SEARCHING FOR ACADIAN MILL SITES (July 6/15)

The Blomidon Naturalists Society publication, A Natural History of Kings County, fittingly is dedicated to Rachel and John Erskine.  In the introduction to the book the Erskines are saluted as “exemplary rural naturalists.”  John Erskine was also a noted historical researcher and has written several papers on pioneer field work he did on the Acadians in Kings County.

Of particular interest to me is what Erskine wrote about Acadian mill sites.  In the Natural History of Kings County there is a one line reference to these mills – “There may have been an Acadian windmill on the higher ground along Church Street”- and I can easily imagine Erskine’s research inspired this conclusion.

I’ve mentioned possible Acadian mills here before – in New Minas and on the border between the village and Kentville – and I’ve run into more than a bit of scepticism about their existence.  However, it seems natural that the Acadians would have some sort of grist mills.  Erskine’s research indicates that this was more than a possibility.  He actively investigated known and suspected Acadian settlements throughout Kings County and as mentioned, published his findings and his speculations about mill sites.

While Erskine mentions sites where the Acadians could have operated mills, he apparently found little concrete proof.  The approximate location of the windmill near Church Street is shown on a map the late Leon Barron had but other than this and what Erskine concluded re possible mill locations, no sites have been confirmed.

Erskine speculates that one Acadian Mill was located about where Elderkin Brook runs under Highway #1 between Kentville and New Minas.  The Cornwallis River tides back up into Elderkin Brook (now controlled by an aboiteau) and it would’ve been a natural mill site.  Erskine suggests another mill may have been situated on the stream running behind the New Minas Elementary School.  There was physical evidence at one time of a dam on the brook, but whether this was Acadian or Planter isn’t known.

Erskine speculated about Acadian mill sites in some of his historical essays.  Here’s a quote from one of his essays:

“Acadian mills were small, frequent and various windmills were on the ridges of Grand Pre and Canard; tidal mills at Kentville and Martock.  The major part of the work fell to steep brooks, usually small ones.  One type dammed a brook high on the slope and released the water to rush down  the mill-race to spin the millstone for a glorious few minutes.  Such mills were found at Gaspereau, (and) New Minas.”

Erskine noted that the Acadians did not “seem to be been good workers in stone.”  Hence, Erskine says, they “bought their millstones from New England.”  No millstones have been found at suspected Acadian mill sites so likely, if there were any, they were confiscated and used elsewhere after the Planters arrived.   However, sites where mill may have existed could have trees and flowers common to the Acadians.  Or as Erskine puts it, “plants less dear to the Planters.”

Summarising, John Erskine wasn’t 100 percent certain where the Acadians established mills here; and given the time that has passed, it likely isn’t possible to find the sites today.   However, if the mill sites are ever identified, let’s hope they will be marked with suitable plaques.

OLD FARM PHOTO REVEALS FARMING EVOLUTION (June 15/15)

“I believe this was staged,” Kevin Wood says of a farmyard  photograph that was taken circa 1920.

But staged or not – and I think Wood is right – the old photograph captures a pivotal time on farms in Kings County; a time when farming was changing drastically (becoming motorized for one thing) and a time when the horse and ox were still being used alongside the recently introduced tractors that eventually would replace them.

That’s saying a lot about a black and white photograph of what was once the Oscar Chase farm on Highway #358, a couple of kilometres north of the Port Williams bridge.  I’d like to think this was the work of photographer A. L. Hardy (1860-1935) who operated out of Kentville for several decades.  But whoever the photographer was, someone spent a lot of time setting up a scene representing the old and new in farming.  Horses and old hay rakes, oxen hitched to a cultivator, one of the first types of tractor used in Kings County …. the old photograph has it all and its purpose, intended or not, tells the story of how farm equipment and farm operations evolved over the years.

Most of the farm buildings shown in the photograph still stand today.  This is the property of Kevin Wood, a teacher and antique tool collector who plans to open a museum on the farm.  The photograph came from Wood’s collection.

