EARLY FERRIES ON AND AROUND THE MINAS BASIN (February 10/06)

Referring to Parrsboro in his 1829 history of Nova Scotia, Thomas Chandler Haliburton wrote that it was from this “small village” that “packets run to Horton and Windsor twice a week and occasionally oftener.”

The packets, or ferries as we later called them, are mentioned in the brief description of Kingsport in Eaton’s Kings County history. Eaton writes that besides being a popular summer resort, Kingsport was “long the Kings County point of departure for the Parrsborough packets.”

Since the twice daily tides controlled the lives of people living on or near the Minas Basin in earlier times, ferries were once a necessity. I’ve never come across solid evidence that the Acadians used ferries in Kings County but the Planters quickly discovered they couldn’t function without them. Well before the time Haliburton and Eaton said ferries plied the Minas Basin, various boats ran to and from the larger ports and even from Planter community to Planter community on tidal rivers.

On the Cornwallis River, for example, a ferry may have been running as early as the Acadian period. “One mile east of Port Williams, at Town Plot,” the editors of The Port Remembers wrote, “a ferry was maintained by both the Acadians and the Planters.” The editors note that the ferry connected with a road that ran across the dykes to Wolfville.

One of the earliest Minas Basin ferries is documented by Gwendolyn Vaughan Shand in her book Historic Hants County. Shand says this ferry may have been running as early as 1794. The Ferry, the Parrsborough Packet ran twice a week between Windsor and Parrsboro. Shand cites government documents and almanac advertisements published in the 1700s as evidence of this ferry’s existence.

At a much later date, between 1910 and 1937, another ferry used Windsor as a home base and connected several Minas Basin communities. This was the Rotundus whose fate is chronicled in L. S. Loomer’s history of Windsor. According to Loomer the Rotundus ran from Windsor to Avondale, Hantsport, Summerville and Cheverie.

Possibly the most famous Minas Basin ferry of all is the Kipawo, which ran between Kingsport, Parrsboro and Wolfville, hence the name, a combination of the three ports.

For a folksy and romantic history of the Kipawo I refer readers to Esther Clark Wright’s delightful book, Blomidon Rose. I prefer to quote about the Kipawo from a railway column that ran in this newspaper in the 1930s. Railway Notes by George Bishop relates that the Kipawo operated from 1926 to 1939 but was discontinued “due to declining business and insufficient subsidies.”

But while possibly the best known ferry on the Minas Basin, the Kipawo wasn’t the first to make the Kingsport, Parrsboro, Wolfville run. George Bishop wrote that before the Kipawo there was the Evangeline which was commissioned in 1893 and operated until 1904 when it was replaced by the S. S. Prince Albert. The Prince Albert operated until 1926 when the Kipawo took over.

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