PASSING BY THE BAPTIST MEETING HOUSE – 1818 MAP (December 4/98)

Perhaps because it’s a third or fourth generation reproduction, the old map is confusing and difficult to read even with a powerful magnifying glass. For example, it’s difficult to determine whether the surveyor who produced the map of Horton Township 180 years ago described a road near Sheffield Mills as running “over the dyke passing the Baptist Meeting House and then over the mountain,” or as a road that passes the meeting house and has no connection with the dykes.

Whatever the mapmaker’s intent, we can see that in 1818 many of the roads in this area had no names and were often associated with prominent establishments (i.e. a meeting house or church). In some cases, references are to geographic features. For example, the area on the hill immediately north of Kentville is called the Black Forrest, a reference perhaps to the prominent stands of pines along Cornwallis Street (the “Pine Woods”) that Eaton mentioned in his Kings County history.

But before I tell you about more quaint references, a bit about the map. Actually, it’s maps. In 1818, one John Harris was commissioned to survey and produce plans of the Townships of Cornwallis, Horton and Aylesford. This he proceeded to do in November and December of 1818 and through January, 1819. Copies of the maps were obtained in Halifax by Richard Skinner, who has spent many hours pouring over them and translating much of the almost indecipherable handwriting.

I tried reading some of the writing on the maps with a magnifying glass and soon gave up. Thanks to Mr. Skinner’s efforts, however, I can pass along some of the quaint and curious descriptions of the area running roughly from Aylesford east to the Hants County border. You will find the designations amusing but keep in mind that in 1818 some areas had no official names and roads were often described by who lived along them.

“Up the Gaspereau (River) to the settlement at New Canaan” is one example of the designation for a road leading south from Wolfville. Other roads are designated simply as leading “to the Church’ or “to the town.” While Kentville is not named (one section of the map is missing) the location of the courthouse in the town is marked. The road leading from the courthouse is simply marked “from the courthouse;” another is designated as the “road to Cornwallis Town Plot,” while another is marked as “road from the post road.” A “good publick (sic) road over the mountain” is another amusing inscription, while another road has the designation “through a good settlement.”

In 1818 the Cornwallis River had still retained its Acadian name, at least on official documents. Both the Horton Township map and the Cornwallis, Aylesford Township map name the river as the “Cornwallis Dix Habitant.” The Acadians referred to the Cornwallis as the Grand Habitant and the river at Canning as being the lesser Habitant.

Richard Skinner mentioned that I would be amazed by the number of taverns shown on the old maps. Both taverns and churches are given prominence, which is a commentary of some sort on those times. I found half a dozen taverns on the maps, the majority of them outside Wolfville towards the Hants County border (probably because this was a heavily travelled area on the way to Windsor and Halifax).

Just south of Wolfville near the Post Road at Halfway River is a tavern, the name illegible. East of this, on the “road from Windsor by way of Mt. Dennison to Horton” are three more taverns; two are identified as Geo. Brown’s Tavern and Witter’s Tavern, while the third appears to be named Hare’s Tavern. Wolfville has Fowler’s Tavern, which is shown near a meeting-house, and in Kentville Peck’s Tavern was apparently noteworthy enough to be indicated on the map.

GIVE SOME HISTORY AT CHRISTMAS (November 27/98)

Every year when Christmas rolls around it’s a chore trying to find gifts that are not only useful but different. There are only so many ways you can wrap up socks, ties, perfume and shaving cologne.

You’ve probably given relatives and friends books for Christmas and suggesting them as gifts isn’t an original idea. But what about history books – local history books? Almost everyone like to read about the early days of the Annapolis Valley and I have some suggestions. The Kings County Historical Society has an excellent selection of history books by local authors; these books are available at the courthouse museum, Cornwallis Street, Kentville, and a partial list follows.

Two excellent books on the Wellington Dyke which are sure to be welcomed by the history buff: The Wellington Dyke, a history of the Canard River dyke system by Brent Fox. Soft cover, $8.00.

The Wellington Dyke by Marjory Whitelaw. A Nimbus publication, the most recent book on the dyke, covers the Acadians, Planters and the building of the Wellington system. 54 pages, $6.95.

Canard Street. Compiled by the late Elizabeth Rand, this is a record of the more than 50 century homes and building on Canard Street (from Porter’s Point to Upper Dyke) Kings County. Soft cover, $20.00.

