The Ellen Brown Story – 1865

The Ellen Brown Story – 1865

By Isabel Deyarmond
Postscript by Ross Graves
The story of the circumstances as to how the Ellen Brown Lake at Trafalgar received its name has been told many times. Nevertheless there are many who haven’t heard this story.

September of 1975 marked the 110th anniversary of the lake receiving its name, following an incident that occurred there in September 1865.

The following is the story taken from the Presbyterian Witness, headed Lost and Found. (There was also a small caption stating that the person referred to in the article as “lost and found”, was the daughter of John Chaplin of Upper Musquodoboit, and the wife of James Brown Jr. of Eastville.)

“On Friday last (September 6th, 1865) this community was thrown into a state of painful excitement. On that day, about noon, Ellen, wife of James Brown Jr., with an infant six months old, started to pay a visit to a near neighbour. She had tried to cross a narrow woods into the green forest which lies between Stewiacke and the back settlements of Pictou and Guysborough. Her husband was away from home at the time. On his return in the evening , he immediately raised the alarm and parties went out on logging roads during the night, calling and blowing horns. Morning came but no tidings of the lost woman.”

Tracks Found

“On Saturday, a large number of men searched the woods all day. The child’s veil, his wife’s tracks and other indications of her were found in the recesses of the forest. Night came again but no word of the lost mother and her child. Saturday night was a night of painful and intense anxiety and many a woman wet her pillow with tears that night when she thought of the lost mother with her babe in the woods.”

“Sabbath morning, a great multitude from four counties, Halifax, Guysborough, Pictou and Colchester, penetrated the wildderness in all directions with a firm determination that the lost ones would be found.

“In the church and at many a family altar earnest prayers were poured forth that the search might prove effectual. Night came again and indications of her presence had been found in the head waters of the St Mary’s River but no tidings of the woman and the child were forthcoming.

“On Monday a still greater number assembled and the search commenced with increased energy. At length, in the after part of that day as a party was sweeping down the shores of the lake, their number spied her on the opposite side of the lake, waving her handkerchief.”

‘Thrill of joy’

They went on to say that a thrill of joy went through the company such as they had never felt before.

“They hastened round and to their indescribable satisfaction there was the mother and the child as happy and crowing as if it were in its own cradle by its fireside; the mother better than could be expected under the circumstances. The hardy fellows that found her named the lake Ellen’s Lake. They constructed a little stretcher and made a bed in it with their coats. They carried her to the Guysborough Road, where a carriage was waiting which conveyed her to Nelson’s Hotel nearly twenty-five miles by road from her home.”

The item continues,”The sun is down, large parties come in from the woods: a goodly number have come up the mountain from the settlement below to hear the news of the hunt. Little parties were on the surrounding hills eagerly listening for the signal (firing of a gun) of her being found. Just as the shades of evening were enshrouding everything in gloom, far distant in the forest the report of a gun is heard, another and another. A few moments of joy succeeded by a half hour of painful suspense, all again is silent as the grave.

“Was the firing of the guns the result of an accident? Had some madcap broken the rules of the search? Have they lost the one with them, and are unwilling to excite her? Is she dead and they don’t want to create expectations which would be cruelly disappointing? While their suggestions are passed from one to another a bugle is heard and in a short time in all directions, parties rapidly advancing are heard, and about an hour after the first signal was heard a , party arrived on a hill in an adjoining clearing and raised a cheer and shout that the woman and the child were found and well.”

“The assembled multitude cheered in response; volley after volley of musketry was fired which announced to the inhabitants of the Valley below for miles that the great search had proven successful.” Isabel Deyarmond


Ellen Chaplin Brown, the heroine of this story, was born in 1845 in what is now called Chaplin Section, Upper Musquodoboit. When she married James Brown and went to live on his property in Eastville, she moved to a farm only three and a half miles away from her father’s, through the woods, but nearly three times that distance by road. Her new home was situated on what was then called Brown Mountain, at the head of Eastville.

The house stood on the cleared hill northeast of where Mr. Roy Harrison recently lived; older folk call the site the Angus Graham Place; younger ones, the Bob Kincaid Place. Here Ellen lived, worked, farmed and mothered her ten children.The six-month old baby she carried through the woods those four September days was her third child, Emily, who grew up to marry Mel Dickie and settle in Massachusetts. After Ellen’s husband died in 1896, she remained on the farm until her family were grown up and gone, except for the younger girls, and then sold the place and followed her older children to the States. She died in Cambridge, Mass., in 1931. Her father, John Chaplin (1800-1878), is ancestor of all the Chaplins of the Musquodoboit and Stewiacke Valleys, and her brother Charles (1830-1915) was grandfather to Mr.Stanley Chaplin and the late Mr. Clarence Chaplin of Middle Stewiacke, and of Mrs Sadie Purdy of South Branch. Ross Graves

The article is reproduced from ‘Stories of the Stewiacke Valley’ – collected and printed during the Stewiacke Valley Bicentennial celebrations in 1980.