While using the stretch of highway between downtown Kentville and the New Minas malls, countless people have unknowingly driven past an interesting Acadian site. And perhaps no more than a handful of people were aware the mill ever existed until its approximate location was mentioned in a locally published book.
Hundreds of years ago the Acadians built a mill on Elderkin Brook, which passes under the #1 highway just beyond Wickwire Hill. While I’ve been unable to locate its exact site – blame my limited historical references – local folklore has it that the mill sat near the highway and was powered by the daily tides which at one time flooded the brook hollow.
As I said, at one time only a few people knew the Acadians had a tidal mill between Kentville and New Minas. With the publication of a book on natural history, this was no longer the case. The Blomidon Naturalist’s Society (BNS) natural history of Kings County mentions the tidal mill in the chapter on the Acadians.
This book confirms another local folk tale about Acadian windmills. The late local historian, Ernest Eaton, once told me the Acadians may have had several windmills in the high ground area between Canard and Belcher Street. Mr. Eaton said that through his research he believed he had located at least one windmill site but he could find no concrete evidence to confirm his findings. The BNS book mentions a possible Acadian windmill on the high ground at Church Street, which is the only reference in print that I’ve come across.
Acadian cellars are also mentioned in the BNS history. Ernest Eaton told me about the old cellars which were scattered through the Canard, Upper Dyke area. This area was not as heavily settled as Grand Pre. The Acadians built homes near the Canard River and at Upper Dyke where some of the first dykes in the area were started. Mr. Eaton offered to point out the location of some of these cellars and dyke works in the early 50s but I was more interested in the hunting and fishing on his land at the time. When I asked Eaton about the cellars 20 years later he lamented that they had been destroyed by farming and were now only pinpoints on his maps.
It’s unusual to find Acadian history in a book on natural history. However, the BNS book has many references to the Acadians and there’s an obvious explanation. The Acadians introduced a number of plants to this area, some of which are now common. And obviously the flora and fauna of this region has been influenced by the Acadian trademark, the dykes. Writing a natural history of this area without mentioning the Acadians would be impossible.
While I regretfully passed up the opportunity to see the site of Acadian homesteads, Ernest Eaton told me where several were located. Surprisingly, some sites were well inland away from the marshes and waterways. Eaton told me a couple of Acadian cellars were visible at one time just south of Gibson Woods on land adjacent to the federal research station.
Several historians, Mr. Eaton included, mention an Acadian mill on the Cornwallis River, downstream from the bridge a stone’s throw from the heart of the business district. Eaton said Acadian cellars were visible in the 30s across the Cornwallis along the northern edge of Kentville. According to Eaton, some of the first homes built in Kentville after the Expulsion were constructed on Acadian homestead sites. Some Kentville homes still stand on these old sites, Eaton said.