For the amateur genealogist, the Historical Society offers the Township Books of Aylesford. Cornwallis and Horton in one volume (soft cover, $25.00) and The Old Wolfville Cemetery. Soft cover, $2.50.

Camp Aldershot by Brent Fox. A history of the Camp since 1904 in soft cover, $4.00.

The Homes of Woodville by Hazel Foote. Traces the history of many older homes around Woodville, Arnold Road, Brooklyn Street, Bligh Road, Parrish Road and Burgess Mountain Road. Includes many photographs. $20.00.

Sketch of Chipman Corner by James Fry. A look at Chipman Corner from 1670 to 1985. Soft cover, $2.50.

Old Railway Stations of the Maritimes by Peter M. Latta. Six Annapolis Valley Stations are profiled, including photographs. $6.95.

A History of the Baptist Church. Soft cover history of the Kentville United Baptist Church from 1874 to 1974.

Family Ties by Gordon M. Haliburton. While this book deals with the ancestral and familial connections of Thomas Chandler Haliburton, it can also be read as a history book. Soft cover, $20.00.

The Nova Scotia Eatons. While also a book dealing with a single family – one of the most prominent in this region, by the way – it is also a history text of sorts and tells us much about our early days. Soft cover, $5.00.

Kings County Vignettes. Compiled by Helen Hansford, Cathy Margeson and Elizabeth Rand, nine volumes of this excellent series have been published to date. Averaging 50 pages, each soft cover volume contains short historical sketches on Kings County by various local authors. A bargain at $5.00 each, the total series would make an excellent gift for history buffs.

 

OLD VALLEY HOTELS, LODGES, INNS (November 20/98)

In last week’s column I mentioned that Elijah Borden, the first station agent in Kingsport on the Cornwallis Valley Railway, also operated a hotel. Leon Barron, who supplied the information about Mr. Borden, couldn’t recall the name of the hotel or where it was located in Kingsport.

After this column was published I discovered a list of Annapolis Valley hotels, inns and lodges in a 19th-century tourist publication produced by the Yarmouth Steamship Co. To my surprise, Kingsport in 1896 boasted two hotels. One was the Kingsport House and E. C. Borden was shown as the proprietor; this no doubt was Elijah Borden, the station agent. Kingsport’s second hotel was the Central House, the proprietor Edw. (Edward, Edwin?) Viner.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that Kingsport supported two hotels. In its heyday, the early days of the railroad in the Annapolis Valley, Kingsport was bustling. Once completed, the Cornwallis Valley Railway connected with the Government wharf at Kingsport, where steamers regularly landed freight from Saint John.

In her history of the Dominion Atlantic Railway, Marguerite Woodworth said that the freight moving through Kingsport was “considerable;” so considerable that a few years after the Cornwallis Valley Railway began operation, it was bought out by its competition, The Windsor and Annapolis Railway.

Apparently, Kingsport was a busy place even before the railroad arrived. Arthur Wentworth Hamilton Eaton noted in his Kings County history that Kingsport was for a long time the County’s main “point of departure for the Parrsborough packets.” This may explain why Kingsport was a favourite summer resort before the railroad reached it and could support a couple of hotels.

In 1896 Canning also offered a first class hotel. The Waverley House, with A. B. Baxter as its proprietor, boasted that it could be reached by rail from Yarmouth, and tickets were obtainable in Boston “direct to Canning.” The Waverley House may have been owned (or partly owned) by the Yarmouth Steamship Co. since it is one of only four hotels prominently advertised in the tourist publication.

Windsor, another important railroad centre in 1896, has two hotels listed in the tourist publication, the Hotel Dufferin, C. A. Jordan, proprietor, and the Victoria Hotel, operated by one T. Doran.

Windsor was a much larger centre than Wolfville in 1896, yet the latter had four hotels listed in the tourist booklet. Wolfville had the Royal Hotel, Rose Cottage Hotel, American Hotel and Kent Lodge. Why the difference in the number of lodgings in Windsor and Wolfville? The American-controlled Yarmouth Steamship Co. may have simply not listed hotels in which it had no investment.

Hantsport had two hotels in 1896 – the American Hotel and Hantsport Hotel. Horton Landing, for a time a prime area in Kings County, also had a hotel in 1896; this was the Dunedine Hotel, operated by Thomas Harris.

