(contributed by Malcolm Uhlman - email@example.com)
Edited by Bryan Keddy for genealogy purposes.
The village of Riverport is beautifully situated at the mouth of the LaHave River. The harbour, free from shoals, and in which marine craft are safe from every wind, is one of the finest in North America. This picturesque village has a population of about 350.
The Riverport District is made up of the communities of Lower LaHave, East and Middle LaHave, Upper and Lower Rose Bay, Upper and Lower Kingburg, Bayport and Feitzen South. The first settlers were German immigrants, coming from the district of Lunenburg, South West Palatinate, Montbeliard, near the Rhine River and adjacent parts of Switzerland.
Foremost among these Germans were the families known as "Henericies". One of the first settlers, Johann Phillip Henericie, settled in this community in 1754, near where the present monument is erected in his honor. Over the years the name "Henericie" became known as "Ritcey" and the settlement became known as "Ritcey's Cove." As years passed the settlement grew in importance and people of other names such as Creaser, Smith, Oxner, Himmelman, Conrad, Mosher and Zinck settled here so it was thought advisable to change the name. In 1902, the citizens met at a public metting. Simon Ritcey, direct decendant of Johann Phillip Henericie, chaired the meeting. Two names were suggested, "Riverport" and "Fairhaven." It was a tie vote and the chairman cast the deciding ballot for the name "Riverport".
SHIP BUILDING & FISHING
From its location, ship building became an important industry in the early 1800's. In 1820, the settlers engaged in Labrador fishing and the first two vessels built for bank fishing were the "Valiant" and the "Caucasia." In 1910 there was a fleet of 18 salt fishing vessels. This eventually increased to 28. The salt fishing industry was prominent throughout the district. The green cod was removed from the "Salt Bankers," and delivered to patrons who dried them on structures, made of poles, covered with spruce brush, called "fish flakes." People who did this work called them, "Back Breakers." The drying of salt cod could be seen in all parts of the district during the summer months.
Boats called "shollops" were built to carry produce to Halifax, which was traded for household goods. In 1893, the S. S. Trusty was built to carry passengers and freight between Riverport and Bridgewater. Later, the S. S. Mascott carried passengers and freight from Bayport to Lunenburg.
In a blinding snow storm on the night of December 7, 1907, the S.S. Mount Temple coming from England to Saint John, N.B., ran ashore of Kingsburg on the east side of LaHave Ironbound. A dramatic rescue was performed by the lightkeeper Charles Wolfe and his family. A heavy cable was tied from the ship to a tree and crew and passengers were taken by baskets from the ship to safety onshore. There was no loss of life. It is said interested people removed part of the general cargo and articles are still evident today in peoples homes. Potatoes removed from the ship are cultivated in the Kingsburg area and are known as "Mount Temples," to this day.
One of the largest fishing vessels built at Smith & Rhuland's Shipyards in Lunenburg was the schooner "Sally Irene", 149 ft. overall, launched in 1947 for Ritcey Bros. Fisheries Ltd, was skippered by Capt. Joe Wentzell.
GOLD AT OVENS
Gold was discovered in the district at the Ovens and this brought an influx of people to the area. In July 1861, about 100 gold seekers arrived. The next spring a crusher along with passengers arrived by boat from Boston. In that year 600 people were at work mining gold. The Ovens became a town in itself. Shanties were erected everywhere, and on June 9, 1862, the Lieutenant Governor, the Earl of Mulgrave, landed at the Ovens from a gun boat and visited the site of the mines. Today the Ovens is a Natural Park and well known summer resort.
The original religious denomination in the district were Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran. The Methodist formed the largest body and the first church was located near where Ritcey Bros. Store now stands. The Lutherans and Presbyterians built a Union Church at Rose Bay in 1843. The Methodist moved their church to Rose Bay in 1870. The present Presbyterian Church was built in 1890. The United and Lutheran churches were built in 1897.
The first cemetery is located at Five Houses, to the east of the former James Romkey property, the second one at Riverport, near the property of St. Clair Conrad. The present cemetery, Shepherds Hill, was constructed in 1908.
The early settlers, no doubt, received their education from teachers who came from Lunenburg. The first one-room school was built in 1820. A second in 1866, and a two-room school in 1886. A four-room school was built in 1905 and three teachers were employed with grades from primary to Grade 11. The fourth room was occupied by the I.O.F.F. Lodge. This building now stands renovated as the Riverport and District Community Centre. A modern Consolidated Elementary School was built at Bayport in 1967.
