TRACING AN OLD ACADIAN ROAD

In a rare aside, when he wasn’t glorifying the Planters of Kings County, Arthur W. H. Eaton mentions the community of Gibson Woods. In an early chapter of his county history Eaton writes that an Acadian settlement existed between Upper Dyke Village and Gibson Woods road. He doesn’t expand on this observation, nor does he say where he learned about the settlement.

If you are familiar with this area at all, this may be surprising. Generally the Acadians tended to settle in areas where they could dyke tidal streams. The Canard River, which was tidal when the Acadians settled here, doesn’t reach the area between Upper Dyke and the Gibson Woods road. And as far as I know, there are no tidal tributaries of the Canard, or any major stream that drains from the Gibson Woods area.

However, unlikely as it seems, there appears to have been an Acadian settlement near Gibson Woods. Eaton mentions the settlement in a newspaper article he wrote over a decade before he published the Kings County history. Eaton’s article, “The French Settlements in Kings County,” was published circa 1896 in the Western Chronicle.

Not only was there an Acadian settlement there. In the newspaper article, Eaton says that a major Acadian road passed near the settlement by Gibson Woods. “This road probably began in Centerville, near the settlement on the Gibson Woods road,” writes Eaton. The road ran from Centreville, down to Steam Mill (where one of the first dykes was built by the Acadians) and “through the trotting park,” the site of which eventually became Camp Aldershot.

From the trotting park the Acadian road continued in a southerly direction until it reached Kentville. Eaton writes that this road came into Kentville “through the dry hollow, by Charles Jones and over the Joe Bell Hill, a little west of the present road.”

Joe Bell Hill, of course, is Gallows Hill. The “dry hollow” may be what residents call Mosquito Hollow, which runs parallel to the highway going up Gallows Hill. If so, then Eaton erred slightly when he said the old Acadian road was a little west of the present road; it had to be a little east of the present road.

Anyway, bottom line, when you leave Kentville by crossing the bridge and driving over Gallows Hill, or if you drive north from Kentville to Aldershot, Steam Mill, Centreville or Gibson Woods, some of the time you are following an Acadian road. Originally the road was undoubtedly a Mi’kmaq trail and it led to Kentville because a well-used, convenient ford was there.

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