In 1869 the first train arrived in Kentville. In the Kentville history, The Devil’s Half Acre, Mabel Nichols notes that the train arrived at 3:00, coming up from Annapolis in the afternoon with “conductor James Keys and Driver Billie Boyd” in charge.
Actually, two trains arrived that day, one up from Annapolis and one from Windsor; the trains arrived in Kentville around the same time with great fanfare followed by a grand banquet. This special moment in Kentville’s history was duly noted in Marguerite Woodworth’s history of the D.A.R. From that moment Woodworth says, Kentville became the railway town.
There’s little doubt the railway “made” Kentville. The Windsor and Annapolis Railway set up headquarters in town and maintained a magnificent hotel there; the day the first railroad tie was laid on the W & A line it became the largest employer in the town and in the Annapolis Valley.
Kentville thrived thanks to the railway but other “firsts” before and after incorporation contributed to the town maintaining a leading position in the Valley. Kentville had its first uniformed police officer in 1887, the year after incorporation. This was Robert Barry who served for part of two years and was followed by Thomas O’Grady, who served from 1888 to 1894, and the legendary Rupert Davis.
Less than a decade after incorporation, in 1892, the town literally lit up. In 1891 construction began on a steam operated power plant and electric lights were turned on “in the town and in the shops of the Windsor and Annapolis Railways” (Nichols) late the next year.
Kentville formed a fire department about two years after it was incorporated. In February of 1888 some 36 town citizens formed the Kentville Volunteer Fire and Protective Company. Many of the town’s prominent citizens were among the first officers to be elected and several future town leaders volunteered as ordinary firefighters.
Well before incorporation, in 1829, the first Kentville courthouse was constructed, a two-storey structure with a jail. Previously, the first courthouse and jail in Kings County were located near Horton Landing. Around the same time, in 1830, the first post office in Kentville was established. This was first located in the residence of the first postmaster (James Bragg, Sr.) in the back of the lot now occupied by Rockwell Home Hardware on Main Street.
Concrete sidewalks were laid in Kentville in 1914; four years later town roads were paved, a concession no doubt to the growing popularity of the automobile. In 1936 Kentville finally named all of the streets within the town, at the same time numbering buildings.
(Sources: Mabel Nichols’ The Devil’s Half Acre; Arthur W. H. Eaton’s History of Kings County).