HISTORY THAT DIDN’T MAKE THE HISTORY BOOKS (July 22/05)

I call it history that didn’t make the history books; trivia and other facts that if you’re a history buff you really didn’t need to know, but found interesting anyway. For example, on October 22, 1892, the electric lights were turned on for the first time in the town of Kentville and in the shops and offices of the railway which had its headquarters in the town.

I got this bit of trivia from a newspaper clipping I found in scrapbooks in the Kings County Museum‘s family history section. In fact, most of the following history was collected while I was digging through documents, scrapbooks and other papers on file at the Museum. Checking on the story about Kentville’s lights, I found that Mabel Nichols book, The Devil’s Half Acre, gives the date as 1891 as the year when the town started to construct a steam-operated power house; Nichols said the power house was ready to generate electricity in March, 1892, but the town lights weren’t turned on until November.

Who was the first passenger on the Cornwallis Valley Railway? In her history of the Dominion Atlantic Railway, Marguerite Woodworth writes that work began on the CVR in 1889 and it began operation in 1890 with a passenger and freight service between Kingsport and Kentville. Local folklore has it that when the first locomotive made a trial run on the CVR line to Kentville before beginning regular service, one “Mrs. Loomer,” a Kingsport teacher, rode up front with the engineer, thus making her the first unofficial passenger on the line.

A newspaper clipping from 1938 proclaims that a hotel erected in Kentville some 123 years previously was in the process of being torn down. The Kentville Hotel, located on “the flat” on east Main Street, is believed to have been built in 1815. The hotel served as the headquarters for the stage line in the pre-railroad days.

In a paper on the Mi’kmaq as they were when the French arrived is mention that among the preferred plant foods of the natives, besides berries, roots and herbs, etc., were “wild potatoes” and/or “wild carrots.” I found one reference to wild potatoes in a book on wild foods but no mention of wild carrots.

In 1938 the Kings County Wildlife Association held a fish and game exhibit in conjunction with the apples blossom festival. What would you think would be some of the obvious things to display at such an exhibit? Among other things, trout and salmon flies, decoys, a gun display and similar artefacts associated with hunting and fishing.

You wouldn’t expect such an exhibit to have live specimens and certainly not exotic ones but it did. According to a letter on file at the Kings County Museum, the Association brought in three live alligators – “just as a curiosity” – for the show!

In the summer of 1929, five people died when an automobile was wrecked in a collision with a train near Falmouth. A newspaper clipping on the accident is in the Kings County Museum files. One of the people killed in the accident was Charles Wright, who was a partner with R. A. Jodrey when they pioneered the start of electrical power generation in this area. Mr. Wright will be the topic of an upcoming book by his granddaughter, Daphne Frazee of Gaspereau.

Readers are invited to contact me if they can expand on any of these items.

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