HISTORICAL NUGGETS IN SESSIONAL PAPERS (February 5/99)

These dry, dusty pages from our past are as exciting to read as a recipe for a mustard poultice.

Yet the journal and proceedings of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly, which mainly are column after column of expenditures on roads, bridges, wharves and so on, offer valuable clues about our past. I have before me, for example, copies of the House of Assembly lists for the years 1844, 1845, 1846 and 1847. Leon Barron found these records at Acadia University library and they have helped him with his research on the old Kingsport wharf.

As mentioned in last week’s column, Barron is building a miniature replica of the wharf which was first laid down over 130 years old. Before he could proceed Barron required answers to several questions. In what year did the Oakpoint Pier Co. lay the foundation for the wharf and open it for shipping? When was the wharf turned over to the province and/or the federal government? When were the various stages of the wharf – seven in all – constructed.

If one has the patience to pour over those tedious lists, the answers to these questions are in the journal and proceedings of the House of Assembly. There are other historical nuggets as well; which I suppose could be called mini-nuggets since they mostly fill in missing pieces of local history.

Where and when was the first bridge placed on the Cornwallis River? Port Williams, Kentville or another location? Tantalizing clues can be found in those old lists. In 1845 the provincial government granted the sum of 1,375 pounds “for the service of Roads and Bridges in Kings County” and there is the following entry: “To complete the Bridge over the Cornwallis River near Kentville and on the Road from thence northerly to Mrs. Silver’s, and to pay Wm. McKittrick two pounds, an over-expenditure on said Bridge, 1844 – 50 pounds.”

From this we known there was a public bridge over the Cornwallis, near Kentville, as early as 1844. An entry in the 1846 proceedings indicates there may also have been another bridge spanning the Cornwallis at that time. An entry reads that the sum of 12 pounds was allotted for work on the road from “John Parson’s to Annapolis Road, and to build a bridge over Cornwallis River (in addition to 11 pounds undrawn last year).”

Other interesting tidbits from the House of Assembly proceedings:

That mysterious, aloof Isle Haute in the Bay of Fundy once had a lighthouse. In 1847 the sum of 1,250 pounds was granted to build a lighthouse on the Isle.

Just over 150 years ago some enterprising Horton businessmen decided that a steamship service from the Minas Basin to New Brunswick would be feasible. The House of Assembly records show that a petition was presented for “John Fisher and others, of Horton, by Mr. DeWolf and read, praying aid in the erection of a Wharf or Pier at Blue Beach, on the Windsor (Avon) River for the accommodation of a Steam Boat plying between St. John, N.B. and Windsor.”

While that wharf was never built and the steam boat never ran from Blue Beach, we can see from the Assembly records that dyke and road repairs were an ongoing expense. In 1845: The dyke Gate on the new Road crossing the Grand Prairie (Grand Pre) – 15 pounds. “Little Island to Boot Island and to secure the embankment – 8 pounds.” And again in 1846: “Little Island to Boot Island and to secure the embankment – 10 pounds.” Most of the Sessional entries for 1844 to 1847 refer to the building of new roads or extension of existing ones. It’s speculation but perhaps many of our current roads came into existence in this period.

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