The September Rear Beaver Cove Tour from Beaver Cove to Loon Lake
Hi folks; 15 people reported for duty at 9 a.m. on the morning of Sept.1, 2002. It was a beautiful day (not a rock splitting day but nonetheless perfect for our purposes). We left the wood road by my house by 4WD and trailer and climbed south on a wood road for aprox. 1.6 km. That elevated us to 600 feet above sea level. From then on we stayed between that and 700′ as the Rear lands lay relatively flat. I won’t be able to name all the participants but suffice to say for now 3 were over 70 years.
The journey began where the wood road turns east to run parallel with Route 223. At that point we followed the old road which continues in a southerly direction. After .5km. we stopped and took note of a “Y” in the road. At that point we joined the old Public Highway that started more easterly and meandered in a longer but more gentle grade. The road we started with was a wood road developed by local land owners over the years.
We continued. Less than 5 minutes later we detoured to the site of the old homestead of Johnnie Mac Kinnon. Some of his family members had done a terrific job in fixing up the property, so that the site of the house, barn and other activities were discernible. It looked like a park, It felt like a shrine. From knowing members of the MacKinnon family over the years and witnessing the immense respect they had for their elders; I know the latter was the case. We all felt privileged and touched just by being there. It certainly raised the issue with me that if one family can accomplish this much in remembrance of their ancestors. why can’t other descendants of the 25 families in this area (or for that matter, all Rear areas), do the same. Congratulations to Michael, James, Amelda, Anne and all for a job well done. I hope you didn’t mind our brief intrusion onto to this hallowed ground. It also gave our participants a chance to imagine how the place would have looked 100 years ago. I remember hearing that Fr. Michael Gillis ha challenged the descendants of the Rear families to preserve the memories of the efforts that had gone into making this a community.
After a brief recess, we pressed on. It was now heading for 11 a.m. We climbed a very gentle grade. Although it wasn’t pointed out precisely, I noted that somewhere between Johhie’s and Neil MacLean (next property) was a road that went west into the Blueberry Barrens. I don’t know how far but Hughy Mac Kinnon (Johnnie) told me once that 2 or 3 families had lived in there.
We continued climbing a gentle slope For a while the ground leveled out and the landscape resembled an area that had been through a forest fire, dead trees etc., probably left over from budworm days. As we headed back into growth we could notice an old stone wall ronning along on the left as we started downhill. That was the site of Neil MacLean’s old home. Within recent years, Sr Victor with the Sisters of Charity Order (I think) died. She was the last known person born in the Rear Beaver Cove. I remember exploring here years ago into the site of a hunting blind on the edge of a nice orchard. That would have been close to the old home. One has to use your imagination when envisioning the view from the front porch, 100 years ago.
After following along this fence for a couple of hundred feet, and going through a quick dip in the road, we came to one of the tributaries to Indian Brook, later it becomes a river, That flows down through the Big Glen into Eskasoni. I remember camping close by at its source with my children a few years ago. It was a headquarters for beavers as evidenced by the felling of some of the largest Birch trees I had ever seen them drop, 12 ” in some cases.
Across the brook and up a slight knoll. we were there, at the Crossroads. The first time I had seen this area was with my brother Adrian, as well as Michael and Hughy Mac Kinnon in 1976. If you picture a town square a long time ago, you could see the road heading in an almost straight fashion towards Eskasoni. As you would proceed on your left about 100 yd., there would be a school on your left. Across the road would be the home of Rory MacInnis, father of Larry, Peter, Danny etc and grandfather of Stan, the Schoolteacher and Reid of Safway auto parts. Did Stan’s inspiration for teaching stem from a family history of being located right across from the school? George MacLean tells me his grandmother used to walk out to here on Monday mornings, teach all week, board with relatives, and return to Beaver Cove on Friday p.m.’s. She had aprox. 50 students at the turn of the century. Now it’s difficult to even find any evidence of the school. In the 1976 trip, Michael pointed out the place and we even found a piece of the stove..
