Through her interest in genealogy and as a compiler of family and community history, Marie Bishop has collected a massive amount of information on local history. “Sometimes I don’t know what to do with it all,” she said when I visited her New Minas home recently to look at one of her scrapbooks.
I wanted to suggest I hire a truck to take all her files home, but I contented myself with borrowing the scrapbook she had invited me in to see. Marie said it was one of her better scrapbooks and I’d probably “find interesting things in it.” Which, to make an understatement, was an understatement. While brief, the scrapbook was a treasure chest of historical nuggets. Among them, for example, was ….
A sketch of Wolfville in 1869 by B. O. Davidson who tells us the town was a great shipping and ship building center in its heyday and recalls seeing vessels from the West Indies, South America and the U.S. tied up at the wharves. “At one time I counted sixteen of these vessels at their moorings,” Davidson wrote. “In early days many vessels were built here at shipyards on both sides of the creek.”
When Davidson first visited Wolfville in 1869 the town had “no paved streets or sidewalks, no street lights.” Ox-teams were common in that period and at harvest time were “parked by the roadside for a considerable distance waiting their chance to unload.” From Davidson’s sketch we learn that Wolfville at the time was headquarters for the newly arrived railroad. The railroad headquarters were moved to Kentville after a dispute with Wolfville landowners, Davidson said. We can probably surmise correctly that this dispute and the railroad move led to Kentville being the major center in this area.
From Marie’s scrapbook we learn that a ship – the Kent – was built in Kentville, possibly right in the downtown area, and launched into the Cornwallis River in the summer of 1846. An excerpt from a sketch written in 1907 tells us the Kent was built on a grassy area just across the town bridge but there was no indication if it was the north or south side of the river. The excerpt hints the Kent, which was built by James E. DeWolfe, had a short, unsuccessful career. Perhaps a reader has more details on the Kent and would like to enlighten us.
The scrapbook tells us that in 1846 three of the four merchants operating in Kentville sold rum. “The great event of the week was the arrival of the mail coach from Halifax. “It brought the farmers in and served as an excuse …. to patronise the Crown Inn and the Kentville Hotel and replenish the little brown jug.” Mentioned in the excerpt is George Bear, the “great colored orator and philosopher who would (speak) to the crowd from his rostrum, the scales at the corner of the Red Store.” Readers having any facts on the life of Mr. Bear – he appears to have been an interesting man – are invited to contact me.
From the scrapbook we learn that the original Planter name for Port Williams- Terry’s Creek – came from John Terry who with the Lockwood family first settled in the area. Colonel John Burbidge, one of the first settlers after the expulsion of the Acadians, is mentioned in detail in the Port Williams sketch. Burbidge was ahead of his time in his treatment of slaves, freeing them in 1790, and was a pioneer in the introduction of several varieties of apples and pears. Direct descendants of Burbidge still live in this area.