People of my generation often speak warmly of the old fashioned Christmases they enjoyed when they were kids. For the most part they were country Christmases, replete with sleigh rides, carol singing and that fondly remembered Christmas day dinner, roast goose.

Looking back to the days when I was a kid, I’d say that goose, for the most part, was the traditional Christmas dinner. The now ubiquitous yuletide turkey hadn’t made its appearance, and you could count on every barnyard having a goose or two that was being fattened for Christmas.

I don’t know how some of you seniors feel, but I’m glad the goose, the domestic goose that is, has practically disappeared from the Christmas menu. Good riddance, I say. Bring on the turkeys. They may not be as traditional as the goose; but from what I remember of Christmas dinners some 50 years ago, I’d say the goose wasn’t worth all the effort required to prepare one for dinner.

Rendering the goose, for example, was a tedious – and necessary – practice that was time consuming. I remember my mother spending hours at the oven Christmas morning while the goose was slowly roasting. The fat had to be removed as it dripped from the bird into a pan that was set under it solely for the rendering process. Domestic geese are more fat than meat, and without the rendering they are greasy and hardly palatable.

Never mind that the goose fat was saved and was used later that winter as a chest rub when mixed with Minard’s Liniment, and if my memory isn’t faulty, with oil of wintergreen. I had more than my share of this mixture daubed on my chest when I suffered from colds. Seems to me it worked, too, so you could say the traditional Christmas goose had more than one use.

I must admit that that the geese we feasted on in Christmases half a century ago had something other than medicinal going for them as well. No other fowl, domestic or wild, has the unique flavor of roasted barnyard goose. But the flavor alone wasn’t enough to keep the goose as the traditional Christmas dinner. The turkey replaced it for the simple reason that it was easy to mass produce and a lot simpler to prepare for the table.

Rather than the taste of roast goose, however, what I remember most about those long ago Christmas diners was the stuffing my mother prepared for the goose. She used a recipe she brought with her from England; it was strong in summer savory, high in celery and onions, and tops in taste. Like roasted goose, homemade stuffing has disappeared from the Christmas dinner as well. Nowadays, you buy it in a box.


In many of the Kings County community histories you’ll find references to the Annapolis Road, or as it’s called in some areas, the Post Road. In most cases the references are brief. Several local histories mention only that the old road passed through this or that community; usually nothing is mentioned of the road’s origin.

If you like to read about Kings County history, you’ll find the bare bones mention of the Annapolis or Post Road frustrating. I found a one line reference to the old road in one of the first community histories I read many years ago. After, I found the same one line reference again and again in other community histories, with nothing on the road’s origin other than that it passed through the area being documented and traces of it still existed here and there.

What was this old highway, known as the Annapolis Road, the Post Road and in one or two community histories as the “old Stagecoach Road?”

Well, for one thing, the old road at the start was to be a great highway (some sources say 200 feet wide) cutting through the heart of the province to connect Halifax with Annapolis Royal. The plan to build this super road was conceived over 100 years ago, and except for its width, it was much like today’s 101 before sections of it were twinned. From what I’ve read, it seems the original plan was to start the road in Halifax, pass through Hammond Plains and into Hants County; from Hants County the great road would run through the highlands on the southern edge of Kings County, skirt the edge of Lunenburg County and continue on into Annapolis County.

As you can see from this brief description, the grand road would take a zigzag course, apparently with the aim of connecting the major settlement and farming areas between Halifax and Annapolis, the prime agricultural area of the Valley, for example, and major settlements near the South Shore.

The great road was the brainchild of a military engineer, one Joseph DesBarres, who had served with the 60th Foot Royal American regiment during construction of the Halifax citadel. Around 1763, DesBarres submitted a plan to the provincial government, proposing the building of an all-weather road some 21 feet wide with trees cleared for one hundred feet on either side, to run from Halifax to Annapolis Royal.

Nothing came of the DesBarres proposal but the idea of building this super highway surfaced again and is mentioned in government documents in 1783. A map exists in the Public Archives showing a line of road and a notation “markt out by Gov. Parr’s orders in 1784.” G. R. Evans, writing on the history of the Annapolis Road (volume 38, Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society) states that Parr’s road was a proposal only. Between 1773 and 1816 the Annapolis Road was surveyed several times. Sections of the road were constructed between Halifax and Annapolis, but by the 1830s the government abandoned plans to complete the highway.

