In the 1800s, Canning was the largest community in the eastern Annapolis Valley with a population of over 3,000. The harbour at Canning included private and government wharves where vessels tied up to take load apples and potatoes and deliver coal and grindstones for the Blenkhorn Axe Factory.
Canning’s most famous citizen is Sir Frederick William Borden, who graduated from University of King’s College in Windsor, Nova Scotia before earning an M.D. in 1868 from Harvard Medical School. Borden practiced as a physician in Canning and eventually branched out into banking, shipping, real estate, and politics. In 1887, he helped found the Cornwallis Valley Railway that linked Canning to Kentville, and he served as Minister of Militia and Defence of Canada from 1896 – 1911.
Frederick Borden led a campaign for lighthouses to mark the river that led to Canning to fight the decline in commerce as steamships moved to other nearby ports that were easier to navigate. In 1904, two lighthouses were placed in operation along Canning River, known now as Habitant River, and the Department of Marine gave the following description of them that year:
Canning river – Two lighthouse towers have been erected at Canning river, western side of the Basin of Mines, and the lights were put in operation on the opening of navigation in 1904. Both towers are inclosed wooden buildings, square in plan, with sloping aides, surmounted by square wooden lanterns, the whole painted white. Each tower is 27 feet high from its base to the top of the ventilator on the lantern. They are supported on piles extending four feet above the surface of the ground.
Porter point lighthouse – The outer lighthouse stands on the south side of the entrance to Canning river (Canard creek), on the north extremity of Porter point. The light is a fixed red light, elevated 29 feet above high-water mark, and should be visible 5 miles from all points of approach by water. The illuminating apparatus is a pressed glass lens.
Borden wharf lighthouse – The inner lighthouse stands on the site of the old Borden wharf, on the south side of the river, distant 5,245 feet N. 65° 35' W. from Porter point lighthouse, at a point where the channel turns abruptly from south to east. The light is a fixed red light, elevated 26 feet above high-water mark, and should be visible in the straight reaches of the channel to the northward and eastward. The illuminating apparatus is a pressed glass lens.
The buildings were erected under contract by Mr. Wm. Rand of Canning. His contract price was $1,190.
Porter Point Lighthouse had to be moved at least twice to escape erosion. In 1916, S. de Adden of Kentville was paid $75 to move the lighthouse to a new site, and in 1930, the lighthouse was moved 100 feet back from the shore to a new lot that was purchased for it.
Borden Wharf Lighthouse was deactivated in 1921, but ended up being preserved, and is now located in Canning. Porter Point Lighthouse remained active through at least the 1950s, but is believed to have been destroyed. There is not light on Porter Point today.
Keepers: F.W. Bishop (1904 – 1919), G.T. Parker (1919 – 1921), M. Benjamin (1921 – 1922), F.B. Eaton (1922 – at least 1923).