An amusing poem I read years ago claimed a convoluted, confusing series of town roads originated when settlers followed the tracks made by wandering animals.
The thoroughfares in the Valley aren’t that complicated, but there’s a slight similarity in origin. In many cases, the roads that connect communities with villages and villages with towns followed old trails laid down by the Micmacs and later adopted by the Acadians.
The numerous family and community histories of this area mention the old roads and trails that existed when the Planters and Loyalists set up homesteads. In Tangled Roots, for example there is a reference to an old Acadian road that ran from the Minas Basin shore to Kentville. This Bishop Family saga tells us that soon after John and his four sons debarked at Horton, they rushed to Horton Corner (Kentville) via “an old Acadian track that ran along the south bank of the Cornwallis River” to obtain their land grants.
While this was over 230 years ago, traces of this road probably still exist and some of it may be part of the current railroad bed and highway between Kentville and Horton. In fact, many of the old Micmac trails and Acadian roads still can be traced. An interesting exorcise might be to produce a map of these old thoroughfares so we could see where they were and how they influenced today’s roads. Beginning with the Micmacs, an enterprising researcher could write a fascinating history just on the old roads alone.
I’ve speculated about such a history many times and I’ve drawn up a rough plan of where I’d start. In Kings County, my history of trails and roads would concentrate on the river crossing at Kentville, the Middle Dyke road, the old trails that ran from the Minas Basin south to Wolfville and the Gaspereau Valley, and the grand road the Acadians started to build from Grand Pre to Halifax. In Hants County, the old ford on the Avon River near Windsor would require a chapter since Micmac and Acadian trails lead to it from several directions.
The site where the bridge spans the Cornwallis in Kentville is the only fordable area on the tidal section of the river and it plays an important role in the history of the area. Micmac and Acadian trails met at this ford and it maybe one of the oldest thoroughfares in the area. From the ford an Acadian trail (now part of Belcher Street) ran easterly in Middle Dyke road. Part of the Middle Dyke Road, which runs north from the Cornwallis River to the upper Habitant (Canning) River is apparently of Acadian origin. Thousands of motorists travel this road every year and I often wonder if any of them realise they are using an ancient trail.
Wolfville and the Gaspereau area once had numerous Acadian and Micmac trails and the writer of the history I have in mind would have to devote many chapters to them. One of the oldest Acadian trials may have followed what today is Willow Avenue on the east edge of Wolfville. Silver and Kirkconnell (in their book Wolfville’s Historic Homes) called it a “venerable old road to the village of Gaspereau.”
There are few traces of most of the old trails and roads but it should be possible to map out and publish the majority of them.