History buffs interested in the location of the old road in Kings County can find references to it in several community histories. Pioneers of Canaan and Memories of Coldbrook, by Marie Bishop are two; others are the Coldbrook history by Laurie T. Ward and the Wolfville history, Mud Creek.


I hope what I’m about to suggest doesn’t sound like a sales pitch to help the Kings Historical Society with book and CD sales. But if anyone in your circle of family and friends is a history buff, take a moment to drop into the Kings County Museum and look over the super selection of historical books and statistical CDs on sale there.

Take, for example, my favorite collection of Kings County history books. I like to think of the 10-volume collection of Kings County Vignettes as history in a nutshell and that’s what they are. Each volume in the pocketbook size volumes runs to 50 pages each and contain condensed articles on various aspects of Kings County history. The price is right too – $7 per book.

Also priced right is Historic Kings County, some 66 pages of Kings County history in stories and pictures. With about 100 photographs and profiles on 35 county communities, and a price tag of $3. this is a great stocking stuffer.

Staying with the stuff that’s reasonably priced the Cemetery Map locator book at $5. is worth considering. The A. F. Church Map at $15. – the township map of Kings County photocopied and presented in book format – would make a great gift along with the cemetery map for anyone searching for their ancestors. Brent Fox’s history of Camp Aldershot, covering the period from 1904 to the 1980s is also a great stocking stuffer at $4. and I recommend it for military buffs.

Ron Illsley’s history of Berwick ($25.) and Marie Bishops Coldbrook history ($30.) are also available at the Museum. If the person you’re shopping for has Acadian ancestors you might want to consider the Acadian Census, 1753 – 1763 at $15. They Farmed Well by G. H Gerrits ($15.) makes a great gift book for anyone researching their Dutch ancestry.

In the genealogical line as well are several CDs in the statistical line. Among them are the Kings County Church Records, Annapolis Valley Births and Deaths, 1864 – 1877, and Kings County Marriages, 1864 – 1909.

These are only a sample of the historical books and CDs available at the museum. Keep in mind that the museum closes for the season at noon on December 19.

A RACE OF SAILING SHIPS IN 1928 (December 2/08)

In numerous conversations over the years with the late Leon Barron, he often mentioned schooners such as the Fieldwood and the Cape Blomidon. These ships, among many others, were built in the Canning shipyards and were well known in their day.

Many of our local sailing ship buffs are aware that the Fieldwood Heritage Society was named after the schooner. The Society’s website tells me that the Fieldwood was a tern schooner of 435 tons, was built by Lockwood and Fielding and launched in 1920. Apparently it was the last of a distinguished line of sailing ships, some 100 or more, built at the Bigelow shipyard; perhaps for this reason, the Fieldwood was chosen as the namesake of the Society.

The Cape Blomidon, a schooner of 408 tons, was built in 1919 by Harvey MacAloney, whom I believe was a Wolfville entrepreneur and a native of this town. The records indicate the ship was eventually abandoned on the beach at Parrsboro in 1937.

My interest in the Fieldwood and Cape Blomidon was piqued when I came across mention of a 1928 race involving these vessels and an American ship, the Lincoln. Apparently the three ships were loading lumber at Halifax in March and were preparing to sail at the same time for New York. In Sails of the Maritimes by John Parker (published 1960) the author writes that this was a “perfect set up for a race.”

While Parker doesn’t state that a contest was agreed upon, the implication is that when the ships left Halifax on March 2, at the very least bragging rights were at stake. However, it wasn’t much of a race. One day out, the vessels ran into one of those storms that plagued sailors along the Nova Scotia coast during the era of sailing ships. All three ships sought shelter along the coast, the Cape Blomidon in Liverpool, the others in Shelburne.

Four days later the weather moderated and the Fieldwood and Lincoln resumed their voyage. Once again a fierce gale struck and the vessels became separated. A week later both vessels reached the American coast; the Fieldwood apparently won the race since she arrived in New York first. In the meanwhile, the captain of Cape Blomidon played it safe, waiting until the fierce weather abated before setting sail from Liverpool and arriving in New York on March 19th.

What is interesting about the race is that it was typical of the countless voyages sailing vessels made out of Nova Scotia. Accounts of all those voyages often tell of hardship, storms and shipwrecks. In effect, the story that John Parker told of the Cape Blomidon, Fieldwood and Lincoln is a microcosm of all those voyages.


Two books on construction of the great Wellington Dyke on the Canard River have been published. One was written by Brent Fox in 1985 and published by the Kings Historical Society. In 1997, Marjory Whitelaw wrote the second Wellington Dyke book, co-published by Nimbus Publishing Limited and the Nova Scotia Museum.

