12.0 DEVILS ISLAND
When the French engineer DeLabat visited Chibouquetou in 1711 he prepared a map of the entrance to Halifax Harbour. This map (Figure 3) shows a small island at the harbour entrance which DeLabat called "Isle Verte" (Green Island) and which later became Devils Island. The name Devils Island originates from a Frenchman named Deval or Devol who at one time owned the island. Over the years the pronunciation was changed to Devils.
In 1752, a grant of "a small island on the eastern side of the [Halifax] harbour" was made to Captain John Rous. This was Devils Island. In early years the island was referred to as Wood Island, apparently because it was forested. Hewitt believed that many years ago someone had set fire to the woods and the island was "robbed of its heavy growth of trees."
About 1830, the first permanent settlement was made on Devils Island. Andrew Henneberry, whose lease on McNabs Island had expired, moved to Devils Island, taking with him a large family. Henneberry, his wife, and a son, were later drowned off Devils Island.
After the Henneberrys came Thomas Edwards who was later joined by several brothers. About 1850 there were three houses and a school on the island. In 1901, eighteen houses stood on the island.
Prior to 1848, a beacon or some distinguishing mark on the island was used for navigational purposes. About 1848, a catoptric light was erected on the southwest side of the island. This was replaced in 1877 by a new lighthouse. A life boat station was established on the island about 1883 to rescue ships' crews that had wandered too close to the island or surrounding shores. Some of the recorded shipwrecks on Devils Island included the following:
Ship Date Deaths
Southampton(brig) 1849 1
unknown 1864 all hands
unknown 1864 none
Breamish (barge) 1871 2
Union (schooner) 1874 -
John Wesley (schooner) 1884 -
Henry Fenwick - -
Over the years the inhabitants of Devils Island gradually moved elsewhere. An automatic lighthouse on the uninhabited island presently guides ships into the safety of Halifax Harbour.