Who was Kentville’s first mayor and when did he take office? Who was Kentville’s longest serving police chief? The answers to these and countless other questions anyone might have about the shiretown of Kings County can be found in the computer files of history buff and collector, Louis Comeau. Kentville’s first mayor was John W. King in 1877. Rupe Davis was Kentville’s police chief for 37 years starting in 1894.
The complete list of mayors and police chiefs is in Mr. Comeau’s database, but this is only a fraction of the information on Kentville he has collected and stored. Mr. Comeau’s artifact collection is as extensive as his database. Some 7,000 artifacts on Kentville are stored in the mini-museum of his Oakdene Avenue residence. In the museum are approximately 100 books and pamphlets, over 600 photographs dating from 1878. Old calendars, mementoes from long gone retail stores and industries, pins, badges, ledgers, signs, maps, posters, medals, watches, postcards, newspapers, souvenirs – all have found their way into the Comeau museum, which arguably is the largest historical collection on Kentville in existence.
Mr. Comeau has been refining, sorting, researching, cataloguing and writing mini-histories of the artifacts he has collected for over a quarter-century.
“I actually continued the work my father began,” Comeau said. “He started to collect historical stuff, church histories, Acadian artifacts and so on and I carried on from there.”
Dr. Lin Comeau, who practiced in Kentville from 1949 to the early ’70s, was a general collector with an interest in Kings County artifacts and collectibles. After his father’s death in 1975, Comeau concentrated solely on Kentville history and now has an in-depth overview of the town going back over 100 years.
Mr. Comeau first took an interest in his father’s collection in the early’70s. At their home on Wickwire Hill, Comeau set up an old-time country store and dentist office and a cooperage corner, depicting life as it was in Kentville before the turn of the century. “There was a lot of interest in the displays,” Comeau said, “but we eventually dismantled it. We didn’t have time to look after it.”
Most of the artifacts used in the display are still in Comeau’s possession. One that he especially prizes is a ceiling fan that was used in several Kentville stores since 1900. His most prized possession is the studio camera used by A.L. Hardy, who operated from 1892 to 1935.
Mr. Comeau is still adding to his collection and a recent acquisition was a catalogue issued by a carriage manufacturer that existed in Kentville nearly a century ago. “Even though I’ve been at it over 25 years, I’m still enthusiastic about collecting and researching,” he said.
Researching and writing brief histories of his artifacts takes up most of his free time. “You have to be a detective to date some of the items I’ve collected and sometimes I feel like Sherlock Holmes,” Comeau said. He dated an old poster, for example, by discovering that only four times in the last century could the dates advertised in it fall in July.