SAXON STREET – A MI’KMAQ/ACADIAN TRAIL? (March 18/13)

Saxon Street isn’t the longest continuous road in the county – Brooklyn Street claims that honour – but it’s historically interesting and may even be considered a curiosity.

First of all, let’s ask why the road is there?  Originally it might have been a trail used by the Mi’kmaq to reach fishing grounds on the upper Minas Basin, the area around the mouth of the Habitant and Canard River; a road later found useful by the Acadians and Planter settlers.

If so, it would seem that Canard Street, which reaches deep into the heart of land favoured by the Mi’kmaq – areas later settled by the Acadians and Planters – would be a more direct route to the head of the Basin.  Most likely, Canard Street became a major thoroughfare because it was a straight forward, high ground trail between two rivers, a trail that led to major, year around Mi’kmaq food sources; also, it conveniently followed a shoreline the Acadians and Planters eventually would heavily dyke.

Saxon Street, on the other hand seems to be superfluous.  It appears to be an unnecessary trail for the Mi’kmaq since it reaches the same area that Canard Street serves.  However, when you take a closer look, Saxon Street is a direct link between Mi’kmaq fishing grounds on the Bay of Fundy and fishing ground on the Minas Basin.  Saxon Street T-junctions with Highway 359 in Centreville and by turning north on this highway from Saxon Street you can travel directly to the Bay.

From Centreville, an area favoured by the Mi’kmaq and Acadians, to the Minas Basin the distance, using Saxon Street, is 11.3 kilometres – an easy one-day walk most of the year, in other words.  Recently I drove the entire length of the street starting in Centreville, crossing Sherman Belcher and Gibson Woods Road, which likely were Mi’kmaq and/or Acadian trails at one time.  Just past the Gibson Woods Road, Saxon Street dips into a hollow and the stream flowing through it runs into the Canard River.

This stream (I don’t know its name) has the distinction of being the first, or one of the first sites the Acadians dyked in Kings County; you can still see faint traces of the dykeing on the upstream side where it crosses under Highway 341 by the Newcombe Branch Road.

Farther along, Saxon Street crosses Middle Dyke Road, so named due to Acadian dykeing where this road crosses the Canard River.  Saxon Street continues on into Hillaton, an area that was part of a Planter grant.  Here, Saxon Street runs parallel to the Habitant River, then crosses Highway 358 and eventually dips down to the Minas Basin shore.  Here, possibly in the early 1800s, a wharf was built to give farmers access to the Minas Basin.  Old-time documents tell of mile long lines of wagons filled with potatoes at harvest time, waiting on Saxon Street for access to the wharf.

Just up over the rise east of Pickett’s Wharf, Saxon Street T-junctions with Canard Street in Lower Canard.  For most of its 11.3 kilometres Saxon Street runs through country of historical significance.  According to the late Ernest Eaton, Saxon Street  was once called Washington Street – after whom it isn’t known – and even earlier was known as Bently or Bentley Path.  David Bentley was a Cornwallis grantee and this may explain the old name for the road.

And for you history trivia buffs, the community we call Hillaton today, through which Saxon Street passes, was once known as the village of Saxon Street and earlier, the village of Washington Street.  Saxon Street may have had some of the early Kings County Irish settlers dwelling along it at one time.  As for whom the street is named after, I don’t know.  Perhaps more knowledgeable readers can tell us.

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