From Windsor running westward up the Valley, there were hotels of some sort in every major village and town. It almost seems that if a place had a name, there was a hotel, inn or lodge. Windsor, Hantsport, Horton Landing, Wolfville, Kentville, Berwick, Aylesford and Kingston had hotels. Even Port Williams was important enough to have hotels near the turn of the century even though the railroad missed it on the south and skipped around it on the north. In 1896 Port Williams had the Village House and the Port Williams Hotel, with George Brown and M. A. Orr respectively as proprietors.

READERS ENJOY COLUMNS – ESPECIALLY HISTORICAL (November 13/98)

The telephone calls, comments, letters and the occasional fax tell me that readers enjoy this column, especially the pieces on local history.

Now that I’ve puffed myself up a bit – with thanks, by the way, to everyone who expressed appreciation of this column – it’s time to catch up on the mail and see what readers have been saying.

On the Cornwallis Valley Railway piece, John Harvie, Hantsport, writes that he was very interested in the article on the old line. Mr. Harvie said his grandfather, Edmund, was an engineer on the line. Edmund lived in Kingsport during his tenure as an engineer with the C.V.R., later moving to Kentville when he began employment with the DAR, also as an engineer.

Mr. Harvie mentioned his mother’s cousin, Neville Prescott, who was the station agent in Centreville for many years. “I think it might be nice to mention some of the names of the people who had to do with this old railway,” Mr. Harvie concluded.

(Taking Mr. Harvie’s hint, I contacted Leon Barron who gave me the names of a number of local people who worked on the C.V.R. The first C.V.R. conductor was Gus Dickie, Kingsport. Elijah Borden was the first station agent in Kingsport. Leon said that Mr. Borden also operated a hotel in Kingsport but he couldn’t recall its name or location. Other C.V.R. station agents were Grant Townsend and Charley Kenny.)

The Ford Crossing on the C.V. R. line: I mentioned that no one could tell me why the crossing was so named, but a telephone call from Dr. Horace Foley cleared up this mini-mystery. The crossing was named for the Nathan Ford house which sat next to the railroad track. Many readers will remember Dr. Foley, Canning, who practised in Kings County for decades and is now retired.

A fax was received from John Cochrane with several items on the C.V. R. line. Mr. Cochrane writes that the spur to Weston was known as the North Mountain Railway. A map of the entire line – “the map being 20 feet or more” – is (or used to be) in the Registry of Deeds at Kentville, Mr. Cochrane says.

Mr. Cochrane adds a note that will be of interest to railroad buffs. In the Registry of Deeds, for example, is a “detailed map showing the disposition of every inch of the C.V.R. to adjacent landowners… and the names of each of the purchasers.”

The land for the C.V.R.’s right of way was obtained through the provincial Railway Act. Mr. Cochrane attached some of the applicable legislation that was used to expropriate land for the C.V.R., which is of interest because it reveals the political and legal shuffling that took place to allow the railroads to proceed.

Snig, the old Nova Scotia woodsworkers term, is a legitimate word, as was established in an October column; however, there was some doubt about the legitimacy of sneg, which appeared to be a mispronunciation of snig and is also used in the lumber woods.

But thanks to Gordon Callender, Picton, Ontario, we learn that sneg is also an actual word and is not of Nova Scotia coinage. Mr. Callender writes that he found snig and sneg in the 1928 Webster’s Dictionary. According to that dictionary, sneg is both a noun and a verb, is of obscure Scottish origin and means to cut; based on this, it’s likely sneg (and snig) were brought to Nova Scotia by Scottish settlers. Snig is also given as being of Scottish origin in the old dictionary.

 

“TIME, TIDE HAVE MADE SUCH CHANGES” (November 6/98)

“I could write a volume of quaint stories of the people who farmed these lands and walked these streets… but I am bidden to write history,” Mrs. L. P. Dennison said in an address to the Grand Pre Institute some 70 years ago.

Noting that “time and tide have made such changes,” old-timers returning to the Annapolis Valley would hardly recognise it, Dennison did indeed write history. Her lengthy Institute address, which was printed in The Acadian (Wolfville) on August 25, 1927, was basically a history of early homesteads around Grand Pre and Hortonville; however, as was the case with the George Harvey interview in last week’s column, Mrs. Dennison could not describe the old homesteads without giving us a glimpse of the period when there was only a bridle path between Hortonville, Hantsport and Windsor.

