KENTVILLE IN 1868 – ACCORDING TO McALPINE (October 27/00)

I’m not sure if McAlpine’s Directory was the first business publication in the province but it certainly was one of the earliest. McAlpine’s Nova Scotia Directory was published as early as 1868 and was continued well into the 20th century. The Directory is much sought after by collectors and researchers and copies are hard to come by. You won’t find one in the local library but there are copies in the Kirkconnell Room at Acadia University.

While not a directory in the strictest sense of the word, one “directory feature” of McAlpine’s must endear it to genealogists. McAlpine’s listed the occupants of each major town and village it covered and gave their occupations. Thus we can take McAlpine’s Directory for any two-year period – it was apparently published every two years – and discover what people worked at and how their trade reflected the period.

I did this for the town of Kentville, checking out the occupations of its citizens in the period 1868-69, for no other reason than curiosity. What I found is that the majority of Kentville’s citizens in this period were farmers or were in trades relating to agriculture. Kentville’s population was 500 in 1868. According to McAlpine’s, about 90 percent of the town’s occupants worked on the land with the balance in the service industry; today it’s the reverse.

In 1868 there were farmsteads near what is now Kentville’s downtown core. Kentville had two blacksmiths in this period and they were George E. Marsters and Otto Eaton. The tradition (if you can call it that) of the town having a blacksmith continued until modern times. As recently as the late 1940s and perhaps the early 1950s there was a blacksmith shop on Cornwallis Street near Kentville’s main business area.

A number of Kentville’s citizens listed their occupation as “saddler,” which is a maker of saddles and other equipment, harness, halters, etc., for horses. Since the automobile was still decades in the future and the horse was the main source of farm power and transportation in the mid-19th century, saddlery would have been a key occupation.

There may have been a post office in Kentville in 1868-69 since one John F. Hutchinson is shown as the town’s postmaster. Frank Jones is listed as the town’s telegraph operator. Harry Kilcup is shown as a “coach driver and owner.” Kilcup can be found in Eaton’s Kings County history. Eaton describes the coach run, writing that the drivers for many years were Kilcup and Walsh, who were “excellent whips,” that is, good drivers.

According to McAlpine’s, the town’s jailor in 1868 was William Gould. Mr. Gould may have been the town’s first jailor. In her Kentville history (The Devil’s Half Acre) Mabel Nichols mentions Gould as the first jailor and the town crier who “with his ‘O-Yes, O-Yes’ opened, adjourned and closed the court.”

Kentville must have at least three inns in 1868. McAlpine’s lists three innkeepers, these being Tully James, William Redden and Mrs. Daniel Mullowney. This last may have been a misspelling of Mulloney. John F. Mullowney is shown as the town’s sole dentist in McAlpine’s but Eaton’s history has a Dr. John Mulloney and no Mullowneys. The innkeeper William Redden is referred to in Eaton’s history and apparently was also a mill and hotel operator.

Going by McAlpine’s directory, Kentville apparently was the county’s shiretown as early as 1868. But we must question McAlpine’s placing of Acadia College in Kentville. I believe this honour belonged to Wolfville.

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