The Village of Pugwash… rich in historically significant people and events

Heritage & Culture

in Pugwash & Area


Communities in Bloom Village Profile 2022

Welcome to Pugwash

Click to view our 2022 Village Profile for Communities in Bloom

Historical Overview



The Pugwash area was part of the yearly migration of native peoples seeking fish in the relatively shallow waters of the Northumberland Strait and shellfish in the rich mud of the inlets and bays. Mi’kmaq’s name for the area is Pagwe’ak, “shallow water”. In 1751, after the Edict of Nantes was revoked in France, Huguenot families, many from Montbeliard, floated their belongings on rafts down the Rhine to Rotterdam. They arrived in the Pugwash area in two ships the “Sally” and the “Betty”. They sailed from England having been enticed to Pugwash by the English with promises of fertile land and abundant fishing. The French Acadians colonized much of the area up to 1755 and this influence is still seen in the village. The Aboiteau Road near Pugwash is the site of a dyke constructed by early settlers.

After the Expulsion of the Acadians, the area lost much of the history of these agriculture-based people. The area became a prosperous part of the British Empire after the European Wars in the early 1800’s. A number of ships sailed into Pugwash Harbour in the 1820s carrying Irish immigrants, which is probably why there was a vote to change the name of Pugwash to Waterford in 1828 because they considered the name Pugwash to be “uncouth”. Pugwash is also home to many descendants of Highland Scots who immigrated to the region in the 19th century. The village celebrates its Scottish heritage each July 1, with the annual Gathering of the Clans.

All street signs in the Village are bilingual with both English and Gaelic translations.


Pugwash’s structures, being mostly constructed of wood, suffered four major fires in 1890, 1898, 1901, and 1928. Each razed huge areas of the village.


Shipbuilding played a major role in the prosperity of the area. In the boom years potatoes, lumber, salt, coal, gravel and stone, sawdust, rope, tar, and molasses were transported on ships built in the area. With the death of the ‘Age of Sail’, the shipbuilding industry collapsed, and Pugwash faced economic hardship.

The train station was built in 1888. Rail service operated from 1890 – 1993. Five miles of track linked Pugwash to the short line in Pugwash Junction. The short line ran from Pictou to Oxford Junction, where it hooked up with the main track from Halifax to Moncton and then to the rest of Canada. The tracks have been removed and it now forms part of the Trans Canada trails for hiking, ATV’s and snowmobiles. The arrival of the railway did not prove to be the economic boast that people hoped. Fishing, forestry and farming continued to be viable industries. Merchants, taverns, hotels, tanneries and lobster factories continued to operate. A sandstone quarry attracted many Italian nationals to the community.


In 1895, the Cumberland County Asylum was established just outside of Pugwash to house and treat the ‘harmless insane’ and to take the stress off the NS Mental Hospital in Dartmouth. The 1970’s ushered in a more enlightened, progressive, client-centred approach. There was upgrading of staff education, increased programming for residents, group home was established, and a sheltered workshop opened. At that time, the Sunset Community was the largest facility for mentally disabled adults in the province. It received patients from municipalities all over the province. The focus today is on assuring a quality of life for all individuals who live and work there.

Pugwash sits atop a salt deposit measuring 457.2 m thick and is home to the largest underground salt mine, K+S Windsor Salt Ltd., in Atlantic Canada. Our harbour hosts regular visits from salt boats, transporting the product along the Eastern seaboard and the St. Lawrence. Today salt trucks can be seen moving salt all over Atlantic Canada.

Tourism and recreation are major economic drivers in the area. Pugwash, and the entire north shore of Nova Scotia, is famous for its warm waters and sandy beaches. Some claim the waters here in summer are the warmest waters north of the Carolinas. Top-rated Northumberland Links and Fox Harb’r Golf Resort continue to attract an influx of new, year-round and summer residents to the Pugwash area.

Events | Organizations | Facilities


 On Sunday September 10th, His Honour Arthur J. LeBlanc, was in Pugwash to present the village with the 2023 Lieutenant Governor’s Community Spirit Award.

This province-wide award celebrates the power, strength and diversity of vibrant communities across Nova Scotia. Pugwash was one of four communities chosen to receive this honour in 2023.

“This award recognizes and shows appreciation to the over 50 volunteer organizations and more than 500 volunteers who work hard to make this a resilient community. We are a small fishing community with a big heart, can do” attitude, and the vision, creative spirit and determination to get things done!” says Maureen Leahey, Chair of Pugwash Communities in Bloom.

 The award ceremony was hosted by the five volunteer organizations who nominated Pugwash to the Community Spirit Award committee: Cumberland Trails Assn., Friends of the Pugwash Estuary, Pugwash Harbourfest, Pugwash Farmers’ Market and Pugwash Communities in Bloom. The event was emceed by Greg Nix, Cumberland Trails Association. Guest speakers included Sue Duncan, Pugwash Village Commission; Murray Scott, Mayor of the Municipality of Cumberland County; Elizabeth Smith McCrossin, MLA Cumberland North; MLA Colchester North Tom Taggart representing the Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism & Heritage; and His Honour the Lieutenant Governor.

