WOLFVILLE IN 1869 (April 18/16)

When Arthur S. Davison, the first publisher of Wolfville’s The Acadian died in 1889, his brother Benjamin O. Davison took over the paper. Benjamin is saluted in the Wolfville history as a man of varied interests. Among those interests, which I discovered reading Mud Creek, was local history. Benjamin was a history buff (as well as one of the town’s leading citizen) so it was natural that old time Wolfville was his main interest.

Apparently Davison delved deeply into the history of Wolfville’s early days, especially the origin of its streets and houses. As a result of this research, he was inspired to write a series covering a period from about 1869 until 1930. The series, which he titled Wolfville in 1869, ran in The Acadian beginning late in 1945.

Davison’s articles were among several works that were referenced when the Mud Creek history was compiled. Early in the series he described Wolfville as it was when he was a schoolboy roaming up and down its streets and byways. This was around the time the railway arrived, a time when the muddy creek that ran up to where the duck pond is today was spanned by a trestle bridge.

Davison wrote that the Wolfville he knew in his boyhood days – he first saw the town in 1869 – “was very different than that of today.” One of the most important differences pertained to the railway, which at that time had its headquarters in Wolfville before moving to Kentville. That move came about due to a “lack of cooperation on the part of owners of land,” Davison wrote. I assume Davison meant that Wolfville landowners refused to part with land the railway required to construct roundhouses, machine shops, freights sheds, administrative buildings and so on.

In those early days Wolfville, along with Kingsport, was a busy harbour, according to Davison. “Many a noon hour I spent watching the vessels dock and sail and load and unload their cargoes. At one time I counted sixteen of these vessels at their moorings. In early days many vessels were built here at shipyards on both sides of the creek.” Later Mr. Davison writes that in the fall and spring the surrounding farmers “brought their potatoes for shipment (from the port) and the roads and wharves presented a busy scene. Ox-teams were parked by the roadside for a considerable distance in all directions waiting their chance to unload.”

Wolfville in those late 19th century days possessed a “furniture factory, a shoe factory, several carriage factories, two blacksmith shops, several shoemaking and harness shops and similar industries,” writes Davison. It also possessed what Davison called slums. “Mud bridge (the railway trestle bridge?) was the slum district of that day, in striking contrast with present conditions. The roadway was crooked and narrow (early east Main Street?) lined on one side by a row of decrepit tenements and one the other by the waterfront. As a boy I recall when I had occasion to pass that way keeping to the center of the road.”

Further summing up Wolfville as he first saw it in October, 1869, (and obviously ignoring “Mud bridge”) Davison observes that while it had “no paved streets or sidewalks, no street lights, no town government,” it was a “pretty well kept country village with many commodious homes.”

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