WHARFS, READERS AND ROYAL OAKS (January 29/99)

In the 100 plus years that it has existed the wharf at Kingsport has gone through numerous changes. Constructed sometime before 1865 by the Oakpoint Pier Co., the once busy wharf has been remodeled seven times, the last upgrading taking place in 1911.

Once an important terminus in the glory days of sailing ships and railroads, the Kingsport wharf is now a ragged shell. However, a project by Kentville amateur historian. Leon Barron, will give us a glimpse of what the wharf looked like in the various stages of its existence. Barron is currently building a wooden replica of the old wharf on a scale of one inch to 10 feet. His model should be complete sometime this summer, and will be on display locally. Mr. Barron has also unearthed a lot of historical data on the wharf and a capsule version of his findings should accompany the display.

Recently I received a call from a Wolfville reader who had some observations on the column about the non-existent Port Williams lighthouse. The reader said that in effect there actually was a lighthouse that served Port Williams.

When the reader attended Acadia University she said there was a lighthouse at the mouth of Wolfville harbor. The reader contends that since Wolfville harbor is at the mouth of the Cornwallis River, said lighthouse would be useful to ships navigating upriver and hence could be considered as serving Port Williams.

This sounds logical and to argue otherwise is pointless. However, the lighthouse in the harbor mouth, which I’ve been told was demolished or destroyed by fire in the 1960s, was known unofficially as the Wolfville light and was placed to serve Wolfville harbor. Large freighters navigating the Cornwallis River to Port Williams usually did so with the assistance of a pilot who resided locally. Apparently it was never considered necessary to have a lighthouse at Port Williams, perhaps because of the river pilot system or because there was a lighthouse marking the possibly treacherous sandbars off Wolfville harbor.

In December I ran Gordon Hansford’s story about the old Wolfville High School band’s Christmas concerts in the belfry of the Baptist Church. Here’s another Hansford tale about a “Royal Oak” that grows in Wolfville.

“There is an old gnarled oak tree to the west of the driveway of the Wolfville Post Office. Alfred Lake, who had been born in England was a veteran of WW1. He served with the 85th Nova Scotia Battalion and was badly wounded. Around 1947 he pointed this oak tree out and related this story to me.

“He said that after leaving the hospital in England on convalescent leave in 1918 he went to Windsor to see the castle. On the grounds of the castle there was a large, very old oak tree, which was a descendant of the tree in which King Charles took refuge at the time of the English Civil War.

“It was called the Royal Oak and Alf picked up a few acorns from it. Upon returning home to Wolfville he planted these acorns. He became caretaker of the old sandstone Post Office and always kept the grounds in immaculate condition. He planted the oak tree and it still stands today.”

Some historical trivia from the Internet: The most numerous surnames in this area in 1881 were Newcomb, Eaton, Bishop, Borden, Harris, Caldwell. Ells, Ward and Davidson. In 1864 the most numerous surnames were Bishop, Porter, Parker, Newcomb, West, Harris, Eaton, Smith, Graves, Taylor and Tupper. Between 1864 and 1877 the most numerous surnames in Kings, Hants and Annapolis County were Smith, Parker, Sanford, Brown, Harvey Miller, Harris, Bishop, McDonald, Mosher, Burgess, Marshall, Foster, Morse, Porter, Chute, Newcomb, Caldwell, Patterson, Wallace, Taylor, Wilson, Whitman, Young and Johnston.

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