I’m not sure if Kentville was in its heyday in the 1950s – “heyday” here meaning at its most prosperous. – but definitely it was a bustling, busy town then with more retail stores and services than several malls combined.

When John Mosher published his Kentville directory for 1958 – 1959, he listed a grand total of 18 grocery stores in and around the town.  Exactly 13 of the grocery stores were in operation inside the town limits with seven of them located roughly around the town square, all within a few minutes walk of each other. The other five were operating just outside town limits, in Aldershot and on Nichols Road, for example.

Looking at Kentville today, it’s difficult to conceive that the town was so prosperous in the late 1950s.  But according to Mosher’s Official Directory, it was a busy town then. John Mosher published the directory annually and he did a thorough job of listing every retail store and service oriented business in Kentville, so the directory paints an accurate picture of what the town was like then.  In one sense it was a greater Kentville directory since it included retail stores immediately outside town limits along with a few in New Minas.

When the late 50s directory was published, Kentville’s population was about 5,000.  Contributing to the prosperity of the town was nearby Camp Aldershot.  The Camp’s military population at the time was 2,300; the Second Highland Battalion, which became the Black Watch, was stationed at Camp Aldershot through most of the 1950s.  In his history of Camp Aldershot, Brent Fox estimates that the military base put $15 million annually into the local (Kentville) economy.

What I find amazing is that Mosher’s Directory says 175 business establishment were operating in the town and in the immediate area late in the 1950s!  Besides all the grocery stores, twelve stores sold clothing; there were 10 taxis in operation, seven in the town and three just outside the town limits.  The town had two top-of-the-line restaurants and seven lunch counters inside its limits, along with two lunch counters just outside its perimeter.

You may find it difficult to believe but when Mosher’s Official Directory for 1958-1959 was published there were 15 service stations and almost as many tire dealers operating in Kentville and the immediate area; eight were inside town limits and seven just outside the town limits, including one in New Minas.   Also, there were seven shoe stores inside the town, all based roughly around what today is Centre Square, and two hotels, four barbershops and two bakeries.  Compared to what it is today, the town’s police force in the late 1950s was skimpy, consisting of only a chief and three constables.

One of the interesting features of Mosher Directory was its alphabetical listing of every town resident, along with their telephone number and occupation.  Also included in its 164 pages was a complete list, in numerical order, of every telephone number in the Kentville area, along with the names of the people using the numbers.   Included also was a classified section and a town street map. In other words, Mosher’s publication was a combination business directory, telephone book and community guide, with other odds and ends of information thrown in for good measure.

With a head office in Kentville, Mosher’s Official Directory was also published in at least two other towns in the province – Yarmouth and Bridgewater.   I’ve been unable to determine how many years the directory was published and if it covered other towns besides Kentville, Yarmouth and Bridgewater.


What’s a shivaree, a lockshoe?  Where is that mysterious burnt land in  Kings County?

Many seniors can tell you about the shivarees they participated in when they were young; a few, if they were farmers and worked with a team of horses or oxen, will know how important lockshoes are.  As for the burnt land, maybe a senior here and there has heard of it but it may be difficult to find anyone who has,

However, if you want to know for sure about the burnt land, what lockshoes and shivarees are all about, I suggest, with modesty, that you check out my latest book.  Burnt Land, Lockshoes, Shivarees, a collection of my historical columns, was published this month by the Kings Historical Society and is now on sale at the Courthouse Museum for $21.99.  The book contains close to 100 historical articles, most of them about Kings County; all were published in this paper.

I’m happy to promote my book since I donated the collection to the Historical Society and it’s being sold as a fund raiser.  As they did from the sale of my first historical collection (All the Old Apples) all funds from book sales go to the Society.

So buy the book and help the Society.  I have to say, again with modesty, that you’ll find the columns interesting and informative.  I even found the columns enjoyable; having written many of them decades ago for this paper it was like reading many of them for the first time.   In other words I’d forgotten what I’d dug up and researched moons ago for my history column.

