“I could write a volume of quaint stories of the people who farmed these lands and walked these streets… but I am bidden to write history,” Mrs. L. P. Dennison said in an address to the Grand Pre Institute some 70 years ago.
Noting that “time and tide have made such changes,” old-timers returning to the Annapolis Valley would hardly recognise it, Dennison did indeed write history. Her lengthy Institute address, which was printed in The Acadian (Wolfville) on August 25, 1927, was basically a history of early homesteads around Grand Pre and Hortonville; however, as was the case with the George Harvey interview in last week’s column, Mrs. Dennison could not describe the old homesteads without giving us a glimpse of the period when there was only a bridle path between Hortonville, Hantsport and Windsor.
We learn about Hortonville’s link with Canadian history, for example, when Mrs. Dennison comments about a homestead she calls the Dill farm. “The place known as the Dill farm, where the buildings were burned while occupied by Howard Fuller, was quite a notable one. It was the birthplace of the grandmother of Sir Frederick and Sir Robert Borden, a Miss Fuller.”
And we see that in the early days there were a good number of stores and Inns where rum flowed as freely as molasses. “At all these stores and Inns liquor was sold just as molasses is today (by the jug in 1927). The real old Jamaica rum, dark and thick and very much like molasses in appearance, and nearly every man drank and many to their undoing, just as they do today.”
Noting that she wasn’t giving a temperance lecture, Mrs. Dennison says that it may have been much too easy to buy dark rum in the previous century. “They drank up and wasted the property that should have been passed on to their children. They spoiled their own lives ….”
However, in a note on politics in the old days Mrs. Dennison presents a different attitude towards evil old rum: “Something over 100 years ago the counties of Kings and Cumberland were one constituency for election of members to the House of Parliament. Men would come from Cumberland to vote. An election would take nearly a week. What a glorious time they must have had with open houses and the barrels of liquor handed out by the dipperful (!)”
Well, perhaps it was the election, not the rum, that was glorious.
Anyway, before the railroad arrived, the Hortonville area was an important point in Kings and western Hants County. “This part of the country was called Lower Horton until 1869 when the Windsor and Annapolis Railway was built…. Until the bridges over Avon and Gaspereau were finished this (area) was the terminus, passengers and mail being transferred to and from Windsor by teams. Hence the name Horton Landing.”
More on the important role Hortonville or Horton Landing played in the early days: “Rival packets plied between here and Parrsboro. Their decks were fitted to carry cattle, herds of them being (purchased) in Cumberland and bought here to fatten on the dykes. This was the line of travel for students attending the schools in Sackville and must have been quite a contrast to the mode of traveling now.”
The Hortonville area was originally laid out for a town and areas were designated for a courthouse and jail, Dennison says. “Afterward they concluded that Kentville was more central but this would have been an ideal place.”