Here’s a question for you history buffs: What part of Kentville was once known as Redden Row and why?
Louis Comeau, author of the book Historic Kentville, will have no problem answering this question instantly. But not so this history buff. Ask me about Redden Row before I received electronic mail recently from Kings County Museum curator Bria Stokesbury and I would’ve been baffled – even though Louis Comeau mentions it in his book.
In case the question left you as brain locked as me, here’s what Stokesbury wrote: “How many people know that Main Street Kentville used to be called Redden Row after William Redden?” Stokesbury mentioned that a photograph of Redden Row had just been donated to the Museum, which prompted her note, and she thought the story behind it might be of interest.
It certainly is. William Redden (1815-1894) was at one time one of Kentville’s leading citizens. So prominent was he that Arthur W. H. Eaton included a personal sketch of William in his Kings County history, noting that he was a builder, farmer, miller, and trader. A large part of residential Kentville owes its existence to Redden, said Eaton, a reference to the fact that William built a large number of houses along Main Street. The material growth and prosperity of Kentville was to a “marked degree” identified with Redden reads his obituary.
Eaton and other historical writers also pay tribute to Henry Magee, another prominent Kentville citizen and one of its first settlers. Magee, who died in 1806 at age 67, also was Kentville’s first major businessman, and is said to have built the town’s first store and grist mill near Mill Brook.
William Redden and Henry Magee are part of Kentville’s little known Irish element. Magee was born in Northern Ireland, while William was one generation removed from the auld sod, the son of a Dublin man, James Redden. As I said, the influence of a few Irish immigrants on Kentville isn’t recognized. Better known are the Websters, Chipmans, Pecks and Masters. The Moores, another influential early Kentville family, are also of Irish origin, as are the Ryans who once were prominent in Kentville politics and the militia.
Descendants of James Redden and the Moores still live in Kentville and the vicinity. Redden Avenue in North Kentville is named after one of James Redden’s descendants; this street name may be the only remaining reminder of the Irish influence on the early development of Kentville.