But written yesterday or two decades ago, history is history.  So discover the burnt land, read about shivarees, early shipbuilding in the county, the old Cornwallis Valley Railway, the motor car that originally was made in Kentville and so on.  I promise.  You’ll enjoy the book.

Besides my collection, the Historical Society has other books, all of which make excellent Christmas gifts for the history buff.  Among them are Camp Aldershot by Brent Fox, the Kings County vignettes series, Memories of Coldbrook by Marie Bishop, Gaspereau by L. Ross Potter, Along the Tracks (railway history through postcards) by Tony Kalkman and Second Chance by Glenn Ells, a book about life in Nova Scotia during the American Revolution.

For a complete list of historical books and various historical CDs, check out the Historical Society website at  The last time I was in the museum I noticed that only a few copies of Marguerite Woodworth’s history of The D.A.R. were for sale.  This book isn’t easy to find today and I suggest anyone interested move fast.


“This settlement (Aldershot) is located about two miles north of Kentville,” Charles Bruce Fergusson writes in his book, Place-Names and Places of Nova Scotia.

Actually, step over the northern boundary of Kentville right by D’Aubin Lane and you are immediately in the community of Aldershot.  The “two miles north of Kentville” Fergusson mentions applies more to the location of Steam Mill Village which butts against Aldershot on its northern boundary.

Obviously Fergusson wasn’t familiar with Aldershot or Steam Mill Village when he compiled his book (he probably looked at a map and guessed at the distance separating Kentville and Aldershot).  Anyway, none of this is important.  That Aldershot and Steam Mill Village, both rather insignificant communities in the greater scale of things, are included in Place-Names is notable however.

Aldershot, as Fergusson points out, obviously is so named due to the presence the military camp.  Otherwise, besides the few words Fergusson has to say about the community, little has been written about Aldershot historically.  Even its borders are ill defined.  Where, for example does Aldershot end and the neighbouring community of Meadowview begin?  Where is the true borderline, if there is one, that marks where Aldershot ends and Steam Mill Village starts?

I suppose none of this is important overall.  However, there’s one gentleman who thinks it is and that Steam Mill Village (and eventually Aldershot perhaps) deserves its own history.  For several years Geof Turner has been attempting to compile a history of Steam Mill Village.  If his efforts are productive we might discover that the village has Planter connections and was part of an early Irish settlement in this general area.

Historically, Steam Mill Village is more significant than Aldershot.  Brent Fox, in his book on Wellington Dyke, notes that one of the first aboiteaus the Acadians built in this area was constructed at Steam Mill. From what Brent Fox wrote the aboiteau was built where the railroad bridge of the Cornwallis Valley Railway once spanned the Canard River.  This aboiteau, while historically significant, is not marked by a monument or a plaque, an oversight that hopefully will one day be corrected.

According to Arthur W. H. Eaton (in his history of Kings County) Steam Mill Village has the honour of being the site of the first “steam factory” in Kings County.  Charles Bruce Fergusson (in Place-Names and Places   of Nova Scotia) notes that the site now known as Steam Mill Village was settled in 1761 shortly after the Planters arrived, making it time wise one of the longest settled areas in the county.

Aside from mentioning the steam factory, Eaton has nothing else to say about Steam Mill Village.  He’s even less generous with neighbouring Aldershot, but he does mention the military camp twice.

Not so with Fergusson in Place-Names.  While he erroneously places the community two miles north of Kentville, Fergusson devotes considerable more space to Aldershot than Eaton.  However, Fergusson appears to confuse Aldershot with the old area known as the Pine Woods.

Getting back to Eaton, he places the Pine Woods as located near Kentville and identifies it as once being a Mi’kmaq encampment.  Eaton mentions the Pine Woods in a couple of places in the county history but unlike Fergusson, he doesn’t confuse it with the community of Aldershot.  The Pine Woods, Eaton says, was where Aldershot Camp was established after it was moved here from the Aylesford area.

