HISTORY LESSON BEECH HILL (July 18/11)

In 1932 Leslie Eugene Dennison wrote an article for The Advertiser describing Kentville as he remembered it in the mid-to late-19th century. Born in Kentville around 1865, Dennison moved to the States and for a time worked on the Boston Globe and Boston Post. Dennison apparently worked for the Boston newspapers and for newspapers in “all but one province” in Canada. The quote is from The Advertiser’s editor who noted that Dennison had served in three wars and was noted as a poet an d prose writer.

Over the years I’ve often quoted from Dennison’s article on Kentville and I did as recently as June 7 in this paper. I believe his “reminiscences” (as the editor called them) ran as a series in The Advertiser. Dennison described Kentville as he remembered it, and he had a fantastic memory. The streets of Kentville, the stores, schools, churches and especially the people whom he often described in detail, including a few personal quirks, are in his essay. This isn’t history in its truest sense; but if anyone decided to write another history of Kentville, Dennison’s article would be invaluable.

I’m rehashing Dennison’s essay for a reason. I learned when quoting him recently you have to be careful reading his descriptions of Kentville’s physical features. It appeared to me for example that Dennison lumped Gallows Hill and Beech Hill together; but I read this hastily, concluding erroneously the hill may once have been known by the latter name.

This was wrong. Beech Hill, as a reader pointed out, is on the opposite side of Kentville from Gallows Hill. Angus Corcoran gave me a history lesson on Beech Hill, mentioning several sources confirming this; Eaton’s Kings County history for one, the recently published book on Kings County schools for another, and the Ambrose Church map of Kings County.

Another work confirming the location of Beech Hill as south of Kentville is Charles Bruce Fergusson’s book, Place-Names and Places of Nova Scotia. Fergusson writes that Alton, which later was divided into North and South Alton, was once known as Beech Hill. Hutchinson’s Nova Scotia Directory for 1864-65 also lists Beech Hill as a thriving Kings County community with its own way office and 32 inhabitants, many of them Irish.

Besides mention in various historical works and maps, all that exists of this community today is what folks remember of it and a highway sign indicting the location, out at the far end of Chester Avenue, of Beech Hill Road.

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