UP ON THE OLD “DUG ROAD” (July 2/04)

When you turn up Prospect Road at the lights in New Minas and then turn left up Perrier Drive you are traversing the course of one of the oldest roads in Kings County. According to local folklore, the road is of Acadian origin, and some of the older New Minas residents call it the “French road.” However, while the Acadians may have travelled the road to reach the high country south of New Minas and the Gaspereau Valley, it probably was of Mi’kmaq origin.

To most senior residents of New Minas, the old road is known as the “Dug Road.” How it got this name is a mystery. Some people jokingly say the road got its name because it probably had to be dug by hand out of the rocky ridge south of New Minas.

Once you turn up Prospect and onto Perrier Drive you can pick up what remains of the old road at the top of the hill. Actually, it’s in good condition. At Perrier Drive, it looks like a well travelled walking trail, but further on after the road runs under the 101 via a culvert it widens out. From the top of Perrier Drive, the road runs southerly for a couple of kilometres until it reaches the Canaan Road. Much of it is in good condition and some people say if you don’t mind a few scratches on your vehicle, you can drive over the road from the south end up to the 101.

Gerry Milne’s family moved to New Minas early in the 1930s when he was six and the Dug Road passed their property on Prospect Road. Gerry remembers teams of horses and wagons using the road when he was a boy. “On the old maps it’s shown as a government road,” he says. “Even back then it was called the Dug Road, never the French Road.”

According to folklore, there was a small Acadian settlement beside the Dug Road immediately south of the 101. There’s at least one rock cellar possibly of Acadian origin near the old road. Along with Ken Belfontain and Maynard Stevens of the New Minas Heritage Sites committee I was recently shown this foundation by Peter Milne. The forest has grown up around the cellar but several decades ago the area was a large clearing and there’s a water source close by.

Gerry Milne tells me that the cellar is believed to be the foundation of an Acadian church and not a homestead. Village people referred to the site as “the old church,” he said. When he was a boy in the 1930s the remains of a building made of logs lay strewn around the cellar.

In 1960 the New Minas Boy Scout troop built a camp beside the Dug Road. Gerry Milne was Scoutmaster at the time and he tells me the boys used to dig around the old cellar hoping to find Acadian coins. As a project, the Scouts put together a history of New Minas in newspaper format, interviewing some of the senior residents of the village who gave them some Acadian folklore about the Dug Road.

The Dug Road was still being driven over at the time the camp was built, Milne said. Thus when a village resident complained that the camp blocked the road and he couldn’t get through with his vehicle, the Scouts had to be moved back. Several years later the camp was burned by vandals.

I checked several old maps – one of them the 1872 Ambrose Church map of Kings County – and none showed the Dug Road. I suspect, as I said, that the road was probably a Mi’kmaq trail from the ridge. The Canaan Road, which runs in an east and west direction along the ridge, was probably a Mi’kmaq trail as well. Following the high ground, the road runs east to a Mi’kmaq village in the Gaspereau Valley; running west it winds close to the Mi’kmaq wintering grounds on Gaspereau Lake.

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