On Geof Turner’s compilation of Steam Mill Village history, perhaps you, the reader, can help.   If you have anything of interest in family records, family lore, etc., Geof would like to hear from you.  He’s especially interested in obtaining a photograph of the Steam Mill Village train station, which has been elusive.


(In a recent column I looked at E. Wylie Rockwell, the man who established a business operating in downtown Kentville for over a century.  This week the little known but no less distinguished brother of a Kentville historian is profiled.)

“To the memory of my brother Frank Herbert Eaton, M.A., D.C.L. this book is affectionately inscribed,” writes Arthur W. H. Eaton in the History of Kings County.

Most readers who delve into the county history likely only glance at and quickly pass over the page with Eaton’s dedication to his brother; with no thought of whom Frank Herbert Eaton might be or why the history is dedicated to him.  Faithful to reproducing exactly as it originally was published, the online edition of the history also contains the dedication.

So, who was Frank Herbert Eaton, you may ask.  First of all, typical of many of the Planter Eatons who settled in Kings County after the Acadian expulsion, Frank Herbert Eaton was a distinguished scholar, much in the same vein as his even more notable brother.  Both were Kentville natives, a fact often overlooked when the town’s distinguished past residents are being recognised and saluted.

Generally, little is known of the Kentville Eatons, other than one of them, Arthur, is famous as the compiler of the county history.  Beginning with Arthur’s and Frank’s father William, all were involved in the town’s civil affairs.  William served for many years as inspector of schools for Kings County and when Kentville was incorporated in 1886 he served on its first council, later accepting the double office of town clerk and treasurer.

To some extent Frank Herbert Eaton followed in his father’s footsteps.  Born in Kentville in 1851 he was educated in Kentville’s grammar school and Horton Academy.  In the biographical section of his Kings County history, Arthur Eaton notes that Frank entered Acadia in 1869 and after graduating in 1873 with a B.A. went to Harvard.  Then follows a brief sketch of his career as a teacher in Nova Scotia and the United States, with more than a few omissions.

Surprisingly, no note is made in Frank Herbert Eaton’s biographical sketch of his time in Kentville as a town officer and newspaper publisher.  Arthur Eaton failed to mention his brother served as town clerk in Kentville for several years.  No mention is made of Frank’s tenure as publisher of The Advertiser either.  Here’s what his obituary had to say about that:

“Mr. Eaton will be known to all our readers as the former editor and publisher of The Advertiser.  He purchased this paper in 1893, then called the New Star from the late James Stewart and conducted it until 1897 when failing health compelled him to seek another climate.”

There’s a 20 year period between Eaton’s graduation from Acadia in 1873 and taking over the helm of The Advertiser.  In that period Eaton served in Kentville, studied for two terms at Harvard, taught at Amherst Academy, was professor of mathematics in the Normal School in Truro and taught in the Boston Latin School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  When and why he returned to Kentville isn’t definitely known but it had to be no later than 1893 when he purchased the newspaper.

Ill health forced Eaton to sell The Advertiser in 1897.  On the advice of his doctor Eaton moved to British Columbia.  He was tubercular and it was believed at the time the climate in British Columbia would be beneficial.  Around this time Kentville was being looked at seriously as an area well suited to treat tubercular patients, so Franks move there for his health was puzzling.  That two of his brothers were living in Victoria at the time may have been a factor in his move.

In Victoria Frank Herbert Eaton once again entered the field of education.  In 1897 Eaton assumed control of public education in the city of Victoria, a position he maintained until his death in 1908 from tuberculosis.  He was 57 at the time of his death and writes Arthur, he died in the prime of his life and “had earned himself an enduring place among Canada’s leading men.”

A fitting tribute.  Let’s hope when the roll is being compiled of leading, prestigious Kentville sons, Frank Herbert Eaton’s name will be on it.