Now, on the photograph, let’s look at the scene it depicts.  At the far left of the photograph is a wagon loaded with what appears to be spray gear.  The wagon, a sloven, is believed to have originated in New Brunswick, possibly in the 18th century or even earlier.  Moving right, a single horse is hitched to an old style hay rake.  Then there’s a team of horses hitched to a wagon piled high with hay.

To the right of the team, with a cultivator attached, is a tractor.  This likely is the American built Cletrac, which was introduced into the Annapolis valley around 1918 by George Chase of Port Williams.  To the right of the tractor, and still handy at the time on the farm, is a team of oxen with a cultivator hitched to them.

Now comes the most interesting part of the photograph.  Is that Oscar Chase himself sitting in what appears to be Model T Ford car?  The car is parked in the entrance to the farm and facing it is horse and wagon (a buckboard?) with two ladies holding the reins.  This represents the old and new in transportation and the photographer undoubtedly had this in mind when he composed the scene.

Everything in the photograph represents the old and the new and this is what makes the picture fascinating. Showing how farming and transportation were changing in Kings County, and letting us see how people young and old wore for clothing about 100 years ago, makes the photograph priceless.  Enough said.

NEW MINAS IN 1864 – “MANY WERE FARMERS” (June 2/15)

Edmond J. Cogswell (circa 1825-1900) was a Judge of Probate in Kentville.  He was also a historical writer, one respected by Arthur W. H. Eaton who quoted him on the Acadians in the History of Kings County.  Eaton may also have sourced Cogswell when he paraphrased a “local writer’s research” elsewhere in the history.

Cogswell wrote about the history of Kentville, in 1895 publishing a lengthy article in The Advertiser’s predecessor.  He delved into New Minas history as well, in particular the Acadian period and the folklore on lost Acadian treasure. The archives in Halifax have a number of articles Cogswell wrote on the early days in Kentville and New Minas, most of it unpublished.

Writing about the period in New Minas after the Planters arrived, Cogswell said in effect that “many residents were farmers and just as many (were) of the illustrious family Bishop.”  Meaning, of course, that a majority of New Minas residents in the time period he was writing about carried the Bishop surname.

The Bishops arrived with the first wave of Planters, John Bishop and his four sons immediately establishing themselves as the most prominent family in Horton and Cornwallis townships.  In this regard, little has changed over the years and the Bishops are still one of the most prominent families in Kings County.  However, is it correct, as Cogswell maintained that at one time the Bishop surname was dominant in New Minas?   I find this an interesting statement and it so happens there are ways to check on what Cogswell said.

Cogswell died in 1900 so he probably was writing about the New Minas-Bishop connection through the early to mid-19th century.  A number of province-wide directories were published in this period.  One was Hutchinson’s, another the McAlpine directory and another Lovells. The first two directories list the residents of various communities in the province.  Hutchinson’s also lists occupations and a quick check of this directory confirms what Cogswell wrote about New Minas and the Bishops.

In the time period mentioned the directory listed 68 residents in New Minas.  Exactly 21 of these residents were Bishops (all undoubtedly descended from John Bishop and his sons) and all but four were farmers.

So far, so good.  Now, Cogswell also said many residents of New Minas were farmers in this time period.  Again, he was correct.  Of the 68 residents listed, 53 were farmers.  The remainder practised an assortment of trades typical of a time when the majority of people survived by farming.  Some of these trades were tanners, blacksmiths and carriagemakers.  Only one teacher and one merchant were listed as residing in New Minas at the time the directory was compiled.

WHARFINGER AND OTHER OLD-TIME WORDS (May 26/15)

Writing in her Advertiser/Register column about Gordon Gates, Wendy Elliott noted that the late community leader was the wharfinger in Port Williams.

An old-time word, “wharfinger” is rarely used and to see it in print today is unusual.  The word refers to a person who either owns or is the keeper of a wharf.  Elliott’s use of wharfinger is one of the few times I’ve found it in newspapers and historical documents. A word similar in origin and even rarer in usage is wharfager, which roughly translated means someone involved in wharfage, the use of wharfs for delivery of goods.

