A GRAND OLD ROAD THROUGH NOVA SCOTIA (December 16/08)

In many of the Kings County community histories you’ll find references to the Annapolis Road, or as it’s called in some areas, the Post Road. In most cases the references are brief. Several local histories mention only that the old road passed through this or that community; usually nothing is mentioned of the road’s origin.

If you like to read about Kings County history, you’ll find the bare bones mention of the Annapolis or Post Road frustrating. I found a one line reference to the old road in one of the first community histories I read many years ago. After, I found the same one line reference again and again in other community histories, with nothing on the road’s origin other than that it passed through the area being documented and traces of it still existed here and there.

What was this old highway, known as the Annapolis Road, the Post Road and in one or two community histories as the “old Stagecoach Road?”

Well, for one thing, the old road at the start was to be a great highway (some sources say 200 feet wide) cutting through the heart of the province to connect Halifax with Annapolis Royal. The plan to build this super road was conceived over 100 years ago, and except for its width, it was much like today’s 101 before sections of it were twinned. From what I’ve read, it seems the original plan was to start the road in Halifax, pass through Hammond Plains and into Hants County; from Hants County the great road would run through the highlands on the southern edge of Kings County, skirt the edge of Lunenburg County and continue on into Annapolis County.

As you can see from this brief description, the grand road would take a zigzag course, apparently with the aim of connecting the major settlement and farming areas between Halifax and Annapolis, the prime agricultural area of the Valley, for example, and major settlements near the South Shore.

The great road was the brainchild of a military engineer, one Joseph DesBarres, who had served with the 60th Foot Royal American regiment during construction of the Halifax citadel. Around 1763, DesBarres submitted a plan to the provincial government, proposing the building of an all-weather road some 21 feet wide with trees cleared for one hundred feet on either side, to run from Halifax to Annapolis Royal.

Nothing came of the DesBarres proposal but the idea of building this super highway surfaced again and is mentioned in government documents in 1783. A map exists in the Public Archives showing a line of road and a notation “markt out by Gov. Parr’s orders in 1784.” G. R. Evans, writing on the history of the Annapolis Road (volume 38, Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society) states that Parr’s road was a proposal only. Between 1773 and 1816 the Annapolis Road was surveyed several times. Sections of the road were constructed between Halifax and Annapolis, but by the 1830s the government abandoned plans to complete the highway.

History buffs interested in the location of the old road in Kings County can find references to it in several community histories. Pioneers of Canaan and Memories of Coldbrook, by Marie Bishop are two; others are the Coldbrook history by Laurie T. Ward and the Wolfville history, Mud Creek.

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