CORA’S LEGACY – A HISTORY OF KINGSPORT (October 17/06)

In its heyday, Kingsport could boast of having three hotels, a shipyard, a mill and a shipping trade. A rail line, the Cornwallis Valley Railway, connected Kingsport and its port with the province’s transportation system. As well, the port was linked to other Minas Basin communities via a ferry, the renowned Kipawo.

Today Kingsport is a bustling, attractive seaside community with a popular beach and a rejuvenated wharf. The shipyard, mill, and hotels, along with the railway line and the ferry, are long gone. Gone as well are Kingsport’s glory days as a commercial port, and it no longer ranks as an important county link with other vital ports along the Atlantic shore.

Those days may be gone, but to use a well-worn cliché, they’re far from forgotten.

Thanks to a Kingsport schoolteacher, the history of the community from roughly the period the Planters arrived down to modern times has been preserved. By accessing various historical resources, and more importantly, interviewing longtime residents, Cora Atkinson compiled a history of what was once a vibrant and important Kings County seaport. Kingsport By the Sea was published in 1980.

I’m not sure of the exact number but I believe only a hundred of the original book, with text only, were printed. A second edition, with many old photographs of Kingsport added, soon followed. The second edition has been long out of print and is difficult to find. A few worn copies can still be found in libraries around the county.

However, if you’re interested in Atkinson’s work there’s good news. History buffs will be pleased to hear that last year the community of Kingsport decided to reissue Atkinson’s book. June Barkhouse, whose husband George is Atkinson’s nephew, tells me the community decided to preserve Cora’s legacy and to make sure her book is never out of print. The third edition book was reprinted as a CAP project.

June Barkhouse describes Atkinson’s compilation of the book as “thorough and researched very carefully,” and it required little revising. Barkhouse tells me the only change they made from the original was the addition of civic numbers to the properties that are described. I was pleased to see that those delightful old photographs, many from Kingsport’s glory days, were retained in the reprint.

Only a limited number of the reprints were produced, Barkhouse says, and most have already been sold. A few copies of the book are still available at Kingsport’s CAP site. The cost is $10. However, while a limited number of the third issue were reprinted, the community has plans to issue more in the near future. “We don’t want the book to ever be out of print again,” Barkhouse says.

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