Born in 1866, Leslie Eugene Dennison learned the printing trade in Kentville, apprenticing with one of the town’s earliest newspapers, the Western Chronicle, at age 16. Dennison later worked with the Boston Globe and other American and Canadian newspapers. He served in three wars, was prominent in labour circles and was a renowned writer of poetry and prose.
Dennison must also have been a history buff and a man with almost total recall. In 1932 he was asked to write about the early days in Kentville as he recalled them. What followed was an amazing in-depth article about Kentville in the 1870s that was serialised in The Advertiser. Thanks to a reader I have the complete article, some 25 typeset pages and an index. Beginning this week and from time to time in the months to follow excerpts from the Dennison article will be given here. In the first excerpt, Dennison tours Kentville streets, mentioning many of the town’s personalities.
“Threescore (60) years ago the western limit of the Kentville school district was the Kinsman road, its eastern near the Roy farm. We will now in memory traverse the Post Road from west to east, taking note of the homes and stores, go round the square, taking short side trips to the Cornwallis River, up the Beech Hill road, the Canaan road, the new Canaan road (and) travel east till we reach Elderkin (research station hollow) Brook.
“The widow Ratchford house, on the south side of the Post Road… has long since disappeared. Next east on the south side is John Harrington; then farther on, on the north side, William Harrington; then Robert Harrington. Just east and south, on a small hill between the road and the railway, was the home of James MacKay, a maker of pumps from bored-out tree trunks….”
Dennison referred to the section of the Post Road that ran through Kentville as Main Street. The “schoolhouse road” joined Main and when Dennison refers to this area we learn some historical trivia about the town.
“To return to the schoolhouse road, on the south side, away from the street, was the house of Hon. Daniel C. Moore… then the Methodist Church, George Davidson, John Dodge, Lee Neary (Kentville’s first uniformed chief of police), Benjamin Calkin, general store of George Dodge, Mrs. Eliza Angus, George E. Master’s house and blacksmith shop, Judge Stephen H. Moore’s law office, Robert S. Master’s store, James A. Hallliday’s newspaper, The Kentville Star, Chipman Hall, James W. Ryan’s drygoods store, Mrs. William Harris, near corner of Beech Hill road…
“A short distance up (Beech Hill) road lived Alfred A. DeWolfe; then farther on, near the red barn on Fred Webster’s farm, lived ‘Black’ John Mitchell, well known for his jollity and skill as a butcher… Still farther on was the home of ‘White’ John Mitchell, whose children were the last pupils on that street to attend the Kentville school, the Nathan P. Ward children going to Beech Hill, or Alton, as the neighbourhood was afterwards called.”
Dennison concludes his Main Street tour with more historical trivia:
“At the southwest corner of Main Street and Beech Hill road stood the home of James DeWolfe, proprietor of the Red Store. At the Corner of Main and Canaan road was a tenement house, with Angus Johnson’s shoemaking shop on the ground floor, and around the corner to the south was a blacksmith’s shop (and farther along) a lane led to Margeson’s saw, grist and cider mill.”