We learn about Hortonville’s link with Canadian history, for example, when Mrs. Dennison comments about a homestead she calls the Dill farm. “The place known as the Dill farm, where the buildings were burned while occupied by Howard Fuller, was quite a notable one. It was the birthplace of the grandmother of Sir Frederick and Sir Robert Borden, a Miss Fuller.”

And we see that in the early days there were a good number of stores and Inns where rum flowed as freely as molasses. “At all these stores and Inns liquor was sold just as molasses is today (by the jug in 1927). The real old Jamaica rum, dark and thick and very much like molasses in appearance, and nearly every man drank and many to their undoing, just as they do today.”

Noting that she wasn’t giving a temperance lecture, Mrs. Dennison says that it may have been much too easy to buy dark rum in the previous century. “They drank up and wasted the property that should have been passed on to their children. They spoiled their own lives ….”

However, in a note on politics in the old days Mrs. Dennison presents a different attitude towards evil old rum: “Something over 100 years ago the counties of Kings and Cumberland were one constituency for election of members to the House of Parliament. Men would come from Cumberland to vote. An election would take nearly a week. What a glorious time they must have had with open houses and the barrels of liquor handed out by the dipperful (!)”

Well, perhaps it was the election, not the rum, that was glorious.

Anyway, before the railroad arrived, the Hortonville area was an important point in Kings and western Hants County. “This part of the country was called Lower Horton until 1869 when the Windsor and Annapolis Railway was built…. Until the bridges over Avon and Gaspereau were finished this (area) was the terminus, passengers and mail being transferred to and from Windsor by teams. Hence the name Horton Landing.”

More on the important role Hortonville or Horton Landing played in the early days: “Rival packets plied between here and Parrsboro. Their decks were fitted to carry cattle, herds of them being (purchased) in Cumberland and bought here to fatten on the dykes. This was the line of travel for students attending the schools in Sackville and must have been quite a contrast to the mode of traveling now.”

The Hortonville area was originally laid out for a town and areas were designated for a courthouse and jail, Dennison says. “Afterward they concluded that Kentville was more central but this would have been an ideal place.”

1901 GEORGE HARVEY INTERVIEW (October 30/98)

Born in County Tyrone, Ireland, in 1810, George Harvey emigrated to Nova Scotia with his family when he was six. Harvey’s father purchased land at Horton, a farm “overlooking the Minas Basin and the fertile acres of Grand Pre,” which George eventually inherited and expanded.

George Harvey lived until 1902; a prominent farmer and distinguished citizen of Kings County, Harvey held many important offices during his lifetime, among them commissioner of sewers for the Wickwire Dyke, magistrate, collector of rates and overseer of the poor.

In 1901, about a year before his death, Mr. Harvey was interviewed by a publication called The Echo. Recently I obtained a copy of the interview (compliments of S. M. Bancroft of Black River Lake) which was a series of questions about life before the turn of the century. Some idea of what it was like to live and work here 100 years ago may be gleaned from Mr. Harvey’s answers.

Mr. Harvey was asked numerous questions about farming, for example. One question – “What were the principal products of the farm?” – curiously neglects to mention apples which apparently hadn’t become a major crop when Harvey was a young man. The answer: “Hay, wheat, flax, potatoes and all kinds of meat, such as beef, lamb, pork and poultry. Wheat was a large and profitable crop, as we made all our own flour and had some to export.”

On the marketing of excess farm produce a revealing answer on transportation in the old days: “Halifax was our principal market and there was a fair demand for produce on account of the number of soldiers and sailors there. It was a heavy task to get stuff to (Halifax) as there was no bridge at Windsor and we had to risk (using) the ferry or go many miles further up (the Avon River). This made a long trip across the Horton and Falmouth mountains before reaching the Avon River.” (Mr. Harvey later stated in the interview that the trip to Halifax and back took a week).

Another revealing answer when Harvey was asked how farm produce was shipped: “On horseback or two-wheeled carts. In my early days all vehicles had two wheels, the chaise and gig to ride in, the big cart for hay, the smaller cart for moving vegetables and taking loads to market. I remember the first four-wheeled wagon that came to Horton. It was a great curiosity and a great improvement on its predecessor.”

On postal service: “There was no coach in my early days. Letters were brought by private conveyances or on horseback. The only post office in Horton was at Judge DeWolf’s, at what is now known as Kent Lodge…. The postage on letters from the old country was 3s. 9d., and they were often two months coming.”

