Historic Sites in the Annapolis Valley

Because of all the historic sites here plenty of people come to Annapolis Valley looking for history. This is Canada's birthplace, where it all started. Many important and interesting first in Canada and North America happened here.


There is plenty of history and interesting sites to be found here. National Geographic agrees with this and have created a wide variety of maps over the years with plenty of information about this area. If you are interested in seeing what National Geographic maps are available on this and other areas around the world check out my brother's very informative web site www.geographic-maps-search.com

Most historic sites here have been well preserved and kept up by either the government or the many historical societies and volunteers. Many buildings and homes have been designated Municipal and Provincial Heritage Properties. Annapolis Royal has the highest concentration of historic sites, buildings, and landmarks gathered in one area. The whole town has been designated as a National Historic Site.

This page will give you a list of the many historic sites and landmarks found throughout the Annapolis Valley.

If the title is highlighted then you can click on it to go to another page where you may learn even more about these historic sites.

 

Port Royal National Historic Site

The Courtyard at the Port Royal Habitation, Port Royal, NS

Well we might as well start at the place where it all began back in 1605. The Habitation is a replica of the one Champlain built which was the first settlement north of St. Augustine.

The Port Royal Habitation is located a little west of Annapolis Royal on the north side of the Annapolis River. Turn off the 101 Hwy at exit 22 and follow Rt. 8 north to the traffic lights in Annapolis Royal. Turn right onto Rt.1 and cross the causeway. Take the first left after the causeway and follow the signs to the Habitation. It is approximately 10 kms. (6.5 miles).

Their hours of operation are:

  • May 15 - June 30: 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • July 1 - Aug. 31: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • Sept. 1 - Oct. 15: 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.


Fort Anne National Historic Site

Night time view of the Officer's Quarters at Fort Anne National Historic Site, Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.

Located in the center of Annapolis Royal is Fort Anne National Historic Site. This fort has much heritage value as it was here many battles were fought between the French and British to obtain control of the new colonies.

In the late 19th century the garrison had been empty for years and had started to decay. The townspeople, not wanting to loose this bit of history forever, appealed to the government to help save it. In 1917 Fort Anne became Canada's first Niational Historic Site.

Their hours of operation are:

  • May 15 - June 30: 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • July 1 - Aug. 31: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • Sept. 1 - Oct. 15: 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Oct. 16 to May 14 Weekdays by chance or by appointment

 


Grand Pre National Historic Site

Historic Church at the Grand Pre National Historic Site, Grand Pre, Nova Scotia

Farther up the valley is another very interesting historical site, Grand Pre National Historic Site. Take exit 10 off highway 101 heading toward Wolfville. Continue on Rt. 1 following signs to Grand Pre.

Realizing the historical value to the Acadians, John Frederic Herbin bought the land in 1907 where the old Acadian church and graveyard had once been located. He erected a cross to mark where the old Acadian graveyard had been and donated the land as a memorial to the Acadian people who once lived there. The area was made famous by the poem about Evangeline and the deportation of the Acadians written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The grounds of the park are open year round and the interpretive center is open from May 17th to October 19th 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

 

Melanson Settlement National Historic Site

Sign to the Melanson Settlement National Historic Site

About one kilometre east of the Port Royal Habitation and about 6.5 kms west of Annapolis Royal lies the Melanson Settlement National Historic Site. This was an Acadian community for four generations before the Acadian deportation, (c1664 - 1755).

In most cases all indication of the Acadian Settlements has been lost except for the miles of dykes they had built. Because of its close proximity to the fort at Port Royal, the Melanson Settlement was shown on several 18th century maps. This was a help to find the site of the settlement in 1984.

From the parking lot there is a short loop (193m) that leads to a lookout. From there you are able to observe the uplands, marsh and river where this settlement had once thrived. The admission is free. Hours of operation are:

  • May 15 - June 30: 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • July 1 - Aug. 31: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • Sept. 1 - Oct. 15: 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

 


Other Historic Sites

New France

New France, or "Electric City" was located beside the Silver River and Langford Lake, about 17 miles from Weymouth, Nova Scotia. This was a place way ahead of it's time.

In 1892 Emile Charles Adolphe Stehelin moved his family France to Nova Scotia and started up a logging community in the woods behind Weymouth. This community grew and were known to have one of the first railways in Nova Scotia and to have electricity in all their homes 30 years before any other community.

 

Pony Express

If you follow the Granville road farther north past the Port Royal Habitation you will come to the fishing village of Victoria Beach built along the hillside of the North Mountain.

There will be more about Victoria Beach on another page. I want to mention the monument now for the Pony Express. It is found on the left side of the road a little before you get to the wharf area.


Monument for the Pony Express, Victoria Beach, NS

The Pony Express is said to be responsible for the start of the Associated Press.

At the time, 1849, the telegraph lines were not yet finished to Halifax. Newspapers in New York wanted the news from Britain fast. So they decided to join together and set up a pony express.

Men on horse back would carry the news packet the 232 kms, (146 miles) from Halifax to Victoria Beach. They used fresh horses every 19 kms and changed riders in Kentville.