Many old-time words like wharfinger are no longer in common use.  Take cordwainer, for example.  This is an archaic word for what we call a shoemaker today.   Another is “draying,” a word referring to the use of a type of wagon used on the farm called a dray.  In an entry in his diary in January, 1711, Joshua Hempstead gives an example of how draying might be used:  “I was cutting wood all day and ye boys (were) draying,” Hempstead wrote, indicating they were hauling the wood he was cutting using a dray.

“My little mare slinked her foal,” Hempstead also wrote, offering another word never heard around the farm today.  “Slinked” means to give birth prematurely – I found that in a dictionary of archaic words – but the meaning of another combination of words he used – “making a currying beam” – has eluded me.  I suppose it has something to do with currying (brushing down) a horse but that’s a guess.

In a 150-year-old Nova Scotia directory I found many words, occupational words actually, that are no longer in use or rarely used today.  In the Kings County section, for example, are shipwright, wheelwright, edgetool maker, house joiner (carpenter?) way office keeper (forerunner of the post office) marblecutter, caulker, harnessmaker, currier, cablemaker and joiner.

Now to another puzzling combination of words, a combination describing a product once sold in old-time stores.  Henry Magee (circa 1741 – 1806) sold “flint glasses” in the store he operated in Kentville starting in 1788. We know what each word refers to taken separately but what are flint glasses?  Does anyone know?   And does anyone know what a “commissioner of sewers” did in earlier times and what a “peppercorn lease” refers too?

HOW KENTVILLE BECAME THE SHIRETOWN (May 5/15)

In a booklet published by the Board of Trade in 1979, Heather Davidson asks how Kentville became the shiretown of Kings County.

Why Kentville, why here? Davidson asks.  Eventually the question is answered, but only partially.  Davidson writes that besides the railroad setting up headquarters there, the town’s prosperity at the turn of the century (circa 1900) attracted several major government institutions; these institutions further solidifying Kentville’s already established status as a major commercial and financial centre.

There’s more to it than this, of course.  If you read the histories of Wolfville and Kentville you’ll find that for a time the former was the leading town at one time and it contained the law courts and county jail.  In the History of Kings County Eaton explains why this eventually changed.  Basically, some of it involved politics, some the result of major changes in county boundaries.

 

At one time Kings County included most of Hants County, a piece of Lunenburg County and considerable portions of Cumberland and Colchester County. Hants County was created in 1781, diminishing the size of Kings County by almost half.  Then, in 1840 (or 1846 according to some historians) the Parrsboro area was eliminated from Kings County, mainly because Parrsboro residents felt they were too isolated from the law courts and county government. This had the effect of throwing the center of Kings  County farther to the west.  Kentville was near this center, on the old military road.  Now, as well as being a major commercial and civic center, the town was, or appeared to be, at the center of the county.

Somewhere in the countless records stored in the Nova Scotia Archives is a document announcing the designation of Kentville as the shiretown of Kings County – shiretown, according to an old British definition, meaning capital or the main town.  This designation must have been made official at one time, but when?   Likely it was sometime after 1817, as the following will show.

For a time, after arrival of the Planters, Horton Town Plot was the judicial and social center of Kings County but it lost this position when the

 

courthouse burned down in 1817 and court proceedings were moved to Wolfville.  Horton Town Plot was further isolated when major changes were made in the road leading into Kings County from Halifax, a road that became the main artery through the province.  Soon after these changes Horton Town Plot, in effect, became a backwater.

Then, in 1829, the law courts and jail were moved to Kentville, Wolfville’s facilities apparently becoming inadequate. In the meanwhile, Kentville had become an important stop in the stagecoach line that ran from Halifax to Annapolis Royal.  Then, in 1868, the railway headquarters was located in Kentville, further solidifying the town’s prominent position in the county and in the eastern end of the Annapolis Valley.

This is a guess but somewhere around this time or possibly soon after, Kentville must have been designated as the shiretown of Kings County.  Both Wolfville and Canning came close to achieving this honour.  For a brief period both these towns were the leading commercial and retail centres in Kings County, while Kentville at the time was a sleepy little county village on the Cornwallis River.

