THE ANNAPOLIS-CORNWALLIS CANAL (August 5/08)

In Place Names and Places of Nova Scotia, Charles Bruce Fergusson gives one of the early names of Berwick as Congdon’s Settlement. In the history of Kings County, Arthur W. H Eaton writes that Berwick’s early name was Congdon’s Corner. A map of Cornwallis Township, prepared in 1818-19 by the Surveyor General, shows the place where Berwick is located as Condon’s Corner, which was likely a misspelling of Congdon.

Now, determining if Condon’s Corner, Congdon’s Corner, Congdon’s Settlement and Berwick are various names for the same place may not seem important. However, on the map of Cornwallis Township dated December 1818, January 1819, is reference to a scheme to physically connect the Cornwallis River with the Annapolis River, and determining if Condon’s Corner and Berwick are one and the same is relevant.

If you accept the Surveyor General’s map as accurate, it indicates that a scheme was proposed in 1818 or earlier to build a canal connecting the Cornwallis River and the Annapolis River. The Township map clearly shows the route the canal would take and indicates it would start close to Condon’s Corner; inscribed on the map is a line reading, “Proposed canal from Annapolis River to Cornwallis River.”

Richard Skinner pointed out the reference to the canal when I was talking with him recently about the old Cornwallis Township map. I must admit that this was the first I’d heard of the canal and my first thought was that it was strange. Why a canal connecting the two rivers? Of what use would it be – military, commercial, for transportation of people and farm goods or what?

The old map indicates the canal would run from the Cornwallis River, then head in a westerly direction and pass north of the “Great Caraboo Bog,” which is near Aylesford. Once it passed the bog, the canal was supposed to head southwest into Aylesford Township and eventually connect with the upper part of the Annapolis River.

Connecting the Cornwallis River with the Annapolis Rover via a canal would be a costly undertaking, even in the early 19th century. Such a canal would connect Minas Basin with the Annapolis Basin and perhaps this is why it was proposed. Of what benefit such a connection would be is a mystery to me. However, digging such a canal must have considered, else it would not have shown up on the Surveyor General’s map of Kings County.

Since it was included in the official Township map, can we assume the proposed canal had the blessing of the provincial government? Was it a government project that was briefly considered and then forgotten? And one more question: Why, in all that has been written on the history of Kings County, has no mention been made of a proposed canal connecting the two rivers? After all, it would’ve been a major project for its time.

The answers to these questions may lie in a dusty file somewhere in the provincial archives. Meanwhile, if anyone has information on the canal, something in family lore for example, I’d like to hear from you.

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