Goshen Entrepreneur Merritt Feltmate
Merritt Feltmate was born in Eight Island Lake, Guysborough County to Seward and Elizabeth Feltmate in 1924. He moved to Goshen and became one of the biggest employers in the area through his numerous businesses; an account of which follows below
Often referred to as Merritt’s Bird Farm, it was located near the Goshen Gospel Church along route 316 when traveling towards Country Harbour. The Bird Farm opened in 1975 and was situated on four acres of land. It had ponds, pens, cages, huts and a water system. Merritt cleared the lot used for the farm himself. He had all the equipment necessary due to his other business ventures.
On the farm there were 30 buildings and 32 ponds, housing approximately 1200 birds, which consisted of 130 different breeds. Many of them were free range while those that were a flight risk lived in pens. The collection included numerous breeds of domestic poultry and wild birds that passed up their winter migration and remained at the farm.
Operating costs included bird feed; up to $100 per/day. Many of the birds brought in from Central Canada and the United States cost upwards of $300 a pair.
Summers brought as many as 300 people to the Bird Farm in a single day. Thousands of school children visited the site throughout the year.
Merritt worked at the farm every day and employed one full time staff member and several part time staff; mainly family and friends. In 1981 all the birds had to be destroyed due to a contagious disease brought in by a flock of imported birds. After a few years Merritt was able to restock the farm and it became the biggest private bird collection in the Maritimes. Merritt’s birds have won two awards from the Department of the Environment and one from the Department of Tourism . His birds have also won over 100 ribbons in shows throughout Nova Scotia.
Animals on the Game Farm included:
Canaries, Budgies, Cockatiels, Love Birds, Finches, Doves, Black Swans, White Swans, Australian Swans, Canada Geese, Snow Geese, Emperor Geese, Quail, Peafowl,
Ducks: Mallard, Mandarin, Muscovy, Black, Wood, Blue Wing Teal, Green Wing Teal
Pheasants: Ring Neck, Golden, Yellow Golden, Lady Amherst
The Department of Natural Resources purchased the Bird Farm from Merritt on November 2nd, 1990. They kept it open until the Goshen Leisure & Wildlife Association, a non-profit organization, began managing the site the following year. The bird farm received funding from the Goshen Leisure & Wildlife Association, the Department of Natural Resources, and from Human Resources Development Canada & Community Services for the employment of summer students. The Goshen Leisure Park closed in 1994.
Merritt’s Campground started with two housekeeping cottages that were originally owned by Merritt and his father Seward Feltmate. The property around the cottages was developed as a campground with washroom facilities and electrical outlets. The campground, located on Pringle Lake, was used to host summer swim programs and it was a common swimming spot for residents. The cabins were sold in 1979; a section of the property was sold to Dave Beiswanger and then to George Arsenault and is now owned by Debbie & Danny MacIsaac. The remaining property continued to be used by the community and as a campground until it closed. The property is still owned by Vera Feltmate.
In the mid 1940’s Merritt opened a garage in an old building he had moved from Eight Island Lake to the property behind his parent’s home. He employed one mechanic, William Smith. He built a new garage in 1946 on the property now occupied by Goshen Enterprises. In September 1947, this garage burned to the ground. The next week he started to cut logs to rebuild the garage, which reopened in 1948. Over the years eight mechanics were employed by the garage. He also ran a car dealership for Studebaker and Ford for several years in the early 1950’s. He closed the garage in the mid 1950’s.
In the mid 1940’s, Merritt operated a small store on the property across from the garage. He later moved the store into one end of the garage. In 1951, he purchased candy making equipment from Andy Murphy and Frank Askew and ran a candy factory, Goshen Sweets, for approximately one year. He sold the building to Earl Mason in 1955 and this is now the main part of Earl’s house.
He built an extension on the garage after the highway changed in the 1960’sand enlarged the store (Note Highway prior to change had run behind the store now runs in front of it). He kept a display of antiques and mounted birds and animals for a number of years. He employed approximately twelve people over the years to work in the store. He and his wife Vera worked there as well. He sold the store in 1981 to Barry Mackenzie.
In the early 1960’s he rented a section at the rear of the store to Mike Mansour. Mike lived there and operated a clothing store for several years. He also rented a small building situated on the site of the original Store/Candy Factory to the Nova Scotia Power Commission for a number of years during the late 1960’s and early 1970′s.
Merritt Felmate’s Construction Company started in the early 1960’s. The company did landscaping, dug basements and wells and installed septic systems while employing four to five people. Some of the machinery used included trucks, bulldozers, loaders, backhoes and graders. The business closed in 1999 with the passing of Merritt, but his son in law, Wilfred MacKeen, continued to operate a bulldozing business until 2004.
Merritt Feltmate worked in the logging industry in 1948 before starting his pulp business in 1961. He employed up to thirty men at a time harvesting wood which he sold to Stora Forest Industries (Stora-Enso as of 1998 merger).