In 1875, a Temperance Society was organized and a hall was built. This was located across from the present Community Centre. There were 132 members called the "Cheerful Workers". In later years this hall became the entertainment centre. Early silent movies were shown, with the traditional piano player. School Christmas concerts were also held here and travelling shows entertained. Later the building was sold to Eldred and Lemuel Ritcey. In 1917, it was leased to J. F. Creaser for the manufacture of oil clothing. It was torn down and moved to LaHave in 1930.
The first general store in the village was opened by Thomas Ritcey in 1852. It was located in the vicinity of the Ritcey Monument, on the former property of Roland Ritcey, one of the oldest homes in the community. Later a second store was operated by Lewis Ritcey. It was located between the former property of Asaph Conrad and Malcolm Ritcey. The former Lewis Ritcey store was moved to the site of the Maritime Tel & Tel building in 1870. It was first operated by Adelaide Seaboyer who ran a general store and did sewing and trimming hats. Jash Ritcey and his wife Ada were the next proprietors followed by Jacob Gaetz. It was later used as a dwelling and this building stood until 1943. The A. L. MacGregor store opened in 1879, J. F. Risser General Store opened in 1885, the C.A. Heckman Boot & Shoe store in 1890, and the Samuel Ritcey General Store in 1892. Gabriel Seaboyer operated a shoestore, on the present property of Lowell Smith. When he retired from this buisness the store became the Customs Office, which he managed. Another shoemaker shop was located on the former property of Arnold Ritcey operated by Elijah Ritcey. A tinsmith's shop was located near Samuel Ritcey's store. A hat shop and ice cream parlor was operated on the "cosy corner," this later became Martin Wentzell's Shoe store. A hay scales stood opposite the bridge entrance. A small hat shop stood near the property of Milton Gerhardt. The Frank Zinck house in Rose Bay, used to be a dry goods store operated by Henry Wentzell. A fur salesman came there periodically and had a grand display of furs for sale.
Other stores operating the the district in the early days in the area were:
AT RIVERPORT: Earl Wentzell's Bicycle Shop, Martin Wentzell Shoe Store, Romkey's Sales and Service, Asaph Conrad Tea Room, Benjamin Wentzell Butcher Shop, Arthur Conrad Shoe Repair.
AT ROSE BAY: Rufus Himmelman Store, Ali Conrad Store and Barber Shop, Daniel Deal Store and Post Office, Obediah Wentzell Blacksmith, Solomon Zinck Blacksmith, Lennox Conrad Blacksmith.
AT LOWER ROSE BAY: Arthur Lohnes General Store, John and Forman Riser, Warren Mosher's, Titus Zinck Shoe Store.
AT EAST LAHAVE: C. B. Conrad Store, Conrad and Wolfe Cothing Factory (later Nauss Garments).
AT MIDDLE LAHAVE: C.H. Walters.
AT LOWER LAHAVE: Mrs. Annie B. Smith, Egerton Ritcey Store and Post Office.
AT BAYPORT: Freeman Spindler Store, D. Colp Store.
AT FELTZEN SOUTH: Charles Zeller's Store, Arthur Corkum Shoe Maker.
AT LOWER KINGBURG: Rufus Mossman Store, Obediah Mossman Store,
AT UPPER KINGSBURG: Henry Romkey Blacksmith, Albert Mossman Post Office,
One of the main business establishments, Ritcey Bros. Ltd., was organized in 1915, when Charles and St. Clair Ritcey took over the former MacGregor store. This business was sold in 1945 to W. R. Ritcey, who also organized Ritcey Bros. Fisheries which included fish drying plants at Riverport and a cold storage at Kraut Point. He operated salt fishing schooners and engaged in longlining. In 1965, H. B. Nickerson Ltd. purchased the former Ritcey Bros. Fisheries. Riverport Seafoods, a modern fresh fish processing plant was built on the site at Kraut Point.
