While reading early deeds on property in Kings County, historian Gary Young discovered that road names sometimes originated with the prominent people who lived on them.
Take Oakdene Avenue in north Kentville, for example. In his research, Young learned that the avenue once was referred to as Barnaby Road simply because only Barnabys lived on it. Young found that some deeds he looked at also called the avenue Westcott Road, due to a blacksmith named Westcott having a shop at its far end.
I’ll have more later on the prodigious amount of research Young has done on the origin of roads and the history of areas such as Pine Woods and Aldershot. For now I’d like to concentrate on a hill and a road in Kentville’s north side that deserves recognition. Actually, this is a challenge to the Kentville Historical Society and Kings Historical Society. Is it not possible for these societies to recognize that according to old deeds, historical documents and newspapers, Kentville’s infamous Gallows Hill and Cornwallis Street were once known as Joe Bell Hill and Joe Bell Road?
As Gary Young’s research reveals, Joe Bell Hill and Joe Bell Road refer to a person associated with these places. So, you may ask, who was Joe Bell? First of all, I have no birth or death dates for the gentleman but I’ve established that he was an African Nova Scotian who lived along the section of Cornwallis Street that runs up Gallows Hill. Kentville collector Louis Comeau told me a few years ago that a Kentville Hospital Association document from the 1920s lists a property along Gallows Hill as Joe Bell’s cottage. This document establishes Joe Bell’s residence there at one time. As can be seen from the following, there also are documents, historical articles and newspaper references indicating that Joe Bell Road and Joe Bell Hill once were in common used.
Writing in a Kings County newspapers in the 1890s, Arthur W. H. Eaton (the author of the History of Kings County) notes that a road that came into Kentville from the north ran “through the Dry Hollow by Charles Jones and over the Joe Bell Hill.” In his county history, Eaton writes that the Dry Hollow road enters Kentville after crossing Gallows Hill or Joe Bell Hill.
Kentville magistrate Edmond Cogswell, who wrote historical articles in country newspapers in the 1880s and 1890s, confirms that Joe Bell’s residence was on what we now call Cornwallis Street. “The most remarkable thing about this road,” Cogswell wrote in 1892, “is that for many years, right on the steepest part of the hill …. lived old Joseph Bell, from which the hill takes its name.” Cogswell mentions Joe Bell Hill and Joe Bell several times in his newspaper articles. Bell, said Cogswell, lived to be about 100 years old.
Gary Young’s digging into various old property deeds establishes that some parts of Cornwallis Street, the section running north from the Kentville town bridge, once was referred to as Joe Bell Road. Young cites many examples of deeds referring to the northern section of Cornwallis Street, just over the bridge, as Joe Bell Road. An 1893 issue of the Western Chronicle, which was published in Kentville, also confirms that what is commonly referred to as Gallows Hill today was once called Joe Bell Hill.
So there it is. I’ve made a case for Joe Bell Hill and Joe Bell Road being authentic names that once were in common use and I’ve put a challenge out. I’m not suggesting we change the name of Cornwallis Street to Joe Bell Road but in some way the old names for the hill and the road should be publicly recognized.