A historical tale of sweet success with a hint of intrigue in Dartmouth

·3 min read
Mott's Chocolate Factory was a big business in Dartmouth in the 19th century. (Halifax Regional Municipality / Dartmouth Heritage Museum Collection 2011.064.001 - image credit)
Mott's Chocolate Factory was a big business in Dartmouth in the 19th century. (Halifax Regional Municipality / Dartmouth Heritage Museum Collection 2011.064.001 - image credit)

Vicky Messervey thought it was a misprint when she came across a listing for Mott's Chocolate in a city directory.

Most people in the Halifax Regional Municipality think of Moirs when they think of chocolate. Moirs closed in 2007.

Intrigued by the mention of another chocolate company in Dartmouth, Messervey, a library assistant at the Halifax Central Library, started researching Mott's Chocolate six months ago. She discovered that the company was a big player in the confectionery business in the 19th century.

Vicky Messervey
Vicky Messervey

What she wasn't expecting was a chocolate story that was tempered by an extortion attempt.

She has documented her research in a blog post on the Halifax Public Libraries website.

John Mott made the company into the success it eventually became, but the company was started by his father, Messervey said.

He started a small chocolate business in the Woodside area of Dartmouth, likely inspired by a brother-in-law who worked for the Baker's Chocolate Company in Dorchester, Mass.

"Young Mott was lucky enough to be able to be sent to Dorchester to sort of learn the confectioners' trade," Messervey said.

"So when he came back several years later, he partnered with his dad and their business started to take off."

The younger Mott built a much bigger factory, Messervey said, and, while chocolate remained their main focus, they also got involved in a number of other things that included grinding spices and making soap and candles.

The company's products were sold all over Canada and its 10-cent chocolate bar was a huge hit, she said.

Dartmouth Heritage Museum 1970.018.002
Dartmouth Heritage Museum 1970.018.002

Messervey said she learned that Mott was one of the wealthiest men in Nova Scotia at the time of his death. That is reflected in his will.

In addition to leaving money for his widow and family, Mott left money to Dalhousie University, the Catholic and Protestant orphanages, the School for the Blind, the School for the Deaf and the YMCA, Messervey said.

Wealth can sometimes lead to its own set of problems, as Messervey came to discover in the Mott saga.

She said Mott received an anonymous note in the late 1880s that demanded $600 in gold coins be left hidden on the Halifax ferry. He would be shot if he didn't comply.

The note insisted that he not contact the police.

Mott immediately went to the police, she said, and they formulated a plan.

Mott would get on the ferry with a bag of less valuable coins and a police officer would be nearby pretending to be a drunkard asleep on the ferry, Messervey said

The money was dropped off at the appointed time.

"And there is another young man on the ferry at the time who picks up the bag and is immediately caught by police," Messervey said.

Halifax Regional Municipality / Dartmouth Heritage Museum Collection 1974.032.001
Halifax Regional Municipality / Dartmouth Heritage Museum Collection 1974.032.001

According to Messervey, the man turned out to be a sailor. He was ultimately acquitted and little is known about his trial.

John Mott died in 1890 and the factory was taken over by an employee, J. Walter Allison, who ran it until his death in 1927.

The factory closed after his death and the area is now residential, according to Messervey.

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