BORN ON THE BOOT – SOME ISLAND TRIVIA (June 24/05)

One of the interesting things about Boot Island is that old maps indicate it was once part of the mainland. In the Natural History of Kings County, the authors include two maps showing Boot Island. One of the maps, dated circa 1870, clearly shows that the island is part of the Grand Pre dykeland; a contemporary map in the book, with the island standing offshore, has a caption remarking on the shoreline erosion that has taken place in the area since it was settled by the Planters.

Also interesting is the fact that Boot Island was once the home of several families and was the site of a commercial fox farm. The Boot Island Fox Farm Company was incorporated in 1912. A prospectus, prepared to attract shareholders in the Company, described the island as consisting of 300 acres and a “fine grove of 10 acres of wood.” That “fine grove” is long gone, destroyed it is said by roosting birds, and the tides have eroded a lot of the 300 acres and left mudflats.  

In the past decade I’ve written at least four columns about Boot Island (column1, column2, column 3, column4), two on the fox farm alone. The Boot is a well-known landmark, well-known to local people that is, and there are various folk tales existing about the island. The late Hants County historian, Edith Mosher, once told me there was a “Boot Island mystery.” Ms. Mosher promised to send me an account she had compiled about the mystery but unfortunately passed away before writing.

What got me thinking about Boot Island lately are two obituaries Leon Barron showed me. One dated 1981 was on the death of Bessie A. Mitchell. “Born on Boot Island,” the obituary reads, “she was the daughter of the late John and Sara (Davis) Tineo [correction: Tineo should read Pineo].”

The other obituary, for Edwin Leon Card, notes that he was the son of the late Leon and Maude (Bezanson) Card and was “born in Boute Island.”

These obituaries are proof that families once called the island home. Gordon Hansford tells me the Leon Card family lived and farmed on the Boot in the late 1930s and were the last people to live there. Around Wolfville and environs people still talk about Leon Card and his ox team. Another family that possibly lived on Boot Island were the McGregors. According to the Boot Island Fox Farm Company literature, one G. E. McGregor, “an experienced fox farmer,” was named as the manager and he likely lived on the island.

A book on Nova Scotia and New Brunswick islands, written by Allison Mitcham and published in 1987 by Lancelot Press, gives the names of other families that lived on the Boot. These were the Biggs and the Allens and their relatives still can be found here. Several years ago Marion Schofield told me that her grandparents, David and Abigail Hutchinson, started married life on the Boot. It is also said that a DeWolfe family farmed on the island.

You undoubtedly noticed that the obituary for Edwin Leon Card gave a different spelling for Boot Island. I’ve come across a couple of variations in the spelling, the most common besides Boot being Bout and Boute. The island rated mentioned by A. W. H. Eaton in his Kings County history – he spelled it Boot. Dr. Watson Kirkconnell, in his book on Kings County place names, mentions Boot Island, explaining that the Acadians called the place was L’Isle au Bout. Kirkconnell says this translate as “the island at the end (of Long Island in the Grand Pre area).”

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