As they passed through Annapolis Royal a canon was fired. This was to signal the steamship that waited in Victoria Beach ready to take the news packet on to Saint John, NB. From Saint John it was telegraphed to the New York newspapers.

It has been said that this ride could be done in only eight hours. The pony express ran from Feb. to Nov. 1849. it was stopped when the telegraph lines were finished to Halifax. The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada have affixed a bronze tablet to a boulder here to commemorate the Pony Express.


Bloody Creek

The Monument located at Bloody Creek, Annapolis Valley, NS

On the Hwy 201 between Bridgetown and Annapolis Royalyou will cross over a little creek. Beside the creek on one side is a large monument with a fence around it. This monument recognizes the bloody battle that was fought along this little creek.

The creek was larger back in 1711 and there were several men from the garrison in Port Royal out looking for firewood who never made it back.

The battle of Bloody Creek is told in the ghost story by the same name. You may read about the history of the creek by following the link above in the title.

 


Lequille Grist Mill

The replica of the first Grist Mill, Lequille, Annapolis Valley, NS

On your way back out Rt 8 to highway 101 stop off and take a look at the Lequille Grist Mill. Heading south, just past the Lequille Country Store take the next right, and then a right again. You will head down a fairly steep hill with a bridge at the bottom.

Notice the old building close to the left side of the road? No this is not the Grist Mill, but it did use to be a mill. It used to be the old Dargie Mill and it is a historic site itself. This building is all that is left of the several mills that used to gain their power from this brook. There is a record of eighteen different mills on the Lequille River, which was once called Mill River.

Now continue across the bridge, which by the way is called "Three Bridges" as there used to be three bridges crossing here. Just around the turn you will see the Grist Mill. This is the spot where the first mill in North America built by Poutrincourt in 1607 had been.

For years the Historical Association wanted to have this spot properly marked as a historic site. Then in 1967 the Nova Scotia Light & Power Company built this replica as a Centennial Project. As there were no drawings or sketches of the original mill, they designed this one as a replica of an 18th century French mill.

 

Joshua Slocum

Monument for Joshua Slocum on Brier Island, Digby Neck, NS

On April 24, 1895 Joshua Slocum sailed out of Boston, Massachusetts on a 3 year voyage around the world in his worthy sea craft “The Spray”. He was the first one to ever make successfully this circumnavigation trip alone. He later wrote a book about his adventure.

Joshua was born in Mount Hanley, Annapolis county and attended the Mount Hanley School which has a special display about his life. He later moved to Brier Island, Digby County where there is a special monument erected honouring his circumnavigation trip. Joshua was lost at sea in November of 1909 while on another sole voyage in his ship "The Spray".

 


Annapolis Royal

I bet you did not expect a whole town being listed as a historic site. In this case I think this town fits the criteria. Anybody who is interested in the history of the Annapolis Valley will want to spend at least a day in Annapolis Royal. You will probably need more than one day to fully take in all the town has to offer.

Besides the Fort Anne, there are other museums, the O'Dell House Museum and the Sinclair Inn National Historic Site. Both very interesting and well worth the visit. There is also the Historic Gardens, which represent different eras of Annapolis history through the plants and vegetation.


Lower St. George Street in Annapolis Royal is a Historic District

Within the town of Annapolis Royal you will see some of the oldest wooden framed buildings in Canada. The oldest wooden house still occupied in Canada, the deGannes / Cosby House is located just past the Historic Gardens on St George Street. The house that stands there now was built in 1708 on the foundation of the previous one that had burnt.

There are 135 Municipal Heritage Properties in and around the town. Several more have been designated as Provincial Heritage Properties and others National Historic Sites. Annapolis Royal was awarded the Prince of Whales Prize for its commitment to preserving heritage by Heritage Canada.

During the summer the Historical Association of Annapolis Royal host several walking tours around town. There is the National Historic District Tour or the Acadian Heritage Tour. Both start from the lighthouse and cover several historic sites in the town.

Then if you want a real treat try the Candlelight Graveyard Tour. This is held in the oldest English graveyard in Canada.

In 2005 the Nova Scotia Festival & Events Council awarded Annapolis Royal first place as "Hometown Pride Event of the Year".

Thanks to the joint initiative of the Annapolis Heritage Society, the Town of Annapolis Royal and Nova Scotia Tourism, Culture & Heritage you can take your own interpretive tour of Lower St. George Street. They have placed 12 very informative panels along this route, each full of interesting history of the town.

 

Goat Island Baptist Church

The interior of the Church on Goat Island, Annapolis Valley, NS

A religious movement called "The New Light Movement" began in New England and was introduced to Nova Scotia by early Puritan settlers who moved here after the American Revolution.

Israel Potter had been born in Massachusetts in November of 1763 and moved to Nova Scotia where he married Mary Rice. They lived in Lower Granville where he became involved in this religious movement. He was baptized in the Lower Granville Church which had been founded in 1780 and had recently became a Baptist Church.

Israel moved his family to his old family homestead at Clements (now Upper Clements) in 1810. Here he was instrumental in the revival in that area. He held services in the kitchen of his house for awhile until a new meeting house could be built.