Later in the interview, Mr. Harvey said that when he was a boy most of Grand Pre was dyked “except for what is called the Dead Dyke on the east side, containing about 200 acres.” Mr. Harvey helped reclaim this area; at the time of the interview, he was the only man still living who had worked on reclaiming this section of Grand Pre dyke.

On the large crops of hay raised on the Grand Pre dykes: “Well, we fed out a great deal as we made considerable beef in those days and butchers would come from Halifax and buy large droves of fat cattle, sometimes a hundred a day. Then we hauled hay to Halifax.”

Mr. Harvey said he had lived under five British sovereigns: “George 111, George IV, William IV, Victoria and Edward VII. I helped to celebrate the accession of Victoria. We had a brass six-pounder in charge of Colonel Crane and we made things pretty lively.”

SEARCHING FOR SAM SLICK (October 23/98)

Several years ago vandals made off with a plastic and fibreglass likeness of Sam Slick, which stood beside a highway sign outside Windsor. It was said, with tongue-in-cheek no doubt, that the RCMP put out a call for a missing man that was “six-feet tall, 160 years old and two dimensional.”

For many of us, this is the only Sam Slick we know, a two-dimensional character that poses beside Windsor’s exit sign. Other than Windsor’s annual celebration, the modest Clifton House museum and occasional revivals in newspapers and periodicals, Sam Slick receives little attention today from the average man in the street. Almost ignored entirely is Sam Slick’s creator, Thomas Chandler Haliburton, a Windsor lawyer, judge and politician who in his day was an author of international acclaim.

I must admit that about all I knew about Sam Slick is that he spouted some clever proverbs that were coined by his creator – an erroneous idea as you will see – and that Slick was created by Haliburton, who wrote a history of Nova Scotia. Thus I was delighted to listen to Prof. Richard Davies of Acadia University’s English Dept. when he spoke recently on Haliburton at the Kentville Gyro Club. Davies’ theme, “who was Thomas Chandler Haliburton and who is Sam Slick?” illustrated that Haliburton deserves more recognition than annual celebration days and the name of his most famous creation used commercially.

Who was Haliburton and who is Sam Slick? In answering these questions, Prof. Davies offered some enlightening details on Haliburton’s life in his talk to the Gyro Club. Following are a few excerpts and observations from Davies’ talk.

In all, Haliburton wrote 27 books – on history, politics, and several books of sketches in addition to the Sam Slick series. Sam Slick was the Yankee clock peddler whom Haliburton created in 1835 and kept before the reading public for the next 20 years.

Haliburton’s creation of the Yankee clock peddler in the columns of the Novascotian newspaper in 1835-36, the publication by Joseph Howe of a book version on the sayings and doings of Sam Slick in 1837, and the subsequent piracy of the book in England, created an overnight sensation. Sam Slick became a household name. There were Sam Slick pens, a Sam Slick magazine, and Sam Slick impersonators on the English and American stage.

Haliburton’s English readers liked Sam Slick because “they thought (he) was an accurate representation of the kind of brash individual who thrived in the new democracy of America. Americans disputed the likeness vigorously Because Slick was from Connecticut, Haliburton invented a Yankee dialect for him that many of his English readers (but few of his American ones) mistook for an authentic vernacular.”

Which leads to a point Prof. Davies made during his presentation. Windsor proudly proclaims itself as “the home of Sam Slick,” which you can see on a prominent roadsign as you approach the town. Slick’s fictional home was in Connecticut and the sign really should read, “The home of Thomas Chandler Haliburton.”

However, even Haliburton was confused about who Sam Slick was. Prof. Davies says that Haliburton and Slick became more alike as time went on. Haliburton once signed an autograph, “I am Sam Slick, at least what is left of me.”

Did Haliburton create the witty proverbs attributed to him? (Such as “A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse.”) Prof. Davies says no. Haliburton popularised but did not invent them, Davies says, noting that the proverbs Slick made famous can be traced back a long way.

RAILROAD TRIVIA – ASK IVAN OR LEON (October 16/98)

Leon Barron’s mind is like a computer. Ask the North Alton man about the railroad period in this region and with little hesitation he can endlessly recount lore, statistics, and trivia.

Ivan Smith, Canning, has the same passion for the railroad as Leon Barron. Like Barron he collects railroad lore. The difference is that Barron’s collection is stored in memory and file folders and Smith uses a computer. Smith’s web site (Nova Scotia History Index) has almost anything you might want to know about railroading in Nova Scotia.