Both are excellent books, but my favorite is the work by Brent Fox. Brent’s book oozes with the nitty gritty, hands on work of building a dyke which required a lot of sweat and what Fox said were the “essential (black) rum rations.”

As Fox points out in his book, work on what eventually would be called the Wellington Dyke began decades before it was completed in 1825.

Shortly after the Planters arrived to take up the land of the Acadians, major efforts were made to dyke the Canard River; or actually to repair the dykes along the river that had been left untended between the period the Acadians were removed and the Planters arrived several years later.

1760 is usually given as the year the Planters reached Kings County. In 1759 a major storm, combined with high tides, destroyed a lot of the Canard River dykes the Acadians had built. The dykes had been in general disrepair at the time of the storm anyway, and the high tides and heavy winds made further inroads. As Brent Fox explains, the dykes were “already severely weakened by half a decade of a total lack of essential repair and maintenance (and) the aboiteaux was breached, letting in a large amount of sea water.” Nature had indeed played a cruel trick upon these newcomers, the Planters, Fox observed.

When I was last in the Nova Scotia Archives I accessed several documents regarding problems the Planters faced with broken dykes. On file is a letter from acting Governor Belcher to the Board of Trade referring to the breach “made in that of the River Canard in the Township of Cornwallis.” Belcher notes that attempts to restore the dykes were a combined effort of the “inhabitants with their cattle and carriages, together with those hired from Horton at their own expense,” and “provincial troops and French inhabitants.” The Acadians, Belcher said “were best acquainted with work of this kind.”

In another document in the Archives there’s a request by Belcher for financial aid to obtain at least 100 Acadians from different parts of the province to repair the dykes and instruct the settlers on dyke work. But even with the help of the Acadians there were other setbacks. Late in 1760, work on repairing the dykes was stalled once again by natural forces, and had to be put off until the following spring. Also, the provincial governing body was balking at granting funds to repair the dykes. In effect, they reminded settlers that despite damaged dykes, nearly 3000 acres of land were already available for farming.


In past columns (column 1, column 2) I’ve mentioned various houses that may have had “Acadian connections,” that is, these houses or sections of them may have existed around the time of the expulsion in 1755.

Some of us are skeptical that any house built here in the middle of the 18th century would be sturdy enough to remain standing today. However, in Wolfville there’s the so-called Kent Lodge, said to have been built a few years after the expulsion of the Acadians. According to B. C. Silver and Dr. Watson Kirkconnell in the book, Wolfville’s Historic Homes (published 1967) here is some doubt about when the house was actually built; a plaque on the old home dates it from 1761.

Apparently the Planters began constructing permanent homes a few years after their arrival. For a time, some Planters occupied houses left standing after the Acadians were removed. While all of the Acadian homes in what is now Kings County were destroyed during the expulsion period, some were left standing in what is now West Hants and in Falmouth in particular.

Historian tells us that for over a year, many of the Planters lived in tents. It’s a matter of record, however, that some Acadian homes were left standing in West Hants and the settlers arriving after the expulsion took full advantage of them. “Although practically all the Acadian houses and buildings had been destroyed at Horton and Cornwallis during the time of the expulsion,” writes James Martell in a thesis on pre-loyalist settlement in Kings and Hants County, “many of them remained standing in Pisiquid, in West Falmouth and Fort Edward districts.”

Martell goes onto say that the West Falmouth Settlers took “full advantage of their opportunities” and an “equable division” of the remaining Acadian houses was made. Apparently there was what today we call a lottery or draw to determine who among the settlers would occupy the houses and use the outbuildings of the Acadians.

Martell quotes Henry Yould Hind who wrote about the division of land in his history of Windsor and its old burial ground (published 1899). I went directly to Hind’s book to see what he had to say. On June 23, 1760, at a West Falmouth township meeting, the settlers “voted that the buildings and all the boards and timber that is now in Falmouth …. shall be numbered and prized as equally as possible.” A draw was held seven days later and there were “28 awards.”

Martell makes two interesting comments regarding this division of Acadian property. “One of those strange twists of fortune is apparent in this apportionment of what remained of Acadian civilization at Falmouth, while the former owners looked on from across the river Pisiquid – military prisoners of the garrison at Fort Edward.”

