HISTORICAL GLIMPSES OF THE CANAAN-NICTAUX ROAD (July 10/18)

Writing about the old Halifax-Annapolis Road in the Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society some 50 years ago, Mrs. G. R. Evans points out errors that were made when it was “relocated and marked” by officer cadets from CFB Cornwallis in 1967.

This was a commendable effort Evans wrote, but she doubted that even the best surveyors of the province “could now locate the whole course of the Halifax- Annapolis Road with any degree of accuracy.” First of all, the road which was supposed to connect Halifax with Annapolis Royal was never completed. A sign posted by the cadets noting their achievement contained an error as well, Evans noted, which attributed the wrong person as the original surveyor.

The main purpose of the Halifax-Annapolis Road was to eliminate the supposedly more difficult and longer route to Annapolis Royal via the Annapolis Valley. The fact that a route through the Valley existed and an attempt was made to provide an alternate route has led to all sorts of confusion between the old Halifax-Annapolis Road and a road known in various communities as the Canaan Road and the Nictaux Road. Despite the two names, this is one road and it isn’t the old Halifax to Annapolis highway. The confusion came perhaps because a start had been made at Annapolis Royal on the Halifax-Annapolis Road. And adding to the confusion, records indicate that a road from Annapolis Royal had also been roughed out that leads to Nictaux.

On the origin of the Canaan Road, according to various records, settlement began in the 1790s in an area a few kilometres south of Kentville that originally was called New Canaan and later was referred to simply as Canaan. A map made in 1818 indicates that there was a road leading to New Canaan from the highway that ran from Halifax into Windsor and then into the Valley. The caption on the map reads : “Road from the Post Road to New Canaan.” The map also indicates there was a road leading from New Canaan running south to where it crossed the Gaspereau River and then headed towards Halifax. The caption here reads: “Road from New Canaan to Halifax.”

What isn’t well known is the existence of an old road running west from the lower part of the Gaspereau River. This road, which undoubtedly was a trail used for untold generations by the Mi’kmaq, runs through the Gaspereau River ravine and comes out on the New Ross Road near what is known locally as the ”feather factory.” In an article written in 1896, Edmond Cogswell refers to this as the military road, noting that it “seems to have been laid out far to the south on the slope of the hills and to have extended from near Fort Edward, Windsor, nearly to Annapolis. It was six rods wide and was chopped out for the whole distance but was never made, except for a small part of it near Wolfville.” Cogswell adds that he has come across this road south of Waterville several times in timber 30 or 40 feet high and “it is called there the Canaan Road.”

Traces of this old road can still be found after it crosses the New Ross Road and heads west cross country. In White Rock, for example, pieces of the old road can still be seen on Joel Sheffield’s farm where it is known locally as “the cart road.” Some sections of the road have been incorporated into walking trails and the tendency is to refer to these sections as part of the Nictaux Road. However, the deeds of many farms along the slope of the South Mountain refer to the Canaan Road as being the southern – and legal – boundary.

So which is proper use – Canaan Road or Nictaux Road? At the eastern edge of Kings County it starts out as the Canaan Road; inland near Gaspereau Lake, Sunken Lake and the Miner Meadow area it’s usually referred to as the Nictaux Road; then farther west along the crest of the South Mountain, south of Morristown, Factorydale and Harmony it becomes the Canaan Road again, at least on legal papers and on community lore.

It appears that “Canaan Road” is the correct usage, to answer my question. But call it what you will, it’s an interesting old trail/road with a history that’s never been fully written. I believe it started as a Mi’kmaq trail centuries ago and later was put to use by the military before being abandoned. That’s my guess and there’s enough information recorded in numerous community histories to support this view.

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