This has been a convoluted history of how and why Kentville became the shiretown.  It’s an abbreviated overview. To tell the full story of the political manoeuvring and the economical and geographical changes that brought Kentville to prominence would probably need a book.

A SCHOOL ON WHEELS – THE SHOPMOBILE (April 20/15)

“With 1942 in its first month, a brand new manual training shop on wheels, a hitherto untried method of bringing technical training to rural districts, set out on its mission.

“This first ‘shopmobile’ has already created attention outside the province.  The Department of Education has high hope it will give to the boys in farming communities elemental skills in the mechanical field …. providing a base for subsequent trade training.”

In a few words, this was the purpose of a “unique experiment,” a pioneering effort that began here in Kings County early in 1942.  The January 1942 issue of the Family Herald on this “experiment in rural education” said it originated when the Department of Education “discovered with shock that for over a century Nova Scotia had been educating boys and girls in rural districts away from the farm by giving them an education consisting almost entirely of book learning.”

This, the Department said, was preparing kids exclusively for college, overlooking a much greater need, especially in rural areas, for training in vocational and industrial arts.  The answer to this need was the shopmobile, a mobile vocational school that from 1942 to 1964 trained kids in rural areas, providing basic skill in manual arts.

In Kings County the shopmobile traveled the area from Kingsport to Greenwich, stopping once a week in every school district along the way.  It’s difficult to determine how many boys studied manual arts in the shopmobile (and it was boys only since the girls had a separate program in the schools).  However, I recently talked with a former rural school student who trained in a shopmobile during the 1940s and I got a glimpse of what it was like.

Arnold Burbidge of Centreville fondly remembers those weekly visits to his school in Canard.  Burbidge says he benefited greatly by studying  carpentry basics and small engine repair.  “Among several things, I remember making a whippletree for my father’s horse team to haul our sloven,” he said. The bus stopped every week at his school in Canard except in the spring. “When the roads were closed because of the spring thaw,” he recalls, “the shopmobile parked in Port Williams and you had to go to it.  I’d bike to the bus for the morning class and go back to our own school in the afternoon.”

This experiment in rural education, said to be unique to Nova Scotia, was possibly the first of its kind in Canada.  The shopmobile eventually evolved into a series of vocational schools around the province.  Look at those gleaming high tech halls of the Kingstec campus today. It’s difficult to imagine it  originally was a bus weighing several tons – a bus that was a self-contained carpentry shop, tool shop, machine shop, an iron working shop, a leatherworking shop, a plumbing shop and much more all rolled in one; a bus that  rumbled up and down rural roads in Kings County for 22 years.

In its early days the shopmobile, as it eventually came to be widely known, was called by many names since no one knew for sure what it actually was – for example it was called an industrial arts school on wheels, a mobile manual training shop, and a mobile vocational school.  These descriptions are self-explanatory but the Department of Education summed up the shopmobile’s role precisely:  “The shopmobile is capable of providing …. preparatory training for vocational schools and industrial arts,” stated the  Department at the time the first vehicle hit the road.

And hit the road it did to wide acclaim.  In fact the experimental in mobile vocational training worked so well that eventually five shopmobiles were built to serve other rural areas around the province.   But the experiment started first here and many kids who attended rural schools in Kings County fondly remember it.

Shopmobile in the early 1940s in Canard

The shopmobile as it appeared in the early 1940s in Canard. Arnold Burbidge (fifth from the left) supplied this photograph. At the far right is George Adams, the first shopmobile instructor.

THE “WHITE STORE” WAS THE LAST OF ITS KIND (April 6/15)

It used to be said you could buy anything from a needle to a ship’s anchor in the old C. L. Wood general store in Kentville.

