As a New Year begins: reader feedback

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History Column by Ed Coleman

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Looking back at the past year, I see I have a lot of readers to thank for their help in writing this column. So, thanks to everyone for your tips, for providing information on various historical topics and for letting me interview you. Everything is much appreciated and I look forward to talking with many of you as the year rolls on.

Now, a short review of reader responses to recent columns:

In the column about two rare historical books, Clarke’s railway history and Milner’s Minas Basin essays, I wrote I was aware of only four copies in existence of the railway book.

Thanks to Louis Comeau, the author of Historic Kentville, I can up that total by two more copies. Louis writes that he has a copy of Clarke’s book and had a second copy that he sold. “That makes two more copies out there or around here,” Louis said.

On the column about the long gone muskrat ranch in lower Canard, I had a note from Zeke Eaton, a former resident of this area who now lives in P.E.I.

“I just read you’re your piece about muskrat farming in Canard,” he writes. “Dewey Creek was not far from my home and Ralph Woodworth’s blacksmith shop had a brook adjacent. There was another brook farther down Canard as well. They all fed into the Canard River. I never heard about any attempt at muskrat farming thereabouts. What I was aware of was Whitfield Ell’s fox farm in Sheffield mills.”

Eaton said Ells had a P.E.I. connection through marriage (P.E.I. is where fox farming started in the Maritimes) and “soon added foxes to his enterprise. The war cut deeply into the profitability of the fox industry and by the early ‘40s Whitfield had given it up.”

Residents of Canard, where Eaton grew up, may remember Zeke.  He’s a son of the Canard historian, the late Ernest Eaton.

Are any readers familiar with a “home-grown, home manufactured piece of footwear, known as a shank?” writes Reg Baird of Clementsvale.

Baird writes that shanks were standard footwear for a number of men in the Clementsvale area before, during and after the Second World War years. 

“They were made from the hide taken from the hind legs of beef cattle (or moose). The leg joint hide was the heel, the hide going to the hoof was cut off to foot size, and the hide going to the hind quarters was cut in accordance to how high a top the wearer preferred.”

Surely, Baird adds, this footwear wasn’t unique to Clementsvale.  Maybe a reader can tell us more about this unusual footwear.

Perhaps a reader can help with the following as well. Valerie Brideau writes that she is researching Percy and Eulila Margeson, who once operated Cedarcrest Kennels on Prospect Street in Kentville. Anyone familiar with this shop or with the Margesons, please call me at 678-4591 or write me c/o of this newspaper.  I can also be reached via e-mail at ecoleman@eastlink.ca.

Geographic location: Canard, P.E.I., Clementsvale Canard River Sheffield Prospect Street Kentville

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