Aguathuna Limestone Quarry
Aguathuna, Port aux Port Peninsula
Located on the North Side of the Port au Port peninsula, on a small road to the community of Boswarlos is a large limestone quarry. The quarry was opened in 1911 by the Dominion Iron and Steel Company (may also be referred to as Nova Scotia Iron and Steel Company) from Sydney, Nova Scotia. When ore mining began on Bell Island by the same company, limestone came in demand as it was used to purify and separate the minerals in the iron rich rocks.
The site was chosen because of its massive deposits, its proximity to its final destination in Sydney and its close proximity to saltwater would allow easy shipping by ship. Shortly after it was renamed Aguathuna by the quarries manager, Arthur House which he believed to be the Beothuk translation for “white stone” as in the color of the limestone rock. The name, however, was later determined to mean "Grindstone" not "white stone".
The mine was open on a seasonal basis and originally used a 2,600 lb steel ball instead of dynamite for extracting the limestone. Horses were used for transporting the stone, where it would be put on a ship and sent to Nova Scotia.
When technology advanced in the 1920s, steam shovels on track systems were used for extracting the rock where it was placed on locomotives that moved the rock around the quarry. At peak production, almost 500 people were hired in the quarry. The Aguathuna Quarry closed in 1964 after the company began suffering financial difficulties and other deposits of the resource were being discovered closer to their processing plants in Cape Breton.
Driving into the quarry the first thing you see besides the limestone cliffs is a 2 story concrete building standing alone off the road. The building is in relatively good shape and is relatively safe to explore. The building is used by local fire departments as a training tool to simulate a burning house. The floors are mainly metal grating that is safe to walk on however some of the stairs are rotten and loose.
Walking down towards the shoreline, the remains of the old wharf can be seen along with several old metal towers and a small concrete building used for sorting and transporting rock.
An old, partly underground conveyor belt system can also be explored. The conveyor belt runs into the cliff perpendicular to the shoreline and then joins a larger, almost entirely subsurface conveyor belt that would’ve transported rock onto the wharf and into ships. The conveyor belt is in fairly good shape and the tunnels still appear strong.
Along the coast line, small caves carved into the soft limestone rock can be explored and seen at low tide.
Sources & Further Exploring
Benwah, J. S. (2004). History of the Communities of the Peninsula. Benoit First Nation Website. Found at https://www.benoitfirstnation.ca/page2history.htm.
House, J. (2013). My Aguathuna: One Mile Square.
Martin, W., & Canadian Institute of Mining Metallurgy. (1983). Once Upon a Mine: Story of pre-Confederation mines on the Island of Newfoundland. Special Volume no. 26. Montreal: The Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. (Available online through the NL Heritage Website at www.heritage.nf.ca)
My Aguathuna "One Mile Square"
By Jerome House
My grandfather, Arthur House, was working for the Dominion Steel and coal Company (DOSCO) mining ore on Bell Island when he was assigned the task of location sources of limestone in Newfoundland. In the fall of 1910, he located an abundance of top rate stone at Jack O’Clubs Cove in Port au Port Bay on Newfoundland‘s west coast. DOSCO opened a quarry there in 1911. With Arthur in charge, Jack O’Clubs Cove was transformed into a top rate mining community which was renamed Aguathuna, a Beothuck word meaning ‘white rock’. I think I was very privileged to have been raised in Aguathuna. The stories in ‘My Aquathuna One Mile Square’ are written as a tribute to my grandfather before they are lost forever. In 1970, Aguathuna amalgamated with two other small communities on the Port au Port Peninsula to become the town of Port au Port West-Aguathuna - Felix Cove.