A LOOK AT KINGS COUNTY IN 1903 (June 25/04)

“It is rather surprising that no one has written a history of this county,” Robert R. McLeod wrote in his 603 page history of Nova Scotia, published in 1903. McLeod called the history Markland or Nova Scotia and the county he referred to was Kings.

Of course, McLeod was unaware that Arthur W. H. Eaton was ready to publish his Kings County history, which was released in 1904. Thus he took it upon himself to describe Kings County as it was a century ago, the description including a bit of history and the natural resources of the county.

McLeod writes about the expulsion of the Acadians from Kings County with a sympathetic voice. He adds, however, that while it was all sad and terrible, “let us remember that it was a mere fly bite compared to some of the outrages within the range of Christian history.” The Acadians, McLeod claims, “were taken away because it was determined by Lawrence and Shirley that Nova Scotia should remain a British colony.”

Much more interesting than McLeod’s slanted views on historical events is his description of various towns and villages in the county. At the time McLeod published his history there were “three principal towns” in the county, Kentville, Wolfville and Canning. All are “charming localities,” McLeod says, and a stranger would like “each one best as he visits them one after the other.”

As the shire town, Kentville is given prominence. “The town has now a population of 1,781 and is a railway station of considerable importance, where there are repair shops and the head office of the Dominion and Atlantic Railway and also a terminus of the Cornwallis Railway.” McLeod adds that there are good hotels and the town is a “commercial center of a large district devoted to farming and fruit raising.” Adding to the charm of the town is the Cornwallis River and the streets shaded with fine trees.

Wolfville is second in prominence according to McLeod. With a population of 1,412, it is “not only a trading center to a considerable district but it has the distinction of being a college town” where “grave professors and retired clergymen are the commonplace of the locality.”

McLeod paints a rosy picture of Wolfville where the “climate is not severe, there are no malarial diseases to rack a poor body with chills and fevers, tornadoes are unknown,” and the vista includes “wide dykes and the brown basin to the hills of Parrsboro.”

Canning is a surprise to one who drives across the Cornwallis region for the first time, McLeod writes. He gives a beautiful and romantic description of the village: “One comes abruptly across pretty streets shaded with fine trees, stores and wharves and tall spars, and flapping sails almost in the shade of overhanging branches. The schooners with their hulls hidden in the narrow channel appear to be sailing on dry land through dykes and fields as they follow the great tides that follow the moon around the world.”

Port Williams is dismissed as no more than a “station on the D.A.R;” Harbourville and Hall’s Harbour are “precarious shelters” on the Bay of Fundy and Berwick is a “beautiful and enterprising village.” There is “no room for extended description” of other villages in the county, McLeod writes, adding simply that most are located along the railway line.

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