DYKES, OLD DOCUMENTS, PICKETT”S WHARF EXPLAINED (January 28/00)

In [a recent] column, I wrote about the failed scheme in 1889 to build a giant aboiteau between Kingsport and Long Island. As I said, it was a mind-boggling scheme; on paper, the aboiteau would reclaim some 600 acres, a figure scoffed at by the editor of the Wolfville newspaper, The Acadian.

The reason for scoffing?

Following an editorial panning the proposed giant aboiteau, the editor offered readers a tale about the engineer who was surveying for the project. The scene described by the editor probably didn’t happen. A century ago newspapers were free and easy with the truth and were often openly obnoxious. Can you imagine a newspaper today daring to print an editorial as slanderous as the following:

“A funny story is told about the proposed dike between Kingsport and Long Island. It is said that an engineer was out making a survey and calculations the other day and managed to fall into the mud nearly to his neck. Not being very well acquainted with the locality, he became confused, and in making up his calculation got on the wrong side of the proposed dike and reckoned up the area outside instead of that inside. This is said to account for the big stories about the vast amount of land to be reclaimed to be in circulation.”

With newspapers of the day reporting frivolously on the proposed aboiteau, is it any surprise that it never was constructed.

In a column several weeks ago on the old Pickett’s Wharf the origin of its name came into question. It seemed likely since there are two “T’s” in Pickett, the way the surname is spelled, that the wharf was named after an actual person. I also mentioned the possibility that historian Elizabeth Rand had suggested in her book, Canard Street. That the wharf was so named due to a picket fence along the road leading to it.

An old document in the hands of Jim Borden, Lower Canard, suggests that Pickett’s Wharf may indeed be named for a picket fence.

The document is a deed dated 1874 that records the leasing of a piece of dykeland to Borden’s great great grandfather. The old wharf is used in the document as a reference point Mr. Borden said when he called to tell me about it. The document refers to the wharf as “the picket wharf;” this suggests that pickets of some sort, a fence or whatever, distinguished the wharf from others in the area and the pickets became a commonplace reference.

In my mind, this old document is a rare piece of local history; I expressed an interest in reading it and perhaps quoting the document here and Mr. Borden has agreed to this. I’ll get back to the document in a future column.

A call from a reader who has been doing a lot of genealogical work offers a hint on how the old Six Rod Road may have acquired its name.

In a search for information on his ancestors, Eric Brewster of New Minas discovered that part of Saxon Street in Kings County is referred to on one old map as the “sixty rod highway.” Mr. Brewsters’s ancestor, Samuel Brewster, received a grant of land on this road in 1761, which is why he has a special interest in it.

Mr. Brewster believes that designating some early roads in rod lengths may be connected with lands grants. We know that some land grants were given with the understanding that grantees were to build and maintain passable roads along the edge of the property – roads that would connect with the thoroughfares built by other nearby grantees. Is it possible that roads bordering a grantee’s property were identified at one time by the actual measurement of its frontage in rods?

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