KENTVILLE’S STORY – HOW TO START A TOWN (March 30/21)

By the tone of a news report in an 1826 spring issue of the Acadian Recorder, people at a recent general meeting in the village, then known as Horton Corner, were in an unhappy mood.

George Chipman, the High Sheriff of Kings County, chaired the meeting. On the agenda, the establishment of a central schoolhouse in the village, was dealt with swiftly by the assembly. We learn from the Acadian Reporter that a large room would be “appropriated (for) the introduction of the Madras system (one teacher and older students teaching the younger ones) and the accommodation of a Sunday School of nearly 70 scholars. It is also contemplated to establish… a public library.”

With the schools and library satisfactorily dealt with, Sheriff Chipman brought up what likely was the actual purpose of the general meeting. “Being at one extremity of the township,” Chipman said in effect, “and having no distinguished name (other than the absurd epithet of Horton Corner) it is suggested that in honor of the memory of the late Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, the village should be called ‘Kentville’.”

With hindsight, we know that the village was officially named Kentville and eventually it became a town. However, while I’ve taken some liberties with the report published in the Acadian Recorder, this is the gist of it. As reported, Sheriff Chipman pointed out that that the village was worthy of assuming town status. In 1826, he said, “there are now in (what would be called Kentville) … two grist mills, two manufactories, two buildings containing machines for carding wool, besides a flax mill nearly completed.”

But there’s more than this to the story of Kenville’s birth, much more than simply declaring that henceforth, the village now has a new name, and in the minds of the village residents, an elevated status.

Actual town status would come later, in 1886, and an “Act to Incorporate the Town of Kentville” was published in that year. But not without a lot of birth pains.

In the files of the Kentville Historical Society is a list of the “articles of incorporation;” which roughly translated is a list of the stipulations or conditions the newly formed town had to meet before incorporation was fully granted. It’s a lengthy list and it spells out everything a town had to set in place in the way of boundaries, who had the right to vote in town elections, how properties were to be assessed for tax purposes, and on and on.

As I write this, I have before me the list of conditions the town had to meet to be incorporated – it’s actually 258 (!) items long. And while some of it is mundane and obvious, most of it was necessary since guidelines were spelled out before the town officers had the power to govern. The rules/guidelines under which the town operated were set by the provincial government.

What the Act of Incorporation established was, for one thing, that the town would not be subject to the Kings County Council; in other words, once the Act of Incorporation was passed, the town was self-governing and self-taxing. Well down on the list of guidelines, it was spelled out that the town council had the power to set tax rates, a most important item since the town, once incorporated, could no longer depending on funding from the county coffers. Even farther down the list were guidelines regarding the setting of street widths, street repairs, the hiring of constables, etc.

Meeting those more than 250 stipulations and guidelines must have been onerous and perhaps difficult to set in place. You now know why here in the Annapolis Valley there are many more villages than there are towns.

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