HABITANT – AN EARLY ACADIAN SITE (February 19/99)

“Of the dozens of Acadian hamlets that speckled Kings County countryside in early 1755 …. only four survive by name in 1971, namely Grand Pre, Gaspereau, Melanson and Pereau,” Watson Kirkconnell wrote in his study on local place names.

Dr. Kirkconnell either overlooked or ignored the old community of Habitant, which lies immediately east of Canning and was one of the first areas settled in this region by the Acadians. Outside Canning, by the way, there is evidence that in some quarters the existence of Habitant is still being ignored. Just as you leave Canning driving east a road sign announces that you have entered Habitant. A hundred meters or so past this sign another sign indicates that the “Canning Aboiteau” lies to your right.

Putting this triviality aside, let’s look at the history of Habitant, which may rightfully claim to be one of the oldest settlements in this area. Over half a century ago Ira Cox compiled a collection of historical facts about Habitant, which was published in this newspaper in 1950. Cox identified Habitant as a unique community of Acadian origin.

Like many rural communities in the Annapolis Valley, Habitant has nebulous borders. Road signs may mark where Habitant starts and ends, but most people refer to its western area as Canning and the east end as Kingsport. Habitant, or Habitant Village as it was once called, may have been situated west of Canning at one time In his newspaper article Ira Cox wrote that according to an early map, “the west end of Canning, at the corner of the highway near the residence of the late Dr. John Miller, was known as Habitant Village.” However, this reference to a westerly location for Habitant was most likely an error.

Mr. Cox notes that “Habitant, as we consider it today (1950) is the school section 54, about two miles of street between Canning and Kingsport.” This areas was settled by the Acadians between 1670 and 1680. After the expulsion of the Acadians, the whole of Habitant may have been granted to four individuals. Cox names two of the grantees as Loomer and Rand. One of Cox’s ancestors also received a large grant in Habitant. Capt. John Cox, “who landed the greater part of the New England settlers in this part of the province,” was rewarded with a large land grant, part of which may have been in Habitant. Ira Cox wrote that it wasn’t clear who the other early Habitant grantees were but he notes that “MacKenzie and Wickwire are also mentioned among the names.”

For the most part, Ira Cox’s history is a record of the “individual residences or homes” of Habitant. After a brief preamble on the Acadians and Planters, Cox writes that he “will begin at the east end of the street” and tell his readers who has occupied the various Habitant homes that existed in 1950. In this recounting we learn that beginning with Capt. John Cox, seven generations of the family have lived on part of the original grant since 1775.

Several sons of Capt. Cox built homes in Habitant and the property of one of them, Harry, was eventually owned by a couple of famous Valley personages. In 1897 Sir Frederick Borden purchased the property that Harry Cox originally built on. Cox tells us that this property was inherited by Borden’s daughter after his death. In 1949 the property was purchased by a company headed by R. A. Joudrey.

Many of the names Cox mentions belong in a who’s who of Annapolis Valley and Nova Scotia history. Besides Borden and Joudrey, Cox mentions Rand, Wickwire, DeWolfe, Eaton, Newcombe, Blenkhorn and Chase, the surnames of families that were among the movers and shakers of this area.

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