HANTS AND KINGS COUNTY HISTORICAL WRITERS (February 20/18)

(Third in a series saluting local historical writers past and present)

James Doyle Davison (1910-2003) will undoubtedly be best remembered as the editor of the definitive Wolfville history, Mud Creek. He was a prolific historical writer, however, co-authoring and editing three Baptist church histories (Springhill, Margaree and Berwick) writing a trio of books on the Planter family, the Chipmans, a history of the Davison family (Planter Davison Fivesome) a book on camping in northern Nova Scotia and several historical papers centered on Wolfville.

One of Davison’s last works (published in 1990) was a history of the old Wolfville burial ground, What Mean These Stones. This book resulted from Davison supervising the restoration of the Wolfville burial ground on Main Street, which was opened in 1763. Of the trio of Chipman books, the most interesting is titled Handley Chipman, Kings County Planter. The life of Handley Chipman (1717-1799) and early Planter life in Kings County is examined in detail in this book.

A native of Moncton, James Doyle Davison graduated from Acadia University in 1937. As a clergyman, Davison spent almost 50 years in the United Baptist ministry, nearly 20 of them in Wolfville where he retired in 1983.

A graduate of Acadia University with Master’s degree in history, Kentville’s Brent Fox is the author of three books, all with historical themes. His best-known work is a history of Camp Aldershot (Camp Aldershot, Serving Since 1904) a book that looks at the military base from the time it opened in 1904 a few miles north of Kentville and until it became a militia base after the departure of the Black Watch in 1959.

Fox also wrote one of only two histories that have been compiled on the Wellington Dyke. This book, titled The Wellington Dyke, A History of the Canard River Dyke System, was published in 1985 and is an in-depth look at the magnificent effort it took to dam the entire Canard River system. The Camp Aldershot book was published in 1983 and is still in print. Fox’s third book, The Captain Calls, is also a military history which profiles some of Nova Scotia’s earlier military leaders.

Brent Fox worked in Annapolis Valley weekly newspapers for 23 years before retiring nine years ago. He was an editor and an associate editor with the Hants Journal and The Advertiser.

Donald F. Ripley 1934-2009) wrote one of the most hilarious, most chatty history books ever compiled on the Nova Scotia military. Published in 1991, The Home Front is a book about military life in Camp Aldershot during the Second World War. Basically, the book is a series of military anecdotes but Ripley nicely manages to capture the mood prevalent in Camp Aldershot during wartime.

Donald Ripley’s second historical work was published in 1992. Thine Own Keeper is a book about life at the Nova Scotia Sanatorium between 1904 and 1977. As he did with the Camp Aldershot book, Ripley includes anecdotes, most of them about patients at the San. Some of the key men and women who pioneered tubercular treatment at the San are profiled in the book. The third book by Ripley, Bagman, A Life in Nova Scotia Politics, was published in 1993. Well known as an athlete in his younger days, Ripley was a Kentville native. He also wrote several books of fiction that were published in the United States.

In the 1990s Frances E. Taylor decided to write a book on the history of Cambridge, Kings County, her home community. This was with the possibility of “printing a little booklet,” Taylor says, but this evolved into a 300-page history “with lots of stories, pictures and genealogies.” The book, The History of Cambridge (To the Best of My Knowledge) was published in 2002.

The Cambridge history turned out to be the first of three books that Taylor would write. After she and her husband David moved from Cambridge to Black Rock she became interested in the history of the area. The result was Over the Years with the subtitle Families of Black Rock, Canady Creek, Garland, Chipman Brook and Ross Corner. Published in 2009, the book contained the genealogies of over 100 families of the Black Rock area. Taylor’s third book (News and Views of Black Rock, Canady Creek, Chipman Brook and Ross Corner) was published a year later and was also historical in theme. All three of Taylor’s are in print.

“Writing has been an enjoyable hobby,” Ms. Taylor says and her fans undoubtedly hope she has a fourth historical book in the works. As well as being a member of the Rug Hooking Guild of Nova Scotia Taylor also paints and has had her acrylics posted in the art gallery at the Valley Regional Hospital.

M. Allen Gibson (1919-2018) a Baptist Church minister, is well known to countless Nova Scotians through Churches by the Sea, a column he wrote for the Chronicle-Herald for over 40 years. In addition to some 1560 Churches columns he wrote 25,000 editorials in the daily paper and for several years his Interludes column ran in the paper’s supplement, the Novascotian. Dr. Gibson also published 15 books, most with a theological theme.

Dr. Gibson is saluted here for a single work, a book about Wolfville trains. Train Time (subtitle Nostalgic Glimpses of a Wolfville Boyhood during which Train Watching was a Happy Pastime) was published in 1973 by Lancelot Press in Windsor. As can be deduced from the subtitle the book is about trains, trains as they could be observed and photographed in the 1930s, the period when Dr. Gibson grew up in Wolfville. Unfortunately, this gem of a book, which is definitely a “collectible” has been out of print for many years.

While he spent more than 30 years working out of Kentville as an editor with The Advertiser and with Cameron Publications, the late Harold L. Woodman will likely best be remembered for his historical writing. In 1992 Lancelot Press of Hantsport published Woodman’s pictorial history of the apple blossom festival. This is the only published history of the festival and it starts with the event originating as a summer carnival in Kentville in the late 1920s. This is a most readable book, with many anecdotes concerning many of the festival fathers, of whom Woodman was well acquainted.

Woodman also published one other historical book. On the March, a history of the Annapolis Valley Affiliated Boards of Trade was released in 1985. During his tenure as an editor, Woodman wrote a weekly column in which he commented on local events but often was historical. The collection of columns, Between the Lines, was published as a paperback by Kentville Publishing in 1983.

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