In the 1880s, over two decades before publishing the History of Kings County, Arthur W. H. Eaton was writing about the Acadians and Planters for local newspapers.
The theme of the newspaper articles was simple and to the point: We aren’t doing enough to preserve our history, Eaton said. “There ought to be a general ransacking of the garrets of this County for objects of interests… old books, manuscripts, letters, seals, household furniture, farming implements, all should be gathered in,” was how he put in one Western Chronicle article.
Thanks to Eaton, moves were taken early on to preserve Acadian and Planter artifacts and records, his county history undoubtedly being one of the biggest steps of all.
Besides urging the formation of a historical society, Eaton pointed out in his newspaper articles where Acadian homesteads, roads and orchards once existed, and where even in his time some evidence of them still could be found. He went as far as identifying by name some of the sites of orchard and homesteads, giving their general locations and connecting them with earlier and then current farmers. Clues such as these would make it difficult today for anyone to pinpoint these sites without a lot of digging into old deeds and into local history, but it could be done.
Anyway, here’s an example of how Eaton went about identifying Acadian sites, such as what is believed to be an early dyke on the Canard River in Steam Mill: “The first dyke built by the French is said to have been the dyke commonly known as the Tobin dyke on the Isaac Reid place, where in the mud beside the road are still to be found timbers or planks.”
Then “Isaac Reid place” was on Reid Road (once known as Isaac Reid Road) in Steam Mill, a road that connects Highway #341 in Upper Dyke with Highway #359 not far from Centreville. The Canard River is immediately north of Reid Road and most historians agree that the Acadians built a dyke in this area. Brent Fox, in his well researched book on the Wellington Dyke, pinpoints the dyke’s location, noting that it was the first of a series on the Canard River.
Another quote from Eaton’s articles which roughly identifies some Acadian homesteads and orchards: “There was a settlement about half way between Andrew McDonald’s place, at Upper Dyke Village, and the Gibson Woods’ road, and one which seems to have extended from the Gesner, or the old Beckwith (Augustine Pineo now William Young’s) place to the Isaac Reid place; and another on George Borden’s place where cellars are said still to be.
“On Wilson Pearson’s farm on Brooklyn or Shadow Street, first owned it is said by John Lyons, was a French hamlet. On the site of a French cellar, John Lyons built his house. There were orchards on the Ward Eaton place, the Gesner place, the Isaac Reid place and no doubt many others. On the latter place there are still half a dozen apple trees remaining and near them many willows.”
There are enough clues in this for anyone with a penchant for digging up old maps and deeds to locate some Acadians homestead sites and orchards. If you like to play historical detective, Eaton also gives clues as to where Acadian homesteads were located on Church Street and in Port Williams.
“A cache (of Acadian tools) I was told, was uncovered a few years ago on Mr. John Chipman’s farm on Church Street, in which were ploughshares, pitchforks and other farming utensils, all of the best iron. A few years ago some chains and ploughshares were plowed up on Enoch Collins farm at Port Williams.”
So there you go. The names of landowners mentioned here are recorded on deeds at the Registry Office. Tracking down who owns the land today and pinpointing locations should be an easy task. If you play detective and find these sites, you’ll be able to walk on land that was first farmed hundreds of years ago by the first European settlers here. That will be uplifting.