To many of us, Chipman Corner is an intersection, an area where flashing lights and stop signs mark where Middle Dyke Road crosses Church Street. Motorists never notice the old cemetery tucked away in the northeast corner of the intersection. I’d be surprised if anyone realises the community they drive through daily is one of the most historic areas of Kings County.
Chipman Corner may be a modest little community with roughly defined borders, but Acadian and Planter roots are deep. The community is bounded on one side by dykes, which were started centuries ago by the Acadians. Chipman Corner was originally an Acadian hamlet. In fact, the entire general area north and roughly northeast of Kentville was an Acadian settlement known as Riviere aux Canards.
As for Chipman Corner being “historic,” as I claimed above, let’s look at the records. An Acadian church once stood about where the cemetery is today. Tragically, this was burned down during the expulsion. Later, the Planters built a church, long since demolished, on the same site. The cemetery has the distinction of being one of the oldest in Nova Scotia and possibly one of the oldest in Canada. Beginning with the Acadians, Chipman Corner can also claim to be one of the oldest European settlements in Nova Scotia.
Here as well settled the Chipmans, a family destined to play a prominent role in county life for generations. After the expulsion, Handley Chipman was the first of his family to settle in the area that was to bear his name. Handley arrived in 1761 and built the house that still stands today near the intersection. Regarding the importance of the Chipmans and their influence in religious, educational and political circles, we need only turn to the words of Arthur W. H. Eaton in his history of Kings County. Eaton writes that “from the arrival …. of the New England Planters, the Chipman family has occupied a foremost place.”
Besides a long write-up in his family sketches, Eaton’s history has 20 entries for the Chipmans, making it one of the better sources for information on a prominent family who now only have a corner named after them. James Doyle Davison’s book – Handley Chipmans, Kings County Planter – is another excellent source for anyone interested in the Chipmans. James Fry’s book, Sketch of Chipman Corner, published in 1985 by the Kings Historical Society, not only salutes the Chipmans but is also a well-researched history of the corner from the Acadian period until recent times. All three books are available for perusal at the Kings Courthouse Museum.
Now that you’re aware of the significance of Chipman Corner, and how important it is historically, perhaps the next time you drive through the intersection you’ll look around. If you approached the intersection from the south, along Middle Dyke Road, you will have passed Handley Chipman’s home just before you reached the stop sign. Picture, as you drive by, the Acadian church – and the Planter church – that once stood on the cemetery grounds. Picture the Acadian homes that were once scattered along the road in every direction from the intersection. Then you’ll understand why Chipman Corner is rightfully said to be historical.