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West Chezzetcook, Acadian village.
Follow the 207 highway along to the Acadian communities of Grand Desert and West Chezzetcook. I have heard that Grand Desert was named from the Acadian word "Desert" which means forest land cleared away. Chezzetcook, on the other hand, was an Mi'kmaq Indian word for running waters divided into many channels. In the past it was often spelled Chezzencook and it is even pronounced that way sometimes today.

Before the French arrived in the Chezzetcooks, the MicMac Indians were well aware of the area and its rich clam flats. The permanent settlement of Chezzetcook took place in the post deportation era around 1764. The Acadians that came there had somehow managed to escape being deported by General Lawrence in the Expulsion of the Acadians.

The Indians had long known of the rich clam beds in the area and when the French arrived to take up residence, they immediately started to harvest clams too and for almost 200 years the clams provided income for the Acadian people. The men would dig the clams and the women would take them to Halifax city market on Friday and Saturday to sell.

At first the women would walk to the market with their wares which would include clams, vegetables like broad beans, berries like foxberries, cranberries and blueberries and knitted goods. Because the journey was so long it would need to be taken over a couple of days. As a result there were 18 mile houses along the way. One of these houses was in Lake Echo and another was in Preston. This was a kind of resting inn/house where weary travelers could eat and rest up for the next leg of the journey to market.

Halifax City Market in those days was up around Duke and Market Street. The women would arrive there and sell their wares. Some women even took their goods door to door. It seems that most clams were shelled and bottled but when horses and buggies were eventually taken to town, clams were also sold in the shell too. Once the goods were sold the women would buy a few provisions from the city and return home. This seems like a long and arduous journey, but I have heard that it was also a time for meeting friends and the sharing of news, jokes and laughter. All these sociable events were loved by the Acadians.

The weekly market event started out with foot transportation and moved on to horse and buggy and eventually there was even a bus from the village each weekend for the purpose of transporting the goods and the people to market. There is a 1940's vintage photo of this bus parked in front of St.Anselm in Ronald Labelle's book Acadian Life in Chezzetcook.

Fishing was also an important part of the economy for the Acadian people. Many of you may have visited the Fishermen's Reserve up the coast a bit towards Lawrenctown. The men who were the fishermen from Grand Desert and Chezzetcook would stay there for the week and fish and only come home on the weekend. Many Chezzetcook youngsters made the long walk to deliver food stuffs from the family kitchens in Chezzetcook to the fathers who would be staying at the Fishermen's Reserve for the week.

Another industry in the area was brick making. This industry was active around 1851 and many of the brick buildings in Halifax were constructed from bricks manufactured in the Chezzetcooks. Flat barges named gundalos were used to transport the bricks from the Chezzetcook backyards to schooners for transport the Halifax. When Saint Anselm Roman Catholic Church in West Chezzetcook was built in 1894, some of the bricks came from the Chezzetcook brick yards and the rest came from Quebec. It is interesting to note that each family was asked to pay for 400 bricks to help with the cost of the construction of the church that is such a valued centre of the community.

The culture and heritage of the Acadians is rich and varied. It seems that their life was not without struggles and difficulties. Making a living was work that required fortitude and strength. I have heard the Acadians loved to use nicknames for one another and some of these are as rich a varied as the Acadians themselves. I gather that the nickname was like an affectionate joke on one another and once your nickname took hold it was impossible shake it.

One of the nicest places where you can still enjoy Acadian traditions and hospitality is the Chezzetcook Tea Room.

by Jessie DeBaie


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Highway7 E-zine, a publication of Hatch Media, is an electronic journal with a focus on commercial, historical, cultural and ecological issues concerning the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia in Canada. Topics include a growing resource of currently more than 300 articles. More articles and image galleries are added frequently as new material is brought to our attention. With Highway7.com, our primary aim is to serve, inform and reflect the rural communities on the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia, as well as to acquaint new residents, visitors, tourists, and investors with the special beauty and enormous potential of our region.
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