SALUTING EDITH QUINN – HISTORICAL WRITER (September 4/12)

When Edith Quinn passed away on June 22 in Guelph, Ontario, her obituary noted that her “heart belonged to Nova Scotia.”  Indeed, it did. Quinn lived most of her long life here – she was in her 101st year at the time of her death – and was a Greenwich native.

Surprisingly, Quinn’s obituary failed to mention her great accomplishment.  Quinn researched and compiled one of the most scholarly, in depth histories ever written about communities and villages in Kings County.  Her book is unrivalled for interest and as a historical source on early times in Kings County and the area in and around Greenwich.  In my opinion, only Arthur W. H. Eaton’s history of Kings County surpasses her book for historical content.

That book is Greenwich Times, the history of Greenwich, a community with important links to the Planter settlement of Kings County.  Quinn begins her book with a brief look at the period just before arrival of Planters in Kings County, taking us on a historical adventure through the 18th and 19th century, closing her work midway through the 20th century.

Quinn deserved high praise for the research she conducted in writing the history of Greenwich.  Some of what she includes in her book may be familiar to us through Eaton’s work.  However, Eaton attempted to cover the entire county and it was beyond him perhaps, and beyond the scope of his book to enter into detail about the countless communities comprising Kings County.

Quinn, on the other hand, concentrated solely on Greenwich and the immediate surrounding area.  As a result, we are given an intimate history of a community, something Eaton had to forgo doing due to the scope of his county history.

Until her obituary appeared in the Kings County Advertiser on July 3, Edith Quinn was to me a woman of mystery.  From reading her book I knew she was a Greenwich native.  But by the time I got involved in writing historical columns and inquiring about her, she was living with her immediate family on Ontario.  Many people around Greenwich and Wolfville knew her, of course, since she spent most of her life here until her late years.  I belatedly discovered she had been invited to our wedding in Greenwich over 50 years ago and my wife still treasures her shower gift.

About a decade ago, when she was 92, Edythe Quinn decided to write about her early life in Kings County.  In her “Memories of Edith Forsythe Quinn” she tells us she was born in Greenwich and her family later moved to Greenwich Ridge where she grew up.  In a later column I’ll pass along her account of growing up in an early 20th century farm community where there was no plumbing, no electricity and transportation was by horse and buggy or shank’s mare.

Briefly, after Quinn left school she took a secretarial course at Mack Business College in Kentville and worked at various jobs, including six years at Minas Basin Pulp & Power.  While working there Quinn obtained her pilot’s license at Waterville, an accomplishment she mentions as if it was trivial, even though she had to make a forced landing on her solo flight.  At age 37 she was accepted at the Victoria General Hospital to train as a nurse, graduating in February, 1952. Later, while vacationing in British Columbia, she met James Quinn and they were married in 1953.

Quinn’s daughter, Penny Irish, writes that her mother returned to Greenwich in 1959 with her husband and daughter and took over her father’s farm.  Quinn notes in the introduction to her book that it was the work of Mrs. Burpee L. Bishop who inspired her to write the Greenwich history.  Some of the research Bishop had done on Greenwich and the scrapbooks she kept formed the basis of Quinn’s book.   Additional research – Quinn spent countless hours at the Provincial Archives, digging through old deeds and newspaper files and talking with people – eventually led to publication of Greenwich Times.

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