Early History

Our interesting river was discovered by Captain Simon Imbert in 1613 as he was forced to seek shelter from a storm while attempting to deliver supplies to Port Royal.  His countrymen therefore named the new discovery as Imbert River, much later to evolve to Bear River.

Millions of years before this time, the runoff from the melting glaciers carved out a ravine with unique geological features leaving granite boulders of massive size peppering the tributaries, lake bottoms, and beyond.

The principal tributaries of the River known as the East and West Branches traditionally provided water power to several mills of different types before meeting the Fundy tidal waters in the village; this area was later identified as "The Head of the Tide."

Before the Europeans arrived, the Mic Mac Indians were here for thousands of years.  At present, a First Nation community adjoins our Tidal Village of Bear River.  Encampments were discovered near the mouth of our river in 1956.  Artifacts found are believed to go back to 500 BC.

The first major settlement of newcomers to the area came in 1783 as Loyalists; however, prior to that a 1767 census showed 51 Americans and only 16 of British descent living here.  Land grants were given to the Loyalist soldiers, usually in a 100 or 500 acre size.

By 1870, two thriving communities were established, one on each side of the river.  The Annapolis side, or east side, of the river was called Bridgeport and the west Hillsburgh or Bear River.  McAlpine's Directory of 1870 described Bridgeport as: "Much commercial enterprise and energy existed here.  The lumber business is prosecuted extensively.  Shipbuilding is carried on with much vigor and success.  The export are large and the place prosperous."

The combined communities were able to boast to being home to thirteen sea captains.  There were also forty-two other occupations, including sixty-seven farm families.

Our tidal river with a 28-foot rise and fall, and the bountiful timber, provided a perfect match for building wooden vessels that are said to have sailed worldwide.  Wharves covered the riverbanks, with timber being the principal export.