A few years later, Martell says, the Falmouth settlers conveniently forgot they had divided up Acadian property. In a joint petition with other townships (asking for assistance apparently) the good settlers of Falmouth declared that on their arrival, they found “all dykes destroyed and fences and houses universally demolished.” Their petition can be found in the Public Archives of Nova Scotia.


“The exaggerated stories which are being told of the smallpox raging in Kentville would be amusing, if such stories were not told with the purpose of injuring the business of the town,” wrote The Advertiser’s editor in a September, 1901, issue.

“Travellers at different places have been told the town was under strict quarantine, and that if they came to this town they would not be able to leave,” the editor further wrote. This wasn’t the case, the editor said, and only two buildings in town were quarantined due to smallpox. Kentville was wide open and “people come and go at pleasure as long as they do not come in contact with …. the two buildings quarantined.”

As mentioned, the paper broadly hinted that, in effect, rumors were started so that “other places” (stores in nearby towns and villages, I assume) would have a business advantage if Kentville was closed. Kentville was the first place to report smallpox, The Advertiser’s editorialist said, plaintively noting that it was “brought in from other places and is as liable to be brought into any other place as well.” Earlier in the year, The Advertiser reported that a sailor who arrived in a barque in Kingsport had brought smallpox to the county.

But for the fact that it was a deadly disease the paper was writing about, this report would have been humorous. Less than a year later, however, The Advertiser reported something that was amusing. A prisoner of the town jail, which was quarantined due to smallpox, caused panic in the county when he simply walked out of the jailyard and disappeared. Recaptured later and taken back to jail, he explained that since his time was up and he was almost recovered from smallpox, he decided to go home.

Apparently around 1900 and 1901 there were isolated cases of smallpox in Kings County. By 1907, however, an epidemic was raging province-wide. In February, 1908, the provincial health officer reported that 1,860 cases of smallpox were treated in the previous year. While in most cases the disease was said to be mild, five deaths were reported.

The 1907 epidemic is believed to have been one of the worst outbreaks of smallpox in the province. If you look back, however, you’ll find that almost from the day the Planters arrived here, cases of smallpox kept on popping up all over Kings County, and around the province.

In the Public Archives, for example, is a document from 1778 that refers to a smallpox epidemic in the county. Also in the Archives are four letters from the same year, petitioning the government to be excused from jury duty due to the epidemic. In 1800, Simeon Perkins recorded in his famous diary that smallpox had killed nearly 200 people in Halifax and the disease was prevalent along the South Shore.


“The burnt land:” To me, there’s a hint of the dark and sinister in these words; but all they really are is a description of land from which trees have been felled and removed, and the brush or debris burned. The piece of land thus cleared – the “burnt land” – was then farmed or used as a pasture.

Creating burnt land and using it to plant various crops or to pasture cattle was a common, long ago farming practice in this area. It’s unheard of today. However, as recently as two or three generations ago, if a farm lot was forested – on the heavily treed slopes of the North or South Mountain here in Kings County for example, out of necessity you had to create pieces of burnt land.

“Everybody had a piece of burnt land,” says John Griffith, Canaan, of farming in the early days. “After the trees were removed, the brush was spread out over the cut piece and burned.” Griffith says there was a particular way the brush was spread – “in humps with the brush ends pointing downwards.” The brush usually was burned in the fall. The following spring the piece of burnt land was put to use.

Griffith recalls that turnips, carrots and oats were often grown on the burnt land. Turnips grown on burnt land were especially relished, he says. “They got a premium (on the farm market) for burnt land turnips, mostly because they’d be worm free.”

I first heard of burnt land farming when I was talking with Griffith many years ago. I had never heard the term before, and it caught my imagination. Most of today’s younger generations probably never heard of burnt land farming either.

In his privately published book My White Rock, Bert Young describes in detail how a piece of burnt land was created when he was a boy. When trees were removed, he writes, the brush was burned where it lay and the stumps left to rot. The soil between the stumps was tilled and planted.

In her book on farm life in the early days on the Forest Hill Road (privately published and distributed to family members) the late Lexie Davidson also describes burnt land farming. She writes about her father removing trees from a lot and “afterward he would burn over the area …. When planting time came around (he would) plant cucumbers or squash around the stumps in the burntland. He had a special burntland harrow to use for this type of terrain.”

Griffith and Davidson note that for a few years at least, the soil in the burnt land was highly productive and produced prime vegetable crops, probably because the burning process fertilized and nourished the land.


A “French military fort” is said to have once stood in New Minas, overlooking the Cornwallis River; folklore has it that the fort was located at the western edge of the village.

