CANNING – A LOST HISTORY? (October 17/97)

Some 50 or 60 years ago, the story goes, a longtime Canning resident decided to write a history of his village. The history was said to be based on old records, interviews with other longtime residents and the writer’s involvement in the affairs of Canning for over half a century. The history was completed in the early 1950s but has never appeared in print and few people have read it.

Depending on whom you talk to, this history of early Canning has been destroyed or is gathering dust somewhere in an attic. The author passed away in the early 1960s and at the time of his death the history wasn’t completed.

Is the lost Canning history fact or fiction? The dates given may be off a bit but I believe an account of Canning from the late 19th century through the early 1900s was probably written; and it probably has been stored away somewhere and forgotten.

It’s even possible there may be more than one Canning account. Writer/researcher Marie Bishop, who is best known for the in-depth community histories she has penned, told me recently that she heard about the existence of two histories of Canning. Like me Ms. Bishop has heard the stories about the accounts being written – with one of them now in the hands of a relative – and she has the name of at least one possible author.

Not all of this is conjecture or rumors. When I was working in the Canning area for this newspaper some 25 years ago I heard that a Canning history had been written and I was directed to the door of a gentleman who was then in his 80s. Yes, he told me, he had been working of “a paper about Canning for years.” I was told I couldn’t see his work at the time but I would be invited back later when the history was in order.

The invitation never came. Several years later the old gentleman died; and when I inquired about his history several months after his death, no one knew anything about it.

In a way it’s too bad that this account, or perhaps the accounts, of Canning aren’t available. At one time Canning was a thriving village and was probably one of the major shipping, ship building and commercial centers in this part of the Annapolis Valley. I don’t believe an in-depth history of Canning has ever been compiled and there’s no doubt that many of the old records have been lost. The personal account(s) mentioned above would be invaluable in fleshing out a history of the village.

There undoubtedly are interesting bits and pieces of Canning’s past in newspaper files, museums and in personal accounts that people have squirreled away or misplaced. A few short histories and various photographs of Canning have appeared in The Advertiser from time to time, most dealing with ship building or the great fires that ravaged the village in 1866. In my files, for example, is an excellent profile of the village written by Doreen Roberts and published in this paper in 1978. This article has a concise report on the Canning fires and an overview of the village.

Various authors, some of them prominent, have mentioned Canning in their writing, Esther Clark Wright being one example. Ms. Wright mentions Canning at least half a dozen times in one of her better known books, some of it disparaging.

Future generations will read Ms. Wright’s remarks about “poor Canning” with its rotting wharves and pretentious forefathers. The village deserves better treatment. Perhaps one day, when all the lost accounts are found, a future historian will be more kind.

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