At his request there was no public service and only a few relatives and friends were present when Dr. Arthur Wentworth Hamilton Eaton’s remains were buried in Kentville’s Oak Grove Cemetery alongside his brother, Frank. “The ashes of Dr. Eaton buried at The Oaks,” The Advertiser headlined a brief report in its July 22 issue. Oddly, this was scant news coverage of the passing of one of Kentville’s most distinguished citizens.
Dr. Eaton, who is best known as the author of The History of Kings County and other works, died in Boston on July 15, 1937, at age 87. He was a Kentville native and was born there in 1849. Dr. Eaton was the son of William Eaton and Anna Augusta Willoughby Hamilton; both, as various sources point out, were of New England Puritan stock.
Dr. Eaton’s family had a long association with Kentville (his mother was born there) and it was appropriate that his remains came to rest in Oak Grove Cemetery. His father’s residence may have been the Royal Oak, the inn the Duke of Kent stayed in during his 1806 visit. William Eaton taught school in Kentville for seven of his 14 years as a teacher, and he was inspector of schools for Kings County. When Kentville was incorporated in 1866, William was honoured by being named to its first council board. Later he became the town’s Clerk and Treasurer, an office he held until his death in 1893.
Dr. Eaton was a descendant of one of the first Planter families to settle in Kings County, tracing his ancestry back to David Eaton who received the original grant in Cornwallis in 1761; David was a farmer and had lived all of his life on Canard Street near what is known locally as Jawbone Corner.
Little is known about Dr. Eaton’s early days except that he attended Kentville and Wolfville schools before moving on to university. On his education, he wrote that he “received his early classical and general training in the grammar schools of Kentville, from his father at home, and for a short time in the College and Academy at Wolfville.”
When he was 23 years old, Dr. Eaton went to Boston to study for the ministry. In a family genealogy he compiled, he wrote that he “graduated at Newton Theological Seminary in 1876 and at Harvard University in 1880.” Shortly afterwards he was admitted into the ministry of the Protestant Church.
While Eaton spent most of his ministry in the States, he returned to Nova Scotia to earn an M.A. at Dalhousie University in 1904. He wrote a number of books on religious topics, authored a collection of poems about Nova Scotia, historical monographs on Hants and Colchester County, a history of Halifax and his major work, the history of Kings County.
Eaton was honoured for his scholastic accomplishments with an Honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree from Kings College, Windsor, in 1905. In 1913 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He is also recognised as a Canadian major poet; a review on an Internet website salutes his poetry as holding a “distinctive place in Canadian verse.”