Regard this folklore with skepticism. Possibly the French once had a fort in what is now New Minas. But from a military point of view, the Acadian settlement here probably was never important enough to require fortifications, or even a French military presence.

There may be a simple explanation for this folklore. There was a military fort in this area around the time of the expulsion, but it wasn’t of French origin. The fort had an unusual, French sounding name, which perhaps may account for the folklore. The fort was called Vieux Logis, so named say historians for the Acadian locale where it was built. Vieux Logis may have been an Acadian place name.

But let’s go back to the year 1749 when Governor Edward Cornwallis founded Halifax. At the time Nova Scotia was a contested land and the French, along with their Mi’kmaq allies and some Acadians were waging an undeclared guerilla war against the British. As a result of the unsettled situation in Nova Scotia, Cornwallis ordered the building of a fort in the Minas region. Some references place Fort Vieux Logis in what is now Grand Pre, but most likely it was located near the Gaspereau River, possibly near the old wharf at Horton Landing.

In the history of Kings County, Arthur W. H. Eaton has four references to Fort Vieux Logis. Briefly, the fort was established by Cornwallis late in 1749 and abandoned in 1753 with the establishment of Fort Edward in Windsor. Eaton tells us the fort was attacked in 1749 by a “company of Micmac and Maliseet Indians.” While the fort was held after several attempts to take it, a British officer and 18 of his men were captured and taken to Chignecto where they were held for ransom.

While the troops stationed at Vieux Logis were removed to Fort Edward, the old fort still remained. Vieux Logis served the people of Horton Township long after arrival of the Planters. One of the prerequisites of settlement was the erection of palisaded forts in the various townships. Eaton says that the fort established in Horton was “probably …. Vieux Logis restored.”

Neither Eaton nor any other sources I’ve looked at on the history on this area tell us what became of Fort Vieux Logis. In fact, little has been written about the fort. Vieux Logis was occupied by English speaking troops, around a hundred in all, who lived among the Acadians for over four years; there must be a story there that needs telling.

Like other forts built in Kings County after the Planters arrived, Vieux Logis undoubtedly was torn down or eventually destroyed by the elements. No trace of it remains today, but archeologists believe they have pinpointed the area where it once stood.


As I’ve mentioned in this column previously, after the expulsion of the Acadians some of their homes and outbuildings were left standing, despite a concerted effort by the military to destroy them. Most of the Acadian homesteads in Kings County were burned to the ground. In his history of Kings County, Arthur W. H. Eaton writes that “two hundred and six houses and two hundred and thirty-seven barns were burned at Canard, Habitant and Pereau, and forty-nine houses and thirty-nine barns at Gaspereau. Burned at the same time were eleven mills and at Grand Pre, the Acadian church.

The destruction of Acadian homesteads in Kings County may have been complete; but around the Windsor area a number of Acadian homesteads were left standing. L. S. Loomer, in his history of Windsor, writes that while Acadian building in what are now the townships of Horton and Cornwallis were destroyed, “those at Pesegitk and Ste. Croix valleys were not burned.”

It is also believed that Acadian buildings outside the main settlement area in Kings County were still standing after the expulsion. In previous columns I wrote about two houses that according to folklore can be traced back to the Acadians. One is the Dimock House in Pereau, which in 1988 was subject to an archaeological survey to determine its origin. While the Dimock House is indeed ancient, no definite conclusions were reached on its Acadian origin.

Another building believed to have Acadian roots is the so called Falmouth House, which once stood by the Baptist Church in Falmouth. This house may have been constructed around 1766 by Acadians held prisoner at Fort Edward. However, historical writer Regis Brun of Moncton told me via e-mail that the building is possibly “the house of an Acadian tenant in Falmouth, (and was) built around 1766-68.

If the Falmouth House still stood today it would be one of the oldest buildings in this area. In 1970 the building was hauled to Grand Pre, apparently by Parks Canada, and it stood for a few years in the park by the blacksmith shop. Brun tells me it was studied by “so called experts” and deemed “not Acadian and not relevant.” The house was taken apart and burned in 1974.

Parks Canada apparently had determined that the Falmouth House was built no earlier than the first quarter of the 19th century; between 1800 and 1825, in other words. Mr. Brun suggests otherwise, as I mentioned above, and folklore agrees with him.

There’s no doubt Parks Canada acted hastily when it came to the Falmouth House, and it should have been preserved. Perhaps with a thorough and less hasty examination, an Acadian connection with Falmouth House would have been established.