Kentville marks the anniversary of its incorporation this year, and interest in the town’s history is peaking. Several of my recent columns have dealt with Kentville’s history but I’ve barely touched on its past (Column 1, Column 2, Column 3, Column 4, Column 5, Column 6, Column 7, Column 8, Column 9, Column 10, Column 11). If you’re a history buff and would like to know more about the town’s history I’ll suggest a number of excellent sources.
The obvious place to start is the Kings County Museum. There you’ll find Eaton’s Kings County history, Mabel Nichols Kentville history (The Devil’s Half Acre) and Louis Comeau’s pictorial history of the town.
Eaton’s history has a chapter on Kentville and various references to the town throughout the book. This work was recently put on line, so there’s computer access as well if you like reading history on a screen. Comeau’s book has a timeline for the town but if you’re like me and enjoy looking at old photographs, this is a superb book to peruse. The book has 158 pages. Except for the introduction there’s at least one old-time Kentville photograph per page and in some cases two, so there’s lots of interesting history to look at.
Mabel Nichols book has a few photographs as well and it’s the only in depth look at the town’s history from the early days up to recent times. This is the book to read if you’d like to know how Kentville became the leading town in the Valley. I just spent some eight hours going through the book from cover to cover and the detail in it is amazing. While it can be found in the museum, this book is currently out of print. I don’t think I’m letting the cat out of the bag by saying this soon will be rectified.
As well as being available at the museum all three of the above books can also be found at the local library. Comeau’s book is also in local bookstores such as R. D. Chisholms in Kentville.
At the museum as well is Heather Davidson’s historical glimpse of Kentville. This is a short treatise on the town’s past but is well worth looking at. Also at the museum are two excellent papers on Kentville. Leslie Eugene Dennison’s work, Kentville and Vicinity a Half Century Ago, was published as a series in The Advertiser in 1932. This is a personal look at the town and is far from being hard history. Almost along the same line but more scholarly is E. J. Cogwell’s Kentville – An Historic Sketch. This was published in 1895 in The Western Chronicle, a newspaper based for a time in Kentville.
Finally, I have to suggest another source on Kentville that’s accessible at the museum. The museum has five community history binders which consist of newspaper clippings from Kentville’s past. Take it from me. Once you start flipping through the pages of these binders, you can’t stop. I like to think of it as history through obituaries, births and weddings but it’s much more than that as you’ll discover.