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Guysborough Historical Society

Vision

Guysborough will be an actively engaged community which understands and values its richly diverse cultural heritage.

Mission

Guysborough Historical Society and the Old Court House Museum aim to gather, research, and manage information and collections which serve to illustrate the diverse culture and history of our communities and their people for the purpose of education and enjoyment.

History

The first attempt to organize a historical society in Guysborough dates back to 1963 when citizens met in the old Guysborough Academy building. Temporary officers were appointed to investigate the possibility of establishing a permanent organization with a view to using the courthouse, a heritage building built in 1843, if and when it became available. Interim officers at that time were president Mrs. Lettie MacLeod and secretary-treasurer L. C. Grant.

The Courthouse was in a state of disrepair and a grant of $3000 was obtained from the municipality. Mr. Donald Homes, a young architect from Dartmouth and a personal friend of L. C. Grant, visited Guysborough to view the property before preparing plans and specifications that would make the best use of the limited funds available to carry out the extensive repairs necessary. Mr. Homes did not charge for either his travel or the plans.

In 1966 the organization discovered that, in order to qualify for an annual grant of $500, it would have to provide a suitable building which would be heated during the winter.  Being unable to do this or to provide adequate funding, the idea of proceeding further with the organization was postponed until a time when the courthouse might become available.

In the years between 1966 and 1973 when the new municipal building was opened, displays and events relating to Guysborough’s history were held in the courthouse during Guysborough’s annual Come Home Week. These efforts were led by Mrs. Lettie MacLeod and others involved in attempts to further promote interest in the history of the area.

With the opening of the new municipal building in 1973, and the transfer of the courthouse chambers from the heritage building into the new building, the society revived its plan to secure the old courthouse for a museum.  Officers elected were Mrs. Lettie MacLeod as president, Mrs. Audrey (DesBarres) Carson as secretary-treasurer, and Mrs. Peggy Morrison as curator.

An active fund raising campaign was started and exhibits were donated by interested citizens.  An agreement was obtained whereby the society would have use of the courthouse at a nominal fee of one dollar per year and later the lease was extended to 21 years.  At a later annual meeting, Mrs. Lettie MacLeod resigned and Dr. Lauder Brunton was elected as president.  Dr. Brunton played a major role in the early days of the society as it grew its collection of exhibits and displays.  A federal grant of $10 000 was obtained and in 1976 the building was, with the assistance of restoration specialists, restored to conform to its original design.  When restored the original furniture and fixtures, such as the prisoner’s box, were intact.

Since 1976 the Guysborough Historical Society has continued to maintain the historic courthouse as a museum which now also houses a visitor information centre.  The Old Courthouse Museum is open to the public from June to September each year and welcomes visitors from all over the world.

The Society continues to fulfill its mission through the acquisition and exhibition of materials, creation of extensive genealogical records, the hosting of public meetings and lectures on matters of local historical interest, supporting the publication of local histories, sponsoring student summer employment, organizing community events and fundraising activities.

The Guysborough Historical Society welcomes new members and is always open to acquiring historical materials, artifacts, and stories that will help us in our  mission to gather, research, and manage information and collections which serve to illustrate the diverse culture and history of our communities and their people for the purpose of education and enjoyment.

The early history information was originally published as part of a  recollection by Laurier C. Grant under the title “Guysborough Hospital-How a community filled a need – A history by L.C. Grant”, as an insert in an August 1982 edition of the Guysborough Journal.  Some editing has been done.

Updated October 29, 2020