Given their expertise, I asked Ivan and Leon for assistance when I prepared the recent column on the old Cornwallis Valley Railway. I received much more information than I could use in one column, so here’s a follow-up with some of the more interesting trivia.

In the previous column, I noted that the Cornwallis Valley Railway ran from Kingsport to Kentville. “Shouldn’t this have been the other way around?” some readers asked, since Kentville was the railroad headquarters? That is, that the C.V.R. ran from Kentville to Kingsport?

Over time people began to think of the C.V.R.. line in this way – as a spur of the Dominion Atlantic Railway that ran north from Kentville to Kingsport. However, the C.V.R. was originally a separate entity. Leon Barron tells me the founders of the C.V.R. seriously considered running the line west to Middleton, rather than to Kentville. This possibility, and stiff competition from the C.V.R. spurred the move by the Windsor and Annapolis Railway to buy out the new line.

Eventually, a line did run west from the C.V.R., the so-called Weston subdivision, which serviced the communities of Northville, Billtown, Lakeville, Woodville, Grafton, Somerset and Weston. Leon Barron thinks this was built around 1912, over 20 years after the C.V.R. line began operation. The Weston line was abandoned years ago but traces of the old rail bed and at least one bridge still remain.

Once the C.V.R. became part of the Windsor and Annapolis Railway, trains started to run daily from Kentville to Kingsport. There were eight stops or stations on the original C.V.R. line – Steam Mill Village, Centreville, Ford Crossing, Sheffield Mills, Hillaton, Canning, Pereau and Kingsport. The station at Aldershot Camp was added later (no date known). The so-called “Ford Crossing” is known today as Gibson Woods. No one could tell me why the Ford Crossing was so named.

I mentioned in last week’s column that the C.V.R. was fueled by apples (figuratively speaking) and there were at least 25 warehouses along the line. Leon Barron tells me that when the Weston subdivision was added, another 19 apple warehouses were constructed along the line from Centreville to Weston – further proof that Cornwallis Valley’s apple orchards figured prominently in the railroad’s growth.

A note from Ivan Smith on the C.V.R.’s passenger service: “In autumn, 1936, there was a level of passenger service on the C.V.R. which is today hardly credible. Two trips each weekday, Kentville to Weston and return, and two more Kingsport to Kentville and return. On Saturdays, three trips Kingsport to Kentville and return.”

It’s a convoluted tale but the C.V.R. became part of the Windsor and Annapolis Railway, which later acquired the Yarmouth and Annapolis Railway, and renamed itself the Dominion Atlantic Railway. While it was short-lived, the little C.V.R. became part of a railroad system that eventually ran uninterrupted throughout the length of the province.

LOOKING BACK – THE C.V.R. LINE (October 9/98)

The old Cornwallis Valley Railway, which ran from Kingsport to Kentville with eight stops along the way, in one sense was fueled by apples and farm produce.

Started by private interests in 1889, the C.V.R. apparently was built mainly with the apple industry and farmers in mind. From Kingsport the C.V.R. track to Kentville ran for 13.59 miles through the farm communities of Steam Mill, Centreville, Gibson Woods, Sheffield Mills, Hillaton, Canning and Pereau; according to railroad history buff, Leon Barron, the line was dotted with apple warehouses, 25 laying next to the tracks with numerous other storage barns and an evaporator for apples close by.

While the C.V.R. ran to Kentville every day except Sunday, making the trip twice on weekdays and three times on Saturday, providing a passenger service must have been the least of its interests. In her history of the Dominion Atlantic Railway, Marguerite Woodworth writes that in the late 1800s “the fertile district between Kingsport and Kentville, which up to the present had depended for transportation of its produce on the small vessels calling at Kingsport and Canning, or by team to the railroad in Kentville, began to agitate for a railway of its own.”

That agitation came to a head on January 8, 1887, when at a public meeting at Canning it was decided that a rail line from Kingsport, “passing westward through Cornwallis to join with the (existing) railway at some point west,” was a necessity. The proposed line had the backing of Leander Rand, M.P.P, and officers of the Windsor and Annapolis Railway (W. & A.) which hoped the new line would have its terminal point in Kentville.

