RANDSVILLE – A COMMUNITY THAT DISAPPEARED (March 19/99)

“Come and gone with the wind is the rural community of ‘Atlanta,’ near Sheffield Mills, which has recently been obliterated by the caprice of the Nova Scotia Department of Highways,” Watson Kirkconnell writes in his book on Kings County place-names.

“Easy come, easy go,” Kirkconnell adds, noting in the meanwhile that the majority of place-names in Kings County are of Planter and Loyalist origin and that most are still in use today. However, some Planter and Loyalist place-names have been changed, have been dropped from usage for various reasons or have simply disappeared. Among the former that come to mind are Port Williams, Kentville and Wolfville which at one time had Planter-inspired names. I’m aware of only a few Planter place-names that have disappeared and one of these is the topic of this week’s column.

Borden Street, which is named after one of our most famous Planter surnames, runs west from Canning and connects to Sheffield Mills. Along the Borden Street stretch between Canning and the Mills is a sort of no man’s land that has no name; it is neither Canning nor Sheffield Mills (though it has been called both). The trend today is to refer to this area simply as Borden Street as if it were a community. However, if you had traveled over this piece of highway in the 19th century, you would have passed through the now vanished community of Randsville.

Jonathan Rand was one of three brothers who were among the original Planter grantees in Cornwallis (Eaton’s Kings County history, page 793). According to Howie Rand, Randsville was part of Jonathan Rand’s original grant, which was north of the Habitant River and took in most of the area along Borden Street that lies between Canning and Sheffield Mills.

I first heard about Randsville when Leon Barron told me recently about a reference in 19th century government papers to a public school in the old community. Apparently Randsville was first a community and then a school district. The school in Randsville was constructed in 1878 (Marie Bickerton in her book on Canning and area history) and was located near Lyndhurst Farms where the old dyke road crosses from Saxon Street.

I have been unable to determine when Randsville ceased to be known as a community or when the school district closed and was amalgamated with Canning. The closing of the school and the disappearance of Randsville as a place-name are probably connected.

Since hearing about Randsville I’ve scoured various historical sources for reference to the community and found little. Eaton’s Kings County history has high praise – and rightly so – for the Planter Rands but there is no mention of Randsville. Watson Kirkconnell failed to come up with Randsville in his book on Kings County place-names even though there is a section on the Planter contribution. Charles Bruce Fergusson’s massive compilation of Nova Scotia place-names has no reference to Randsville; and I was unable to find Randsville in a similar work published in 1922 by Thomas J. Brown. Marie Bickerton’s Canning history refers to Randsville, or actually the Randsville school, three times.

Mention in government papers and Bickerton’s history are the only printed references to Randsville that I could find. So except for the memories people have of the old school, this is the only evidence that the community of Randsville once existed. Like the early Irish settlements on the North Mountain and along Saxon Street, Randsville has vanished and the reason why may never be known.

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