“Prior to his first election as Mayor of the town, Mr. Pelton served four years as councilor, these added to his six years as Mayor constitutes a record which has not been equaled in the Town Council of Kentville.”
This was one of the many tributes paid to Archibald Leander Pelton when The Advertiser announced his untimely death in 1928. “During these years,” The Advertiser continued, “his restless energy and progressive views have been largely responsible for the favorable position in which the town finds itself today.”
This was fine praise indeed, and looking back at the life of A. L. Pelton from this vantage point, it was well earned. As well as noting his years of service to the town, The Advertiser hailed Pelton as one of the pioneers in the automobile business, as a business leader and a leading socialite.
There’s little doubt Pelton was an automotive pioneer. In his history of the McKay Motor Car, which was first made in Kentville, William H. McCurdy notes that the McKay brothers, Jack and Dan, depended on Pelton to provide “production knowledge as well as a general knowledge of the automobile.” Pelton was indeed familiar with the “one lunger” engines that drove the early automobiles; he acquired this knowledge through apprenticeship with an American company that made farm machinery with one cylinder gasoline engines.
Pelton’s role in the manufacture of the McKay Car has undoubtedly been understated. Without Pelton’s expertise, it’s unlikely the manufacture of automobiles in Kentville beginning about 1910 may never have happened. Pelton also opened the first automobile dealership in the province and he can be considered a pioneer here as well.
Between 1904 and 1925, Pelton was the distributor for at least seven makes of automobile, among them the Studebaker, Oldsmobile, Franklin and Gray Dort. It‘s noted in his obituary that he sold some of the first automobiles in Nova Scotia; for a long time he maintained one of the largest automotive dealerships in Nova Scotia and possibly in the Maritimes. “His firms, A. L. Pelton and Company, of Kentville and Halifax,” reads The Advertiser obituary “was known throughout the Maritime provinces as at least one of the most important in the auto business in the East.”
As noted in the obituary, Pelton took a keen interest in what was happening in Kentville. “During the many years he served as Mayor and Councilor, he devoted large portions of his time in looking after civic affairs,” reads The Advertiser obituary. “The remarkable progress (Kentville) has made in the past two decades was due to his efforts.”
Pelton may have been one of the first to travel across most of Canada by automobile. In 1911, Pelton and Dan Mckay drove one of the McKay cars, a 1911 model, from Kentville to Regina, a distance of 2600 miles. The object of the drive was to set up a Canada-wide chain of distributors for the McKay car. As far as is known this never happened, writes McCurdy in his history of the Mckay car, but several models were sold by a dealer in Saskatoon.
Pelton has never been formally recognized for his role as an automotive pioneer or for his contributions to the success of Kentville as the leading town in the Annapolis Valley. Perhaps with the town’s anniversary of incorporation being observed this year, this will be rectified.