Annapolis Valley Changes – Place Names and Physical History

One of the things that I am working on currently is to try to ‘collect’ the names of the communities in the Annapolis Valley (Kings and Annapolis County). To do this, I’ve researched what the Annapolis Valley (AV) actually comprises.

It seems the consensus shows the Valley runs from Wolfville to Digby – I guess that makes sense when you look at the maps. Still, other maps show Windsor to the tip of Brier Island. Bounded to the north by the North ‘Mountain’, and to the south by South ‘Mountain’ (I know, not very original) , it has been called everything from paradise to ‘the Ditch’.

The physical history of how the Valley was created is an interesting story in itself. Two watersheds feed water to the east and the west, with Berwick being the great divide. To the east, the Cornwallis River flows to the Minas Basin, while to the west, the Annapolis River empties into the Annapolis Basin thence to the Bay of Fundy through the Digby Gut. The Annapolis dominates the Valley, though the Cornwallis feeds through the most populous areas (relatively speaking).

It is not surprising that since 1604 there have been hundreds of communities in the AV. Some, like Annapolis Royal (Port Royal) have been inhabited for hundreds of years, while many are relatively new. The older parts of the Valley are at the east and west extremes, while the central part was pretty much uninhabited until the Loyalist influx at the end of the 18th century.

Studying the genesis of the AV place names is interesting. Native names still exist, and many of the communities with greater history sit in locations well known to the original inhabitants of NS. Windsor was orignally called Pisiquid, a Mi’kmaq name for ‘junction of waters’ (the Avon and St Croix Rivers). Of course, many French names remain, especially in the east and west (Belleisle, Grand Pre, Canard, etc)

More interestingly, is the fact that over the centuries many names have disappeared altogether. Conquerall, Rhodes, Gibbonville, Palmer Road were apparent on the maps of 150 years ago; they no longer exist. Though some of these communities only changed their names (Gibbonville became Wilmot, Rhodes became North Kingston), some have just disappeared into time (Conquerall, Palmer Road).

This is where my interest peaks. I have a fascination with physical history. I like nothing better while out driving with my wife, than to try to figure out the history of a road, why is a house canted at a strange angle to a highway, why are there 4 old maples running in a line in an empty field, is that depression an old cellar, is that ancient apple tree part of an old orchard? So many questions, so much history. I’m sure she would rather that I just watch the road…

…And surprisingly, so much of that history is not noticed here.

There are many individual efforts in historical research and writing, but no concerted effort in capturing the tapestry of AV history. It seems the provincial government in Halifax really doesn’t have an interest in south west NS – even Annapolis Royal seems to be atrophying. I’ve lived here for 17 years and outside of the 250 celebration of the Acadian Expulsion (aimed at remembering Acadian families), I’ve seen nothing else in this portion of the province celebrating history. Where is the history of the British, the Planters, the Loyalists? Nada.

Thank goodness for Ed Coleman. (

Just some odd thoughts…


1 thought on “Annapolis Valley Changes – Place Names and Physical History

  1. Palmer road is in Auburn and is still used,Conquerall is on the south mountain, I have a map of it ,Rhodes is north Kingston

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