OLD MILLS OF THE ACADIANS (October 22/04)

There were various mills in the Acadian settlements of Grand Pre, New Minas, Gaspereau and Canard and historians have long speculated on where they once stood. Obviously, most of the Acadian mills would have been water driven, which helps narrow the search for possible sites; however local folklore mentions at least one windmill in these settlements. Historian/botanist John Erskine writes, for example, that there was an Acadian mill on the Canard Dykes just off Church Street that was driven by wind power.

Erskine says that a clearing on the dykes north of Church Street was “at one time called Windmill Field.” There, Erskine said, were “many stones scattered around” which may have been the “foundation of the windmill of which nothing else remains but the name.” There’s also a prominent rise in this area which local folklore says was the windmill site.

Erskine believes that there were at least two Acadian mills in New Minas. “At the foot of Jones Road,” he writes, “is the Griffin House beside a small tumbling brook. Here at one time a set of blacksmith’s tools were found, and beside it a series of gristmills have been swept away since Acadian times.” In his Kings County history, A. W. H. Eaton places a mill near the same site; “Not far off there was a mill,” Eaton says when referring to the Griffin house.

Erskine also places a mill, possibly of Acadian origin on Elderkin Brook, which runs out of the Research Station ravine, under #1 highway between Kentville and New Minas and empties into the Cornwallis River. “There used to be a tidal mill, working on the principal opposite to that of the aboiteau of the dykes,” Erskine notes. It isn’t certain that this mill was Acadian, Erskine says, “but on the west side of the road beside the mill-race are seven species of trees and shrubs associated with the Acadians.” This is feeble evidence, Erskine says, “but millers needed to live near their mills and usually they left some of the Acadian flora behind.”

Sheffield Mills gets it name from being the mill site established by a family named Sheffield. However, the Acadians may have had a mill well before the Planters arrived. Erskine says that before the Sheffields, “two or three New England names” operated mills on the site. “The oldest name of all, ‘Montique’, may have been an Acadian monticule, meaning the small knoll on which the early mill stood.” Bruce Fergusson (Place-Name and Places of Nova Scotia) confirms the Acadian connection with Sheffield Mills, saying it was at one time called Mills Montique.

Looking elsewhere in Kings County, Erskine suggests there were many Acadian mills in the Gaspereau Valley. These mills were mainly located on the south side of the valley. Here, says Erskine, various brooks drain the South Mountain and all are of “satisfactory size for Acadian mills.”

However, determining which brooks had Acadian mills is difficult, Erskine says. “Millstones (found on these brooks) do not help because Acadians and Planters alike bought their millstones from New England.” Instead, he suggests that we look for flora the Acadians left behind as the surest evidence of their mill sites.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s