The Community Pride in Action Volunteer Awards were also presented to Eleanor Conrad, Cumberland Trails volunteers Valerie Brown, Dean Hunter, Maurice Gallant, Charles Kennedy and Clara and Larry MacDonald, with a special award going to Mike Cunningham.

 A commemorative poem by Richard Dittami, Just Like Magic, was read to celebrate the occasion.

I am delighted to recognize Pugwash with the Community Spirit Award. It is a town that has gone above and beyond to ensure residents are connected and have a place to belong,” said Lt.-Gov. Arthur J. LeBlanc. The demonstrated commitment to positive change and collective growth is inspirational, and I was happy to meet community members during the award ceremony.”


This National Historic Site on the Northumberland Coast at the mouth of the Pugwash River Estuary is a unique place for events. Open from May through October, conferences, historical tours, workshops, and educational events have been held here continuously since 1955. The most famous conference was the first Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs in 1957 that led to a Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 shared by the Conferences and by Joseph Rotblat. The medal is on display at the Lodge as is the Lenin Peace Prize won by Cyrus Eaton in 1960. More recently, Thinkers Lodge and The Centre for Local Prosperity presented Climate Change Retreats with youth and adults.

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Pugwash has celebrated its Scottish heritage annually Canada Day since 1951,with the Gathering of the Clans. The festival includes piping bands, highland dancing, a parade, heavyweight games, a midway, artisans and food vendors, ending with evening entertainment and fireworks.

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Since 2005, the community celebrates its position on the ocean with a weekend of festivities during late July or early August. Through the years, the festival has hosted Tall Ships, Dragon Boats, and motorboat races. From 2014 – 2019, smaller family-oriented activities such as the Soap-box Derby and the Cardboard Boat Race became the heart of the festival. In 2018 and 2019, Homecoming became a feature of the event, with reunions, family picnics and dances.

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The PeaceGround in Eaton Park was a collaborative project between Communities in Bloom, the visual arts students of Pugwash District High School and the Village of Pugwash. This initiative culminated in a Peace March and Installation Ceremony on May 22 of 2014. CIB completed the project, adding hard and soft landscaping of the area around the peace benches, including a pathway made from local sandstone in the form of a peace sign, followed by the planting of native trees and shrubs.


The Heritage Walking Tour is a collaboration between the Communities in Bloom, the Village of Pugwash, the North Cumberland Historical Society and the Pugwash and Area Chamber of Commerce. Historical signage, including accompanying benches and flower containers, were erected at various points of interest around the village. These included the Old Train Station, the Old Bank Building on Victoria Street and Water Street – the site of several hotels that were destroyed in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, beside O’Brien’s PharmaChoice on Water Street, Dinghy Beach, beside the Post Office and at Sheryl’s Bakery & Cafe. The panels depict how Pugwash streets looked in earlier days and reveal information about the culture, industry and events of the past.


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Acadia Lodge, built circa 1902, is located at 14 Victoria Street in the village of Pugwash. Its first owner, Frederick Reginald Dakin, used it as a retail business until he sold the building in 1911 to the local Masonic Lodge.

In July 1957, the building was used for the first Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs. The three-day conference endorsed by Albert Einstein, organized by Bertrand Russell and Joseph Rotblat and hosted by industrialist Cyrus Eaton, was attended by twenty-two influential scientists, scholars and public figures from ten countries. The internationally acclaimed individuals met to discuss the growing threat of armed conflict, the dangers from nuclear fall-out, the responsibility of scientists and to explore views and peaceful solutions to looming world problems and relations. Since the first meeting, the Conference has been held annually in countries around the world and twice again in Pugwash in 1959 and 1995, the latter being the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 2016, John Caraberis and Bonnie Bond purchased the building and after a three-year restoration, rebranded it as The Peace Hall. The facility offers the space to individuals and groups to host events or gatherings that share knowledge, creativity and peace. John and Bonnie also initiated a Live at the Peace Hall Concert Series in 2018.

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The Village of Pugwash created ten new brochures for visitors to the village in the summer of 2019. The promotional materials give people suggestions of things to do and see in the area. They encompass: Places to Eat, Heritage Interpretive Walking Tour, Beaches, Golf, Camping, Walking and Hiking, History and Heritage, Genealogy, and Place to Worship.

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The Pugwash Historical Society, housed in the Old Train Station in the middle of the village, has gathered historical artifacts and papers since 1965. With the work of more than fifteen volunteers, they cover an area that includes Northport, Port Howe, Pugwash, Pugwash River, Pugwash Junction, Conns Mills, Middleboro, Wentworth, Wallace, Malagash and all points in between. Volunteers are available to assist visitors searching for information and gratefully receive memorabilia to include in the collection.