The lowly beet, a vegetable many of us look upon indifferently, has the highest sugar content of any vegetable.  Well aware of this, early settlers here often grew beets for its sugar.  During WW2, some enterprising Kings County farmers worked around strict rationing by boiling down beets to make sugar.  Archives in the Kings County Museum tell us a sweet syrup was produced in the war years by local farmers through a process of grinding, cooking and straining the beet; according to one newspaper clipping in the archives, the ratio was something like 75 pounds of beets boiled down for a yield of a gallon of syrup.

This was one of the interesting facts Andrew Clinch mentioned recently at the Kings Historical Society.  Clinch reviewed the history of beet growing and after listening to his talk, I’ll never look at this vegetable the same way again.

As far as most people are concerned the beet is a lowly vegetable.  It’s well down on the list of table fare compared to, say, potatoes, carrots and onions and is overlooked most of the time.  Yet, historically speaking, that homely clump of beets you see at the roadside market and in pickle jars at the supermarket was one of the earliest vegetables to be cultivated. As Clinch pointed out the beet has been grown for thousands of years – there’s evidence of it being cultivated in 2000 b.c. In Greek and Roman times it was poplar as a medicine, a beverage and an aphrodisiac.

Surprisingly, the humble beet is recognised today as a super vegetable, Clinch said. So the Greeks and Romans, the settlers and the farmers who boiled beets to make sugar were on to something.

Maybe so, but along with Brussels sprouts, beets were one of the vegetables my brothers and I detested harvesting in the truck garden my father religiously planted every spring.  Just as religiously, my mother boiled and peeled the beets, pickling them for the winter.  While they were sweet they had a damp earth, turn-you-off taste when opened in January and February. We had to be encouraged to eat them.  “They’re good for your heart,” my mother used to say.

I figured beets and heart health was simply old country folklore, a myth in other words.  But as mentioned, beets are now recognized as a super veggie and Mom was right. There’s something in beets that reduces blood pressure, which is good for the heart of course.  Also, as Andrew Clinch noted, beets are high in fibre, rich in various vitamins and even have a “feel good chemical” that’s also found in chocolate.  You can even make beet wine; and beet based brownies (!) which Andrew Clinch passed out during his talk.

There may even be something to the belief by early Greeks and Romans that beets were an aphrodisiac.  Which may be why people once insisted on having beets on the dinner table year around.


Working late at night in the old Rockwell Home Hardware building on Main Street, Collette Schaller-Beaton says she often heard thumps and bumps she couldn’t explain.  Colette claims – tongue in cheek maybe – that it was Wylie Rockwell’s spirit come back to visit his old store.

If this is so, what was Wylie’s ghost doing in the store he built in 1910? Nearby, a few minutes walk up the street at 432 Main Street, is the house Wylie lived in after he married into the Calkin family.

This would have been the natural site for Wylie to haunt.  Especially since Wylie’s old store at 253 Main Street, which evolved into Rockwell’s Home Hardware and then into Kings County Home Hardware, had recently moved into the building next to his old house.  But more later on the hardware store. Here’s a short bio on the man who started Rockwell Ltd.

Wylie Rockwell was a 5th generation Planter, descending from Jonathan Rockwell who received a grant in Cornwallis in 1761. Around the time of his marriage to Nellie Calkin, Wylie was a partner in the firm of T. P. Calkin & Co., and there’s a note to this effect in Eaton’s History of Kings County. Wylie had worked with the Calkin firm for several decades before becoming a partner.  A write-up and photograph of Wylie can be found in Calkin’s 100th anniversary booklet published in 1947.  Here it’s noted that Wylie entered the Calkin firm as a clerk under its founder Benjamin H. Calkin.  Wylie became a partner when Benjamin’s son Thomas Pennington Calkin took over the firm.

No doubt marrying T. P. Calkin’s sister Nellie advanced Wylie’s career and likely made it easy for him to start his own retail hardware store.  Kentville historian Louis Comeau, in his book Historic Kentville, writes that Wylie started the hardware store with Calkin’s blessing.  Calkin’s anniversary booklet write-up on Wylie treats him kindly, so it appears he did have the Calkin family’s approval when he set out on his own.   After all, he was one of the family.

