HISTORY ONLY A CLICK AWAY (January 31/97)

Most history books cover major events – wars, political change, social upheaval, mass movements of people, and so on.

These books deal with great people and great events. For the less cataclysmic phases of early life in Nova Scotia, one must turn to county histories and the histories of families, communities and towns that were written by historical societies and individuals.

These “little histories” are being turned out with regularity today, especially since the increase of interest in genealogy, and most bookstores are well stocked. Check out your local bookstore or your library and you’ll find many excellent books and papers on every aspect of early life in your community.

With the advent of the Internet, another source of local history is now available. Purely as a labour of love, and what can only be a passion for the past, various groups and individuals have posted historical papers and studies on Nova Scotia on the Net. Works of great depth and variety, from the trivial to the titanic, are now only a click of the mouse away.

One example is the work of retired schoolteacher, Ivan Smith of Canning. Mr. Smith has researched and written histories of electric utility and telephone companies of Nova Scotia. The site containing his work is called “little known portions of Nova Scotia history“, and this is precisely what it is. The Nova Scotia connection with the Knights Templar of the Oak Island treasure, the exploration of Nova Scotia from 1497 to 1650, Planter studies, historical society home pages, etc. are a few examples of what can be found at this site.

For depth and interest, Mr. Smith’s utility and telephone histories are typical of the papers at this site. It appears that at one time every Valley community of any significance operated a light and power company. A network of power lines ran from community to community, often serving a handful of consumers.

Shortly after the turn of the century, for example, five miles north of Kentville, the quiet community of Centreville operated an electric utility – from 1923 to 1931. The Centreville utility purchased power from the Canard Electric Light and Power Co., which in turn was connected to the Gaspereau River Light, Heat and Power Co.

There was a similar network of power utilities up and down the Valley, with connections from community to community. From Windsor westward, electric power was generated on the Avon and Gaspereau Rivers and these and other sources supplied privately owned companies. Mr. Smith’s paper shows that even communities the size of Kingsport, Waterville and Cambridge operated private utilities. There was a Sheffield Mills Electric Light Co., a Lower Horton Electric Co, a Pereaux Electric Light and Power co., and so on.

Many of these utilities began operation in the 20s and operated into the 30s before being swallowed up by larger operations. Some of the small operations in West Hants and throughout Kings County were purchased by the Avon River Power Co. for example. It’s a fascinating tale, this little-known aspect of Valley history, and Ivan Smith merits recognition for the work he has done on it.

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