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99. THE PLACE NAMES OF QUINAN

Yarmouth Vanguard, Tuesday, November 20, 1990


Quinan owes much of what it has to the Tusket River, its history, its importance and even its former name. It used to be called “The Forks,” in plural, because here stretches out in three branches, the Upper Tusket River, the Lower Tusket River and the Quinan River. The Indians called Quinan itself “Nigtoiag, gisna Neoptogoiag,” meaning “where the Tusket River goes through.” “Nigtoiag,” sometimes written “Nictahk,” is derived form this other word “Niketaouksit,” “Tuksiet” for short, written “Tousquechet” in a French map of 1656, of which the English made “Tusket.”


Thus it is Quinan which should be called “Tusket” and not to-day’s Tusket. For a time, Quinan was called “Tusket Forks.” After the arrival of the Loyalist, the Indians took the habit of calling to-day’s Tusket “Aglaseawakade,” that is “the English settlement,” to which the English themselves gave the name “Franklin Town.”


The Tusket River, on it’s way to the ocean, flows through a series of lakes, some having been created when the Tusket electric power system was built in the 1920’s. The “Oaspag” (bright) of the Indians or the “St-Jean” (St. John) of the French doubles up to become the “Wilson” and the “Bennetts.” After brushing “King’s Lake,” the river enters into “Gavels Lake,” formerly “Covens Lake,” the “Gigsepag” of the Indians. These two lakes, Kings and Gavels, used to form “Butler Lake,” formerly “Lake Bell,” the “Grand Lac de Tousquet” (Great Tusket Lake) of the French, the “Maogtogiat” of the Indians (going together); (see above “Neoptogoiag”). Then Lake Vaughan, the “Lac Tousquet” of the French, the “Pengenopsgog” (rock opening) of the Indians, the mouth itself of the river being called “Gtjipanog” (big opening).


The Indians used to give to Quinan another Micmac name, that we find in Father Sigogne’s church registers, “Machoudiak” “Macloudiak”, “Mactoudiak,” meaning “where they meet.” Another name which is more precise, was “Mawtookyak,” written also “Mawtookgac,” that is “a place where two rivers meet.”


If Quinan owes much to the Tusket River, it owes just as much to the Indians. They have left their marks about everywhere, tomahawks, arrow heads, knives made of stone or bones, a burying ground around “Koucougôke” or Blue Mountains, and especially a lot of names.


At East Quinan, the road going towards South Quinan is called the “Frotten Road.” About a mile and a half further, the road bifurcates; old man Vacon gave to this stretch of road the name “Pipe City,” as about every house had a pipe instead of a brick chimney; and the name stuck for a number of years.


At the bifurcation, the road on the left leads to the Blue Mountains. It borders the western shores of the lake formerly called “Long Lake,” now “Kegeshook Lake.” To the Indians, though, it was “Gioisag” or “Oinamgiag,” this last name meaning “difficult sandy place.” The word “Kegeshook” is an illusive spelling of the Indian word “Koucougôke,” meaning the “Giant’s Home,” the name that they gave to the Blue Mountains; it used to be a household name among the French. This road has been extended some years ago a number of miles in case of forest fires. It is said that “Peter Lake,” that it skirts, owes its name to Pierre-Léon Muise, son of Léon, called “Gaspereau.” A few miles north there is “Nepsedec Lake,” from the Indian word “Nepsigeseg,” which would mean “higher.” Three or four miles east of Peter Lake we find “Lake Wallabe” or “Wallabec,” formerly “Wallybeck” form the Indian word “Oalopec,” meaning “in the valley;” the hills here or “mountains” reach a height of 300 feet.


The road which, at the bifurication, runs straight, is known known as that of “Shenacadie,” as it leads to a lake by that name, meaning “a place of cramberry,” from the word “sonegotis,” the name given by the Indians to the lake, which formerly was called “Cramberry Head” or “Cramberry Lake.” Very old maps give to it the name “Rush;” but an author says that the name applied to another lake, known to the Indians as “Nesonigetjitjg”. This road, which to-day goes many miles inland, used to end at a place known to every hunter as “La Roche de Viande” (the meat stone), the name being given also to the road itself. Some say that the name comes from the fact that the Indians would hide behind this stone from the caribous, the moose and the deers that they killed. For others, the Indians and even the Acadians would cut here, on this stone or rock, their kills to bring the pieces home or the parcel them out among themselves.


Coming back to the main road, at the center of the village of Quinan, let us follow the Quinan River upstream. At about a mile, we will find a small river, called “Mushpauk Brook,” emptying into “Lake Mushpauk,” formerly called “Mispouch,” located at three miles and a half, from the Indian name “Mespag,” meaning “overflowing” or, according to an author, “rabbits in abundance.”


At five miles and a half on our journey, we find the very well know “Bad Falls,” where there is a bad waterfall that the Indians would call “Asgômagaganel,” spelled also “Assookeumkoknue,” meaning “crossing place” or “bridge” which they might have built over it.