Wylie struck out on his own in 1910.  In that year he built the hardware store on Main Street, a business he first called the “Red Brick Daylight Store.”  Wylie advertised the store under this unusual business name in various newspapers and other publications, using the motto “The Store of Light and Service.”  The store’s façade was red brick and it stood on the south and supposedly sunny side of town, hence the name and the motto.

Wylie Rockwell’s store has the distinction of being one of the oldest businesses operating continuously in Kentville.  With the move of the hardware store to the site where the Calkin house once stood (next to Wylie’s old house as mentioned) the firm he started is now well into its second century of continuous operation.   At the same time he was operating the hardware store Wylie was also involved with another Kentville business, a small manufacturing firm that made liniments of various sorts.  This firm was called Nearys Liniment. Co.  In newspapers advertisements published in 1916, Wylie is mentioned as the liniment firm’s manager.

Looking at the Rockwell family files at the Kings County Museum we find that Wylie’s operation of his store was short lived.  Wylie died in 1921, just over a decade after he opened the hardware store.  Rockwell was born in Kings County (probably in Canard) but to date I’ve been unable to determine exactly where his parents lived at the time of his birth.  Wylie is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in east end Kentville.  His tombstone gives his birth year as 1865 (some sources have the year as 1855) making him 56 when he died.

The Rockwell name has disappeared from his old business but Wylie’s spirit still lingers in Kentville.  In his heyday he was a prominent Kentville businessman, the likes of T. P Calkin and Fred Wade, two Kentville men who were among the elite in the business world.  His obituary from The Advertiser in May of 1921 hails him as a prominent business leader and outstanding citizen.  Here’s a partial quote:

“In the passing away of W. Wylie Rockwell, Kentville loses one of its best known and most prominent business men.  He was 56 years of age and a son of William A. Rockwell of Canard.  Mr. Rockwell started his life work as a clerk for the late B. H. Calkin, about 40 years ago, remaining with him four years.  He then continued the same business as partner with T. P. Calkin until 1910, when he built the imposing Rockwell block on Main Street, where for 11 years he conducted a prosperous business, his integrity and sterling qualities gaining him the confidence of the public.  In the acme of success, on account of failing health he was obliged to retire from business in 1920, selling out to Rockwell Ltd.”

(Note: Some sources have Rockwell’s name as Wylie W. Rockwell but his obituary likely has the correct order.  Wylie was probably christened William Wylie Rockwell.  Since his father’s name was also William, Rockwell probably started signing his name as W. Wylie Rockwell to avoid confusion with his sire.)

W. Wylie Rockwell

The once prominent Kentville business leader, W. Wylie Rockwell. (From the Louis V. Comeau collection.)


About 100 years ago, give or take a year, a New Brunswick magazine asked newspaper editors and other luminaries to review the attributes of leading towns in Kings Counties.  The result was a special edition of the Busy East devoted to promoting the business and tourist potential of Wolfville, Kentville and Berwick, with the eastern end of Annapolis Valley reviewed for good measure.

With the headquarters of the railway and its major facilities established there, the leading county town a century ago was Kentville.  But Berwick and Wolfville had much to boast about and it’s interesting to see what newspaper editors and leading citizens selected as the main attributes of these towns.

In most cases the gentlemen praising Berwick, Kentville and Wolfville singled out the leading retail stores and industries of their respective towns as worth mentioning.  Let’s look at Berwick first.

F. Lawson, whom I believe was a printer, wrote Berwick’s contribution to the Busy East’s special edition. As well as being the “leading town of two valleys,” wrote Lawson, Berwick was into apples in a big, big way 100 years ago. As well as the headquarters of the sprawling United Fruit Companies of Nova Scotia (with over 40 subsidiary companies along the train tracks) Berwick was the home port of eastern Canada’s biggest apple grower.  When it came to growing, packing and exporting apples, no one in eastern Canada came near Sam Chute.

