New Minas was settled by the Acadians around the same time as Grand Pre and as I pointed out in a previous column, some documentation of homesteads, mills, orchards and other sites has already been done. For the most part, however, the documentation exists only in archaeological studies, and surveys which are of limited access.
One example is a detailed study of Acadian sites, a historical, archaeological and botanical survey of the French period by the late John Erskine. This work was privately published in 1975 and copies are difficult to find today. Another example is a 1971 archaeological survey of Acadian sites by the Nova Scotia Museum (curatorial report number 20) which also looks at Acadian sites in New Minas.
Like Erskine’s work, curatorial report number 20 is not readily available for the study of Acadian sites. As I mentioned previously, some Acadian sites in New Minas are indicated in a municipal map of parks and open space. But like Erskine’s work and the curatorial report, it isn’t something you can find in a library or information centre.
This pretty well sums up the extent of the work that’s been done on the New Minas Acadian connection. In other words, while we are aware that New Minas was an Acadian settlement, no identification of these sites exists except for references in material of limited public access.
As I reported in my April 16 column, steps are being taken to rectify this. An Acadian Heritage Sites Committee was formed recently and immediately co-chairs Ken Belfountain and Maynard Stevens organised a tour of Acadian sites in the village. The committee checked out homestead sites and looked at what’s believed to be the location of an Acadian orchard, cemetery and mill.
As mentioned in the April column, the main purpose of forming the heritage committee is to identify Acadian sites in the village. The plan is to place plaques on sites where there is public access. The committee has already began to canvass senior residents of New Minas for the purpose of recording oral folklore about Acadian sites.
On April 29[, 2004] a public meeting was held in the New Minas civic centre and there was an excellent turnout. Several new Acadian sites were identified at the meeting including something I found intriguing, the possibility that the French military had built a blockhouse in New Minas.
The meeting began with a review by committee member Glenda Bishop of known Acadian homesteads and other sites. At the meeting, it was decided to concentrate on one site at a time and the Acadian cemetery was chosen as the first project. I’ll have more information on what will be done to mark the cemetery site in a future column.
Residents who are familiar with stories about Acadian sites in New Minas or who may have heard stories about the Acadians from parents, grandparents or other relatives are invited to contact any of the committee members: Ken Belfountain, 902-678-5356; Maynard Stevens, 902-681-2040; Glenda Bishop, 902-681-0819.