Boot Island and the narrow channel that separates it from the mainland near Evangeline Beach has many attractions for nature lovers and naturalists. The island is a nesting site for cormorants, gulls and Blue Herons and was once a major roost for thousands of crows. In the channel, which is known locally as “the guzzle,” are remnants of ancient forests some four to five thousand years old.
Boot Island is also of interest to people who delve in local history. As mentioned before in this column, several families have farmed the Boot over the last 150 years. The best known may be the Leon Card family.
According to Marion Schofield, David and Abigail Hutchinson farmed on Boot Island prior to 1870. David and Abigail ran a sheep farm, one of several that may have been on the island over the years.
One of the tales circulating about Boot Island is that a commercial fox farm was once located there. Gordon Hansford remembers hearing about the fox farm when he was growing up in Wolfville. Hansford told me that Leon Card may have been associated with the farm in some capacity, perhaps as manager or overseer.
While looking for information on the fox farm I checked the Kirkconnell Room at Acadia University, the Courthouse Museum in Kentville and several books on local history. Several; people that I talked with remembered there was a “fox ranch” on the Boot but I couldn’t paper evidence of its existence.
Then came a discovery by Avon port resident Lolita Crosby: Documentation that a Boot Island fox farm had once been in operation and was a commercial enterprise incorporated under the Nova Scotia Companies Act.
In her late parent’s papers Ms. Crosby discovered a share certificate for the”Bout Island Fox Company.” The certificate had been issued to her uncle Emerson Coldwell and is dated December 3, 1914. The certificate reads in part: This certifies that Emerson Coldwell is the owner of 30 shares of the Capital Stock of the Bout Island Fox Company Limited. The document uses the old spelling for Boot Island, which in various historical documents has also been spelled Boute and Beaute.
Besides providing proof that Boot Island was once the site of a fox farm, the certificate offers valuable clues to its period of operation. The date of incorporation is given, which was March 25, 1912; from the date of the shares issued to Emerson Coldwell, we can see that the Fox Company was in operation for at least two years.
A prominent Valley figure, the historical writer and researcher John Frederick Herbin, has his signature on the certificate; Herbin was secretary-treasurer of the Company and signing as president was R. W. (or R. N) Ford.
The Boot Island Fox Company began operation with authorized capital of $100,000, no mean sum by turn-of-the-century dollar standards. The question now is how long was the Company in operation and what happened to it?