STORMS, IRISH RIOTS AND OTHER HISTORY TRIVIA (March 9/01)

When Marguerite Woodworth compiled the official history of the Dominion Atlantic Railway in 1936, she included historical nuggets that often had little or nothing to do with railroads. I like to think of them as historical asides, or comments and trivia added simply because they were interesting or in some way rounded out Woodworth’s history.

Early on in her history, for example, Woodworth comments on the stagecoach service that started in June 1828 and ran three times a week between Halifax and Annapolis. There were two coaches, Woodworth said, “connecting at Kentville where the Royal Oak Inn offered accommodation for travellers and stabling for the coach horses.”

The coach trip from Halifax to Kentville occupied a full day, Woodworth said, at this point tossing in one of the asides that history trivia buffs dote on. In a footnote, Woodworth informed that “Public notice was given April 19, 1826, that Horton Corner would hereafter be called Kentville in honour of the Duke of Kent.”

In its store logo, Herbins of Wolfville notes that they have been “Jewellers since 1885.” In his Wolfville history (Mud Creek, The Story of The Town of Wolfville) James Doyle Davison gives us an interesting aside on the origin of the Herbin business. In his section on Wolfville stores of the 1880s, Davison mentions that one Arthur W. Hoare ran the Western Book and News Company opposite the post office.

Davison writes on page 59 of the history that Hoare “invited a young man to begin a different kind of merchandising in his store.” The invitation was accepted by a former resident of Windsor, J. F. Herbin, “and thus began the well-known jewellery business.”

Picked up from a conversation with railway and sailing ship buff, Leon Barron: That on the old Cornwallis Valley Railway connecting Kentville and Kingsport, a special spur or “Y” was set up on the line apparently for the convenience of the Borden family of Canning. Leon tells me that the spur ran through Sir Frederick Borden’s backyard – where a private railway car is believed to have been maintained for him – and along the river bank behind Canning stores. The Canning Legion building rests on the old spur line.

In what has to be an intriguing aside, A. W. H. Eaton mentions in his Kings County history that Brooklyn Street, which has the distinction of being one of the longest streets in this area, was once called Shadow Street. Why was it called Shadow Street and was it named after a family with that surname? As far as that goes, where did Brooklyn come from in the street’s name and when was the change made? Any readers have answers to these questions?

A careful reading of Woodworth’s history reveals that the building of the railway didn’t go all that smoothly. Troublesome Irish workmen and monstrous storms slowed the advance of the railway through the Annapolis Valley and Woodworth gives us a few interesting details. In 1856, Irish construction workers on the Windsor branch, goaded Woodworth says by Protestant workers, began rioting and “held up the whole work of construction.” There was a pitched battle, Woodworth says, and the Protestants lost.

Another setback occurred when in October 1869, high tides caused by the Saxby Gale washed away bridges along the line and whole sections of track between Windsor and Kentville. In November and in December, monstrous tides once again tore up tracks and washed out bridges, setting construction work behind by several weeks.

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