MI’KMAQ, ACADIANS WERE FIRST IN CANNING (September 30/08)

“Perhaps it was 200 years ago the Acadians spied the advantage of the land, settled there, made some clearings and planted their orchards,” Dr. Benjamin Rand wrote in the 19th century. Rand is quoted by provincial archivist W. C. Milner in his book, The Basin of Minas and Its Early Settlers. Published circa 1930 in Wolfville, the book contains some 70 historical articles, many on the early villages around the Minas Basin.

Dr. Rand is referring to the Acadian site that eventually would become the village of Canning. However, the Mi’kmaq were there first. Rand notes that it was the Mi’kmaq who found the location a “natural one, owing to the head of the river,” and established an encampment there well before the Acadians arrived. When the Acadians settled here, they, like the Mi’kmaq, “spied the advantage of the land …. made some clearings and planted their orchards.”

In Acadian times, Rand says, “apple trees grew down to the tideway of Canning and the shipping of the port consisted of shad boats that going out in the ebb, returned in the flood with their fares.” The Acadians remained at this site “until the ‘Grande Derangement’ of 1755, when harried and beaten they fled.”

This is one of the earliest glimpses we have of Canning, thanks to Milner who as provincial archivist, had access to many unpublished historical papers and compiled them in a book. Of course we owe a debt to Rand, as well. In his time he was a noted historian and genealogist. Rand is mentioned several times in Eaton’s Kings County history, and some of his research on Canning is included in this work.

Many of the villages W. C. Milner profiled in his book were in Kings County, and many of his historical sketches centered around the County as well. Also, the fact that he published his entire book in installments in the Wolfville Acadian leads me to believe he favored this area and had a Kings County connection. This may have been through marriage since there’s no record of a Milner family in the Wolfville history, Mud Creek.

By the way, here’s an aside from the Milner book. Port Williams, says Milner, was almost named Bestville, apparently because most of the land in the village was once owned by Elisha Best. “But patriotic sentiment prevailed,” Milner writes, to call it Port Williams “to perpetuate the name of General Williams who came from Halifax to inspect the little garrison at Town Plot.”

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