90 Water Street: Canada's Oldest Shipping Office
We offer our visitors a guided tour of this 19th century setting. One of our unique displays is the original half-model of the 1861 ship Research, with the storytelling of its "Voyage of Many Rudders." Another feature is the prominent "double stand up" desk, in which the cash drawer has grooves worn into the wood by hands making change. On view are ledgers and day books from the 1800s and early 1900s.
The History of Killam Bros.
John Killam built his first schooner in 1788. This was the beginning of a family business that would last 203 years and span five generations. During Yarmouth's golden age of sail, the Killam Brothers Shipping Office played a major role in the area's economy.
John Killam's sons, George and Thomas, along with John's brother-in-law William K. Dudman, formed one of the earlier ship chandleries in January 1849. As ship chandlers, they dealt in cordage, canvas, and other supplies for ships, but also dealt in coal, operated a shipyard, and traded goods. Between 1835 and 1869, the company owned a total of 57 vessels.
Thomas Killam died in 1868, and his three sons, Thomas, Frank and John H., operated the business under the new name of Killam Brothers, as of April 22, 1869.
The Killam Brothers were general insurance agents and represented a number of first-class marine insurance companies. The firm continued to sell cordage and twine and it became one of the largest dealers in hard and soft coal in western Nova Scotia. The Killam Wharf, which was home to coal sheds, warehouses and offices, covered about 50,000 square feet. The company owned 16 vessels at this time.
In 1911, Frank died, and John H. Killam's son, George, took over in partnership with his brother Ernest Camber Killam. Ernest died in 1924, leaving George as the sole owner of Killam Brothers.
George's son Robert, who was the fifth generation in this family-run business, and son-in-law Donald McLauchlan took over the firm in 1964. When McLauchlan retired in 1965, Robert became the sole owner until he dissolved the company in July 1991. That year, the oil business, the Killam Bros. building, and wharf were all sold.The building was sold again to Robert L. Newell in 1993, and the Yarmouth Development Corporation transferred the ownership of the wharf to the town.
For more information about the history of the Killams, consult this article on Yarmouth GrassRoutes.