HISTORY BOOKS WORTH READING (February 28/03)

If you’re a history buff, you must be delighted with all the community and family histories that have been published. For some reason, this area seems to have people with a bent for writing history. Many communities have individuals and organisations who have produced not only histories of their area, but histories as well of prominent families, local industries and cemeteries.

In many cases these histories are researched and written with no commercial gain in mind. When Frances Taylor, Marie Bishop and Daphne Frazee wrote their histories of Cambridge, Canaan and Gaspereau, for example, I’m sure the selling price of these books in no way compensated them for countless hours of research.

I couldn’t even begin to list all the histories that have been locally written. However, I have several favourites, which are works that in my opinion best tell the history of this area.

Valley Gold is an example of a locally written book about industry. The title page says the book tells the story of the apple industry but Anne Hutten’s goes beyond this. You can’t write about Valley apples and orchards without including glimpses of the Loyalists, Planters and Acadians and Ms. Hutten does just this. Unfortunately, Ms. Hutten’s book is out of print and difficult to obtain. If you’d like to read this book, there’s one copy available in the local library system.

It doesn’t claim to be a history book in a sense that history is a narration of past events. However, A Natural History of Kings County is interspersed with many interesting nuggets of historical interest. There’s a history section in the book and in it you’ll find the various plants introduced by the Acadians, for example. You should be able to find this book in stores and libraries but if you can’t, contact the Blomidon Naturalists Society, the organisation that compiled and published the book.

A jewel in the local history crown: That’s Esther Clark Wright’s homey, and at times gossipy Blomidon Rose, which is perhaps one of the finest histories of this area ever written. I’ve read and re-read Wright’s book many times and I recommend it for a down-to-earth historical overview of this area of the Valley. Wright is an excellent writer and a good historian. Her book is still in print and is also available in local libraries.

It’s out of print but the local library has copies of Marguerite Woodworth’s history of the Dominion Atlantic Railway. Woodworth’s book tells of the long struggle to overcome savage natural forces, political forces and a wavering economy to establish the first rail line through the Annapolis Valley. While the main thrust of the book is about the building of the railway, Woodworth gives us glimpses of Valley life in the 19th century and tells us how the railway literally created the apple industry.

While its scope supposedly is limited to the town of Kentville, Mabel Nichols book, The Devil’s Half Acre, is really all about the early days in the Valley. While she writes about Kentville, Nichols’ sketches of the town’s early days tell us what life was like in this region a few generations ago. Read this book to get a general “feel” of early Valley times. Nichols’ book is out of print but copies are available at local libraries.

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