At the time Berwick had one of the most modern flour and cereal mills in eastern Canada.  The Woodworth Bros. Mill generated its own electricity and using the railway, shipped its products all over the Maritimes.  A “show place”, the Berwick Nurseries, graced the town, along with a hotel and a combination automotive garage and foundry.

Now to Wolfville, which 100 years ago – according to B. O Davison, editor of The Acadian – was a favourite residential centre.  “We have modern streets, an abundant supply of purest water, an up-to-date sewerage system (and) electric lighting,” boasted Davison; and, of course, Acadia University, one of the “school centres of Canada.”

There were fine hotels in Wolfville 100 years ago, among them Acadia Villa Hotel and Acadia Lodge, but no mention is made of retail stores or industries.  The potential of Wolfville as a major seaport hasn’t been realised, writes Davison, who appears more interested in promoting the town as a “desirable place to live in and move in.”

Reflecting perhaps the size and importance of the town 100 years ago, Kentville was given the biggest spread by the Busy East.  “It is the gem of the Valley and the hub of Evangeline land,” writes one of its leading citizens, George E. Calkin.  It helped of course that the Dominion Atlantic Railway had its headquarters in the town, along with all the facilities and employees required to keep the trains running.

Thanks to the railway and the nearby military camp, Kentville was thriving 100 years ago.  A major hotel, the Aberdeen, was located downtown, and firms such as T. P Calkin were expanding from Kentville into other areas of the province.  A major provincial automobile distributor was located in the town, and the Nova Scotia Power Company was about to set up its headquarters there.

Long since gone and hardly remembered anymore is the Neary Liniment Company.  Owned by W. Wylie Rockwell, of Rockwell Ltd. fame, the firm was given is own write-up in the Big East review.  At the time R. L. Mcdonald was operating an “auto livery” in Kentville.  Was this a misspelling of Macdonald and the start of the distinguished Valley firm of Ralph L. Macdonald & Co Ltd?  Perhaps it was.

Looking at these reviews, I’m surprised by attempts to portray each town as a tourist destination.  Nearby scenic areas were described in detail, the Look-Off, Cape Blomidon and Grand Pre, for example.  Mention was often made of scenic apple orchards near each town, with Kentville described as being in the “centre of the far-famed garden of Nova Scotia.”


“If you’ve lived in the Gaspereau Valley or travelled through the area, you’ve no doubt noticed the tower that sits atop the hill,” Tarina Bambrick wrote in a summer issue of The Advertiser in 1992.

The tower, Bambrick said, was on the Wallbrook side of the Gaspereau River near the Ralph Stirling residence, on what is known locally as Trenholm Hill; near its base is an old graveyard.

Now, just over two decades later, there are a few more graves in the cemetery but little else has changed.  The tower still looms there on Trenholm Hill; dominating its surroundings for longer than most people can remember, it’s a curiosity of sorts, its origin and purpose bandied about.  The tiny graveyard near the base of the tower adds to the mystery of a structure that has long been speculated about.  Was it built as a look off, a watch tower, a tourist attraction or constructed on a whim?  No one seems to know for sure.

Tarina Bambrick was on the staff of The Advertiser in 1992 when she determined to learn the age of the tower and “how it came to be.”  Bambrick had grown up nearby, had visited the tower like most residents of the area, but it was only until she had been away and hadn’t seen it for 18 years that she became interested in its origin.

Bambrick’s historical research began by interviewing several senior residents around the Gaspereau Valley.  It seemed to be the logical way to discover the tower’s age, why it was built and who constructed it.  In a way this was a dead end when it came to learning the tower’s age; tallying up what seniors remembered about the tower, its age varied according to whom she was talking to.

