TIME, FUNDY FOGS KILLED TELEGRAPH SYSTEM (January 27/09)

In June, 1794, writes Arthur W. H. Eaton in his Kings County history, “his Royal Highness Prince Edward, Duke of Kent …. made a journey on horseback through the valley.” The good Duke stopped in Wolfville, apparently ignoring Horton Corner; but 32 years later, to honor the Duke’s visit to the Valley, Horton Corner changed its name to Kentville.

The name of the county’s shiretown is a constant reminder that the Duke once visited nearby. However, Prince Edward left behind evidence other than a place name that his Royal presence once graced Nova Scotia. Edward is credited with establishing a telegraph/semaphore system that provided communication links between military posts from one end of the province to the other. The Duke planned as well to extend his communications network into New Brunswick and from there into Quebec.

This is well documented; by Thomas Raddall in a 1947 Dalhousie Review article, for example, and by James H. Morrison in a 1981 article in the collection of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society.

To establish the communications network, a series of signal stations were constructed, first in outposts around the harbor area in Halifax, then from Halifax to Fort Edward in Windsor and then to Annapolis Royal. The stations were built on high ground and manned by the military. On average, the stations were seven to eight miles apart and communications were conducted with a series of visual signals, using a combination of flags, balls and pennants.

A series of the Duke’s signal stations were built in the Valley; this is what I meant when I said evidence other than place names remains to remind us of the Duke’s visit. A map in the Nova Scotia Archives indicates that the telegraph system was to run from Halifax down the Valley to the Annapolis Basin. “I hear it is to be communicated across from the high grounds back of Cornwallis (Kings County) to the Isle of Haut,” wrote a Captain Lyman to Edward Winslow in 1800.

The “high grounds back of Cornwallis” is likely a reference to the ridges that run from south of Wolfville and westerly, the area we call the South Mountain. Where signal stations were located on the ridges in Kings County) has been difficult to determine. However, a New Brunswick historian, W. E. (Gary) Campbell has unearthed evidence of stations in Falmouth, Mount Uniacke, Wilmot and Aylesford. Folklore passed on from generation to generation speaks of signal stations located on the high ground south of Wolfville, southwest of Kentville and south of Coldbrook and Cambridge.

A rough timeline re the telegraph system: 1794 – Duke of Kent commander of military forces in Halifax. 1795 – began building communications system in Halifax. 1797 – system extended to Windsor and by 1799 to Annapolis. The plan to extend the system across the Bay of Fundy was stalled by the ever present fog and eventually abandoned. By 1802, the Duke having departed Nova Scotia, the line connecting Halifax and Annapolis were abandoned. Only vestiges of the stations through the Annapolis Valley remain today, along with folklore, and only a few have been pinpointed in Kings County.

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