As you would head East southeast with the site of the old school on your left, you will notice the remnants of old fields on your right. This is the home of Rory MacInnis. You’re able to detect a ridge as the lay of the land drops off in front of you. You’re approaching the northern side of the Big Glen. Because you’re up so high in the source of the glen, you’ll only drop about 100′ as the road swings left down the side of a reasonably steep embankment. The Northern side seems to be steeper than the southern as the road heads along. However, there is a rock out cropping evident across the way as the Glen heads for Eskasoni. I’ve taxed your imaginations before to recall the excellent vistas these ancestors seemed to enjoy. Here the school, MacInnis’ and Curly Donald Mac Donald, on your left as you go down the bank all shared a beautiful appreciation of the Big Glen as it spreads itself downward and Southwest to Eskasoni. I had the advantage of looking Northeast from the cockpit of a small plane. One Glen goes up into the Rear Beaver Cove and Boisdale and another starts descending the Rear Boisdale into the Barrachois Harbour. It all seems to come together from that viewpoint.
We stop at a brook part way down the hill. This to my knowledge is Curly Donald MacDonald’s brook, progenitor of several of the participants, including me. One wonders about the water and how it nourished some of the people who helped to put us together. We also wondered about how useful the brook would have been 100 years ago. Some wondered about gold in this and other brooks like it.
Off again we meandered down to the bottom of the glen, across the brook and up a long, steady but gentle climb. Here the road is arrow straight. We appreciate the fact that as this was the road that ran through the spine of our peninsula, this would have been “the” main highway to Sydney trampled by many feet before and after colonization. After about a mile of this we stopped at another crossroad; the road down to MacMullin Lake. It goes to the lake to Little Allan Mac Mullin’s , beyond to Curly Donald’s and eventually as a shortcut back to Johnny Mac Kinnon’s. I’m told that tremendous friendship and interdependence developed amongst these three as there were probably many similar alliances owing to proximity and geography.
Mac Mullin Lake is not far off the main road. After a couple of hundred feet, the Lake reveals itself on your right (east). Its quarter mile size is nestled in a low slung valley, protected from the north by a gentle ridge of hills. Its a serene lake that hosted two or three families so many years ago.
We’re back on the main road. The landscape to your left between the road and the lake is not great, heavy woods,swampy etc. But to you right, emerges evidence of another old farm. the home of (I believe) Roderick Mac Mullin who’s descendants could be Bernie Mac Mullin and Don Lynch but TO The Hills O Boisdale with that question. Suffice to say that those MacMullin’s enjoyed a panoramic view of MacMullin LaKe. Twice, I’ve had the chance to camp here in the past with my children and others. You still have the sense of being nestled but your literally on top of the world in these parts, about 700′. The first time was a clear night one summer in the early 90′s when there was a convergence of three planets. Having no man-made light for miles around , the view was breath-taking. It also speaks to the idea of having Cape Breton as a hoe for astronomers
We continued our climb up to a hill that forms between Loon Lake and MacMullin Lake. That area’s to be explored later. A great deal of road work has been done to the point where a half ton could easily get this far from the Boisdale side. There our vehicles awaited. We loaded up about 5 hours after we started: a tired , hungry but satisfied bunch.
As an epilogue, I happened to be talking to Stan MacInnis, teacher and grandson of Rory MacInnis. I apologized that I made only one attempt to contact with him a day or so ahead of the tour. He regretted not being there but hopes to in the future. Stan can remember driving out the rear 50 years ago with his father (Larry) and mother and siblings to the old site. I’d like to use this story as an introduction to show the importance of getting what stories and recollections that are out there. They may seem insignificant to you but are valued highly by us all. Lets get some of these on this Forum.
One last note of thanks to Liam Whalen for the use of his Van from our destination point in. Take Care. Blaine