CHURCHILL, EZRA A., merchant, shipbuilder, and politician; b. 1804 at Yarmouth, N.S., to Ezra Churchill and Elizabeth Trefry; d. 8 May 1874 in Ottawa, Ont.
Ezra A. Churchill’s father, a mate on a Yarmouth brigantine, was lost with his ship, Hibernia, in 1806, and his mother returned to her home in Hantsport, where she remarried and raised her son. On 10 Nov. 1824 Ezra Churchill married Ann Davidson of Falmouth, N.S., and they had two sons and several daughters. Following the death of his first wife, he married Rachel Burgess of Billtown, N.S., by whom he had four children; only one son lived beyond infancy.
Ezra Churchill began his career in Hantsport. In 1841 he bought shares in a small brigantine, and in 1844 he commissioned the building of another brigantine of 128 tons. In the 1850s he bought shares in at least two more vessels and owned the controlling interest in five others. One of these, the 697-ton Morning Star, launched in 1856, was the first ship built by Churchill; it was followed by such large vessels as the 1,138-ton La Gloire, built in 1862, the 1,383-ton Marlborough, built the following year, and the 1,050-ton British America, launched in 1869. Like other vessels built in the province, they were cargo ships with the blunt lines of the work ship rather than the sleek lines of the clipper ships which were designed for speed. Churchill differed from other builders at the time because he left much of the construction to his master builder, Robert Fuller. His yards continued to build smaller vessels suitable for the coastal trade long after other major yards had ceased this practice. At his death, his fleet and yards, among the foremost in the province, were taken over by his two sons, John and George. In the mid–1880s the Churchill yards, like other shipyards in the provinces, began to decline.
Churchill, who was obviously interested in the commercial and financial aspects of shipping, became involved with an attempt to establish a new provincial bank. A charter was granted in 1864 by the legislature for the Mutual Bank of Nova Scotia. The project did not develop any further, however, despite the support of the finance minister, Isaac Levesconte, and other prominent Conservative assemblymen including H. A. N. Kaulback of Lunenburg and Peter Smyth of Inverness.
In 1855 Churchill was elected to the assembly as the member for Falmouth Township. When this seat was abolished in 1859, he sat as a member for Hants County, North Division, from 1859 until 1867. He was a relatively quiet supporter of the Conservative party but withheld support from Charles Tupper* by abstaining in the 1866 vote on confederation. He did not take part in the 1867 general election but joined with Jeremiah Northup to help elect Joseph Howe in the “better terms” by-election of 1869. Churchill was appointed, probably on Howe’s recommendation, to the Senate in February 1871.
PANS, Scrapbook 109, 134–35. Directory of N.S. MLAs (Fergusson). J. V. Duncanson, Falmouth – a New England township in Nova Scotia, 1760–1965 (Windsor, Ont., 1965), 208. Wallace, Wooden ships and iron men . . . , 131–35, 204–5. [The author was also given significant aid by G. V. Shand of Windsor, N.S. k.g.p.]