The first Post Office was opened in 1888. It was located in the former Beecham Ritcey house, then a general store run by Josiah Ritcey, and he was the postmaster. Mail was delivered weekly until 1903, when the daily delivery began. Later, a Post Office was located in the Sail Loft building. In 1948, a Post Office building was constructed by the postmaster, Lehman Wentzell. This was later operated by Malcolm Ritcey until the present building was constructed by the Federal Government in 1966. The present postmaster is Ernest Ritcey.
The Riverport Telephone Co., was organized in 1893. Telephone lines were put through the district and three battery operated telephones were installed. One in Samuel Ritcey's general store, Riverport, at Isaac Heckman's shoe store, Rose Bay, and another at Rufus Mossman's store in Lower Kingsburg. Dial telephones came into the area in 1938. A telephone exchange was operated from the home of Asaph Conrad.
In 1905, Riverport published its own newpaper, "The Riverport Times." This was a weekly publication put out by J. F. Risser and H. W. McGregor and was printed by Frank Morehead of Lunenburg. Copies of this newspaper are still in existence and are prized possessions of several people in the community.
In March 1914, the Bank of Montreal was opened in a building owned by J. F. Riser, located near where the present Bank of Montreal now stands.
Horse carriages were a popular mode of travel in the 1890's. Livery stables were operated at the Myrtle Hotel, and Irvin and Arthur Nowe ran one near their home. Motor cars came into the area around 1908, the first was owned by Hector McGregor. In 1914, John Risser operated a small bus to Lunenburg several times a week. Much later in the 1940's a bus service operated from Riverport to Bridgewater and Lunenburg. The MacKenzie bus also came through for a number of years. The highway from Lunenburg to Riverport was paved in 1947. The road from Rose Bay to Lower Kingsburg was paved in 1956 and the river road from East LaHave to Upper LaHave was paved in 1960.
The first ferry to operate between East LaHave and LaHave began in 1918. This was a Cape Island boat and a barge-type ferry, with a capacity of six cars. This was replaced in 1979 by a modern cable ferry with 12 car capacity.
Located in Lower LaHave, operated in what was known as the "Oxner Big House." This house stood near the end of the Lower LaHave Road, near the present property of Irvin Himmelman. It was a hugh four-story building, operated as an Inn, with a spacious dining room and bar, a large ballroom and a wine cellar. It is said this was the centre of social activity in the area. This house was torn down in 1936.
A well-known landmark, the Myrtle Hotel, present home of Lorne Romkey, was the center of activity at the turn of the century. It was here that the Board of Trade was organized in 1908, with Dr. W. H. MacDonald as president, Daniel H. Ritcey vice-president and Samuel Ritcey as secretary.
Another well-know accommodation, the Riverside Inn, owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Bert Kempton, advertising sailing and tennis as an added attraction.
The first bridge, which spans the upper end of the community, was a wooden one built in 1865. This was replaced by a one-lane iron structure in 1897 and a two-lane causeway crossing was constructed in 1977.
THE BIG FIRE
On June 19, 1920, a disasterous fire broke out in the business district and all the buildings on the waterfront were destroyed. At that time the only means of fighting fire was the bucket brigade. Among the buildings destroyed were: Samuel Ritcey general store, Robert Creaser Sail Loft, L. A. Ritcey Hardward and Furniture, Charles Ritcey Restaurant, Ritcey Bros. Store, the Masonic Quarters, Beecham Ritcey Storage, MacGregor Barn, J. F. Risser Store and house and Gabriel Zinck Barber Shop.
After the "Big Fire", the citizens began to rebuild the business district. The former Samuel Ritcey Store was rebuilt and renamed Ritcey and Creaser. It was operated by Russell Ritcey and Robie Creaser until September 1968, when it was purchased by D. W. Craig Enterprises Ltd., the present owner. The Ritcey Bros. buildings were rebuilt, as were L.A. Ritcey's, the Sail Loft and Gabriel Zinck's Barber Shop.
The Riverport and District Fire Department was organized in 1946. The Fire Hall was built in 1951 and the extension added in 1976.
After operating in the area for 16 years and employing over 600 people, once again fire brought disaster to the community. Riverport Seafoods was destroyed by fire on September 27, 1981. The main building and Government Wharf were destroyed. The Federal Government recently announced that the Government Wharf will be rebuilt early in 1983.
It is generally thought that with our heritage of strong-willed ancestry, a determination to survive in spite of hardships, this community of Riverport will continue to make history for many years into the future.