90 Water Street: Canada's Oldest Shipping Office
In 1788, John Killam built his first schooner, named Janet. This was the beginning of a family business that would encompass 203 years and five generations of the Killam family. During Yarmouth's golden age of sail, the Killam Brothers Shipping Office prospered, playing a major role in the area's financial growth.
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, complemented by 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.
Visit with us for a while and let the story of the Killam Brothers Shipping Office carry you back to another century!
The History of Killam Bros.
As mentioned earlier, the story of Killam Bros. begins in 1788, when John Killam built his first schooner, and continued to work to pass his success down to his sons, George and Thomas.
During the nineteenth century, many companies and businesses enjoyed profit as a result of Yarmouth's shipping interests. 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.
In 1868, Thomas Killam died, and his three sons Thomas, Frank and John H. continued the business under the new name of Killam Brothers, as of April 22, 1869. The firm continued to expand into a wide range of fields.
As general insurance agents, the firm represented a number of first-class marine insurance companies. The firm was the Yarmouth selling agent for different cordage and twine companies, and as a commission merchant, a wholesale and retail dealer of West India Produce. The company became one of the largest dealers in hard and soft coal in western Nova Scotia. The Killam Wharf, on which coal sheds, warehouses and offices were located, embraces about 50,000 square feet. The company owned 16 vessels.
In 1911, Frank died, and in 1915, John H. Killam's son George took over in partnership with his brother Ernest Camber Killam. In 1924, Ernest died, leaving George with complete ownership of Killam Brothers.
In 1964, George's son Robert, who was the fifth generation in this family-run business, and son-in-law Donald McLauchlan took over the firm. When McLauchlan retired in 1965, Robert was left with complete ownership, and continued as owner and manager until he dissolved the company in July 1991. In 1987 the company ceased activity in the insurance business, and in 1991 the oil business, Killam Bros. building, and wharf were all sold. In 1993 the building was sold again to Robert L. Newell, and the YDC transferred the ownership of the wharf to the town.
For more information about the history of the Killams, consult this article on Yarmouth GrassRoutes.