For example, one of the seniors reckoned that the tower was built just after World War 1.  Based on the recollections of another interviewee, the tower was erected in 1908 0r 1909.  Based on yet another interview with a senior resident of the Gaspereau area, the tower was built around 1920 or in 1921.  These estimates are close to the actual age of the tower, as you will see shortly.

Recently I talked with Kay Stirling, who was interviewed by Tarina Bambrick for the 1992 article.  The Stirlings have owned the tower property for about 60 years, Ms. Stirling said. Stirling confirmed what Bambrick had learned through her research on the tower.   The gentleman who had the tower constructed was the late Harry Trenholm.  Mr. Trenholm employed Havelock Brown to build it.  Brown’s reputation as an expert carpenter, one of the best in the area, made him the natural choice to construct the tower.

It appears the consensus is Harry Trenholm built the tower as a family memorial, possibly for his mother.  This is what Kay Stirling believes. Also, it may have been a place the Trenholm family retired to on Sunday afternoons, the view from the tower being spectacular.

Nearly 15 meters high and standing on one of the highest hills in the area, the tower is an excellent look-off.  It’s claimed that one can see three counties, perhaps even four, from the tower on a clear day; much of the Gaspereau Valley and a bit of Minas Basin can be viewed from the tower.

As for the actual age of the tower, I was told by Kay Stirling that it likely has stood on the hill overlooking the Gaspereau River for about 110 years.  Ms. Stirling said when the tower was being renovated, newspapers dated 1902 were found in the walls, meaning undoubtedly the tower is into its second century and counting.

I checked on some of the headstones in the cemetery and found one dated 1905, that of Douglass A. Mitchell who was drowned in Boston Harbour.  Harry Trenholm, 1870 – 1945, the man who had the tower built, lies in the cemetery.  Buried there as well, according to the Rootsweb list of Kings County cemeteries are Bishops, Careys, Stirlings, Perrys and Tamlins.  I found markers/headstones for these families except for the Tamlins.

The tower has weathered well over the years, Tarina Bambrick wrote in 1992.  It still looks good today, thanks to the Stirlings keeping it up.  While the tower was accessible to the public at one time, due to vandalism the Stirlings had to put a gate on the road leading to it.   If you don’t mind the long climbing, the tower is accessible by foot.  As a courtesy to the family, I’m sure Kay Stirling would appreciate you asking for permission first before venturing up the hill

As I said, the view is spectacular.

Trenholm Tower

Looming high above the Gaspereau Valley for over a century, the original purpose of the Trenholm tower is still somewhat of a mystery. (E. Coleman)

Trenholm Tower cemetary

The old cemetery below Trenholm tower holds one headstone dated 1905. (E. Coleman)


Dated 21 December, 1760, a document in the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, advises the Lords of Trade in Great Britain of a shipwreck in the Canard River.  “With concern,” writes Lieutenant Governor Jonathan Belcher, “I acquaint your Lordships of the loss of the Provincial Brigantine the Montague after unloading the provisions for the new settlers at Horton and Cornwallis in her passage down the Canard River, she ran upon a Bank of Mud and was overset so deep that the water covers her at high tides and tho all endeavours have been used, I am satisfied that she will not again be fit for service.”

In an earlier column I had written about the sinking of the Montague in the Canard River, noting Arthur W. H. Eaton’s reference to the shipwreck in his Kings County history and in a 1915 paper on Rhode Island settlers.  Other historical writers have mentioned the shipwreck but Belcher’s dispatch is the only government record found so far confirming the fate of the Montague.

Another interesting document on the Montague has surfaced and it has spurred the Kings Historical Society into producing a video on the shipwreck.  Discovered in the Public Archives by Historical Society president Doug Crowell, the document, a court paper, reveals unauthorised attempts to salvage pieces of the Montague.  Apparently the Montague, as it sat on the mud flats along the Canard River channel near Porter’s Point, was too much of a temptation for Nathanial Curtis who along with John Dains cut away the Montague’s mast and carried away the ironwork.

