“Before there were malls and Wal-Mart, before there were fast food places and world-famous soccer tournaments, before the arrival …. of the New England Planters, before all of the above, there is an almost forgotten history here,” Maynard Stevens said in a talk last week at the Wolfville Historical Society.
That almost forgotten history is the fact that New Minas was once part of an Acadian settlement in this area. “New Minas has an Acadian heritage,” Steven said, noting that while the Acadian settlement isn’t “as famous as Grand Pre or as celebrated as Evangeline,” it is an important part of what makes the village a special place historically.
New Minas may have been settled by Acadians from Port Royal as early as 1682, Stevens said. “History tells us this was …. Pierre Teriot and his young bride, Cecile Landry. They came to this area about 1682 and are credited with being the founders of the village of St. Antoine.”
While St. Antoine, of which New Minas was a part, soon became as large as Grand Pre, Stevens said, there is little physical evidence remaining today of the settlement. Stevens mentioned a research paper by John S. Erskine and Arthur W. H. Eaton’s Kings County history as two of several works referring to an Acadian settlement in New Minas.
However, there’s a lot of local folklore about the Acadian presence, Stevens said. He told the Society about a tour he conducts through the village that covers possible homestead sites and what may be an Acadian cemetery only a few minutes walk north of the business centre.
Acadian homesteads may have been located just below the intersection of Jones Road and Lockhart Drive, Stevens said. “Over 250 years ago …. there would have been numerous Acadian farms and farmland all around us. They would have dotted both sides of Jones Road and stretched eastward along Lockhart Drive.”
A site near Oak Island, just north of the business section and along the Cornwallis River, has tentatively been identified as an Acadian cemetery, Stevens said. He mentioned as well the folklore concerning an Acadian orchard near the river, and an Acadian chapel off Lockhart Drive.
Unfortunately, other than folklore and references in historical works, there’s no concrete evidence of an Acadian presence in New Minas. Undoubtedly, New Minas was once part of an Acadian settlement, but how Arthur W. H. Eaton and John S. Erskine determined this and wrote about it can only be speculated on. We await archeological evidence of an Acadian presence, Stevens said in effect, and that may be forthcoming in the near future. Stevens said there is interesting in conducting an archeological dig in the cemetery and in areas believed to have been Acadian homestead sites.