MORE ON THE BATTLE OF MOCCASIN HOLLOW (August 16/02)

After the column on the so-called massacre in Moccasin Hollow appeared I got a telephone call from Mabel Veinot of Cambridge. Mabel tells me she and husband Bill had owned the tract of land in Kentville’s west end, about 300 acres in all, that Moccasin Hollow runs through. The Veinots purchased the land in the early 1940s and Mabel gave me a general description of the area which today has subdivisions bordering on it.

It appears that Moccasin Hollow may lie in the original 600-acre grant given to Caleb Harrington in 1764 (Memories of Coldbrook compiled by Marie Bishop). The Veinot’s purchased the land from George Woodworth, who in turn had bought the land from the Harringtons. The Hollow runs parallel to No. 1 highway and can be reached by driving down two subdivision roads, Mitchell Avenue and Bonavista. The mouth of the Hollow opens immediately west of Kentville’s town limits and the roadbed of the old Dominion Atlantic Railway runs through part of it.

I believe the source of the folk tales circulated about a possible massacre and great battle in Moccasin Hollow can be traced to Edmund J. Cogswell, a Kentville Judge of Probate who in 1895 wrote a mini-history of the town. This was published in the Christmas issue of the Western Chronicle and while it was written from memory, it undoubtedly was taken as gospel since it came from the pen of a town dignitary and officer of the court.

However, Cogswell obviously based his account on oral history that was passed on by word of mouth from generation to generation. For its interest value, here is what Cogswell wrote about Moccasin Hollow. Note that all he’s doing is passing on what amounts to gossip that has little historical value.

“I should not end I suppose without speaking of the Battle of Moccasin Hollow. this battle was fought on the old French road (and not the old military road as is commonly supposed) on John Harrington’s land near the railroad, so that the piece can be seen from the car windows. An old Aunt now long deceased who lived in the vicinity in her youth, and was more than 80 years old when she died, told me that when she was young the story was that as a result of this battle, three hundred Frenchmen were buried in a trench there.

“I have tried to get the history of this battle, but have not been able to make myself very sure of the details. I think there was no doubt about the battle. The tradition is that after Colonel Keble’s (Noble’s?) Massachusetts troops were so terribly massacred by Ramroy’s band under Villiere in the winter of 1747 at Grand Pre, that the remnant of his army was retreating towards Port Royal, now Annapolis; and that they were waylaid and attacked by a band of French and Indians at Moccasin Hollow, and that the English soldiers, who were not probably in a very pacific frame of mind defended themselves so valiantly that most of the enemy were slain.

“Moccasin Hollow was afterwards known by the rather unromantic appellation of the ‘war hole’ and it was observed that the boys of the neighbourhood never sought for cows or stray cattle there after night fall. the idea appearing to be that some of the old Frenchmen might occasionally become weary of their accommodations in the trench and be wandering around there clad in the airy habiliments of one of the characters in the old Primmer.”

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