A friend who knows about such things tells me it’s still possible to use the old Kentville ford on the Cornwallis River. Even today, he said, you could take a horse and wagon across the river at the ford on low tide. Assuming, of course, the unlikely possibility that someone would come along with a horse and wagon and didn’t want to use the bridge.
That old fording place is located just by the bridge that connects Kentville’s business district with its northern edge via Cornwallis Street. The ford being where it is, by the way, explains why Cornwallis Street exists.
Originally, Cornwallis Street must have been a Mi’kmaq trail to fishing and shellfish grounds on the Bay of Fundy, and to the Minas Basin after splitting off easterly outside Kentville. Since it is the only good ford for many miles along the river the Cornwallis Street we’re familiar with must have been a main thoroughfare for the Mi’kmaq; after crossing the ford at Kentville, for example, the Mi’kmaq could turn easterly to summer grounds along the Gaspereau River or south to wintering grounds around Gaspereau Lake. This probably explains the origin of some of the roads running east parallel to and on both sides of the Cornwallis River and those running towards the South Mountain from the Cornwallis Valley.
In other words, many roads in Kings County and elsewhere in the Valley follow trails established aeons ago by the Mi’kmaq. Naturally many were used by the Acadians and by the New England settlers that followed them.
A prime example of a Mi’kmaq trail that later became a major artery is Highway #1. As it winds east and west through Kings County, this highway takes a natural course that must have been a convenient trail for the Mi’kmaq. As mentioned, when you pick up the trail that became Highway #1 after crossing the ford at Kentville, you can easily reach what were once vital fishing, hunting and food gathering areas for the Mi’kmaq.
Heading west on what was to become Highway #1 took the Mi’kmaq along the Cornwallis River and down the Valley where there was an abundance of wild foods, game and suitable camping grounds. Apparently this Mi’kmaq trail connected with the Annapolis River watershed, an area natives favoured.
It’s also apparent that the Acadians utilised this trail after moving up here from the Annapolis area and sought to improve on it. In his Grand Pre history Herbin writes that a road existed that connected Acadian settlements on Minas Basin with those at Annapolis Royal. Herbin says the road was of Acadian origin but undoubtedly they were utilising a Mi’kmaq trail established long before the French arrived.
Later the New Englanders used and improved on this trail. For a time it was solely a military road, then a post road the stagecoaches used and eventually it became Highway #1. As noted, the original trail in Kings County took a natural course that the Mi’kmaq found to be best. That is, it stayed close to the Cornwallis River, avoiding swamps, areas prone to flooding, and other natural obstacles.
This highway is a heritage from the Mi’kmaq and Acadians and should be recognised as such. One day perhaps there will a plaque somewhere along the course of Highway #1 marking it as a heritage road.