In her book on Kentville, The Devil’s Half Acre, Mabel Nichols writes the town received this unflattering nickname due to the boisterous lifestyle of its inhabitants. Except for a few websites that repeat what Nichols wrote, this is the only evidence I’ve found referring to this nickname. Early on the hamlet that eventually became a town was known as Horton Corner. This is corroborated by the man who wrote the definitive history of Kings County, Arthur W. H. Eaton.
This year Kentville celebrates the 125th year of incorporation as a town. However, another anniversary will be coming up. In 1826 the inhabitants of Horton Corner decided their village, the leading commercial and railway centre of the Valley, should have a distinctive name. On April 19, 1826, a notice was published in the Nova Scotian proclaiming that at a public meeting the residents of Horton Corner “have resolved that their growing village should in future be called Kentville in honour of His late Royal Highness, the Duke of Kent.”
In April, 2026, the town will begin celebrating 200 years being known far and wide as Kentville. When it first adopted this name the village had a few stores and according to an article published in a Wolfville newspaper, “two grist mills, two manufactories for fulling and dyeing cloth” and two facilities for carding wool.
By 1926, however, the town had expanded considerably, thanks to the railway, and had become the largest, most prosperous towns in the province. The town didn’t let this important anniversary pass unmarked; in August of 1826 the town held a three-day celebration marking its 100th anniversary, a celebration that was to have a far reaching effect on future events in this area.
In 1926 the town fathers planned a three-day celebration that a few years later evolved into the apple blossom festival. There was a grand street parade in 1926, for example. A queen of the carnival was chosen with young ladies from the counties of Kings, Hants and Annapolis competing for the honor. Much like today, decorated floats and bands passed along Kentville streets during the grand street parade. There were athletic and musical events as well and like our current festival the event wound up with a “dance and evening frolic.” This was an open air event on Webster Street that concluded with the crowning of the festival queen.
The town fathers went all out to observe the 100th anniversary of the town adopting the name of Kentville. Some of those town fathers were so pleased with the celebration that several years later they became active in creating a similar event. As I mentioned, this event became the apple blossom festival.