“It is not intended to be a scholarly work,” E. Marie Bickerton says of her book, Old Timers: Canning and Habitant.

Scholarly or not, this is a collection of historical information about Canning and the community of Habitant that would have been lost but for Bickerton compiling and publishing her book. Bickerton modestly adds that her book is “for information that can be added to at A later time.” Information, she tells us in an afterword, obtained from interviews, old newspapers, record books and by telephone.

In other words, some of what Bickerton included in her history was collected by talking with people. And what a chore this must have been, collecting oral history! I have no idea how long Bickerton worked on the book but from reading often intimate details about Canning, I would guess at least a couple of years. I as told Bickerton spent a lot of time talking with older residents of Canning and Habitant; in my opinion, preserving their recollection is what makes her work valuable.

When I decided to devote a column to Bickerton’s history I tried to find out something about her life. Contacting people with the same surname, a call to the Canning museum and telephone calls to a few Canning and Habitant residents went nowhere. Many people remember Bickerton but biographical information is scarce. I learned she was an artist and the Bickerton store that was once in Canning belonged to her family and that’s it. I’m hoping this column was prompt people to call and tell me all about a historian who should be recognized for her work.

As for her book, as well as describing the village’s older homes, it contains some delightful historical trivia about Canning. Three noontime whistles once blew in Canning, for example; in the shipyard, the axe factory and a mill. This alone illustrates that the village was once an important and thriving commercial centre – “the largest and mot prosperous village in Kings County,” Bickerton writes. How prosperous the village once was is also illustrated by the disastrous fire of 1866, Bickerton writing that it destroyed 40 buildings, of which 26 were stores.

Published in 1980, Bickerton’s work is out of print. The book is available at the Annapolis Valley Regional Library.


Canard Street, Elizabeth Rand writes in her book of the same name, runs from Porter’s Point on the Minas Basin to Upper Dyke. Along the street are more than 50 century homes which Rand describes in detail. Some of the oldest homes in Kings County are found on Canard Street; it’s unlikely that, kilometer for kilometer, any road in Kings County has as many century homes.

A close second for old houses along its length might be Main Street in Wolfville. Along with re-reading Canard Street, I just recently read a book, Wolfville’s Historic Homes by B. C. Silver and Watson Kirkconnell; it’s astounding how many fine old homes stand along the town’s main thoroughfare. Like Canard Street, Wolfville’s Main Street has an abundance of century homes; as Silver and Kirkconnell suggest in the title to their book, many of them are historic.

It’s interesting to see that neither Rand, nor Silver and Kirkconnell, argue that their street holds the oldest house in Kings County. That honor could belong to Wolfville. The so-called Kent Lodge at 654 Main Street, which is documented by Silver and Kirkconnell in their book, dates at least back to 1779. This date is suggested by a newspaper article from a November, 1896, issue of the Halifax Herald, which the authors quote.

However, another old house, which is near Canning (immediately west of Habitant’s western boundary) has been subjected to a lot of research and may be the oldest in Kings County. This is the Loomer-Goodwin house , a registered heritage property which in 1986 was the subject of a thorough investigation. Deed searches, mapping, probate records, genealogical records, and most important of all, architectural evidence, suggests that the Loomer-Goodwin house was probably built between the years 1761 and 1769; the house appears to be associated with Planter settlement in Nova Scotia write Daniel E. Norris who conducted the research into the house. His findings are published in the book, They Planted Well, a collection of Planter-theme articles published in 1988 and edited by Margaret Conrad.

There is also evidence suggesting the house may have built in New England and moved to its current location. This was reported in Marie Bickerton’s book, Old Times: Canning and Habitant, published in 1980, but this is inconclusive and most likely incorrect.

Kent Lodge on Main Street, Wolfville

Kent Lodge, on Main Street, Wolfville (Ed Coleman)

The Loomer-Goodwin House near Canning

The Loomer-Goodwin House near Canning, (along with Kent Lodge above) may be two of the oldest houses in Kings County. (Ed Coleman)


Can you believe that at one time a federal license was required to own and operate an ordinary radio out of your household?