The ship’s anchor may be an exaggeration but the store did carry a wide variety of merchandise in its heyday.  When it opened on Aberdeen Street about 85 years ago, Wood’s store (or the White Store as the owner advertised it) was the equivalent of today’s Walmart. This was in 1929 and Charles L. Wood ran what was then known as a general store; meaning simply that it stocked all the necessities of life, its inventory reflecting a time most people lived and worked on farms and life revolved around agriculture.

In effect, the White Store was a grocery, drug store, hardware store, a clothing store, a footwear store, a horse and buggy store and much more.  For a time there were even hand-operated gas pumps in front of the store where automobiles could fill up and where you fill your kerosene jug.

It may be difficult for younger generations to picture this but when the store opened, hitching posts were still found in Kentville; and it wasn’t uncommon at the time to see horses tethered here and there alongside automobiles.

When Charles Lamert Wood moved to Kentville from Bridgetown in 1917 he opened his first Kentville store on the east side of Aberdeen Street, a grocery store he operated for 12 years.  Late in 1928 he purchased a property across the street – a former garage and service station – that after being renovated and enlarged became a general store.  Wood was born in East Halls Harbour in 1885.  As a youth he ran a store on the family homestead, later opening one in Sheffield Mills where he was also the postmaster.  A move to Bridgetown followed where Wood was postmaster until 1917 when he moved to Kentville.

The C. L. Wood store has the distinction of being one of the last stores of its kind in Kings County.  The store’s closed in 1960, marking the end of an era, an era when a single store could feed, clothe and outfit entire communities and keep them warm and on the move as well.  In a brief history of the store, C. L. Wood’s son Malcolm noted that he drew customers from near and far.  “On weekends, cars, trucks and horses and wagon lined the backyard of the store and the street front,” Malcolm said.  “On Saturday nights people flocked in from a large surrounding area; from Scots Bay to Harbourville on the Bay of Fundy and (from) the North Mountain and from Middleton to Grand Pre.

“There was little or no self-service.  Customers brought a list of wanted articles and were waited on by a clerk.  On weekends especially, the store had as many as 10 clerks on the grocery and candy counter and three at the meat counter.  Besides regular grocery items people came in to buy meat, flour and feed, men’s work clothes, rubber boots, work boots, hardware, fuel, kerosene oil, nails, window glass, barbed wire, medicine for farm animals, many drug items and patent medicine.  After (my father) purchased a farm on the edge of town he also sold baled hay and straw.”

Right up until the year it closed the C. L. Wood store maintained the atmosphere of an old-time country emporium.  When you walked through the front door into a somewhat dingy interior – as I did many a time after I started to work at The Advertiser in 1955 – you were immediately hit by the smell of pickled pork and sauerkraut.    There was sawdust on the floor in the meat section and partially butchered beef hanging on meat hooks.  Once when I dropped into the store freshly snared rabbits were hanging on the  wall near the meat counter.  I went into the store to buy a “hobo sandwich,” sauerkraut wrapped in a slice of bologna, which Woods was famous for around the county.  It sold for five cents at one time.

Within five years of my first visit the store closed down.  Malcolm Wood said his father’s store was a victim of changing times, finding that after WWII he couldn’t compete with large grocery marts and other chain stores that moved into his trade area.  Wood closed his store in 1960 and  died the following year.

The White Store advertisement, 1937

An advertisement C. L. Wood ran in The Advertiser in 1937. Note that flour sold for as low as $1.90 for a 50lb. bag (Louis Comeau collection)

NAMING THE NEW KENTVILLE BRIDGE (March 23/15)

It’s a tradition to name bridges after prominent citizens who have made their mark in our society.  But once the speeches are made, the ribbons cut and a bridge officially opened, the name given a new span is usually is quickly forgotten and rarely if ever used.

While an exception is the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge spanning Halifax Harbour, few know the one over the Cornwallis River at Port Williams is named after former MLA and Kentville Mayor Gladys Porter.  And except for history buffs who collect obscure trivia, no one knows the bridge over the Cornwallis River in Kentville has an official name – it was dubbed the Silver Link when it was opened in 1931.

