In her book on Kentville, Mabel Nichols writes that the town was once known as Horton Corner – and by the roustabouts and others frequenting its taverns as the Devil’s Half Acre; hence the name for her town history.
As most people know, and as Nichols mentions in her book’s introduction, the town was named in honour of Edward the Duke of Kent. The town’s website notes this as well, adding that Prince Edward visited here while travelling from Halifax to Annapolis in 1794, staying overnight at the Oak Inn or tavern. Some sources give that year of the Duke’s visit as 1806 followed by a question mark.
Except for Charles Bruce Fergusson writing in Place-Name and Places of Nova Scotia that the “original English name” of Kentville was Horton Corner, I’ve yet to find other documentation that this was once was the official name for the town. In fact from what I’ve read, the epithet “Horton Corner” was looked upon unfavourably by residents of the hamlet, as you will see in the quote below from an 1826 newspaper.
That esteemed county historian, Arthur W. H. Eaton, gives credibility to Nichols and Fergusson’s claim about Horton Corner. “The hamlet was first known as Horton Corner,” Eaton writes. No less an authority than onetime provincial archivist W. C. Milner – in his book The Basin of Minas and its Early Settlers – saw fit to quote (and not contradict) a Kentville historian who in 1895 wrote that Horton Corner – unofficially or otherwise – was the hamlet’s name. However, a couple of sources mention that “Pineo Place” was an accepted early name for what eventually was to become Kentville.
I suspect merchants and the hamlet’s citizens detested the undignified Horton Corner epithet. By 1826, and well before the railroad arrived, Kentville was a bustling commercial center, possibly the largest, most prominent town in the county, with Wolfville close behind in second place and either Canning or Berwick a distant third. Kentville may have owed its prominence to the presence of Henry Magee’s store, established circa 1788, that in its time was the equivalent of today’s Wal-Mart, Sobeys and Target stores combined.
In April of 1826 the Acadian Recorder (a weekly newspaper published in Halifax) carried a notice advising the public that the village known informally as Horton Corner would henceforth be known as Kentville. Here’s the notice in part in which you’ll see that Horton Corner was not the generally accepted name for the hamlet:
“At a meeting lately held here by the subscribers towards building a central schoolhouse for Kings County, upon an extended plan, in that part of Horton which, being at one extremity of the township, and having no distinguishing name formally bestowed upon it, has of late generally received the absurd epithet of Horton Corner; it was unanimously agreed by those present (being the most of the principal inhabitants of the place) the High Sheriff of the County in the chair, that in honor of the memory of his late Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, so generally esteemed in this colony, their increasing village should be called ‘Kentville’.”
The newspaper notice concluded with: “We hope that the voluntary tribute of gratitude from this portion of the country …. will not be lost sight of, and that the village, in which stands the Court House of Kings County will, in future, be known by the name of Kentville.”