I was reminded of this fact recently when I was talking to Bev Eaton about the 1929 earthquake. Actually, Bev had called to ask if I was familiar with the license. He was trying to remember when the license was required and what the fee was. Bev believed the license was in effect when he was a boy (he was born in 1918) and the fee might have been a few dollars; but that was all he could recall.

I vaguely remember that when I was a boy, some sort of official looking sticker was pasted on the back of the radio we kept in the parlour. Was that the old radio license? I had to call on Canning historian Ivan Smith to answer this question.

“I remember those radio receiver licenses,” Ivan said. “They were legally required to be ‘affixed’ to each radio received in operation in Canada. I remember going to the post office in Chester, some time in the mid-1940s, to buy our radio license for the current year. I don’t recall the fee exactly, but three dollars comes to mind.

“These licenses were commonly known as ‘Radio Receiver Licenses.’ Every home that had a radio receiver was legally required to buy one of these licenses each year and keep it near the receiver at all times.”

Ivan said the federal government used the fee as a way to raise money for support of the CBC. He directed me to the wording that manufacturers printed on the back panel of each radio set. “Warning!” the message read in part: “Any person installing or operating this Receiving Set without having first obtained a license from the Minister of Transport of Canada is liable …. to a fine not exceeding twenty-five dollars, and the said Receiving Set may be forfeited to His Majesty by order of the Minister ….”

I was unable to determine the date the license was first required but it apparently was well before 1938. The license fee in 1929 was one dollar. The fee in 1936 was $2.00, which was raised to $2.50 the following year. The requirement of a radio license was discontinued in 1953.

Ivan Smith tells me that much later the radio license became a collector’s item. He saw several copies of the “Private Receiving Station License” at the Bayhead Radio Museum, operated by Ernest Yeaw in Colchester County, and was able to photograph several of them. You can take a look at the museum by keying in Bayhead Radio Museum on Google.


Born in 1918, Bev Eaton of New Minas clearly remembers the day in 1929 when an earthquake shook the ground, knocking down a woodpile on his father’s farm in Highbury.

“We had just finished stacking the winter wood when the ground began to shake,” Bev remembers. “It was a sort of quiver and it knocked over our winter wood just after we’d worked hard stacking it up.”

This would have been late in 1929 when Bev was 11. Around 4:30 in the afternoon of November 17 an earthquake under the Atlantic Ocean off Newfoundland was felt throughout Nova Scotia. The quake was severe enough to shake New Brunswick as well as parts of New England. Ivan Smith of Canning, on his History Index website, contains this note on the quake which I quote with his permission:

“It was felt throughout Nova Scotia, with shaking severe enough to throw goods off of store shelves and teacups off of kitchen shelves in Windsor and Chester.

“In Kentville and Annapolis Royal, bricks fell from chimneys and plaster was cracked in some houses.”

Bev Eaton recalls that locally the quake definitely was “severe enough” to cause a bit of damage in local stores. He remembers that the old Rockwell Hardware Store on Main Street in Kentville suffered some damage when the quake rattled it and knocked dishes off the shelves. There was damage in other stores as well, Bev recalls.

A few rattles, a few cracked walls and lost dishes pretty well sums up the 1929 earthquake’s effect locally. My father, who was in his late 20s at the time of the quake, recalled that it briefly shook his father’s farmhouse in Steam Mill and except for momentarily disrupting the butchering of pigs, that was it.

For the most part there was only minor damage in Nova Scotia but as history buffs will recall, the quake created a huge tsunami that devastated the coast of Newfoundland. Of the 21 submarine cables linking Europe to North America, 16 were broken by the earthquake, most of the damage caused by undersea landslides.


“As all who have gathered here are aware, a soldier cannot leave his post without being properly relieved. Pvt. Tupper you are now relieved.”

