CANARD A MAJOR ACADIAN SETTLEMENT (June 4/04)

While the spotlight will on Grand Pre, other areas where there were Acadian settlements in Kings County won’t be overlooked during upcoming celebrations. As I’ve pointed out recently, for example, New Minas was an early settlement.

Perhaps no less important was the sprawling Acadian settlement along the Canard River. The settlement stretched roughly from the head of the Canard River in Steam Mill, ran downstream on both sides of the Canard to the Minas Basin. A brochure published recently by Les Amis de Grand-Pre notes that the settlement was called La Riviere-aux-Canards and was composed of 21 hamlets.

While the land immediately north and south of the Canard River was the main settlement area, La Riviere-aux-Canards also took in Brooklyn Street, Gibson Woods and Starr’s Point. A map from 1714 on the Acadian Historic Atlas website shows that the settlement had two churches, one on the south side of the Canard around Chipman Corner, the second on the north side farther downstream.

Like New Minas, the Acadian settlement in the Canard area was smaller than the settlement at Grand Pre. However, the Canard Acadians left a legacy that is still important today.

The Advertiser‘s Brent Fox mentions this legacy in the history he wrote of the Wellington Dyke. Before the Acadians arrived and began their dykeing, Fox wrote, the area from the mouth of the Canard River to Steam Mill was a huge tidal lake. “The water from the Minas Basin flooded thousands of acres of the river’s low-lying banks,” he said.

The Acadians began dykeing this area on a modest scale, beginning first at Sheffield Creek, a tributary of the Canard. Brent Fox says that another dyke was built around the same time farther upriver at Steam Mill near Aldershot Camp. Eventually, the Acadians moved downriver, building a series of dykes and cross dykes until the tidal lake was no more.

In the book Acadia, The Early Geography of Nova Scotia to 1760, Andrew Hill Clark writes that the Canard River settlement was “second to Grand Pre in importance.” Canard had a stretch of marshland comparable to Grand Pre, Clark says. He gives the estimated population of Canard in 1750 as 750; of this number 350 Acadians had homesteads in Upper Dyke; downriver on both banks were another 150 homesteads, while the Canard-Cornwallis River interfluve (the area between the rivers) contained 250.

Other than the remnants of their dykeing, there is little physical evidence that the Acadians once dwelt along the Canard River. A 1971 archaeological survey in Canard only found eight “structures” that could be identified as Acadian in origin. Most of these sites were on land formerly owned by Ernest Eaton, which lies just west of Canard Poultry.

What is known about the Canard settlement are the family names of some of the Acadians who settled there. If your surname is Surette, Thibodeau, Pellerin, Theriault, Babin, Aucoin or Gaudet, your ancestor may have farmed and dyked land along the Canard River.

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