TRACING LEGENDS OF AN OLD ACADIAN “FORT” (October 8/04)

In the hills south of New Minas, a short distance from the 101, is a magnificent natural amphitheatre with sides about 12 to 15 meters high; this is a large, bowl-shaped hollow that likely was gouged by a glacier out of the granite and slate that abounds there. Hazarding a guess I’d say the hollow has a circumference of between 100 to 150 meters and a diameter of at least 50 meters. To give you some idea of its interior, you could probably pitch at least 10 large tents on the hollow’s floor. There’s a water source as well, a brook fed by a waterfall.

According to folklore, Acadians sheltered in the hollow for several years after the expulsion. This is the story that has been passed down from generation to generation and family to family by people of the White Rock, Prospect and Highbury area. Various historians mention this as well, among them Arthur Wentworth Hamilton Eaton in his history of Kings County.

There is probably some truth to this folklore. It’s a historical fact that many Acadians escaped the expulsion simply by removing to the woods and remaining in hiding. One of the most persistent folktales is that Acadians from Grand Pre and those who had settled along the Cornwallis River hid out in the ravines above New Minas when their kinfolk were being rounded up. Perhaps the hollow was one of the areas where they hid out.

Somewhere in the same area, so the folktales go, are the remains of a French or Acadian fort. Like the folklore about Acadians hiding in the hills above New Minas for years, this is another tale that has been passed from family to family and has been told and retold. The folktales place the fort in several areas, in Greenwich, White Rock and in New Minas.

In her history of Greenwich (Greenwich Times, published in 1968) Edythe Quinn, places the fort in this community. Quinn writes that at the time of the expulsion some Acadians hid on the ridge above Greenwich where they built log huts. “This ties in with a legend of an old and long-forgotten French fort in Greenwich,” Quinn writes. Quinn places the fort on the property of the late Vernon Schofield, near an old road that ran from Greenwich to White Rock.

The noted naturalist/historian John Erskine (1900-1981) writes in a similar vein. In an archaeological, botanical and historical study (The French Period in Nova Scotia, privately published in 1975) Erskine noted that Acadians from Grand Pre escaped the expulsion by withdrawing to the woods. “There they built a stone house for their priest and huts for themselves and awaited the arrival of the French.”

Erskine suggests that the legend of the “French fort” may be connected with the stone house the Grand Pre Acadians built for their priest. He places the fort or stone house in the same area as Quinn and says it was still standing when the Planters arrived. Local legends also place a French fort, an Acadian hideout, at Glenmont on the North Mountain, Erskine says.

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