The society has initiated a number of projects that provide information to genealogists and to the general public. These include: Obituaries and Cemeteries, the ‘Built Heritage Project’, an inventory of old buildings. NCHS gives public talks on many subjects such as the history of the buildings of Pugwash, the Spanish flu epidemic in Nova Scotia in 1918 and Cyrus Eaton and the Thinkers’ Lodge.

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The mission of the Wallace and Area Museum is to enrich the understanding of history, heritage, and culture in Wallace and surrounding areas. They do this through a seasonal schedule of events, exhibits, research, activities for school groups, and by providing facilities for meetings and special occasions. The museum also maintains extensive hiking trails in the area.

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Interest in traditional rug hooking by several women in the Wallace area culminated in the forming of the Remsheg Rug Hookers Group in 1994. Since then the group has increased its membership, gathering weekly at the Wallace and Area Museum to share their passion for the craft, hooking individual and group projects. Each August, a Hook-In is held outdoors on the beautiful grounds of the museum and rug-hookers from all across Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are invited to attend.

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The Pugwash Artist Collective has been on a journey since 2010, meeting and working together, to support each artist’s growth. Through invigorating discussions, they share information and resources and promote each other’s work and the initiatives of the whole. They contribute to the culture of the North Shore of Nova Scotia through annual group and individual art exhibitions. In spite of working in many different mediums – fibre art, painting, metal work, clay, film, paper, photography, printmaking, mixed media – they are strengthened by the diversity of the work, the variety of approaches to a theme and often inspired to try different art forms.

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The Jean Wallace Art Gallery is housed in the Pugwash District High School. The collection was originally known as the Northumberland Art Trust Collection (1981-1995), consisting of 14 paintings that hung on the walls of the high school’s art room. PDHS art teacher (1973-1990) Jean Wallace, with some financial aid from the Cumberland District School Board, started collecting art works by prominent Nova Scotia artists as teaching aids for her students. By 1990 the Northumberland Art Trust Collection consisted of 24 paintings and in 1995, a circular hallway within PDHS was transformed into an art gallery and renamed The Jean Wallace Art Gallery. Since then the collection has grown, with over 135 artworks, including the Student Wall which was established to highlight student excellence in visual arts.

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The Pugwash Village Hall hosts members of the Mixed Palette Art Group on Thursday mornings throughout the year. The meeting room displays samples of their work and the group stages a show and sale annually during The Gathering of the Clans. New members are welcome.

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The birthday of the eighteenth-century poet, commentator and lyricist , Robbie Burns, is celebrated by Pugwash, every year in January with Scottish music, food, poetry, whiskey and fun. The haggis is piped in and addressed in the traditional manner. The Burns Supper is then served, starting with cock-a-leekie soup (chicken and leeks) followed by a roast beef dinner accompanied by haggis, tatties (mashed potato) and neeps (mashed turnip). Crannachan (a traditional Scottish dessert of whipped cream, raspberries, honey and oats) will also be served along with baps (soft white rolls) and oatcakes.


The Pugwash Farmers’ Market organization is a not-for-profit, membership-based Cooperative, providing a venue for and supporting the development of grass-roots entrepreneurs. They are passionate about raising community awareness regarding the benefits of healthy living, choosing a small environmental footprint for food production and the importance of supporting a sustainable agricultural and artisan base in rural Nova Scotia. Established in 2006, the Market has over 45 vendor members that attend the outdoor, seasonal Market each Saturday morning between the May Victoria Day weekend and the October Thanksgiving weekend. It also holds an annual Christmas Market in early December.

The market is an opportunity for a number of artisans and artists to promote their products and connect with buyers. These include potters, jewellery makers, painters, journal-makers, printmakers, writers, candle makers, textiles artisans including knitters and crocheters, felters, weavers, woodworkers, leather workers, glass workers and quilters.

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Writing on Fire, a program which has grown out of Read by the Sea Literary Festival, continues the mandate of promoting reading, writing and creative expression by bringing the finest of Canada’s authors and other artists to the small communities of the North Shore of Nova Scotia. Since 2013, it has fostered the love of reading, writing and creating in youth by providing opportunities for them to learn from professional writers and creators at a series of events including Writer-in-schools and youth writing workshops. Writing on Fire seeks to give youth in grades 7 – 12 a voice by enabling them to experience the excitement of creating themselves. In 2015 Art Jam! Youth Retreats at Thinkers Lodge in Pugwash were established.

In 2017, Writing on Fire received provincial funding to produce an Anthology of Youth Writing, Unapologetic Hearts, and a Writing on Fire Documentary, celebrating youth writers and their work. Both were launched early in 2018 and were distributed throughout the north shore to schools, libraries and to contributors.

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