The research on place names in Kings County by Charles Bruce Fergusson and Arthur W. H. Eaton tells us Kentville was known to the Mi’kmaq as Penooek, or Pineo’s place after a settler. The original Mi’kmaq name, according to Silas Rand in his History of the Indians of Nova Scotia was Obsitquetchk, meaning a fording place.
Fergusson and Eaton both say that early on, after the Planters arrived, Kentville came to be known as Horton Corner. Mabel Nichols writes that Kentville was also called the Devil’s Half Acre but her book by that name is the only reference I can find in print that claims this.
What the Acadians called the area around Kentville isn’t known. The town assumed its grandiose name in 1826 after the Duke of Kent made a flying visit through the area. The Duke apparently made a pit stop at the Royal Oak Inn and this was enough to name the town after him.
As I’ve shown here with Kentville, if you look into the origin of Kings County place names in you’ll usually find interesting and sometimes controversial history on how they came about. To give another example to illustrate this, let’s look at Wolfville.
Charles Bruce Fergusson (in Place-Names and Places of Nova Scotia) writes that Wolfville was once referred to as Mud Creek. The name was changed to Wolfville in 1829 or 1830 in deference to the prominent De Wolf family. Mud Creek is the title of the town’s unofficial history, a book in which the editors agree with Fergusson. But as you’ll see, not all researchers go along with this.
In his book, My Real Name is Charley, Glen Hancock writes that Wolfville was once known as Little Discharge Creek, and also as Horton and Upper Horton. There was a tidal – and muddy – creek about where the duck pond and tourist bureau are located and it may have been dyked, as is suggested in the town’s history. The name “Little Discharge Creek” may be puzzling but keep in mind that in nearby Grand Pre there’s a Great Discharge Creek that controls tidal waters. Similar dykeing on a smaller scale may have been attempted at Wolfville, hence the “little” appellation.
Port Williams is another example of a place with an interesting history on how it acquired its name. Again quoting Fergusson, Port Williams was once known as Terry’s Creek after one of the earliest Planter families to settle in this area. This is confirmed by A. W. H. Eaton who tells us that Captain John Terry was a Cornwallis grantee in 1761.
Apparently, the residents of Terry’s Creek didn’t think this name for their village was suitable. Or as the Port Williams history (The Port Remembers) puts it: In 1856, a meeting of the citizens voted to “change the name to something with a more important connotation.” Port Williams was selected in honour of Sir Fenwick Williams of Annapolis Royal. What connection Williams had or has with the Port Williams area isn’t revealed in the Port Williams history.
Like Kentville and Wolfville, the town of Berwick also had at least three or four early names. Canning is another example of a village with a couple of different early names – Apple Tree Landing and Habitant Corner, for example. Even communities such as Canard, Greenwich and so on had a variety of early names, all reflecting either their Mi’kmaq, Acadian or Planter connections.