Now, to switch gears a bit on the topic of bridge names:  Right after the announcement that a new bridge would be built in Kentville, various names were suggested.  A prominent former Kentville mayor, Wendell Phinney, was among those mentioned and if the bridge is to have a name he certainly should be considered.

A case can also be made to consider naming the new bridge after members of a once prominent Kentville family, the Lyons.  Among the Lyons, who emigrated here from Ireland just after the Napoleonic War, are a long-serving postmaster, an hotelier and a mayor.  Kentville historian Louis Comeau, a Lyons descendant, has done considerable research on the family’s role in Kentville society since their arrival here; what he has found is impressive.  Quoting from a note Louis sent me, here are excerpts from what his research has turned up regarding the Lyons:

“James Lyons, 18??-1893, bought the Stagecoach Inn* in 1830.  The hotel was located outside of Kentville at that time as the Mill Brook was (then) the town boundary.  Of note, it was here in 1884 the ‘Sailor Prince’, the Duke of York (later to become King George V) stayed while on a hunting trip in the county.  In 1875 James also built the Lyons Hotel (located on the corner of Aberdeen and Webster Street just south of the DAR station, which he operated until 1887, at which time he sold it.

“His son, Joseph R (1846-1940) was the postmaster in Kentville from 1892 to 1940 (48 years) the longest serving in Canada.  He was still working when he died.

Joseph R’s son, Gerald W (1894-1935) who was a lawyer, became the 23rd mayor of Kentville in 1932; he died three years later in 1935 while still in office.

“Also of interest is Joseph R’s daughter Lillian who married William Jones.  Their son Malachi Jones, a lawyer, was appointed to the Supreme Court Trial Division in 1970; by 1979 he became Judge of the Supreme Court appeal Division and then finally Justice of the Court of Appeal.”

In addition, Louis mentioned other members of the Lyons family who served in various capacities in and around Kentville.  He makes an excellent case for the Lyons family being considered when it comes down to deciding on a name for the new Kentville bridge.

*Situated on east Main Street and now known as the Stagecoach Apartments, the building has been recognised as “architecturally unique and historically interesting” by the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia.

CORNWALLIS RIVER –WHY NOT CHANGE THE NAME? (March 3/15)

Just over a decade ago – on September 24, 2004 to be exact – I wrote about the various names the Cornwallis River has been known by, suggesting that historically, the Mi’kmaq Chijekwtook or the Acadian Riviere St. Antoine (and also Riviere des Habitants) might be more appropriate.

The column came from a discussion I had with Mi’kmaq Elder and human rights activist Dr. Daniel Paul.  Dr. Paul made it quite plain that honouring Edward Cornwallis, an 18th century governor of Nova Scotia by naming rivers and streets after him was inappropriate; more than inappropriate Dr. Paul said, given that Cornwallis was instrumental in what amounted to genocidal action against the Mi’kmaq.

Recently an online petition has surfaced lobbying that the Cornwallis name should be removed from our rivers and streets.  This echoes Dr. Paul’s stance regarding Cornwallis.  I expanded on Dr. Paul’s views in the 2004 column and I looked at the interesting names applied to the Cornwallis River over the years.  Since it may move you to sign the online petition or at least consider it, here are excerpts, with some editing, from the column:

It’s unlikely that we will eliminate the use of Cornwallis’ name on our streets, business firms and so on, even if a plausible argument for doing so has been made. But if we considered doing it, where would we start and what would be historically correct?

Take the Cornwallis River, for example. In Haliburton’s 1829 history of Nova Scotia, the Cornwallis River is shown as Horton River. The Acadians called the river by various names, Riviere St. Antoine in the 1600s and Riviere des Habitants in the 1700s. Then we have the Mi’kmaq name for the Cornwallis, which Dr. Watson Kirkconnell says was Chijekwtook, meaning deep, narrow river. Kirkconnell’s source for the native name for the Cornwallis most likely was Dr. Silas Rand who helped preserve the Mi’kmaq language and compiled a Mi’kmaq dictionary in the 19th century.