So spoke Capt. Bruce Barber, of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, at the graveside service of Ardent Tupper. It was a touching, impressive ceremony at the Scots Bay cemetery on June 12, and was one of several grave marker ceremonies honoring Kings County veterans of the American Civil War. As a piper, I participated in two of them, Ardent Tuppers and that of Centerville native William Kinsman at the Chipman Corner cemetery.

In a May 18 column I covered Ardent Tupper’s service in the Civil War. Thanks to Sara Keddy, this paper’s editor, I was given the opportunity to expand not only on Tupper’s service in the Union Army, but that of other Kings County men who left here to fight in the Civil War. Readers who read my article in the June 8 issue of the Regional will know that in addition to Tupper and Kinsman, I’m referring to Dr. Frederic Burgess and Ben Jackson.

While it wasn’t publicized in advance, a Hantsport native who served in the Civil War was also recognized at the June 12 ceremonies. This was Thomas Patten who is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Hantsport. Patten enlisted in the 3rd Maine Volunteer Infantry, later transferring to an artillery corp. He suffered a gunshot wound to his hip during the war.

I found Thomas Patten’s name on a website while searching for information on Canadians who served in the Civil War. Several other Kings County natives who served in the Civil War are listed on the website as well. I mention these vets with the hope they have relatives here; relatives who may not be aware of their Civil War service and may wish to do further research.

First, there is John Carter, Canning, who suffered a gunshot wound in the war. Leander W. Kimball, Wolfville, was another Civil War veteran. Margaret Murphy, Wolfville, was listed on the website as the mother of a war vet who apparently was killed in action. Similarly listed are Caroline Leland, Melvern Square, and Usly (sic) Jane Tupper, Avonport, both of whom apparently lost sons in the war and like Margaret Murphy, received their sons’ pensions.


“There must be some element, social or otherwise, that lends itself to history writing in Kings County. There’s a lot of them,” James Doyle Davison said when he spoke at the Kings County Historical Society a few years ago.

Mr. Davison was referring to the history books that have been published on Kings County families and communities. Most of the towns and villages in Kings County have published histories (Canning and New Minas are exceptions) and numerous books have been written on long established families such as Bishops and Eatons.

Many of these town and village histories are long out of print; the histories of Port Williams, Sheffield Mills and Greenwich come to mind immediately, to give a few examples. The latter two are almost impossible to find today. It was only recently, after years of Internet and yard sale searching for example, that I found the Greenwich history by Edythe Quinn.

At times difficult to find as well are three excellent little books that should be in every history buff’s library. These were written or co-authored by Dr. Watson Kirkconnell, who was president of Acadia University from 1948 to 1964. Dr. Kirkconnell published Place-Names in Kings County in 1971 and it’s an excellent supplement to Fergusson’s Place-Names and Places of Nova Scotia. In this book (or booklet, to be exact) Kirkconnell delves deeper into the origin of Kings County place names than Fergusson does in his work.

Two other little known books by Kirkconnell are Wolfville’s Historic Homes, published in 1967, co-authored with B. C. Silver and The Streets of Wolfville, published in 1970.

The latter is one of my favorite history books since it delves into the Mi’kmaq/Acadian origin of some of our roads, a topic I’ve written about in several columns. If you’ve ever wondered how towns such as Wolfville and Kentville originated and eventually became prominent, you’ll find an explanation in this book. Most interesting as well is Kirkconnell’s main theme, the origin of street names in Wolfville.

The Streets of Wolfville, and Wolfville’s Historic Homes, both in paperback, are available at Randall House Museum in Wolfville. Kirkconnell’s paperback on county place names is much more difficult to find.


Many Canadians fought in the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865; exactly how many will never be known. The same can be said of Nova Scotians who served in regiments of the North and South. Nova Scotians definitely fought in the Civil War, but historians are unable to determine exact numbers. However, I’ve been told that 138 Civil War participants were born in Nova Scotia.

Some of those Civil War veterans are Kings County natives. Most of them fought on the side of the North in regiments formed in Maine.

