A reader once asked me about the correct spelling of Boot Island, observing that she had seen several versions of the name in print. She wondered if Boot Island is only a commonly used colloquialism and if it actually had an official name.
After being stranded there on a stormy, bitterly cold night in November over 30 years ago, Boot Island has a special fascination for me. As a result of that misadventure I started a file that I call Boot Island Info. Anything about the Island that I came across went into the file, which really was no more than a haphazardly collected, totally unorganized folder with bits and pieces of information.
Boot Island apparently is a corruption of the French name for the area, which wasn’t an island when it was so named, and it has been spelled in various ways – Bout, Boute and Beaute, for example. There may be a Boot Island mystery, the Island may have held a sheep ranch and it apparently was the home of a fox farming enterprise. These and other tidbits are in my folder but let’s look first at the origin of the Island’s name.
The old maps of the Minas Basin indicate that in the 18th century Boot Island was part of the mainland and was a prominent island-like point. The French name for this area was L’Isle au Bout. In his booklet on Kings County place names, Watson Kirkconnell says this translates in “the island at the end (of Long Island in the Grand Pre area).” Upon hearing the Acadians pronounce the name of the area, it was a simple matter for the Planters to start calling it Boot Island.
Boot Island was occupied at one time. I was told that the Dewolfe family once owned island the Boot and farmed there but was unable to confirm this. However, Wolfville native Gordon Hansford says that the Leon Card family farmed on the Boot in the 30s and were the last people to live there. Mr. Card and his ox team were a familiar sight around Wolfville. Card brought the oxen from the Boot into town to sell produce, walking backward coming and going with the team.
According to Hansford, Mr. Card operated a registered fox farm on Boot Island and lived there for about a quarter-century. Gordon tells me that in the files at Kings Courthouse Museum is a certificate for the Boot Island Fox Farm Company.
Nowadays Boot Island is a lonely, almost barren wildlife refuge that is slowly and surely being destroyed by the Minas Basin tides. Kentville owes it crow invasion to the destruction of the Island. At one time an estimated 25,000 crows roosted on the Boot. The dispersal of this roost by natural forces hasn’t made Kentville taxpayers happy.
Is there a Boot Island mystery?
The late Hants County author, Edith Mosher, said there is. When I corresponded with Ms. Mosher in the fall of 1996 about a wartime tragedy she asked me if was familiar with the “Boot Island Mystery.” Later, in a telephone conversation, I asked Ms. Mosher about the mystery and she promised to write and send a copy of her research on this subject which would be a topic in an upcoming book.
I never received that letter. Ms. Mosher passed away that year before she could write. Since then I have asked many people if they were familiar with the Boot Island Mystery. All replies have been in the negative.