PASSING BY THE BAPTIST MEETING HOUSE – 1818 MAP (December 4/98)

Perhaps because it’s a third or fourth generation reproduction, the old map is confusing and difficult to read even with a powerful magnifying glass. For example, it’s difficult to determine whether the surveyor who produced the map of Horton Township 180 years ago described a road near Sheffield Mills as running “over the dyke passing the Baptist Meeting House and then over the mountain,” or as a road that passes the meeting house and has no connection with the dykes.

Whatever the mapmaker’s intent, we can see that in 1818 many of the roads in this area had no names and were often associated with prominent establishments (i.e. a meeting house or church). In some cases, references are to geographic features. For example, the area on the hill immediately north of Kentville is called the Black Forrest, a reference perhaps to the prominent stands of pines along Cornwallis Street (the “Pine Woods”) that Eaton mentioned in his Kings County history.

But before I tell you about more quaint references, a bit about the map. Actually, it’s maps. In 1818, one John Harris was commissioned to survey and produce plans of the Townships of Cornwallis, Horton and Aylesford. This he proceeded to do in November and December of 1818 and through January, 1819. Copies of the maps were obtained in Halifax by Richard Skinner, who has spent many hours pouring over them and translating much of the almost indecipherable handwriting.

I tried reading some of the writing on the maps with a magnifying glass and soon gave up. Thanks to Mr. Skinner’s efforts, however, I can pass along some of the quaint and curious descriptions of the area running roughly from Aylesford east to the Hants County border. You will find the designations amusing but keep in mind that in 1818 some areas had no official names and roads were often described by who lived along them.

“Up the Gaspereau (River) to the settlement at New Canaan” is one example of the designation for a road leading south from Wolfville. Other roads are designated simply as leading “to the Church’ or “to the town.” While Kentville is not named (one section of the map is missing) the location of the courthouse in the town is marked. The road leading from the courthouse is simply marked “from the courthouse;” another is designated as the “road to Cornwallis Town Plot,” while another is marked as “road from the post road.” A “good publick (sic) road over the mountain” is another amusing inscription, while another road has the designation “through a good settlement.”

In 1818 the Cornwallis River had still retained its Acadian name, at least on official documents. Both the Horton Township map and the Cornwallis, Aylesford Township map name the river as the “Cornwallis Dix Habitant.” The Acadians referred to the Cornwallis as the Grand Habitant and the river at Canning as being the lesser Habitant.

Richard Skinner mentioned that I would be amazed by the number of taverns shown on the old maps. Both taverns and churches are given prominence, which is a commentary of some sort on those times. I found half a dozen taverns on the maps, the majority of them outside Wolfville towards the Hants County border (probably because this was a heavily travelled area on the way to Windsor and Halifax).

Just south of Wolfville near the Post Road at Halfway River is a tavern, the name illegible. East of this, on the “road from Windsor by way of Mt. Dennison to Horton” are three more taverns; two are identified as Geo. Brown’s Tavern and Witter’s Tavern, while the third appears to be named Hare’s Tavern. Wolfville has Fowler’s Tavern, which is shown near a meeting-house, and in Kentville Peck’s Tavern was apparently noteworthy enough to be indicated on the map.

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