In fact, representatives of a Civil War Regiment, the 20th Maine, will recognize these Kings County veterans in June with graveside services. This has stirred a lot of local interest, especially among military collectors whose chief interest is the Civil War. One of those Civil War buffs is Kentville businessman Cyril White; he tells me he started studying and reading about the Civil War some 30 years ago and has collected a number of related books.

White says it’s good to see Kings County veterans of the Civil War being remembered. His interest is such that his firm, the White Family Funeral Home, will place a monument at the grave of Civil War veteran, Ardent Calvin Tupper of Scots Bay. The monument will be unveiled in Scots Bay on June 12; at the time, representatives of the 20th Maine Re-enactment Regiment, dressed in uniforms of the Civil War, will perform the graveside memorial service that was held originally for Union soldiers.

Besides Tupper, similar services will be conducted on the same day for three other Kings County natives who served in the Civil War: These are William Kinsman, who is buried at Chipman Corner, Dr. Frederic Burgess, Hantsport, and Ben Jackson, Lockhartville. The best known of these is Ben Jackson whose long lost grave recently was located in Lockhartville.

Thanks to Bill Tupper and his wife Olee Goodwin Tupper, I learned that Ardent Calvin Tupper joined the 20th Maine when he was 19 and saw action at Gettysburg, one of the most famous battles and bloodiest battles of the Civil War. He was also at Appomattox with the 20th Maine when the South’s surrender was received. Bill told me that Ardent kept a diary on his war experiences, which the Tupper family still has, and in it he writes about being at Gettysburg.

Ardent, who is Bill’s great great uncle, was born in 1844 and died in 1917. He returned to Scots Bay after the war where the house he lived in still stands.


“At the junction of these two roads (Church Street and Middle Dyke Road) the old township government had laid out a piece of land for militia purposes, which was called the Parade Ground” wrote Robie Lewis Reid (1866-1945) in a memoir about his early life in and around Steam Mill. The area around junction became known as “Chipman’s Corner,” named SAYS Reid after one of the families who were early settlers here.

“At Chipman’s Corner,” writes Reid, “lived the patriarch of the Chipman family, Hon. Samuel Chipman. He was born October 18, 1790, and died November 10, 1891.” Reid was acquainted with the Hon. Samuel Chipman, in his memoir mentioning a talk he had with him when the latter was 100 years old. In his memoir he offers a not unflattering description of Samuel, listing his accomplishments, all of which I’ll quote later.

If we look at history books we’ll find that the Hon. Samuel Chipman was a third generation Planter. His grandfather, Handley Chipman, was a Cornwallis township grantee. Eaton in his history of Kings County writes about the Chipman family in detail. Another excellent source of material on the Chipman family is James Fry’s Sketch of “Chipman Corner,” published by the Kings Historical Society and available at the Kings County Museum.

The late James Doyle Davison wrote several books that offer glimpses of the Chipman family; one of these books – Handley Chipman, Kings County Planter – is an excellent source for anyone interested in the Chipmans and early Planter life in Kings County. Fergusson’s Place-Names and Places of Nova Scotia also contains a description of “Chipmans Corner,” mentioning Handley Chipman as a grantee in the area.

Getting back to Robie Reid, he writes that the Hon. Samuel Chipman was a distinguished public servant (as were many of his immediate relatives). “He represented the County of Kings in the Provincial Legislature from 1830 to 1844 and from 1851 to 1860. From 1855 to 1857 he was a member of the Provincial Government. He was Registrar of Deeds from 1870 to 1887.”

Eaton, in his county history, adds additional information on Samuel’s career, noting that he represented several areas of Kings County from 1830 to 1863. Samuel also held at least two prominent positions with the provincial government. He apparently was interested in local history as well Robie Reid noting that he obtained from Samuel “many bits of (local) history only he remembered.”


On October 13, 1758, the Boston Gazette published a proclamation by Nova Scotia Governor Charles Lawrence that, in effect, invited New Englanders to consider settling in the province.

The Governor’s proclamation informed New Englanders that “since the enemy (the French) which had formerly disturbed and harassed the province was no longer able to do so,” – they have been “compelled to retire and take refuge in Canada,” Lawrence said – it was time to people the land left vacant by deportation of the Acadians.

