HISTORIC ROADS AND STREETS (March 22/16)

The wheels have been set in motion to change street and road names in the county where there is duplication.

This may appear to be a simple task but as noted in this paper, there will be more than a few problems.  For one thing, what will be the criteria for deciding which streets and roads will keep the names they now have?  Will it be historical precedence?  That is, will streets and roads first named have the option of remaining the same and the duplicates re-named?

I’ll give odds that the use of the surname Cornwallis in several places in the county will be a candidate for change – and not only for its connection with a long ago scalping proclamation levelled at the Mi’kmaq.  I can think of a couple of Cornwallis Avenues in Kentville and New Minas, for example, and a couple of Highland Avenues (Kentville and Wolfville).  However these might not be candidates for change if only duplicate streets and roads in areas outside of towns and villages are being looked at.

Many of the street and road names in Kings County are of comparatively recent vintage and have little or no historical significance; in other words, no Planter, Loyalist or Acadian connotations or connections.  Two streets in the county of historical significance are Church Street and Belcher Street, both of which terminate in the village of Port Williams and have no duplication that I’m aware of.

Church Street is Planter and Acadian connected.  While it hasn’t been confirmed, most historians claim that an Acadian church, the Church of St. Joseph, once stood at Chipman Corner.  Another “first church” in Chipman Corner was the Congregationalist Church, which according to Arthur W. H. Eaton in his Kings County history was started by Planter settlers in 1767 and completed in 1768.

Church Street’s other historical connection with the Planters and other early settlers is the St. John’s Anglican Church.  According to Eaton, the first Anglican Church building was erected on Church Street in 1770 (roughly a decade after the Planters arrived) but it remained unfinished until 1776.  The construction of the present church was started in 1804 and when still incomplete, was opened for service in 1810.

If we agree that the Acadian church of St. Joseph once stood on the street, then Church Street and its three churches is aptly named and certainly is of historical significance.  We could even say there were four churches on Church Street – if we count the first version of the St. John’s Anglican Church, the 1770 building Eaton mentions that was constructed near Fox Hill east of the present church.

Belcher Street, which has its beginning in Kentville, definitely has its historical connections.  The street was named after the Belcher family, in particular Benjamin Belcher, the founder of the family here who received a grant in Cornwallis in 1797.  Belcher, whose grant lay along the road that would be named after him, was a prominent trader and ship owner out of Port Williams and he served in the Nova Scotia Legislature from 1785 until 1799.   Belcher’s descendant, Stephen, was High Sheriff of Kings County from 1881 to 1905. The Sherman Belcher Road near Centreville possibly may be named after another of Benjamin’s descendants, a prominent farmer.

It should also be noted that Church Street and Belcher Street likely are ancient Mi’kmaq trails; both run parallel to rivers, the Cornwallis and Canard, and terminate on the Minas Basin which the Mi’kmaq frequented in the spring and summer.  The Acadians probably found these old trails convenient as well and we can speculate that they were well trodden thoroughfares by the time the Planters arrived.

No thoroughfare in Kings County has more history attached to it than Gaspereau Avenue in Wolfville.  The avenue leads to the Gaspereau Valley, to the village of Gaspereau, and to the Gaspereau River with its great spring run of the fish the Acadians called the Gaspereau.   What we have is a name for a road, a valley, a village and a fish that’s of Acadian origin.  Then we have what Esther Clarke Wright (in Blomidon Rose) called the “Gaspereau state of mind,” a tribute to the independent, hard-working people who for generations farmed in near isolation in the Gaspereau Valley.

These are just a few of the thoroughfares in Kings County with historical connections.  There’s also Kars Street in Port Williams, Canard Street (of Acadian origin) in the northern section of Kings County  and Borden Street to name a few.  Kars Street comes from the “hero of Kars,” Sir William Fenwick Williams in whose honour Port Williams was named in 1856.  Then there’s the Terry’s Creek Road in Port Williams, so named because Terry’s Creek was an early name for Port Williams.

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