Nova Scotia

New Grand Passage ferry honours local hero Margaret Davis's legacy of justice

A remarkable Nova Scotian will have a ferry named in her honour when the Grand Passage ferry is christened Margaret's Justice.

Margaret Davis walked from Brier Island to Halifax — and back — after a stranger tried to take her house

A new ferry servicing the Grand Passage, on the Digby Neck, is about to be christened Margaret's Justice. (Province of Nova Scotia)

In Nova Scotia, naming ferries is serious business.

Earlier this year, Halifax Transit christened one of its ferries the Viola Desmond, in honour of the civil rights hero. And today, another remarkable Nova Scotian will have a ferry named in her honour when the Grand Passage ferry is christened Margaret's Justice.

It's named for Margaret Davis, a woman who lived on Brier Island almost 200 years ago and is a local legend because of an epic journey she made to save her home in 1828.

"It's so exciting that she's getting her due," said Cathleen Fillmore, who penned a book about Davis called The Life of a Loyalist.

​"She really was remarkable and I'm thrilled that a ferry will be named after her."

From America to Nova Scotia

According to Fillmore, Christiana Margaret Davis was born in New York in 1765 and moved to Nova Scotia with her family shortly after when the American Revolution broke out.

"Her family moved to Shelburne, which was the fourth biggest city in North America at the time," Fillmore told CBC Radio's Mainstreet.

Davis and her family eventually settled on Brier Island, on the tip of Digby Neck. She became known as a "granny woman" who used homegrown herbs to tend to the sick and dying, which Fillmore explained was the "closest thing to a doctor."

Battle to save her home

Although Davis owned her family home, legal troubles began to threaten her property rights when a stranger claimed the house as his own in 1828.

"She was illiterate, and like so many others, she claimed her land with an X, which is hard to defend in the court," Fillmore said.

But Davis didn't give up. At the age of 63, she set out on foot on a perilous, two-week journey to Halifax — some 225 kilometres away.

There, she had the fortune of meeting a judge who spoke German — her primary language — and pleaded her case. 

"Halifax must have seemed like quite a bustling city to her," said Fillmore. "But she was formidable. She won her case and walked all the way back to Brier Island, victorious."

Christening Margaret's Justice

In May, Carter Thurber, a student at Islands Consolidated School in Freeport, picked the winning name. It was part of a naming campaign organized by Nova Scotia's Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

Margaret's Justice will receive an official christening on Saturday at the Westport ferry terminal on Brier Island. The ferry will travel between Freeport and Westport.

With files from CBC's Mainstreet