NEW MINAS: A SEARCH FOR ACADIAN COINS (October 18/10)

In an 1896 issue of the Kentville newspaper, the Western Chronicle, Edmund J. Cogswell writes that it “would be amusing if they (the inhabitants of the village) should discover that New Minas was not New Minas at all, but another place.”

Cogswell, a Probate Judge in Kentville, was a historian who wrote often for Kings County newspapers. The 1896 article referred to above looked at the early days of New Minas and the origin of its name. In the article Cogswell notes that while the name is of Acadian origin, the place they called New Minas (New Mines) was actually located elsewhere. “The real New Minas (is) not New Minas at all,” Cogswell says, and at “the present time little more than an airy nothing.”

This sounds confusing and it is, but as you read Cogswell’s article you’ll see what he was getting at. Based on his research, Cogswell argues the area the Acadians called New Minas was centered around what was known later as the Griffin house. After the Acadians were deported, says Cogswell, “the English built their village further south upon the military road. But although they left the original village site, they retained the old name of New Minas.”

This historical trivia is interesting. More interesting, however, is Cogswell’s historical glimpses of early New Minas and the searches for buried Acadian treasure. Along with mentioning an Acadian mill, a burial ground, the location of Acadian homesteads and a church, Cogswell says caches of Acadian money, buried at the time of the deportation, were found in or near the New Minas settlement.

“I never thought until of late years that the French buried much money when they left the country,” Cogswell writes. “But it is intimated by one of the oldest historians …. that a very large part of the money the French King spent at Louisburg came here (and) the Acadians were never renowned for their spending proclivities.”

What spurred interest in possible coin caches, Cogswell said, were a couple of French priests “making enquiries about (the) Foster farm” where it was “always supposed that there was a cache.” Later, mysterious diggings were discovered on the farm where “something had been removed.” Cogswell also says that many of the old caches “have almost all been opened and mostly by the French themselves who have returned from time to time for that purpose.”

Most of what Cogswell writes about buried Acadian coins is speculation and rumor. Here’s an example: There was another cache down by the little village on what is now known as the Burden …. place. It was looked for long and dug for long and carefully but one day someone going down the dyke road found a great chest sitting there empty. It was supposed that some Frenchman had come up the (Cornwallis) river in the night and had dug up and rifled the chest.”

Cogswell said that a cache of Acadian coins was also found on the crest of Gallows Hill in Kentville, discovered he said when a new road was being constructed up the hill.

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