As late as 1762 Nova Scotia consisted of only five counties. Kings County was one of the original five and it was comprised of its current area and most of Hants County. In other words, Hants County didn’t officially exist until after 1762, the year when the government decided that five counties was too cumbersome and began to divide up the province.
While we know that Hants County came into existence sometime shortly after 1762, I’ve been unable to find the date in my files of historical material. However, over a century after the government decided that the original five counties should be divided up into smaller entities, some confusion apparently existed over the boundaries of Kings and Hants County.
I believe there was confusion because of a couple of full-page newspaper reprints sailing ships and railway researcher Leon Barron showed me recently. These are pages that Annapolis Valley sailing ship buffs would delight in perusing. One reprint is from an old Windsor weekly newspaper, the Tribune, and is dated 1887; the second is from a 1937 issue of the Hants Journal, which if I remember my newspaper genealogy correctly, succeeded the Tribune as Windsor’s paper of record.
The Tribune page is titled the “1887 Hants Co. Shipping List.” Following is a list of “all the vessels afloat that are owned, built or registered in the County of Hants… up to the 31st December, 1886, showing their rig, tonnage, place of building, year when built and managing owner.”
In all, this magnificent list contains some 234 sailing ships that were built in Kings and Hants County between 1860 and 1886. The list amounts to a who’s who of shipbuilding and marine commerce in Kings and Hants County in the 19th century. On the list are the names of some of the greatest 19th-century shipbuilders in this area of the Valley. A name that comes up at least right times is C. Rufus Burgess of Wolfville shipbuilding fame. Another famed shipbuilder of the era, E. Churchill & Sons, Hantsport, appears in the list 15 times.
A surprising number of ships in the list were built in the townships of Cornwallis and Horton. Leon Barron says it’s too bad that the home sites of the shipyards weren’t listed specifically rather than generally by township. Horton and Cornwallis townships take in a wide area with many seaside communities; it would have been helpful for historians to know exactly where the shipyards were located in the townships of Horton and Cornwallis.
Reading through this list, we find the names of shipbuilders whose families have thrived here – and in many cases left their mark here – since the days of the Planters and Loyalists: Names such as Newcomb, Chase, Borden, Ells, Sheffield, Wickwire, Tupper, Begelow (Bigelow), Parker, Starr, Rand, Kenny, Slocumb, Dimock and Baxter.
The reprint from the 1937 issue of the Hants Journal is similar to the 1887 list in that it also contains a lengthy role call of sailing ships, along with owners, tonnage and home shipyards. Dated 1885, it confirms that C. R. Burgess of Wolfville and the Churchills of Hantsport were among the leading shipbuilders of this era.
The 1885 page is a list of ships registered in Hants County, unlike the 1887 list which claims to be an account of ships built in Hants. It seems that when the 1887 list was published, the Windsor Tribune had the mindset that Kings and Hants County were still one and the same.