The Hills At Argyle Head
Yarmouth Vanguard, Tuesday, 10 January 1989
When, on route 103, one crosses East River, more commonly known as Argyle River, formerly the Abuptic River, and sees at the head of the river those beautiful hills looking like huge crests emerging from the water, he has probably no idea of all the events that those hills have witnessed, ludicrous as well as tragic, where at times nothing but peace did reign, and other times when those hills were smeared with blood. Stories concerning this area which have been handed down to us are plentiful. I hope I will be able to tell some of them in this column. Today, I intend to unearth some of the skeletons which were buried here, as well as relics, if not treasures, which were found on these hills.
Reuben Abbott, a school teacher, son of Joseph Abbott, of Argyle Head, left us a sketch of the hardship that his grandfather, Benjamin Abbott, and others, had to suffer during the first winter they spent in Argyle, 1762-63, when, to feed their families, they had to kill the "French cows" that the Acadians, who lived here, had left in the fields when they were sent into exile. He says that sometime before the English settled here, a vessel used to come up to the river in quest of French cattle. At a place called Hobbs Falls, a number of French and Indians lay in ambush and fired on the boat's crew and wounded or killed all of them. There is a little hill where their remains are buried.
This little hill is close to the river; it is the one which was cut through when the railroad track was built around the middle of the 1890's, where thirty-six skeletons were found. The bones at the time were buried anew on the southern half of the cut hill, at a place still very well defined and visible. But this "reburial" was not completed before some people from the area carried home some of these human bones. I met years ago some people from Argyle Head who told me having seen in their young days, in a barn of the neighborhood, three of these skulls hanging from a rafter.
Hobbs Falls, mentioned by Reuben Abbott, is somewhat further up stream, beyond the old mill, for those who recall this section. West of the hill where the skeletons are buried and still closer to the river, is another hill, on top of which there is an excavation or hole large enough for one man or more to hide. Tradition has it that the Acadians would hide in this hole and fire down the river on the intruders. On the other side of the river, on Jack's Hill (Jack Travis), an Indian skeleton has been found with a bullet hole in its skull.
Two firearms and a bayonet found buried in the ground on Nickerson Hill, at the foot of which now lives Percy G. McQuinn, surely have some connection with the engagements which took place here between the English and the Indians and Acadians. One of these firearms is an old English musket found around the middle of the last century. The marks on it show that it was made in London in 1636 or a few short years after. It was made to be used with a gun fork as a support.
On the slope of another hill, north of Nickerson hill and separated from it by the remains of the railroad track, have been found a number of very small cannon balls, about an inch in diameter, which correspond with the gauge of this musket.
About the other firearm found on Nickerson Hill, I have no details, except that it was a flint lock revolver, unearthed when a hole was dug for the electric power line that goes through here.
With regard to the bayonet, it is a triple edge socket bayonet. It would be of a later date. I became the proud possessor of this bayonet and of the musket, which I have given to the West Pubnico Acadian Museum.
According to tradition, the Acadians of the Abuptic River would have hidden what they thought could be saved in a small lake, called Arnold's Pond, west of these premises. Be what it may, we know of four wine bottles found at the foot of Nickerson Hill, about 300 feet south of Mr. McQuinn's house and 75 feet west of the road. It is quite probable that these bottles contained altar wine to be used at the chapel on top of the hill. I have met people at Argyle Head many years ago who had seen these bottles. They are not made of glass, but of "stone", that is, probably, of clay or earthenware. The story goes that they were emptied one Sunday morning, and that it would have been far better, that morning, if the thirsty culprits had stayed home instead of going to church.
A final story can be told with regard to Nickerson Hill, in relation with treasures hidden here by the Acadians. This time it was on the northern slope of the hill, many, many years ago. The rumor was that there were some hidden treasures at this certain spot. So one dark night some people went with picks and shovels and dug quite a large hole which can still be seen. All of a sudden a big fat black rounded four legged creature came running by, making a lot of noise and unfamiliar cries. The story goes on to say that, thinking it was the devil, they dropped everything and ran for their lives. This miserable creature turned out to be Nancy's pig. Nancy had her house on the east slope of the hill. Nobody bothered any more to search for these so called Acadian treasures.
Reuben Abbott, in his sketch, referring to Nickerson Hill, says that on it there is "an old French burying ground, and a little distance from there is the remains of a French chapel". All these are very well defined and located; in other words, we know exactly where they were. Reuben Abbott goes on to say that "there is a number of little clearings which is plain to be seen in different localities, and the remains of a dyke and some old apple trees." On these clearings were located the Acadian houses; their cellars are still there. Not long ago, the dyke was still visible under water on the west side of East River, crossing one of its branches; it disappeared when the bridge that spans this branch was rebuilt. With regard to the apple trees, what could be their seedlings still produce apples. All this will be for another time.