PURPOSE OF TRENHOLM HILL TOWER A MYSTERY (September 16/13)

“If you’ve lived in the Gaspereau Valley or travelled through the area, you’ve no doubt noticed the tower that sits atop the hill,” Tarina Bambrick wrote in a summer issue of The Advertiser in 1992.

The tower, Bambrick said, was on the Wallbrook side of the Gaspereau River near the Ralph Stirling residence, on what is known locally as Trenholm Hill; near its base is an old graveyard.

Now, just over two decades later, there are a few more graves in the cemetery but little else has changed.  The tower still looms there on Trenholm Hill; dominating its surroundings for longer than most people can remember, it’s a curiosity of sorts, its origin and purpose bandied about.  The tiny graveyard near the base of the tower adds to the mystery of a structure that has long been speculated about.  Was it built as a look off, a watch tower, a tourist attraction or constructed on a whim?  No one seems to know for sure.

Tarina Bambrick was on the staff of The Advertiser in 1992 when she determined to learn the age of the tower and “how it came to be.”  Bambrick had grown up nearby, had visited the tower like most residents of the area, but it was only until she had been away and hadn’t seen it for 18 years that she became interested in its origin.

Bambrick’s historical research began by interviewing several senior residents around the Gaspereau Valley.  It seemed to be the logical way to discover the tower’s age, why it was built and who constructed it.  In a way this was a dead end when it came to learning the tower’s age; tallying up what seniors remembered about the tower, its age varied according to whom she was talking to.

For example, one of the seniors reckoned that the tower was built just after World War 1.  Based on the recollections of another interviewee, the tower was erected in 1908 0r 1909.  Based on yet another interview with a senior resident of the Gaspereau area, the tower was built around 1920 or in 1921.  These estimates are close to the actual age of the tower, as you will see shortly.

Recently I talked with Kay Stirling, who was interviewed by Tarina Bambrick for the 1992 article.  The Stirlings have owned the tower property for about 60 years, Ms. Stirling said. Stirling confirmed what Bambrick had learned through her research on the tower.   The gentleman who had the tower constructed was the late Harry Trenholm.  Mr. Trenholm employed Havelock Brown to build it.  Brown’s reputation as an expert carpenter, one of the best in the area, made him the natural choice to construct the tower.

It appears the consensus is Harry Trenholm built the tower as a family memorial, possibly for his mother.  This is what Kay Stirling believes. Also, it may have been a place the Trenholm family retired to on Sunday afternoons, the view from the tower being spectacular.

Nearly 15 meters high and standing on one of the highest hills in the area, the tower is an excellent look-off.  It’s claimed that one can see three counties, perhaps even four, from the tower on a clear day; much of the Gaspereau Valley and a bit of Minas Basin can be viewed from the tower.

As for the actual age of the tower, I was told by Kay Stirling that it likely has stood on the hill overlooking the Gaspereau River for about 110 years.  Ms. Stirling said when the tower was being renovated, newspapers dated 1902 were found in the walls, meaning undoubtedly the tower is into its second century and counting.

I checked on some of the headstones in the cemetery and found one dated 1905, that of Douglass A. Mitchell who was drowned in Boston Harbour.  Harry Trenholm, 1870 – 1945, the man who had the tower built, lies in the cemetery.  Buried there as well, according to the Rootsweb list of Kings County cemeteries are Bishops, Careys, Stirlings, Perrys and Tamlins.  I found markers/headstones for these families except for the Tamlins.

The tower has weathered well over the years, Tarina Bambrick wrote in 1992.  It still looks good today, thanks to the Stirlings keeping it up.  While the tower was accessible to the public at one time, due to vandalism the Stirlings had to put a gate on the road leading to it.   If you don’t mind the long climbing, the tower is accessible by foot.  As a courtesy to the family, I’m sure Kay Stirling would appreciate you asking for permission first before venturing up the hill

As I said, the view is spectacular.

Trenholm Tower

Looming high above the Gaspereau Valley for over a century, the original purpose of the Trenholm tower is still somewhat of a mystery. (E. Coleman)

Trenholm Tower cemetary

The old cemetery below Trenholm tower holds one headstone dated 1905. (E. Coleman)

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