OLD ROADS AND THE ACADIAN INFLUENCE (August 23/02)

If you’ve ever wondered about the origin of some of our roads, and if there’s an Acadian connection, take a look at the Cornwallis River crossing in New Minas.

The road leading to the bridge is an extension of Middle Dyke Road, and is in effect an extension of an Acadian trail that led to and from settlements along the Canard River and farther north. Middle Dyke Road crosses Church Street at Chipman Corner and runs north, crossing the Canard River at a point where the Acadians built one of the early dykes – the middle dyke – in the area. Church Street is another Acadian Road, and, in fact, is one of many major roads in this area of Acadian origin.

The Acadian may have been expelled in 1755 but their influence on this region, through their aboiteaux, dykes, place-names and especially their roads, is obvious. In many cases, our network of highways, especially the roads that connect western valley communities, follow trails first laid out by the Acadians.

I mentioned that Middle Dyke Road crossed Church Street. Arthur W. H. Eaton in his Kings County history confirms that Church Street was an important Acadian Road. Eaton mentions various roads of Acadian origin and apparently there was quite a network, including a well-used trail that ran up over the North Mountain to the Bay of Fundy, leading Eaton said either to Hall’s Harbour or to Baxter’s Harbour. Many of the Acadian roads led to and from the areas where dykes and aboiteaux were built, at Steam Mill and Upper dyke, for example.

Recently I’ve been making notes of references to early roads in this area that I’ve found in local histories and essays. This is an exercise to satisfy my curiosity more than anything else, but readers interested in the Acadian and our early history will appreciate what I’ve found. Some of the following quotes appeared in this column before but they tie in so nicely with a general overview of early roads that I’ve mentioned them again.

I quoted from James Stuart Martell’s thesis [in a recent article] and his reference to roads the Acadians had established. Martell found that by 1755 the Acadians had established well-used roads, or actually trails, from settlements here leading east to an Acadian stronghold in the Falmouth/Windsor area and west to the Annapolis Basin. Kentville’s West Main Street may have been part of the Acadian road leading west. In his mini-history of Kentville, Edmund J. Cogswell mentions an “old French road” running west out of Kentville, noting that there was an “old military road” running in the same direction and perhaps parallel to the Acadian trail.

That some of Kentville streets are of Acadian origin is indicated by Mabel Nichols in her Kentville history, The Devil’s Half Acre. Nichols writes that “the two main streets, Main (or old military road) and Cornwallis, were roads made by the Acadian French.” In his Kings County history, Eaton writes of an Acadian road that ran from the settlements along the Canard River “towards Kentville, across the ‘Gallows Hill’ and down the Dry Hollow, a little west of the present road.” Dry Hollow may be what locals call “Mosquito Hollow.”

Eaton has a brief but fascinating account of an Acadian “turnpike” in at least two places in this area. “It has been stated,” Eaton wrote, “that the Acadians never made turnpikes, but they must have constructed some, for between Kentville and the Moore place, and also at the Aylesford Bog a turnpike, or as some might call it, a breastwork, can plainly be seen.” In places, Eaton said, the turnpike was 15 feet high, 20 wide and was ditched.

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