A mile and a half further, a dam or “gate” on some map has been built to contain the waters of three lakes which discharge into the Quinan River. On the east, there is the “Big Gull Lake,” the “Goloaogsitz” of the Indians, from which is derived the word “koliaksee,” a “hooded seal.” On the southeast is located “Quinan Lake,” “Fork Lake” of yore, or, for the Indians, “Apgotapego” (a pond). It is double, with the “Meadow Lake” on the north, flowing southward into “Stony Creek Lake,” the “Giotapsgiag” or “round rock” of the Indians. The third lake, rather long and narrow, is called “Barren Lake,” formerly “Great Barren Lake,” or, for the Indians, “Panopag” (an opening), a Micmac word having the same ruth as “Gtjipanog” given above.


Here we are in the heart of Indian territory. Have been found here all around many Indian artifacts, especially arrow heads, which means that it was an excellent hunting territory. The artifacts were more plentiful west of “Big Gull Lake,” at a place called by the French “Le Guéguss,” a name of unknown origin; in it flows the water coming from another small lake west of it, the “Squambow,” at “Martin’s Landing,” where “Big Gull” flows into “Barren Lake.” Between Barren Lake and Quinan Lake there is a dam, north of which there is a tongue of land known as “Owl’s Head,” that the Indians called “Pugooôpskook”.


I am told that there are still here two wild life traps to catch big games. They consisted of a deep hole dug in the ground, which were covered with branches. Bait was set on a branch on top; the animal would jump for it, and in its fall go down into the pit. I have personally seen one of these towards the Great Pubnico Lake, while blueberrying in the 1920’s’ I was told then that it was to catch bears.


Drifting away somewhat from Quinan proper, I want to mention here, about three miles south of Quinan Lake, “Madashack Lake,” very well known to hunters, which the Indians called “Meteseg,” meaning “Mixed up,” it is linked by a small river to “Little Madashack,” south of it the “Metesegtjitjg” of the Indians.


Three miles west of it, there is “Nonias Lake,” called by the Indians, at first, “Gaoapsgigetjg,” and then “Nooney’s Lake,” a name found on old maps. Tradition tells us that Benoni d’Entremont of Pubncio used to hunt caribous here with the Indians, who called him “Nooney” instead of “Benoni.” It would seem that “Nonias” is derived from “Nooney’s,” although the author says that it means “turning by a rock.”


Between Lake Madashack and Lake Quinan, there is a small lake that I want to mention, because it is one of three which, in the region, bear approximately the same name. This one used to be called “English Clearwater Lake,” then “South Clearwater Lake,” and now simply “Clearwater Lake.” About twelve miles west-north west, (south of Bell Neck) there is “West Clearwater Lake.” Then at Bell Neck itself, north of the main road, there is what old maps gave as “Clearwater Lake,” and today “French Clearwater Lake,” called “oaspagtetig” by the Indians, which word has about the same meaning as “oaspag” (brilliant) given above. I maynote that in Digby County, just at the border of Yarmouth County, there is “East Clearwater Lake.”


Little Madashack communicates by a small river with “Great Pubnico Lake,” called, with its river, “Gsepemgeoei sipo aggôspem” by the Indians. I mention it here for the fact that the Indians of this place and those Quinan were constantly in communication. From Pubnico Lake there is a small river going north, from which, after a short portage, one reaches Barren Lake, which leads to Quinan River and to Quinan itself.


There are many other place-names in this vicinity, but they are too numerous to mention. There are a few, though, that have a certain importance. Springhaven, for example, is really a part of Quinan; it was called first “West Grant,” and the “West Quinan,” until the authorities changed its name, in spite of the population. Where it starts, there is a road leading north towards Canaan, and another leading south, the “Curry Road,” according to the road-sign; it goes up to Argyle Head.


Not far from here, going towards Quinan, on the right hand side of the road, there is the “Lac à Pic” (Percipitous Lake), “à pic” meaning perpendicularly,” but we are told that “Pic” or “Pick” is the abbreviation or initials or nickname of an Englishman. It had been called also “Lac à Dominique,” because Dominique Muise, son of Paul, used to live just north of the lake.


With regard to other lakes, “Lac de l’Ecole” (School Lake) was just north of the school, now a center for prayers. Where Koucougôke Road and Shenacadie Road meet, there is “James Lake”, for Jacques Doucet, Jr., called “Jim.” “Canoe Lake,” north of Shenacadie Road, used to be called “Lac à Louis.” “Lac à Jèrôme,” at about nine miles east-north-east of the junction of these two roads, stands probably for Jèrôme Doucet, son of David, himself son of Charles, called “Tania.” Still more to the east, straddling the dividing line between the counties of Yarmouth and Shelburne, there is a lake whose name is a real jaw-breaker, MICKCHICKCHAWAGATA! Nobody has ever tried, it seems, to know what it means.


With all that has been said, I did not tell you yet where the name Quinan comes from. For one reason or another, people did not like the name FORKS. So in 1885 they asked that it would be changed to that of QUINAN, in memory of Father John L. Quinan, who served at the parish from 1860 to 1867.

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