1906 TRADES, CRAFTS GONE LIKE THE DAR (May 16/06)

“Atchinson Henry W, emp DAR. h Aberdeen” the listing reads, and at first glance its puzzling. Another similar listing, equally mysterious at first, reads: “Best Harris R, pattern mkr Lloyd Mfg Co, bds Main.”

A glance or two at these listings and you’d soon see they aren’t so puzzling after all. Obviously Henry W. Atchinson was an employee of the Dominion Atlantic Railway and Harris R. Best was a pattern maker with the Lloyd Manufacturing Company. Being a history buff – you wouldn’t be reading this column otherwise – you’d probably conclude that since the DAR and Lloyds are long gone, Atchinson and Best must be listed in an old directory or some such earlier publication.

You’d be right. At the Kings County Museum is a list of adults who resided in Kentville some 100 years ago, 1906 to be precise. The listing gives occupations and the listee’s place of residence. I assume the “h Aberdeen” in Atchinson’s listing implies he owned a house located on Aberdeen Street; the “bds Main” in the Best listing was puzzling at first but I assume it means he resided as a boarder on Main Street and had no permanent residence.

The listing is part of the Museum’s permanent display on the history of Kentville, and was taken from MacAlpine’s Nova Scotia Directory for 1907-08. Obviously this is an invaluable resource for anyone doing research on their ancestors or on the town. As well as listing residents and occupation, it names many of the town’s industries, retail stores and business firms. The “h Aberdeen” and similar entries in the listings is another clue for researchers; since it indicates a listee is likely a property owner, it directs one to the vaults where old records and deeds are stored.

Looking carefully at the list of Kentville residents, one can also see how times have changed and we’re reminded of what has been lost in the town and in the Valley. In that list of Kentville residents are numerous employees of the DAR, machinists, engine cleaners, engineers, firemen and that like. Those railway trades, like the railway, have vanished and the MacAlpine list is a sad reminder of this fact.

One of the industries operating in Kentville when the list was compiled was the Nova Scotia Carriage Company, which circa 1868 started manufacturing a variety of carriages and sleighs, and later turned to automobile production. The MacAlpine list of Kentville residents notes that some employed by the carriage manufacturer worked as blacksmiths, painters, mounters, carriage trimmers, woodworkers, and so on. After the railway, the carriage manufacturer must have been the second largest employer in Kentville in 1906.

The Lloyds Manufacturing Company mentioned above had been established in Kentville for over a quarter century when MacAlpine compiled his directory. The list tells us Lloyds employed machinists, carpenters, firemen, pattern makers, and moulders among others in operating a foundry and machine shop.

Hostlers, blacksmiths, coopers, harness makers, master mariners, teamsters (and even a miner) are given as the trades or occupations of some Kentville residents in 1906, quaint reminders of how many once vital trades and crafts have disappeared over the past 100 years.

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