In June, 1794, writes Arthur W. H. Eaton in his Kings County history, “his Royal Highness Prince Edward, Duke of Kent …. made a journey on horseback through the valley.” The good Duke stopped in Wolfville, apparently ignoring Horton Corner; but 32 years later, to honor the Duke’s visit to the Valley, Horton Corner changed its name to Kentville.

The name of the county’s shiretown is a constant reminder that the Duke once visited nearby. However, Prince Edward left behind evidence other than a place name that his Royal presence once graced Nova Scotia. Edward is credited with establishing a telegraph/semaphore system that provided communication links between military posts from one end of the province to the other. The Duke planned as well to extend his communications network into New Brunswick and from there into Quebec.

This is well documented; by Thomas Raddall in a 1947 Dalhousie Review article, for example, and by James H. Morrison in a 1981 article in the collection of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society.

To establish the communications network, a series of signal stations were constructed, first in outposts around the harbor area in Halifax, then from Halifax to Fort Edward in Windsor and then to Annapolis Royal. The stations were built on high ground and manned by the military. On average, the stations were seven to eight miles apart and communications were conducted with a series of visual signals, using a combination of flags, balls and pennants.

A series of the Duke’s signal stations were built in the Valley; this is what I meant when I said evidence other than place names remains to remind us of the Duke’s visit. A map in the Nova Scotia Archives indicates that the telegraph system was to run from Halifax down the Valley to the Annapolis Basin. “I hear it is to be communicated across from the high grounds back of Cornwallis (Kings County) to the Isle of Haut,” wrote a Captain Lyman to Edward Winslow in 1800.

The “high grounds back of Cornwallis” is likely a reference to the ridges that run from south of Wolfville and westerly, the area we call the South Mountain. Where signal stations were located on the ridges in Kings County) has been difficult to determine. However, a New Brunswick historian, W. E. (Gary) Campbell has unearthed evidence of stations in Falmouth, Mount Uniacke, Wilmot and Aylesford. Folklore passed on from generation to generation speaks of signal stations located on the high ground south of Wolfville, southwest of Kentville and south of Coldbrook and Cambridge.

A rough timeline re the telegraph system: 1794 – Duke of Kent commander of military forces in Halifax. 1795 – began building communications system in Halifax. 1797 – system extended to Windsor and by 1799 to Annapolis. The plan to extend the system across the Bay of Fundy was stalled by the ever present fog and eventually abandoned. By 1802, the Duke having departed Nova Scotia, the line connecting Halifax and Annapolis were abandoned. Only vestiges of the stations through the Annapolis Valley remain today, along with folklore, and only a few have been pinpointed in Kings County.


“Crushed by a sloven,” read an October 29, 1930, report in The Advertiser on the death of a Kings County farmer while he was working in his fields.

I found the brief report on the farmer’s accidental demise in a scrapbook at the Kings County Museum, and I must admit mention of a “sloven” puzzled me. What is, or what was a sloven? I vaguely recalled that it was a farm vehicle, perhaps a wagon of some kind, but I wasn’t sure. The reference to the sloven intrigued me, and I decided track it down. In doing so, I discovered an arcane wagon, now long gone, that in name at least was not only unique to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, but could have been perfected here as well.

First of all, the sloven is a peculiar type of wagon with a peculiar name. That much I was able to find out easily. Besides noting that a sloven is a habitually untidy person, the Canadian edition of the Oxford Dictionary says that in the Maritimes and Newfoundland, it is a “long low wagon especially drawn by horses.” The distinguishing feature of the sloven was the low slung loading platform, dropped well below the center of the four wheels, making it possible for one man to load or unload heavy barrels, casks and trunks with ease.

At one time, at least about 100 years ago, the sloven was the work wagon of farmyards and industry. I found old time photographs of the wagon in several community histories – one in the Kingsport history and several in the Port Williams history, for example. There’s an excellent photograph of the sloven on the cover of Nimbus Publishing’s book, Historic Annapolis Valley. Historical articles on early Halifax and other Maritime seaports tell us the sloven was the wagon used to transport goods of all kinds, and was widely used in rural areas as well.

Through an internet search I discovered that in 1975, the New Brunswick Museum published a booklet of some 35 pages, Over the Cobblestones (Notes on the History of the Sloven) by L. K. Ingersoll. Reading the booklet, which I obtained from a book dealer, I found that while Ingersoll ran into a lot of dead ends researching, he (or she) concluded that the sloven most likely was named in Saint John, New Brunswick. Ingersoll also found oral traditions suggesting the sloven originated in Saint John, and was in common use there and in Nova Scotia, but notes that the design of the wagon likely evolved over a long period of time.

Ingersoll also concludes that the sloven appeared in eastern Canada in the middle of the 19th century, was in use for over 100 years before disappearing, and played a major role in transportation and trucking on the farm and in the city. The reference to a sloven in The Advertiser’s 1930 accident report tells us it was a familiar vehicle on farms here in Kings County.

Ingersoll was unable to determine why the wagon was called a sloven, but suggests that it may have been named after Saint John celebrity, one Thomas Sloven, 1835-1900.


“A number of experts have looked at the house,” Wendy Elliott wrote in the December 9 Advertiser on the deregistering of Dimock House in Pereau, “but nobody was willing to go out on a limb about its age.”

If you look at the rather cursory archeological survey of Dimock House that was conducted some 20 years ago, you’d have to agree that Ms. Elliott, to use a cliché, hit the nail on the head. In the report of the survey, which was published in 1991 and is on file at Acadia University, the conclusions reached were nebulous, to say the least.

If the study on Dimock House had been more conclusive about its origin, or at least said there were Acadian features in the house, perhaps more would have been done by the government to help preserve it. The “curatorial report” on the survey suggested that further research was needed to determine the origin of Dimock House, and there was an “apparent conflict between the architectural elements.” It was a kind of wishy washy report and there was no follow up. I heard rumors that consideration was being given to testing the timbers in the house, to determine their age through carbon dating I suppose, but apparently nothing came of this.

Unfortunately, once the deregistering process is complete, it’s likely the house will be demolished. As Ms. Elliott reported in her Advertiser piece, the house is in sad shape and is practically falling down. Given its rapidly deteriorating condition, deregistration was the only practical way to go.

It’s too bad the house must go. Acadian in origin or not, Dimock House is ancient. Several years ago I talked with Melissa Dimock, the daughter of the current owners, and she told me the house has been in the family since 1873. Dimock also told me the house was built in such a way that it could have been taken apart and moved to another site quite easily. She also said that while they didn’t know the exact date, they were able to trace ownership of the house back to circa 1770.

The curatorial report, Nova Scotia Museum Curatorial Report 69, if you want to look it up at Acadia, suggested the possibility that the house may have been built by Acadians who returned to this area after the expulsion, and was later added to by later owners. An earlier search of deeds revealed that in 1796, the house was owned by a man with an Acadian surname.