A Brief History of Bonshaw

          (told by an old beaver)


“Well now, I imagine that the ancient world was an interesting place, all right, but we must begin our story with what we really know about our own backyard.  Following eons of volcanoes and smoke, rain and ash, and the continents just sliding around generally, the oceans filled with life of every shape and size.  Our home, Abegweit, is the newest land of the whole beaver world, and was formed only a few tens of thousands of years ago.”


“Now don’t you believe it just rose from nothing, no indeed.  We think Abegweit was slowly built from the accumulated debrís of glaciers, at the end of last great ice age.  As the mountains of frozen water pulled back to the land of white whales and the ice bears, it left the scrapings of sand and rock from New England in a lowland, which rose as the ice retreated.  It may also be that part of our red loam was a huge, broad delta, formed from the rivers which back then were flowing north out of New Brunswick, washing the Appalachian mountains sand grain by sand grain, far out into the inland sea that today is called the Gulf of St. Lawrence.


“At that time, young kit, much depended on your own forebears, the proud and glossy giants of our race, for

they had much to do in building the arboreal forest of the new world.  Before them, the glacier meltwaters ran together unchecked, forming huge and frightening rivers which were uncontrolled, and raced to the ocean’s shore without eddy or meander, carrying away all manner of soil and minerals, including that which would be our own Bonshaw.  Oh yes, they had their work cut out for them, your ancestors (Castoroides ohioensis).  But they, being the size of a moderate bear, with the most beautiful shining teeth as long as your tail, they were up to the task.  They built the first dams which slowed the raging rivers, calmed the torrents, and allowed the mature riparian landscape to flourish.  Och aye, they were known far and wide as the hardest workers of the woods even then, ceaselessly gnawing, dragging, building, and packing the mud into
the greatest dams ever known.  They were, in a word, busy.”

“And as they worked without rest to tame the waters and help every form of woodland life to flourish, one day there came a new kind of life.  Walking on two legs in a most unnatural and comical way . . .”

“People, Gran!  Those were people!  I saw one, I know I did!  I saw one last full moon!  It was huge!  It made noises!  It smelled awful!”


“Aye, no doubt you did.  The very picture of them, I daresay.  They seem to cover the land now, almost, and ‘tis all an honest slaptail can do to build a lodge without they come in vasty, bellowing, yellow machines to build their roads and forget to set the culverts deep enough for our friends the salmon to swim through.”

"But to return to our home, it was in the midst of what people called Lot 30, given by George III, King of the
Britons, in 1767, to John Murray of Scotland for the purpose of human increase and industry.  It was before the time of the fabled Great Dam on our own West river, built by your own ancestors ‘Bravetooth’ and ‘Lionjaw,’ who worked so hard to tame the waters of doom every Springtime, and which roared through our valleys and reddened the strait to the South.  But with our help, the people, smelly though they were, built shipyards, the grist mills, and the stores of the community of Bonshaw.  They worked almost as hard as we, and by 1880 their village grew to a town of repute, and of great attraction to the people of the city we called End of Three Rivers. On Sundays the city folk would dress in their finest, and would come upstream in their boats to see...


“Why Gran?!  Why did they come in boats? Why?”                                


“You young kit, ‘tis plain as your own whiskers.  They haven’t a tail, and they can’t swim worth a lick.  It stands to reason, you can’t swim without you have a fine flat slap on your bottom. ”


“But Gran!  I saw a mink swim!  Yes I did!  It was a mink and it swam!  It had a little tail with fur!  It was so ugly!  Yes!  It had fur on its little tail and it swam and I saw it!  How did it swim Gran, how?!”


“Och aye, a mink can swim, if you want to call it that.  Struggling not to drown, more like.  And did you see it keep its breath under the water more than a brief moment?  Did you?  And did it carry the fine fat alder branch in its teeth to the lodge?  Well?   ‘Course not, poor thing.  Probably just showing off to another young imp same as when you would be bragging to your cousin that it was you dropped that old maple at the wend of Howell’s brook by yourself, and it with the loathsome blue oil all over its flat stump.”



[harumph]  “But let us get on with your history lesson, young shaver, about the Bonshaw in Lot 30, as they called it back then.  Through the turn of the century before this one, it grew and prospered, and had the first bridge to cross the West river, two stores, a smithy, two churches, fishery, boatyards, and even a courthouse.  We don’t know the number of people, but expect it was over one-hundred.  Now these were all great things to the people, no doubt.  But of course all their works were but a gnat in the wind compared to the Dam of Dams, the true wonder of the world in our time:  the Great Twisted Brook dam of 1911, which backed the largest pond Abegweit has ever seen. “



“Your own great-great-grand-sire himself told me of the proud moment, when all our people watched from their lodges and the water, as King Sabretusk XII slapped the last pawful of mud in the high-center, and the pond began to fill.  The other woodlands creatures all lined the banks, and they sang and burred and roared their thanks, as did the fish below.  It was the proudest moment of all Abegweit, it was. [sniff]




“But Gran!  The mills and yards!  The ways and wheels-in-the-water!  Where are they?  They’re gone Gran!  Jimmy Smalltooth went to the great-turn in the big river and he saw and he told me and said they’re all gone!  Where Gran, where?”


“Well, much time has passed, young kit, since those days, much time indeed.  Many people have moved to the city, and instead of a village they build road and track, and so now they come and they go.  Bonshaw is their home, right enough, but most go to other places for their bark and branches.  The Bonshaw today still lives and breathes and prospers, but ‘tis a more calm and quiet pace, for people and for we.  The brooks and rivers have slowed, as their highways are ever faster.  The village is in its quiet time, for now. “


“ ’Tis pleasant enough, and creatures on two legs or four go about their lives and hear the wind sough through all the many trees left to gnaw down. The hurry and the building are mostly done; the village and our river abide, their future not yet written.”


“That future is for you, young kit, yes it is.”





                                                 A note of apology

         For readers who could wish for a less confused and beaver-centric description of
         Bonshaw history, you will do no better than to consult the excellent and authoritative
         source by William and Elizabeth Glen, cited below, and which we suspect was the
         primary source material for our old friend’s ramblings.


 For Further Reading:


Glen WM, Glen EA:  Bonshaw, A Stroll Through Its Past.  ISBN 0-9695019-1-9, 2008.  


Russel, F: The Atlantic Coast.  Natural Science of Canada, ltd., Toronto, Canada, 1970.


The Last Billion Years.  Fensome RA, ed.  Nimbus Publishing, Halifax, Canada,  2001.

And then to see some real beavers being busy:







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Last updated 2013-03-09