HISTORICAL TIDBITS AND READER RESPONSES (October 10/06)

Where was the Mill Creek shipyard located? I asked in a recent column on the early days along the Blomidon shore.  In fact, I also wondered about the location of Mill Creek, mentioning that local historian Leon Barron hadn’t been successful in pinning down the exact site.  Establishing the location of Mill Creek is important in one sense, it undoubtedly being the site of one of the earlier shipyards in Kings County.

Where was the shipyard located?  A reader calls to tell me in effect that it’s really no mystery at all.  If you know where the popular Huston (Houston?) beach is located along the Pereau shore towards Whitewaters/Blomidon, then you’re not far from the shipyard site.  Mill Creek, the reader said, is located about one mile north of the beach and until five or six years ago the remnants of a wharf could be seen there.  There’s a road out to the wharf, the reader said, which apparently is a government road since it is still plowed.

In an earlier column I mentioned a great forest fire that in the time of the Acadians, devastated the woodlands of what is now Hants County and a great part of Kings County.  When I found a reference to the fire in the book Historic Hants County by Gwendolyn Shand, I contacted various historians, asking if anyone had heard of the great fire.  I struck out everywhere.  I checked several historical books as well and was unable to find any mention of the fire, even though it was devastating, both to the Acadians and the Planters.

Recently I “lucked out;” I found an indirect reference to the fire while reading James Martell’s paper on early settlements on the Minas Basin.  Martell writes that one of the problems facing the Planters when they took up Acadian lands was a scarcity of wood.  “At Horton (township) the greatest complaint was concerned with the scarcity of convenient woodlands and the fact that there was only half as much marsh and cleared land as had been promised.  Forest fires had destroyed much of the wild wood.”

In another earlier column I speculated on who had the questionable glory of being executed on Kentville’s Gallows Hill, thus giving the rise its grisly but unofficial name.    In James Martell’s work I found a reference to a hanging that took place in this area.  Commenting on Planter life, Martell writes:  “Murders were committed occasionally in the settlements.  In 1776, Peter Manning was convicted for the crime before the Supreme Court at Horton.  A special guard was put over the prisoner for 14 nights while the gallows were being erected in the town.”

According to folklore, this hanging took place much too early to be the one that gave Gallows Hill its name.  I’ll look at this in next week’s column on early jails in Kings County.

Who is the “apple king” of Nova Scotia?  I wrote in last week’s column that this honor belongs to William H. Chase of Port Williams.  However, the Kings County Register’s editor, Sara Keddy, questions this.  “I’ve been raised on Berwick-based history, I guess you’d say for the past dozen years,” Sara writes, “and I was always told Sam Chute was the Apple King, recognized in Boston and known by the Governor General himself on sight.  Help!  Do we need to have a battle for the title?”

Sam Chute is mentioned in several accounts of the apple industry and possibly he deserves to be called an “apple king” as much as Chase.  I’ll look at the evidence and present the case for Chute and for Chase in a future column.

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