AN OLD ROAD TO AN OLD ABOITEAU (October 8/12)

According to the signs, Highway 341 ends at what is known locally as Jawbone Corner, which if one must be historically correct is also given as Hamilton’s Corner in Eaton’s Kings County history.

When you drive along Highway 341, heading towards Jawbone Corner, you pass through farm land favoured by the Acadians and Planters.  At the corner (a crossroad actually) the road crosses Highway 358 and continues eastward to Lower Canard, through more land farmed by Acadians and Planters.  Along Highway 341 and into Lower Canard, by the way, you are likely following an old trail first blazed by the Mi’kmaq.

Drive down this historic piece of highway called Canard Street and before you reach the Wellington Dyke Road, you’ll see a left hand turn that a highway sign proclaims is Clark Lane.  Turn into Clark Lane and you’re driving in a northerly direction towards Saxon Street, again crossing farmland once utilised by the Acadians and Planters. After roughly a kilometre, Clark Lane ends as a t-junction connecting with Saxon Street.

But does Clark Lane actually terminate there?  Pause at the stop sign for a moment and look north.  Across the road is the Ron Clarke farm.  In the distance behind the farm it is the Habitant River and along it northern bank you can see some of the houses and stores that make up the village of Canning.  Look straight ahead and you’ll see a farm road that lines up perfectly with Clark Lane, a farm road that runs in a straight line for about a kilometre down to the Habitant River.

That farm road once was what people call a “government road.”  And while it’s exactly what it appears to be today, a well-used truck and tractor road, it was once an old thoroughfare connecting Canning and area with some of the richest farm land in Kings County.  If you follow this old road cum farm track down to the banks of the Habitant you’ll eventually come to the site where an aboiteau once bridged the river.

After it reaches the Habitant, the old road swings west around a huge bend in the river and then turns north towards Canning.  The river is narrow there, making it a logical site to construct a bridge or an aboiteau.  A long time ago, perhaps as early as the Acadian period,  people in this area opted to build an aboiteau rather than a bridge; the aboiteau crossed the Habitant approximately where the Canning branch of the Royal Canadian Legion now stands on the north bank of the river.

You’ll note that I’m speaking in the past tense.  Like the old road that’s no longer a busy thoroughfare, the aboiteau is no longer there and we have to go back to the 1940s to find what happened to it.  In 1943, after countless twice daily tides, the Habitant River aboiteau was swept away. Newspaper accounts from the time note that the aboiteau had been crumbling for several years. Hundreds of tons of rock were used to reinforce the aboiteau but it wasn’t enough; when it finally gave away, nearly 400 acres of dykeland was flooded and the main highway into Canning eroded.  Unleashed by the aboiteau’s collapse, the waters of the Minas Basin surged upstream for several miles, flooding land that hadn’t seen the tides since the Acadian period.

I’ve attempted unsuccessfully to determine the age of the old road that runs through Ron Clarke’s farm; it may date back to the period when the Acadians were farming the area.  Eaton’s Kings County history gives a few vague clues as to when the aboiteau was constructed.  Eaton writes that “about three years ago a new aboiteau was built behind the Baptist meeting house in Canning.”  If by “three years ago” Eaton means three years before he published the county history, then the Canning aboiteau was built circa 1907.  However, Eaton also notes that the Acadians had built aboiteaus and dykes on the river around Canning.  This leaves the possibility that the Canning aboiteau was Acadian in origin.

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