Several months later (Woodworth gives the date as May 3) the Cornwallis Valley Railway Company Ltd. was incorporated, the federal government granting the line a subsidy of $3,200 per mile and right of way. Government engineers did the groundwork that summer and by June 1889 work on the C.V. R. began in earnest. The location of the C.V.R.’s terminal was still undecided. The C.V.R. was built with the idea that one of the existing railways in the region would eventually take it over. “While no official announcement was made,” Woodworth notes, “a tentative understanding was reached with Mr. King (of the W. & A.) and the construction consequently proceeded toward Kentville.”

By December in 1890 the Cornwallis Valley Railway was in full operation. The C.V.R. rented equipment and terminal facilities at Kentville from the W. & A. and began competing with it immediately. The C.V.R.’s line ran to the government wharf at Kingsport, where steamers from New Brunswick docked, and it soon had the lion’s share of freight traffic. This situation quickly triggered an offer by the shareholders of the W. & A. to buy out the C.V.R. The transfer was made on July 26, 1892; the little C.V.R. may have had the shortest period of operation of any railroad in Canada.

It’s odd that while it ceased to exist in name after a few years of operation, as late as the 1960s railroad men were still referring to the run to Kingsport as the C.V.R. line. The line served the region known as the Cornwallis Valley for over half a century; most of the tracks were removed in 1962.

In 1993 all that remained of the original C.V.R. line were several miles of track running to Steam Mill Village; these tracks were torn up in October, 1993. All that remains of the little C.V.R. today are memories, a few photographs, and scattered remnants of the old right of way.

“SNIG” A LEGITIMATE WORD (October 2/98)

I suggested in a column several weeks ago that it might have been coined by Nova Scotian woodsworkers, but this is incorrect; it appears that the lumbering expression, snig, is a legitimate word after all.

A note from a reader informed me that snig can be found in the Oxford Dictionary and it referred to wood-cutting activities. I found a volume of the Oxford English Dictionary at Acadia University and confirmed that snig is there; several definitions of the word were given and one – to drag a heavy load, especially timber, by means of ropes and chains – is the meaning commonly used here. The unabridged edition of the Random House Dictionary also contains snig with one definition only, the wood-cutting activity.

Snig, by the way, also refers to a young or small eel, an avaricious person and it also means to steal. Its origin is obscure, says the Oxford Dictionary, noting that in Canada, Northern England, Australia and New Zealand it commonly refers to wood-cutting activities. It’s possible that snig originated first as a reference to eels; their sinuous movement in the water and a similar movement of logs being dragged on the ground may have been observed and applied to this activity.

Several readers told me that snig is (or was) an oft-used word, among them Fen Wood, a longtime mill operator in Coldbrook. I suspect that snig, in the sense that Nova Scotians use it, is one of those “dying words,” a victim of urbanization and education.

My thanks to the reader who steered me to the Oxford Dictionary; I’d mention the writer’s name but I couldn’t decipher the signature on the note.

A belated acknowledgment of a letter from Kimberley Chute, Washington. Ms. Chute wrote to comment on the June 26, July 3 columns on the old Benjamin Mill in White Rock. Ms. Chute is the proud possessor of a painting of the mill by Raleigh Eagles. The late Mr. Eagles, who grew up in the White Rock area when the mill was at the peak of its operation, was the source of my information for the columns. The columns were based on talks with Mr. Eagles in the 70s.

Ivan Smith, Canning writes via e-mail to comment on the recent column on Murrille Schofield. “As you know, he (Schofield) collected a great deal of historical information about the Nova Scotia Light & Power Company, and its predecessors and antecedents,” Mr. Smith noted. “Fortunately, that collection found its way into the Public Archives of NS (and) it appears to be complete and intact.”

Mr. Smith said he hopes that eventually the Public Archives will be persuaded to place Schofield’s material on the Internet so it will be available to everyone. “There’s a huge amount of historical material there,” Smith said. “(Schofield) did us a special service in collecting this stuff, much of which would by now have vanished without his intervention.”

Readers who may remember Kentville’s police chief of the 30s, Rupert Davis, are asked to share their recollections with us. As I mentioned here before, I would like to devote a column to Mr. Davis. However, information is difficult to come by. I have Mr. Davis’ obituary, the report on his tragic accident and the brief account Mabel Nichols used in her book, The Devil’s Half Acre. Surely there is more, such as personal remembrances. Readers who remember Chief Davis are asked to contact me. I can be reached by writing this paper or telephoning [902-]678-4591. My e-mail address is [edwingcoleman@gmail.com].