CIRCA 1930 – KOOL-AID ARRIVES IN WHITE ROCK (July 14/14)

Relatively isolated even by today’s standards, the farm Granny grew up on was at least half a day’s drive by horse and wagon from the nearest town.  The farm stood on what her father and others called the New Road.  Why “new” she doesn’t know.  The White Rock farm had been there for at least two generations, maybe even longer, so the road probably wasn’t all that new at the time she was born.

Perhaps we can surmise that the road was the last to be roughed out in the area, the closest road, the one running up White Rock Mountain towards Black River being the older of the two.  Whatever the explanation the farm on the New Road (called Sunken Lake Road today) was out in the bushes a bit and when Granny was growing up she had none of the conveniences we have today.

However, relatively isolated as it was, modern day treats often found their way to her farmhouse.  One of them was Kool-Ade, a soft drink mix still popular today.  Kool-Aid, as it later came to be known, was invented by Edwin Perkins in 1927.  By the 1930s Kool-Aid was being sold across Canada and had even reached out-of the-way farm areas such as White Rock.

Granny isn’t sure how Kool-Aid found its way to her father’s farm but she recalls that it sold for five cents a package.  Perkins first marketed Kool-Aid for 10 cents a package but with arrival of the Depression he halved the price just to stay in business.  Kool-Aid was meant to be served cold – it’s rather blah served warm – and was marketed as such.  So with electric power several years away and with no refrigeration, the spring back of the farm supplied the cold water to make Kool-Aid enjoyable on hot summer days.  Granny remembers that the drink came in at least six flavours – which agrees with Kool-Aid history since Edwin Perkins original beverage came in six varieties.

Now, if you’re wondering how American refreshments made it to the sparsely settled community of White Rock only a few years after coming on the market, Granny remembers it was sold door to door by a family from Black River.  At the same time, says Granny, Regal products were being sold door to door by school kids and perhaps they also offered the American beverage.

This is possible.  At one time Regal catalogues were as ubiquitous in Canadian homes as the T. Eaton catalogue.  Regal was established years before Granny was born – in 1928 in Canada by William McCartney – and early on schools were encouraged to sell their products as fund raisers for sports teams.  Then again, it might have been people selling Watkins products, founded in the States in 1868, who went door to door in places like White Rock selling spices and other condiments.

This is immaterial, of course, and is only one of many things Granny remembers about life in the 1930s, a time before electricity, radio, telephones that reached beyond the immediate area, and all the other conveniences we take for granted today.

RESEARCH DISCOVERS EARLY ROAD, STREET NAMES (July 7/14)

Like many people interested in local history, I’ve often wondered about the origin of Kings County road and street names.  Why, for example, was Brooklyn Street so named, and even more puzzling, why was it once called Shadow Street?  And when and why was the street’s name changed?

Brooklyn/Shadow Street is but one example of county roads and streets with names of obscure, mysterious origin.  However, the origin of some road and street names are relatively easy to determine – Belcher Street, Church Street and Middle Dyke Road are three examples and there are many others.

While the origin of county road and street names around Kentville, may be difficult to determine (especially along the northern border of the town) they may not remain a mystery for long. I was recently contacted by a former Kentville resident whose research into various thoroughfares immediately north of Kentville may determine how their names originated.  For starters, by researching deeds and records of land transactions, Gary Young discovered the earlier names of various roads in a huge block roughly comprising Exhibition Street, Campbell Road, Oakdene Avenue, Lanzie Road, Scott Drive, McKittrick Road, Cornwallis Street, Nichols Avenue and Aldershot Road.

Some of these roads and streets start in the town of Kentville and run into the county.  Mr. Young believes all or most of this area was once called the Pine Woods and was part of a Planter land grant given to the Chipmans.  Eaton, in his Kings County history, appears to indicate that the Pine Woods was a much smaller area well north and northwest of Kentville, an area once occupied seasonally by Mi’kmaqs and settled by in several places by Blacks.  Based on what Mr. Young told me, I believe he is correct about Pine Woods being a much larger area than Eaton indicates.

Hopefully Mr. Young plans will publish his findings.  For one thing they’d be a welcome supplement to Eaton’s county history, which was researched and published over 100 years ago and could stand some updating – the history of towns like Kentville, Wolfville and Berwick and the villages, for example, definitely need updating.

In searching through deeds, Mr. Young has discovered some interesting, little known history about roads and streets in and around Kentville, especially when it comes to Lanzie Road and Brooklyn Street.  Here’s one example of what he’s found and I quote from a recent note he sent me via email:

“My efforts over the last couple of years have revealed several things from deed searches,” he wrote.  “Lanzie Road was most certainly called after a Landsey, Samuel Landsey.  The new Cornwallis Road passed through his land connecting at the top to Oakdene Avenue, named in other deeds (as) Boyle Road, Barnaby Road, Middle Road and Wolcott Road, Campbell Road (East Road) Shadow Street …. and Church Street.  He was deeded this land in 1848 by William Chipman.

“Samuel Landsey’s land mostly was on the corner of Nichols Avenue (the proposed new road to Kentville in 1846) and Shadow Street. With a portion on the other side of Nichols Avenue at the tip of what today is Merle Daniel’s land and was (once) Carl Barnaby’s ….  Another interesting fact is that Scott Drive and McKittrick Road were called Pinewood Road in several deeds in the 1880s.”

