ED COLEMAN HISTORY: Historic trails determined Kings County towns' locations

Ed Coleman
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Looking at the early history of Kings County, one thing appears obvious – early on, wherever there were crossroads, ports and river crossings like fords and bridges, villages often sprung up. In more than a few cases, these villages evolved into towns that still thrive today. 

This is true of Kentville. According to county historian Arthur W. H. Eaton, the town owes its location to a narrow area, a ford on the Cornwallis River, where a bridge eventually was constructed. Would Kentville have evolved into a town if the river wasn’t narrow and fordable at low tide and was an ideal place to have a bridge? My guess is most likely not.   

Many of the crossroads existing today were once trails laid down over the centuries by the Mi’kmaq and Acadians. For example, an early Acadian road running north from downtown Kentville, now Cornwallis Street, creates a crossroads with the Cornwallis River, which was a waterway for Mi’kmaqs and Acadians. Another old Acadian trail running east and west, now Main Street, creates a T-junction with Cornwallis Street. This is another factor contributing to the town’s prosperity, which was accelerated by arrival of the railway.

This is also true of Wolfville, where a port spurred early commercial development. It is true also of Centreville, where ancient Mi’kmaq/Acadian trails running east and west crossed well-used Mi’kmaq/Acadian roads running north and south. Near this crossroads, and no doubt because of it, a large general store servicing the area was built circa 1850. Centreville, for a time, was one of the most prosperous villages in the county.

Canning also owes its development into a major commercial and shipbuilding center to its natural port. At one time, thanks mainly to shipbuilding, Canning was the most prominent village in Kings County, outshining for a long time the sleepy village of Horton Corner, which eventually became Kentville. Because of the port, it was natural for Canning to become a major shipbuilding area and it did in spades.

The potato market was another factor in making Canning thrive. In his county history, Eaton writes, “modern Canning owes its existence largely to the potato industry of Cornwallis.”

As I mentioned above regarding the crossroads, keep in mind that many of them originally were ancient pathways, created with centuries of use by native people and adopted by the Acadians. Seasonal roads to and from summer and winter fishing and hunting grounds of the Mi’kmaq are today main thoroughfares throughout Kings County. If a road runs roughly parallel to a river on its course to the ocean - Belcher Street, Brooklyn Street, Canard Street and Commercial Street, for example - you can almost be sure it was first a main Mi’kmaq route and later an Acadian trail.


Geographic location: Kentville, Kings, Cornwallis Street Cornwallis River Centreville Wolfville Belcher Street Brooklyn Street Canard Street Commercial Street

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