ACADIAN, PLANTER ORIGIN OF COUNTY ROADS (February 26/08)

In a column nearly a decade ago I asked how many of the roads in use today in Kings County follow ancient trails of the Mi’kmaq. I suggested that many of the pathways used countless generations by the Mi’kmaq were utilized by the Acadians and undoubtedly improved on and expanded here and there. In turn, as well as laying out new roads, the Planters found many of the Acadian trails convenient and some became permanent fixtures in the countryside.

Consider, for example, two major highways just outside Kentville, Belcher and Church Street. Since they follow the high ground, skirting two rivers as they wind towards Minas Basin, I assume these streets first were Mi’kmaq trails and then Acadian roads. Belcher Street winds through the high ground north of Kentville to a crossing place (now a bridge) known to have been used by the Mi’kmaq and Acadians. Both streets offer access to the shad fishery in the Cornwallis River and the Canard River, which were of vital importance, especially in the early days, to the Planter settlements in Kings County.

However, if we need solid evidence that early pathways and trails eventually became common roads, all we need do is consult historians such as Arthur W. H. Eaton and Ernest Eaton. The latter’s work is not as well known as the man who wrote the History of Kings County, but Ernest Eaton produced many well-documented historical articles on early times in Kings County. Some of these articles can be found in the Nova Scotia Historical Quarterly, some are unpublished; while the articles are mainly about dykes and early farm holdings, Eaton occasionally refers to old Acadian and Planter roads that remain today as well used highways.

In his county history, in the chapter on roads, traveling and dykes, Arthur W. H. Eaton writes that the Acadians cleared a “road eighteen feet wide all that way from Minas to Halifax.” The Acadians also began a major road from Minas to Port Royal, which was never completed. We can speculate that both roads were eventually part of #1 highway, which served the province so well before the 101 was opened.

The well traveled Middle dyke road, the highways running north from Greenwich to Canning, and north from Kentville towards the Bay of Fundy, are other example of roads that originated with the Acadians and Planters. In fact, Kings County has numerous roads that began as Mi’kmaq footpaths and became head-of-the-tide trails from one Acadian settlement to the other. Most of us drive over these roads today and don’t realize we’re following ancient pathways.

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