It is believed work on the new meeting house (now known as the Goat Island Church) was started in 1810 which gives this church the distinction of being the oldest surviving Baptist church building in Nova Scotia.

The Goat Island Baptist Church is located on Hwy 1 between Annapolis Royal and Cornwallis in Upper Clements. Watch for the sign.

 

Horton Landing

The Planter's Monument at Horton's Landing, Annapolis Valley, NS

Not far from Grand Pre is a place set aside to remember the horrible end of one era of our history beside another place to celebrate the start of another. This would be Horton Landing located alongside an estuary of the Minas Basin,

It was along these banks that 2,200 Acadians were forced from their homes and set on ships to take them away to unknown lands and hardships. For many this was the last piece of Nova Scotia soil they touched. For those that did make it back they would not be premitted to settle on these fertile lands again. Most of them ended up settling in Northern New Brunswick or along the French Shore in Digby County.

One reason they could not settle here was because the British Government at that time still did not trust them. They feared the Acadians would take sides with the French against them if a rebellion arouse.

The main reason they could not come back to their homes though was they were taken over. Shortly after the deportation of the Acadians the Nova Scotia government offered free land to the people of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. They wanted more British subjects settling on these lands so gave the New England Planters the Acadian farms.

Eight thousand New England Planters came to Nova Scotia with many of them landing on these banks. Today Horton Landing marks these two occasions. The Deportation Cross was erected to remember the Acadians and their removal and beside it the Planter Monument is to remember the many New England Planters who settled these lands after.

 

Maude Lewis

Replica / Monument for Maude Lewis, Marshaltown, Annapolis Valley, NS

Maude Lewis lived with her husband Everett in a small, brightly painted little house in Marshalltown, Digby County, NS. They were very poor and Maude started selling her folk art paintings in the local area. After they gained national recognition from magazines articles and TV shows her paintings became very valuable. Even though the original house is in the Art Gallery of NS; there is a monument at the original home and a replica of the house in Seabrook, Digby County.



Those are the main historic sites in Annapolis Valley but not all of them. I will add more information about these historic sites and other historic sites as I travel the valley and visit them again. This does not cover any of the fantastic museums found all through the Annapolis Valley. Each of these museums cover a different part of our history and culture so make sure you check them out as well. A list and write-up is found by clicking the Museums tag.


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A freak apple was discovered by Mr. Collins, Annapolis Royal in 1921 from one of his apple trees. The apple was clearly one half gravenstien and the other half deep red, the colour was perfectly marked from stalk to pit.


Before the Digby Scallop Days festival, Digby used to celebrate the Digby Fishermen's Regatta, started in 1911.


Horton Academy was established in Wolfville in 1828 and it was the forerunner of Acadia University.


Born in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia Abraham Gesner is responsible for inventing kerosene.


Despite 15-foot snow banks in 1953 migratory yellow grosbeaks have touched down at their old feeding grounds here.


The famous Nova Scotia schooner "the Bluenose" was featured on a blue 13 cent stamp in 1935.


Deported Acadians that ended up in Louisiana are often referred to as "Cajuns".


In 1923 traffic on Nova Scotian roads switch from driving on the left to the right hand side of the road.


Charles Fenerty, a lumberman's son from Sackville, Nova Scotia was the first to discover how to make paper from ground pulp.


In the summer we can't wait for a bowl of "Hodge Podge" which is made with all new vegetables from the garden.


People in the Grand Banks fishery industry are away from home for days or weeks at a time and are referred to as "Bankers".


April of 2003 saw the worst flooding on record in the Annapolis Valley. Heavy rains over a long period of time combined with spring thaw managed to knock out 47 bridges and 200 roads in Nova Scotia.


Sam Langford originally from Weymouth Falls was a Black Canadian boxing standout of the early part of the 20th century. He was known as the "Boston Bonecrusher," "Boston Terror" and, his most infamous nickname, the "Boston Tar Baby."


In 1924 hotels and homes received their supply of ice from horse and wagon teams, brought in from the lakes.


In the early 1800s the Gates family had a plant at Port George where they made their Doctor's Home Remedies


Although it is now worn down by millions of years of erosion, the North Mountain once towered higher than the Rocky Mountains.


According to Mi’kmaq tradition, syrup made from the bark of a black cherry tree will relieve coughs brought on by colds.


In 1840 there were sixteen stores in Granville Ferry and shipbuilding was the main industry.


In the mid 1960’s, the NHL team the Montreal Canadians held their training camp in Kentville.


Born in Kentville, Gladys Porter was both the first female mayor in Eastern Canada in the 1940's and the first female to be elected to the Nova Scotia Legislature.


Our average of thunder & lightening is about 10 days per year, which is down from any other Canadian province.


A "Sou-wester" is a fisherman's oilskin cap that has a brood brim and it slops down at the back. They are usually yellow.


"Fly-beer" is a drink made from brewing potatoes and hops.


Nova Scotia donated six bald eagles to the United States in 1984 to help protect their national image.