Dated 7 December 1761, the court document reveals that a complaint was made to Justice of the Peace Amos Bill that “some evil minded person or persons had cut a mast and carried away the Irons belonging to said mast, which mast floated from his Majesty’s Brigg Montecue” (sic).

Bill found that Curtis “of Cornwallis, yeoman, did cut and carry or at least assist in cutting and carrying away said Iron, which is contrary to Law.”  Dains name does not appear in this document and it is likely he was charged separately.

To guarantee the appearance of Curtis in court to face the charges, two prominent citizens of Cornwallis agreed to put up a surety bond.  They were Dr. Samuel Willoughby and Samuel Starr “who both acknowledge themselves bound in the sum of ten pounds sterling,” reads the court document …. “in the recognizance thereof that the said Nathaniel Curtis shall appear before the next Quarter Sessions and shall not depart said Court without leave or license …”

The court case against Curtis and his apparently successful attempt to salvage what he could from the shipwrecked Montague undoubtedly will be a feature of the documentary on the Montague.  This is being produced for the Kings Historical Society by Innovative’s Stephen Wilsack.  Attempts to find the shipwreck, which may still lie buried in the mud along the Canard River channel, will be documented as well. The video will also look at the career of the Montague’s Captain, Jeremiah Rogers.   Before she was commissioned to provide supplies for the Planters of Cornwallis and Horton, the Montague under Rogers was a privateer.

(Note:  Readers who may have heard of folklore on the Montague or Capt. Rogers are invited to contact the Kings Historical Society.)


“Berwick is the very center of the great apple growing industry,” notes an editorial about the town in a 1916 review of the Annapolis Valley.

The review was published in a special issue of the Busy East in Canada magazine (which later became the Atlantic Advocate) and it’s interesting since it mentions the proclaimed king of apple growing in Nova Scotia, Berwick’s famed Sam Chute, establishing his credentials as a prominent pioneer orchardist.

A while back I devoted a column to Mr. Chute, determining he was indeed a leading pioneer in apple growing.  I had erroneously claimed that William H. Chase deserved the title of apple king but the then editor of this paper, Sara Keddy, set me straight. Bottom line, Chute was the leading apple grower, Chase the man who marketed the apple crop with a genius unrivalled and making a fortune doing so.

Anyway, back to the Busy East, its Valley Review and the write-up on Sam Chute.  At the time of publication Sam Chute was hailed as the man “who has the largest orchard in the world.”  Chute, when asked if this true, asked in turn, “Who has one larger.”  At the time Chute had 40,000 apple trees and was busy planting more.  He was also prominent in establishing the United Fruit Companies, which had it headquarters in Berwick.

Berwick wasn’t alone in claiming to be the apple capital.  Wolfville made a similar claim at the time and it was also published in the Busy East.  “Wolfville is the center of the finest fruit-growing sections of Nova Scotia,” writes B. O. Davison, editor the town’s weekly, The Acadian.  Kentville’s mayor made a similar claim, but more on that later when I look at the Busy East’s review of Valley towns.

In this special edition the Busy East mentioned an unusual agricultural product I never heard of before, a product that apparently had the potential of making the Valley known far and wide for more than just apple growing.

That product was Humogen and here’s what the Busy East said about it:  “As the valley progresses, so will Berwick.  If the day comes when the immense Caribou Bog, which lies on Berwick’s western boundary, is made to produce Humogen, then, surely, will come an era of accelerated prosperity, for the lack of fertilizer is the valley’s greatest drawback.

“Humogen is a product discovered by Professor Bottomley, a noted scientist of the University of London.  Bog peat is inoculated with a bacteria discovered by Prof. Bottomley and the material is thus converted into soluble plant food.”

Nothing came of the project to convert the Aylesford peat bog into a massive fertilizer swamp.  The whole scheme apparently fizzled out when it was found Humogen wasn’t as effective as regular fertilizer and was costly and time consuming to produce and harvest.

It’s interesting though.  As well as once being the apple capital, we almost became the Humogen producing capital of Canada.