OLD RUINS, OLD ACADIAN ROADS (July 30/99)

Near New Ross are remnants of an old fort or dwelling, which some suggest was the stronghold of an early explorer. Visible in New Minas as recently as a decade ago was a foundation of a building believed to be of Acadian origin; due to its dimensions it was suggested this was once a church but some historians say the Acadians only had two in this area, at Canard and Grand Pre.

There are few old ruins, Acadian or otherwise, extant in or around the Annapolis Valley today. All around us, however, are many historical remnants and you probably walk or drive over them often. I like to think of them as topographical ruins but this isn’t an exact description and there must be a better phrase.

I’m speaking of remnants of the roads originally laid out and used by the Acadians and Planters. If you live in the Annapolis Valley it’s almost impossible to drive without traversing portions of old Acadian and Planter roads. In some areas, existing roads are the original routes used by early settlers.

Some of the roads leading to Valley towns, Windsor, Wolfville and Kentville in particular, are of Acadian origin. In some cases, existing streets in these towns were Acadian thoroughfares. There is ample evidence that the first road from Windsor to Halifax, from Grand Pre east to Windsor and west to Annapolis were of Acadian origin. It’s likely that parts of the old #1 highway and stretches of the 101 follow Acadian roads or trails.

In Herbin’s history of Grand Pre, for example, the author writes that one of the major roads in the Valley (from the settlements on the Minas Basin to Annapolis) was of Acadian origin. “They (the Acadians) engaged to make a road through the woods to Port Royal, a distance of 10 leagues, as soon as the harvest was over. Only a trail existed at this time (1701) between the two centres.”

Herbin also confirms that Acadian roads connected Windsor, Wolfville and Kentville: “The French road ran through the present village of Grand Pre, north of the main highway which it joined near Scott’s Corner. Thence the road led to Johnson’s Hollow … in Wolfville. Here it diverged and lay near the railroad to Kentville. From the main village of Grand Pre the road to Windsor ran south over the hill to Walbrook.”

Other historical writers have noted the Acadian influence on the origin of many existing local roads and streets. E. J. Cogswell in his 1895 history of Kentville writes that the Acadians built the first bridge over the Cornwallis River at the site of the shiretown. This is where the bridge spans the Cornwallis in Kentville so we can assume that one or both of the streets running north from the crossing (Cornwallis and Belcher) are of Acadian origin.

In his History of Kings County, Eaton states that two of Kentville’s streets, Cornwallis and Main, are of Acadian origin. In her history of Greenwich, Edythe Quinn refers to the Acadian origin of local roads: “One (Acadian road) ran near the south bank of the Cornwallis River just north of the railroad track; another along the hill slightly below the ridge; another south … through the woods to Gaspereau.” In his history of Wolfville, James Davison writes that the Acadians began to build paths and roads “through the woods to Port Royal and La Have as early as 1701.”

In some areas the Acadians used and improved the centuries old trails blazed by the Micmacs. Which of the roads we use today are of Micmac/Acadian origin?

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