AN 1897 SOUVENIR BOOK OF WOLFVILLE (June 10/13)

In 1897, D. O. Parker, M. A., compiled and published a book that is an unusual combination, a historical document, tourist guide and local directory.  Parker called it a Souvenir of Wolfville and Grand Pre.  The book was published in Wolfville (likely by Davison Bros., publishers of the Acadian newspaper) and sold for 25 cents.

Only 24 pages, there are historical notes, tourist information, and a business directory that’s brief and incomplete.  Yet it is interesting.   Written over a century ago, the book contains some historical nuggets.  Doug Crowell, who sent me the text of the book, notes for example that it has information on the location of the friar’s house that “Parks Canada has been searching to find for years.”

Parker places the friar’s house a “few steps west of the chapel.”  Here are the “remains of a cellar,” Parker writes, that “without doubt belonged to the house of the friar,” – I assume he meant the house of an Acadian priest.  The chapel, in turn, is said to have been west of “Evangeline’s well,” which was “discovered a few years ago by treasure seekers digging for hidden gold.”  Many valuable Acadian relics were found at the bottom of the well, Parker says.  An Acadian graveyard was also close by, “a little east,” according to Parker.

Also historically interesting is Parker’s contention that the grounds of Acadia University once held Acadian homesteads.  In the rear of Acadia University are Acadian cellars, Parker writes.  Many Acadian relics, found on University grounds, were stored at one time in the college museum but were destroyed in a fire.  “A valuable cabinet of (Acadian) relics was lost when the college was burnt,” writes Parker, no doubt referring to the 1877 fire that destroyed most of the University.

Readers familiar with an earlier Wolfville will be intrigued by Parker’s reference to Acadian homesteads where “about one mile and a half east of the P. O. (Post Office?) a private road leads in by C. C. Harris’s to one of the most picturesque nooks imaginable.”  There, says Parker, one can find old willows, old apple trees, the remains of old cellars and a “remarkable road down to the dyke… where the Acadians passed up and down a century and a half ago.”

The reference to the C. C. Harris property may be enough of a clue for amateur archaeologists to find this “picturesque nook,” and its Acadian cellars.  Parker mentions that a brook ran through the site and there were old willows, which also may be helpful clues.

As for being a local directory, Parker only mentions a few businesses, most of them catering to tourists.  “Only” is the correct word here since in 1897 Wolfville was a prosperous town, the largest in the county at the time.  In the early 1890s Wolfville had 16 stores and hotels, several boarding houses, a busy port and a patent medicine factory.

Parker writes about six Wolfville and three Grand Pre hotels in his  book and briefly describes points of interest that might attract tourists.  There are “pleasant walks” and “pleasant drives,” and mention that in 1897, land now occupied by Acadia University held “3,000 young apple, pear, plum and peach trees.”

Readers interested in early Wolfville and the various references to the Acadians will find Parker’s book more than interesting.  While the book is out of print, it is posted on the Internet and can easily be accessed.

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