In 1932 a member of a pioneer Kentville family decided he would write a series of newspaper articles about the town. Leslie Eugene Dennison’s articles were published in The Advertiser over a period of about a year.
While mainly reminiscent in tone (Dennison said it was “Reminiscences of an ‘Upstreeter’ of the Beautiful Town Embowered in Blossoms) the articles describe Kentville in the late 1870s, the period leading up to incorporation. It was an interesting place at the time. In the downtown core, where banks and business blocks now stand, there were tethering posts and blacksmith shops; it was common for Kentville citizens to keep cows in pastures that are now parking lots.
“Kentville 60 years ago,” writes Dennison, “was a small country village. Its inhabitants were chiefly the descendants of the first settlers, with a few families of railroad officials and workers from the Old Country. Ox teams were common in the streets.”
Describing what eventually would become the town’s business core, Dennison said three blacksmith shops stood on lots now occupied by prominent buildings. “Thomas Cox had a shop on Church Street, near St. James Church. Otho Eaton had one on the south side of Webster Street, opposite the post office, and I do not remember the name of the blacksmith shop on Canaan Road.”
Blacksmith shops were necessary in Kentville’s pre-incorporation days. The automobile was yet to arrive and the horse and ox were the chief means of transportation and labor. Kentville’s blacksmith shops were “great gathering places for men from the nearby farms,” writes Dennison, since here besides shoeing horses and oxen, all sorts of iron work was carried on.
We learn from Dennison musings that Lee Neary was Kentville’s “first uniformed police chief,” that before Gallows Hill earned its grisly name it was called Beech Hill and Wickwire Hill at the town’s eastern edge was once Bishop Hill.
Kentville in pre-incorporation days obviously was much more than the country village Dennison that calls it. Dennison mentions the town had two newspapers, five hotels, five churches, several mills and 26 businesses offering a variety of goods and services. It appears that Kentville, on the verge of incorporation, was a thriving commercial center and at the time was the leading hamlet in the Annapolis Valley.