WILLIAM GOULD – 19th CENTURY JAILOR AND TOWN CRIER (June 8/01)

“I am a descendant of William Gould and his wife, Susan Kezia Coldwell,” Keith Terceira wrote in a recent e-mail message from Arkansas. “As one of your columns portrayed, he was a Kentville jailor and he was also listed in the Eaton family history as a Kings County Deputy Sheriff.

“William and Susan are buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Kentville,” Mr. Terceira continued, noting that his line came from Gould’s son, Sydney. In this letter and in a second letter a few days later, Mr. Terceira commented further on William Gould and other earlier residents of this area with some family lore and an interesting insight on how family names can change.

I always appreciate receiving letters like this from readers. Quite often the people mentioned in history books, such as Eaton’s Kings County history, are little more than words printed on a page. But when readers such as Mr. Terceira write and talk about their ancestors, those printed words suddenly become people who once lived, laboured and died here. Such letters often spur me to dig a bit deeper into local history books to see if I can flesh out some of the people readers have brought to my attention.

Take William Gould, for example.

Mr. Terceira wrote that as a Deputy Sheriff for Kings County and the Kentville jailor, Gould served under Sheriff John Marshall Caldwell. In Eaton’s Kings County history Caldwell is listed as High Sheriff for the County from 1885 to 1881, which gives us dates for some of Gould’s period of service. Gould married Sheriff Caldwell’s cousin – “even in the 19th century it paid to have family contacts,” Terceira writes – and apparently stayed on as jailor after the former’s death in 1881. The county jailor immediately after Gould may have been my great uncle, John Coleman; according to local history books and family records, Coleman’s term of service began in 1896 and ran until 1928.

William Gould may have the distinction of being the first Kings County jailor and the first Town Crier for the county and perhaps for the town of Kentville. Mabel Nichols in her Kentville history, The Devil’s Half Acre, refers to Gould as possibly the first county jailor: “One, if not the first, jail keeper was William Gould (and his wife) who for 21 years kept the jail under Sheriff Caldwell. Mr Gould was also the Town Crier, who with his ‘O-Yes – O-Yes’ opened, adjourned and closed the court.” Nichols also confirms that John Coleman assumed the position of jailor in 1896.

Assuming that both Eaton in his Kings County history and Nichols are correct with their dates, William Gould may have been Kings County jailor from 1875 on. (Actually, I believe it was earlier). If Mabel Nichols is correct, Gould apparently became jailor about 20 years after John Marshall Caldwell was appointed High Sheriff. If Sheriff Caldwell influenced Gould’s appointment as jailor (or as Deputy Sheriff) because of family connections he apparently was slow with his patronage. On Caldwell’s death in 1881 (he died while in office at age 80 if Eaton is correct) Gould may have continued on as jailor, an indication that he merited his position and that he and his wife ran a good jail.

William Gould may have been Kings County jailor, a Deputy Sheriff and the Town Crier at the time of his death but this is highly unlikely. According to Mr. Terceira, the Oak Grove Cemetery records indicate Gould died in 1883 when he was 82 years old.

P.S. I hope readers enjoy this look at a 19th-century jailor. I apologise for the confusion about conflicting dates, etc., and I remind readers that existing records were used to prepare this column.

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