While researching the life of Edward Ross for a talk on his diaries before the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, Deborah Trask came across an event dubbed the “horse race affair.”
Ms. Trask was researching in the records of the Nova Scotia Archives when she “found this interesting case” from the early days of Kentville. The “case” involves one George N. Rockwell, Aaron Anderson, Edward Ross, who at the time was a Kentville Justice of the Peace, and a horse race that may or may not have taken place.
Her interest piqued, Ms. Trask inquired at the Kings County Museum and learned there was no reference to the affair in its files. I was told about the inquiry and the “Horse race affair” and must admit that while I’ve been writing a history column for nearly 20 years and doing a lot of research meanwhile, I never came across a single reference to it.
This is where you, the reader, comes in. Somewhere out there so is someone who’s heard about the race. Perhaps you have some family folklore, possibly a newspaper clipping, or you’ve come across mention of the event in a historical work. If you know anything at all about the event I’d like to hear from you. Read the following, which Ms. Trask e-mailed me about the horse race, and it may prompt your memory.
“From court records in the Nova Scotia Archives,” Ms. Trask wrote, “I found this interesting case: ‘The Horse Race Affair.’ “In 1867, I think September, Aaron Anderson challenged his friend George N. Rockwell to race his horse against Anderson’s ‘at or near the Town House, Cornwallis.’ The challenge was a written one, with a bet of 75 pounds. Both gave a local justice of the peace, in this case Edward Ross, a deposit of $20. (Note the currency change, which adds to the confusion).
“I’m not sure exactly what happened next except that another race was run that day, and that Edward Ross paid Anderson the whole deposit, which amounted to $40., without consulting Rockwell even thought the race was never run.
“Rockwell sued Ross to recover the money. Ross eventually declared insolvency and left the province a broken man, returning to Kentville about 1879 where he again became a JP for a while. Edward in a few notes refers to newspaper coverage, so I wonder if any has survived from the 1867-68 period.”
I checked several sources for references to Ross, Anderson and Rockwell and for references to racetracks in the Cornwallis township and didn’t have much luck. A. W. H. Eaton’s Kings County history mentions a “Kentville Trotting Park” near the Aldershot Camp grounds, and its existence was confirmed by Advertiser columnist/assistant editor Brent Fox in his Aldershot Camp history. There was no reference to Rockwell or to Ross as a Kentville JP in an 1864-65 directory, nor any reference to either man in papers written on Kentville around the period the race took place.
One George N. Rockwell is shown as a grandson of Planter grantee Joseph Rockwell in Eaton’s Kings County history. This may be the Rockwell Ms. Trask refers to but there’s no way to tell for certain.
Anyway, I hope to hear from a reader or two about this historical tidbit from Kentville’s early days. Please contact me if you have anything on the race.