LIFE IN KINGS COUNTY IN 1863 (November 9/15)

What did your great grandparent do when they wanted to post a letter, say 150 or so years ago, or if someone wanted to correspond with them by mail?

It would’ve been inconvenient in both cases, but certainly not impossible. Let’s look at the 1860s.   Say, for example, the year 1863, which is roughly 150 years go. At that time there were only six official post offices in Kings County with full time postmasters.  The six offices were located in the major towns and villages, much like they are today – in Kentville, Wolfville, Canning, Berwick, Aylesford and Lower Horton.

But this lack of post offices in great grandpappy’s day, which mostly was horse and buggy time, didn’t mean getting a letter out or receiving one was difficult.  Scattered throughout the county were 26 way offices, places along the way so to speak, where mail could be dropped off or picked up.  Where possible, the way offices were in community stores, but in isolated areas they usually were located in private dwellings.  Among the communities in 1864 with way offices, to give a few examples, were New Minas, Greenwich, Hall’s Harbour, Kingston, Lakeville, Port Williams and Sheffield Mills.

In 1863, Kings County was served by a stagecoach line (appropriately named King’s Stage Coaches) which daily ran from Windsor to Kentville and returned to Windsor the same day.  The same coach line ran to Annapolis three days a week, carrying mail on all its runs.  The railway line from Halifax into the Valley was nearing completion in 1863 and this would speed correspondence by mail and make the pokey old stage coach line obsolete.  Soon to be gone were the days when mail was carried by horseback and stage coach; which likely made everyone, especially our letter-writing great grandparents, modestly satisfied.

These are a few of the interesting facts about postal service in Kings County as it existed about 150 years go. The source for the postal trivia is a provincial directory published out of Halifax in 1863.

Here’s more historical trivia. The directory list of county residents indicates that at this time farming was the major occupation in Kings County.  Actually it was the occupation.  If you didn’t farm or you didn’t go to sea in your great grandpappy’s day, you only had a few other options.   However, farming, the gritty hands on work that had to be done to provide the basic staples of life, involved well over 80 percent, perhaps even as much as 90 percent of the population.

As noted, there were other occupations besides farming.  Some people made a living working at farm related trades – blacksmiths, tanners, farriers, harnessmakers and millers, for example.  A few people also made a living working as clerks, carpenters, merchants and teachers in this period and these occupations are mentioned in the list of county residents.

Among the people listed in Kings County in the 1863 directory some 200 served as Justices of the Peace, most of which likely were full time farmers.  There were nine coroners, and most interesting of all, only seven lawyers practising in Kings County in 1863 and six of these lived in Kentville.  The directory also listed every town, community and settlement in Nova Scotia and the total in Kings County at the time was 82.  One of them was the community of Hardscrabble in Lower Horton, which I have to admit I had never heard of before.

Some of the advertisements in the directory made the most interesting reading since they were indicative of the times.  For example, Nelson Hardenbrook was a “dealer in wool and wool skins” in Wolfville.  D. A. Munro & Co., also in Wolfville, manufactured sleighs and carriages, W. H. Harris of Canning advertised as a “merchant and shipowner,” and Charles Mullowney of Kentville let it be known that he was an importer of teas and tobacco.  Another Canning store offered “West India Goods,” and another store advised the public that it was a “sail loft” and stocked all the materials required for ship building.

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