam Brothers. Forty years later, in 1964, George's son, Robert, and son-in-law, Donald McLauchlan, became the owners of Killam Brothers, making them the fifth generation in the family to run the business. Donald retired a year later, leaving Robert as the sole owner, which he remained until the company dissolved in 1991.

Today, during the summer months, visitors can tour the Killam Brothers office, known as Canada's oldest shipping office. Stepping in the office, you are instantly brought back to the grand days of sailing. 



90 Water Street, Yarmouth, NS