Governor Lawrence concluded his proclamation with the words that he was now ready to “receive any proposals that may be hereafter made to me, for effectually settling the said vacated, or any other lands, within the Province ….”

Although there had been at least one earlier proposal to settle New Englanders in Nova Scotia, the proclamation likely was the catalyst that spurred the Planter migration to the province. Historians tell us the Lawrence proclamation stirred much interest in New England, and Lawrence and his agents in Boston and New York soon received inquiries from groups and individuals asking for additional information.

To answer the questions being asked, Governor Lawrence felt compelled to issue a second proclamation, dated January 11, 1759. It is this document that is perhaps the most important of the two proclamations since it spelled out in detail land grant conditions and what was expected of each grantee. Thanks to Internet historian Ivan Smith, Canning, who provided the link, anyone wishing to read the proclamation in its entirety can find it at: http://planter2010.ca.

In this second proclamation (for those who have no access to computers) Lawrence stated that no person could receive a grant of more than 1000 acres. Grantees were required to plant, cultivate and improve one third of their holding each decade until all was under cultivation. Land was to be distributed so that each grantee would receive a share of upland, meadow and marsh. Townships containing 100,000 were being established.

Eventually every township would have the privilege of electing two members to the provincial Assembly. No quit rent would be charged for the first 10 years the grantee occupied his land; after that it would be a token amount of one shilling for each 50 acres.

An interesting aspect of the proclamation regards religion. Protestants taking up land grants would enjoy religious freedom and allowed to build their own meeting houses and choose their own ministers. However, in that part of the proclamation dealing with religious freedom one finds the words: “Papists excepted.”


Sherri and Geof Turner’s search for information on their century home in Steam Mill led them to the other side of Canada and at the same time, turned up some of the little-known history of the village.

While the Turners aren’t sure about the exact age of their house, documentation they uncovered indicates it was standing in the middle of the 1870s, and occupies portions of the land granted to Rev. Benaiah Phelps in 1769. Phelps may have built the house but this is conjecture. Eventually, part of his original grant was farmed by Planter descendants with the surname Reid. Robie Lewis Reid was born on his father’s farm there in 1866 and his memoirs describing his early life were discovered by the Turners through the Internet.

The Turners web search took them to the archives of the University of British Columbia. A document stored in the archives, Robie Lewis Reid’s autobiography, was for the most part a description of Reid’s career after he left Nova Scotia. When they obtained a copy of the document, the Turners found that Reid also devoted several pages to describing the Steam Mill he knew as a boy. Reid wrote as well about the Acadian homesteads and dykes, what he called the “mementos of a forgotten people,” that he discovered on the farm.

These “mementos” can be looked upon as evidence Steam Mill was once an Acadian settlement. A small settlement perhaps, but Reid mentions that the “French orchards” on his farm were still bearing apples and had been “grafted to better fruit.” By digging a little, Reid wrote, he found the “ashes of an old French forge.” Evident also on the farm were “depressions in the ground (that) showed where the houses of the French had stood.”

It’s almost certain that Acadians first dyked the tributaries of the Canard River before attempting to tame the main stream. Before being moved to its present site, the Turner house stood beside Reid Road (named for Robie’s grandfather and known earlier as Isaac Reid Road). Along a Canard River tributary near the original site, Robie found “by digging down a foot or so, the timbers of the original floodgate or aboiteau” of the Acadians. Reid speculated that the aboiteau was “the first dyke on the Canard River lands” and he may be right. Most local historians would agree with him.

In his memoir, Robie Lewis Reid included a few interesting tidbits about early Steam Mill. He mentions, for example, that a grist mill once operated on the Canard River, and that Steam Mill Village once had a large school building called Franklin Hall, of which the upper floor was used for public meetings and religious services.

boyhood home of Robie Lewis Reid

The boyhood home of Robie Lewis Reid, in Steam Mill Village, dates from the 1870s.