READERS RESPOND TO CANNING, BOOT ISLAND COLUMNS (November 7/97)

Judging from the comments, phone calls and notes from readers about recent columns, there is a lot of interest in local history. The columns about Boot Island and the “lost history” of Canning brought an unusual number of responses from readers who had information about these topics. I was surprised that people know so much about the history of places like Canning and Boot Island and so little of it has been written down. Obviously much local history exists only as recollections and family stories that are passed from generation to generation.

Most interesting were the notes and telephone calls from people whose relatives had lived on Boot Island. Several readers supplied the names of families who besides the Leon Cards had lived on the Boot. The Hutchinson, Nowlan, Biggs and Allen families were mentioned by readers. These families had farmed on Boot Island at some time over the last 100 years; undoubtedly there were other families who in the centuries after the Acadian expulsion had made the Boot their home but no written record of them is believed to exist.

Marion Schofield called to tell me that her grandparents, David and Abigail Hutchinson, started married life on Boot island and had a sheep ranch there in the 19th century. Mrs. Schofield wasn’t sure about the exact dates of their occupation but she said it was prior to 1870, the date her father was born.

Several readers mentioned that Boot Island was profiled briefly in a book about island life in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. None of the callers could remember the title of the book but a letter from Thelma Duncan revealed its name and author.

“I wondered,” Ms. Duncan wrote , “if you have read Paradise or Purgatory by Allison Mitchum, which was published (by Lancelot Press) in 1986. She has a good chapter on Boot Island (with) the history of the Biggs and Allens who lived there prior to the Cards.” Ms. Duncan added that she has a special interest in the Boot which she looks upon from the patio of her home on the Oak Island Road in Avonport.

One reader told me several tales about the treacherous tides in “The Guzzle,” that infamous stretch between Boot Island and the main shore. One of them was about a team of oxen and a wagon filled with produce being swept along the shore by the rush of water, eventually reaching land well below their destination point. I have also confirmed that at least one Valley resident was born on the Boot. An interview with one of these people will be the topic of a future column.

A former lifelong resident of Canning, the late Ira Cox, is one of the persons who has written a history of this village. John DeWolfe of Canning called to tell me he is in possession of the Cox history, which has never been published, and has kindly agreed to let me look at it. Hopefully I’ll be able to review the Cox manuscript in this column. I believe Mr. Cox covered Canning history for a period of well over 100 years.

I was told recently – I was given the approximate location actually – that New Minas contains a Micmac burial site. Information anyone might have about this or other Micmac sites in New Minas (Oak Island, for example) would be appreciated. Perhaps the “Micmac factor” in New Minas will also be a future column topic.

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