ACADIAN HOMESTEADS ONCE WIDELY SCATTERED (September 3/04)

In his treatise on Acadian settlements in Kings County, John Erskine writes that an “overflow of settlers moved up the Cornwallis River” to what today is New Minas. Erskine and other historical writers practically ignore the Kentville area as being settled by Acadians but it is believed that there were a few homesteads in the town.

Obviously, the Acadians preferred areas where they could reclaim land with their dykeing skills. Thus they probably would have ignored the river area on the north side of town since there appears to be little land there that can be reclaimed by dykeing. Possibly there could have been dykeing lower down the Cornwallis in the Klondyke section of the town, but I haven’t found any mention of it in the works of Erskine or in A. W. H. Eaton’s Kings County history.

It appears that the Acadians concentrated mainly on Grand Pre and along the Canard, Canning and Gaspereau River when they settled here. Even the tiny Pereau River was known to have been the site of a few homesteads, but like New Minas, the Pereau area probably was an overflow region.

Once in a while, I’ll hear stories of Acadian cellars being found outside the main settlement area; in Coldbrook, Cambridge, for example, and south of New Minas well away from known settlement areas on the Cornwallis River. Sheffield Mills is said to have once held a few Acadian homesteads and there’s even some folklore that “Acadian treasure” was dug up in this area.

It seems logical that Sheffield Mills should have been settled by the Acadians, even though John Erskine failed to come up with any sites. The village is located in the upper part of the once tidal Canning River or Petit Habitant, and its lower reaches are believed to have been the area of a small settlement.

Several decades ago a site tentatively identified as Acadian was discovered near Sheffield Mills, in an area which is probably the community of Atlanta. In farmland just off Bains Road, which runs along the northern boundary of Sheffield Mills, a suspected Acadian homestead was extensively examined about two decades ago.

A dig at the site yielded evidence that it was indeed of Acadian origin. A type of nail known to be of French origin and shards of crockery favoured by the Acadians were found at the site which apparently was a homestead.

That the Acadians moved so far from inland from the main settlement areas may seem surprising. However, there’s probably a lot of truth to the folktales that the Acadians had homesteads in what’s now downtown Kentville, and in Coldbrook and Cambridge. There’s even a folktale that Acadian cellars could once be seen near the Cornwallis River as far west as Waterville.

 

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