HISTORICAL GLIMPSES (February 15/16)

It apparently was after retiring in Wolfville that provincial archivist W. C. Milner compiled and published a collection of historical articles on the Minas Basin.  As I said before when I wrote about the collection in this column, it likely was published circa 1930 in Wolfville. It’s an extremely rare book. I was fortunate to find a copy in Ottawa; there’s a copy (the only other one I know of) in the Kirkconnell Room at Acadia University.

As the provincial archivist, W. C. Milner was in an ideal position to access historical records, but why he decided to publish a historical collection on the Minas Basin isn’t known; however, the result of his decision to do so is an excellent collection of historical articles – about 70 in all – on the early days around the Minas Basin and especially in and around Kings County.

From the Acadians to the Planters and to the shipbuilding period, Milner covered a lot of early Kings County in his collection.  The collection is not as extensive a work as Eaton’s county history, however. Yet I’d rank it at least next to Eaton’s book for in-depth historical glimpses of Kings County.

One excerpt from Milner’s book, the Moccasin Hollow massacre (or battle) around the west end border of Kentville, is an example of what I mean.  Eaton is skimpy on the details, only devoting a paragraph or two to the event, all of it based on second hand reports of another historian.  Milner’s book contain an article written in 1895 by a Kentville researcher who says that the Moccasin Hollow event took place shortly after the Noble massacre in Grand Pre; the two events were connected in other words – Eaton doesn’t make this connection – and involved some of the same combatants.

In his book Milner included short historical sketches of Kentville, Wolfville, Canning, Greenwich, Port Williams and Kingsport.  The book takes in the broad area Kings County comprised before it was downsized, explaining why there are historical sketches on communities in areas adjacent to Kings County, like Parrsboro and Hantsport, for example.

While it probably isn’t complete, Milner’s book lists many of the sailing ships built in greater Kings County during the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century; said list contains the names of the ships, the tonnage and the names of the shipbuilders or owners, making it a valuable reference for marine historians.   Such a list, by the way, wasn’t included in Eaton’s Kings County history.

Getting back to Milner’s book being published in Wolfville (and printed at the Wolfville newspaper office) he may have had family connections there.  Wolfville historian John Whidden tells me there a record of Milner purchasing a house in Wolfville.  However, I was unable to find any mention of Milner in the Wolfville history, Mud Creek, or in other lists of Wolfville occupants in the 20th century.

One more by the way.  I mentioned Milner’s book being rare.  Possibly only a limited number of copies were printed and most appear to have disappeared.  One of my pastimes is searching the online inventories of book dealers for historical books, and for Milner’s book especially.  If copies of the book exist besides the two mentioned, they must be privately held.

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