It has nothing to do with the fact that the Cornwallis River honours a man of questionable actions but I’ve never liked the name. Even before Dr. Paul spoke up about the use of Cornwallis I considered writing a column suggesting we revert to the original name for the Cornwallis and other county streams. To me, Chijekwtook River has more of a flavour and authenticity than commonplace, unoriginal Cornwallis River. Couldn’t our ancestors come up with something better?

I’m surprised also that the Canard River has retained its Acadian designation and someone didn’t rename it after some long ago dignitary. With apologies to Dr. Paul, the Mi’kmaq name for the Canard is quite a mouthful and probably wouldn’t fit on a roadsign; the Mi’kmaq called the river Apcheechkumochwakade, which Dr. Kirkconnell says, undoubtedly quoting Dr. Rand again, translates into “place abounding in little ducks.”

Dr. Kirkconnell and A. W. H. Eaton in his Kings County history give the Mi’kmaq names for various locales here. I’m not suggesting we revert to these names and I give them only to show that they’re much more original and more interesting that today’s designations. Wolfville, for example, was Mtaban, Gaspereau Lake was Pasedoock, Grand Pre was Umtaban, and the Gaspereau River was Magapskegechk, and so on.

I noted in the 2004 column that around that time a member of the Kings Historical Society requested they lobby to have the Cornwallis name removed wherever it is used in the county.  The request was briefly considered and never acted upon.

A MONSTER DYKE IN THE MINAS BASIN (February 16/15)

In a review of an opinion piece by Kings North MLA John Lohr on rising ocean levels, I noted that at least twice in earlier times plans were made to build a giant aboiteau on the Cornwallis River.

In his article, Mr. Lohr noted that communities along the Cornwallis River were at risk due to ocean levels rising.  Lohr suggested that one possible way to cope with this future problem was to construct an aboiteau across the mouth of the Cornwallis.  As mentioned in my review, historical records tells us such an aboiteau was considered in 1865 and again in 1912.

On both occasions the idea of a Cornwallis River aboiteau was dropped, likely because at the time there was no real need for something of this nature.  Mr. Lohr’s suggestion that the aboiteau be considered near Port Williams echoes what was looked at before.  Both the 1865 and 1912 proposals re an aboiteau suggested constructing it downriver or at Port Williams.  No records exist showing where in 1912 a proposed aboiteau would be situated – where it would start and end – but the 1865 plan had Starr’s Point as the beginning for it.  This is what Mr. Lohr mentions as well.

You may wonder why I’m reviewing Lohr’s aboiteau proposal and the history behind it.  The reason is this:  After more digging, I discovered research I had done years ago on the Cornwallis River aboiteau, research I had forgotten about.  The research turned up a grand scheme for dykeing in Minas Basin, dykeing that would prevent future flooding, not only on the Cornwallis River but on the Gaspereau, Habitant and Pereau as well and at the same time reclaim some 6,000 acres of land from the sea.

Basically the scheme was to construct a dyke (undoubtedly with an aboiteau included) extending out into Minas Basin for almost nine miles.  In 1878 a gentleman from Dublin, Ireland, proposed just such a scheme.  Christopher Graham’s idea was to construct a zigzagging sea wall starting at Boot Island to a point just north of the Pereau River.  The plan was to run the dyke north from the Boot into Minas Basin for about three miles, then westerly towards Kingsport for about a mile and a half and north again for close to four miles before reaching landfall.

Picture this giant sea wall in your mind if you can;  and then picture a smaller dyke that would lie inside the nine-mile sea wall, said lesser dyke to run from the Long Island/Boot Island area to Kingsport.  This was all part of Graham’s proposal and there are documents in the Registry of Deeds in Kentville with all the details.  Actually the scheme was first proposed in 1878 and again in 1895, the first as mentioned by Graham, the second by a Hants County engineer named William Robert Butler.

When the proposal to build the Minas Basin dyke was proposed newspapers had a field day laughing it down.  It does seem like a hare brained scheme; however, the government of the day apparently liked the scheme got behind it by granting Graham and later Butler sole possession of land that would be reclaimed by their giant sea walls.