A SIGNIFICANT HISTORY OF THE CANARD DYKES (January 7/05)

You can’t escape its influence if you dwell in Kings County. In one way or another, it affects your daily comings and goings, your subsistence, your recreation, the way you think, talk and to some degree, your mindset and possibly even you’ll have for Sunday dinner.

The dykelands have had a benign influence and have shaped our social fabric and our history in many ways way in the centuries they’ve been holding back the sea. One example alone will suffice to sufficiently illustrate what I mean. The 18th-century movement of Planters to Kings County – would the Planters have come if the dykelands wrested from the sea by the Acadians hadn’t been a major attraction?

Perhaps Esther Clark Wright best summed up the dykelands influence on our lives in her delightful little book, Blomidon Rose. Clarke wrote that the dykes have “had a share in making us what we are. They are part of our inheritance from the past, a legacy from our fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers who laboured to build and preserve, a legacy from other early settlers, unrelated and unknown, who also toiled on the dykes.”

However, if you truly wish to understand how we have been influenced by the dykes and how they came to be, I recommend the reading of Brent Fox’s history of the Canard River dyke system. The Advertiser‘s assistant editor and political columnist, Fox, who has an M. A. in history, wrote the dyke work in 1985 when he was with the Kings Historical Society. As well as dyke records kept by the Wellington Dyke Body, Fox researched the Chipman papers on file at the Nova Scotia Archives. As an aside, Fox tells me when he the Chipman paper, he found these invaluable records were kept in cardboard boxes and were in terrible condition.

Fox starts his history with a geographical description of the Canard River system and in-depth explanation of how the Acadians constructed their dykes and aboiteaus. It’s difficult to imagine that with so few tools so little manpower and beasts of burden the Acadians could accomplish anything at all. But accomplish they did, starting a dykeing system that was maintained for generations and has lasted for centuries.

The Acadians began dykeing the Canard River system by first claiming about 40 acres by “aboiteauing the Sheffield Creek, a small tributary that runs south into the upper river area.” If you drive north on Nichols Road and pass through Upper Dyke heading to Canning, you have to pass this first work by the Acadians and it’s still visible. Less visible is the first aboiteau on the Canard River near Aldershot Camp in Steam Mill. Fox writes that this site was abandoned and an aboiteau built farther down river where the highway bridge spans the Canard by the sewer lagoon.

Fox then takes us along the Canard River and the Acadian construction of various smaller aboiteaus on Canard River tributaries. Then came a major work, the “cross-dyke at the site of the present Middle Dyke Road bridge.” Other dykeing and aboiteau work followed until the area along Canard River was a rich agricultural area that must have attracted a lot of outside interest.

Eventually, the work of the Acadians led to the building of the grandest dyke of all, the Wellington. How the efforts of the Acadians and their legacy of the dykelands influenced our history and the way we live and work today is well told by Brent Fox. His book, in paperback, is available at the Kings County Museum.

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