Near the arbitrarily named Eaves Hollow in the east end of Kentville, the walking trail crosses Elderkin Brook. The trail, of course, is the old railway bed. Elderkin Brook, which is piped under the trail, has connections with the building of the railway, and possibly with an Acadian mill site. This, to my mind, makes the area historically significant.
First, the Acadians’ connection with Elderkin Brook: While the evidence may be tenuous at best, research by a celebrated biologist and researcher John Erskine concluded that an Acadian mill likely was located about where the brook runs under the highway. Erskine admitted the evidence was feeble but he found seven species of trees at the site that usually are associated with Acadian activity. To quote Erskine: “Millers needed to live near their mills and usually they left some of their flora behind.”
Possible historical sites have been marked with commemorative plaques on far less evidence than what Erskine offers. It’s also well-known that New Minas, next to the possible mill site, was an Acadian settlement.
A plaque should also be considered to mark another section of Elderkin Brook, just below the mill site. In the mid-19th century, when the railway was being constructed, Elderkin Brook played an important role in its completion. Early in 1868 sailing vessels were arriving regularly in Wolfville with rails and other railway supplies. These were taken by scow up the Cornwallis River and landed at Elderkin Brook. The rails were destined for the line between Horton and Annapolis.
In her history of the Dominion Atlantic Railway, Marguerite Woodworth writes that little Elderkin Brook, which is tidal, later played an even more important role in the railway’s completion. To quote Woodworth: “Two engines, the old ‘Joseph Howe’ and the ‘Sir Gaspard le Marchant’ were purchased from the government for the sum of $7,000. The former was landed at Bridgetown on July 31st, the latter at Elderkin Creek (Brook) on August 8th, 1868.”
Woodworth intimates that a scow or barge carried a fully assembled railway locomotive up the treacherous, winding Cornwallis River and into the mouth of Elderkin Brook. This was the first railway engine to reach Kentville and to accomplish this a sturdy wharf must have been constructed on Elderkin Brook. I discovered where that wharf may have been located. Two years ago I found some sort of old cribwork exposed at the bottom of the Brook just above the walking trail. This to me looked like the sort of log work required to handle heavy equipment, such as a railway locomotive.
Woodworth and other historians confirm the role played by Elderkin Brook in the railway arriving here. While the role was minor, a commemorative plaque placed on the old rail bed by Elderkin Brook to mark the site would be suitable. This should be considered by the Kings Historical Society and the newly formed Kentville Historical Society.
Perhaps one plaque marking the Acadian mill and Elderkin Brook’s role in bringing the railway into Kentville is possible. This also should be considered.