After I read a transcription of the speech Laurie Levy delivered on the grand opening of the hall in Black River – the subject of my recent column – I decided to see what the author of Place-Names and Places of Nova Scotia wrote about the community.

To my surprise, Black River isn’t profiled in the book, at least not under that name.  Yet a couple of Kings County communities are profiled that either don’t exist or were never officially recognised as communities. Etna and Vesuvius are two such communities that come to mind.  I think of them as ghost communities; while a few people may have heard of these so-called place names, they exist solely on paper.

How could this be? As they say, there’s a story here; and to understand why some “communities” exist in name only you have to go back a generation or two.

Let’s start first with a settlement several miles south of Wolfville called Greenfield.  It is still called Greenfield today, at least by senior residents of the area, but years ago it was decided there were too many communities by that name and supposedly it made postal deliveries difficult.  The late Anne Marie Belliveau, who was a noted Kentville philatelist, did considerable research on county post offices.  Ms. Belliveau found that because of the confusion between Greenfield in Kings County and Greenfield in Queens County something had to change.

That change, Belliveau said, was to use Etna as the postal address for mail originating in Greenfield, Kings County.  Belliveau found that this was the idea of a county councillor, Jehiel Davison, and this is supported by an article appearing in this paper in 1977.  And by the way, a postal way office was established in Greenfield in 1875 and it became a regular post office a year later.  Check out Charles Bruce Fergusson’s book, Place-Names and Places of Nova Scotia for some history on Greenfield but look for it under Etna.

Now on to that other ghost community I mentioned – Vesuvius.  This community is alive and flourishing today and we know it as Black River.  It was also Jehiel Davison who chose the name Vesuvius for the Black River post office, apparently because there was a Black River in Antigonish County and a Black River in Colchester County.

Charles Bruce Fergusson obviously overlooked the fact that Vesuvius was a postal address only.  Black River isn’t profiled in his book, in other words, but Vesuvius is.  However, Fergusson admits that an early name for Vesuvius was Black River.   Oddly, while he omits the community’s correct and accepted name in his profiles, Fergusson writes that Black River is an “early name which is still used in the mid 20th century.”

Fergusson wrote this in 1967 and like many people, I wonder why he used Etna and Vesuvius in place of the long established community names for Greenfield and Black River.

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