THE SIX ROD ROAD AND AROOSTOOK (June 17/08)

Until Canning historian Ivan smith enlightened me, I had never heard of the Aroostook War, a 19th century “disagreement” between Canada and the United States.

In brief, the Aroostook War was a dispute in the 1830s over the boundaries of New Brunswick and Maine. Ivan Smith tells me it came close to a shooting war between Canada and the United States (key in Aroostook War in Google for the full story) and it looked for a time that Nova Scotia would be one of the main theatres.

I mention the Aroostook War since it may tie in with a topic I’ve written about numerous times in the last five years – the Six Rod Road. As readers may recall, the Six Rod Road is believed to have been a major military highway connecting Halifax and Annapolis. The records are hazy on this but folklore says some sections of the road were laid out and remnants of it are still visible in the Valley.

The late Leon Barron did some research on the road and he believed one fork was planned to connect Minas Basin with the Bay of Fundy. Ivan Smith tells me he found several references to a major highway, designated as a six rod road, in Nova Scotia legislature documents from the 19th century. The road apparently was planned, started in places, but never completed. Smith believes we can look to incidents like the Aroostook War to explain why this major roadway was conceived.

In 1849, anti-British sentiment was high in the mid-19th century following the Aroostook dispute, “and Great Britain and the United States were close to outright war,” Smith says. At the same time, distractions in Great Britain may have convinced the States that the time was ripe to invade Canada. Smith surmises that the first step in an invasion would be to capture Nova Scotia, hence blocking any reinforcements sent from Britain.

Aware of this possibility, Smith says, “the Six Rod Road could have been planned as a way to get troops quickly in force from Halifax to Annapolis, if there was an invasion.” This threat fizzled out, Smith concludes, when the States became involved in a civil war and a major artery was no longer required.

Undoubtedly, there are documents in the archives in Ottawa or Great Britain pertaining to the great Six Rod Road. But for now, all we can do is speculate on Six Rod Road folklore, and wonder how many existing roads are sections of this great highway. Leon Barron tentatively identified one stretch of road in Kings County that was rumored to have been a piece of the Six Rod Road. While he dug into a lot of archives documents in Halifax, looking for evidence to this effect, he was unable to find anything conclusive.

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