We sometimes tend to think that the current interest in history and genealogy wasn’t shared by previous generations. I was at a meeting recently, for example, and the speaker noted that it was “criminal and a shame that 100 years ago they weren’t interested in saving local items of historical interest. Think of all the valuable papers, records and artifacts we’ve lost,” the speaker said.
Interest is indeed high today in things historical and genealogical; and perhaps more people search for their ancestors nowadays than ever before.
However, the tendency to look upon this interest as a modern trend should be challenged. At the meeting referred to above, the speaker mentioned the invaluable role of the Kings County Historical Society, intimating that the organisation was, relatively speaking, only an infant when compared to similar long-standing groups.
“If only there had been such a keen interest in local history four or five generations ago as there is now,” the speaker said in effect.
I have no idea of the “age” of the historical society, but it’s a myth that previous generations weren’t interested in local history. Evidence to the contrary can be found in the files of Kentville historian Louis Comeau. One piece of evidence is a copy of an article by Rev. Arthur Wentworth Eaton from an 1888 issue of a Kings County newspaper, the New Star.
In the article, Eaton lays out a case for preserving historical artifacts and records.
“Whence came we who now possess this soil?” Eaton asked. “Exactly what are our antecedents? Who are they from whom we have inherited our personal traits and tendencies…? What books (did they) write, what occupations (did they) engage in?”
To answer all these questions, Eaton wrote, means that we must gather historical fact from all available sources, study genealogy, and search out all momentos “from the soil, from the dark corners of dusty garrets, (and the) deep recesses of carefully locked chests or cupboards.” That the author of The History of Kings County was promoting the formation of a historical society nearly 110 years ago is obvious.
“The people of (this area) have themselves suggested the formation of an historical society that may serve as a rallying point,” Eaton wrote, suggesting that the society should preserve old papers, seals, books, Acadian relics, bits of furniture and genealogical sketches.
Was the esteemed Mr. Eaton successful in his promotion of a county historical society?
Also in Louis Comeau’s collection of historical papers is an article dated August 15, 1888, from another Kings County newspaper, the Western Chronicle. The article announces that a historical society had been formed and its aim was the “collection of articles” documents and facts of antiquarian interest… likely to throw light upon I the early history of this county.”
The officers of Kings County’s first historical society read like a who’s who of Kentville: president, Watson Bishop; vice president, John Woodworth; executive committee, B. Webster, R.S. Masters and R. Prat.