Another interested tidbit found by Mr. Young is that Samuel Landsey may have been the slave of William Chipman, whose land holdings were part of the original grant to Handley Chipman, said grant including the Pine Woods.  Young found records indicating William Chipman had deeded land in the Brooklyn/Shadow Street area to the Landseys; perhaps, we may speculate, after the manumission of the Landseys.

HANSFORD STORY: PIPERS IN WORLD WAR ONE (June 16/14)

This year, as we mark the anniversary of World War One, you’ll hear many stories passed down to us by veterans of this conflict.  One of my favourite war stories was told to me by World War Two veteran Gordon Hansford of Kentville, who in turn heard the story from his father, a World War One veteran.  The story involves a musical instrument I favour more than any other, the bagpipe.

But first, so you will see how and why the pipes were involved in World War One, here’s a bit of history.  The bagpipe was always an instrument of war.  Well, not quite “always” but for a long time anyway.  According to medieval records, as early as the 13th century the Scots and the Irish were being led by the pipes into battles against the British.  The pipes were so successful in rousing and encouraging Irish soldiers that the British banned them in Ireland by the Statue of Kilkenny in 1366.

Despite the ban, despite the fact pipes were discouraged in Scotland (but not officially banned, as you often read) the British were always ready to recruit pipers for military units serving outside Ireland and Scotland.  Pipers had become entrenched in Irish and Scottish regiments by the time World War One began and the tradition of pipers leading troops into battle was firmly established.

This piping of troops into battle not only was foolhardy but disastrous as well.   Charging out of the trenches into nests of German machine guns quickly decimated the ranks of pipers.  Gordon Hansford tells me that during World War One some 500 pipers of the British Empire were killed, a statistic rarely if ever quoted in war losses.

Scottish pipers from a British Regiment were with Canadian troops at Vimy Ridge; and when the battle for Vimy began two of them piped our boys over the top.  Their story is an interesting aspect of World War One you never read about in history books.  I’ll let Gordon Hansford tell you about them.

“My father, Cecil, served with the 25th Nova Scotia Infantry Battalion inWW1 and was wounded twice.  He told me that at Vimy Ridge two pipers came up top the front line and led the Canadians into the attack.  They were father and son and both were wounded, one losing a leg.  They both received the military medal for bravery.  The tune they played was ‘Bonnie Dundee.’

“It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, when I received the history of the 25th Battalion, that I was able to find their names.  They were Walter James Telfer and his son.  He was born in Scotland and immigrated to Boston, later coming to Nova Scotia to join the 25th band.”

So many pipers were killed during the war that word came down from headquarters to keep them off the front line.  The pipers were then employed for the most part as stretcher bearers but even this was hazardous, as Gordon Hansford points out:  “Another famous Nova Scotia unit was the 85th Nova Scotia Highlanders, who also fought at Vimy.  Later, at Caix, their entire pipe band was killed or wounded while acting as stretcher bearers.”

HISTORY BUFFS: BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW THIS (June 3/14)

Isaac De Razilly (1587-1635) is known as the founder of LaHave.  De Razilly led the first successful attempt to establish French settlements in Nova Scotia, first in La Have and later at Port Royal.  It was from Port Royal that the people we know as Acadians moved eastward to establish settlements in Kings County.

In Kings County the dykelands are often spoken of as an Acadian heritage, and properly so.  The Acadians built aboiteaux, running dykes and crossdykes here, a work that beat back the sea, creating a wealth of fields and meadows that still exist today; and, of course, inspiring the Planters to continue the work.

This creating of the dykes may have been the Acadians undoing, but that’s another tale.  However, we can speculate that the conquering of the sea and the rich farmlands the Acadians created were the envy of land hungry New Englanders and was a major factor spurring the expulsion.

In one sense, the dykes of Kings County and the Acadians are synonymous. However, I bet you didn’t know this about them:  When De Razilly was setting up the French colony here, salt was nearly as valuable as gold, almost as scarce and so heavily taxed ordinary people couldn’t afford it.  So, De Razilly thought, why not use the tides to raise salt water into dyked salt pans where it could be dried, creating a tax free surplus of this precious commodity.

Acting on his inspiration, De Razilly brought out experienced salters from France, men who were accustomed to dykeing.  It was these men who convinced De Razilly valuable land could be wrested from the sea by dykeing rather than the current method of clearing land by hacking away at the forest.  De Razilly’s salt industry was a failure but dykeing began here as a result of the salter’s arrival; you could say they came to make salt and stayed to build dykes, and we’re all the richer for it.

One of the oldest native Indian settlements in eastern Canada can be found in Debert, Colchester County.  Based on radiocarbon dating, the area is believed to have been settled by Paleo-Indians (“Paleo” meaning old) well over 10,000 years ago.  These early settlers may have crossed the Bering Strait from Asia into North America on a land and ice bridge, which some sources say existed anywhere from 14,000 to 47,000 years ago.

Eventually, many of the Paleo-Indians drifted in the Maritimes and down into Nova Scotia.  The discovery of their settlement at Debert and the dating of artefacts found was an archaeological event of major significance, indicating man occupied Nova Scotia thousands of years before Europeans arrived.  The explorations and discoveries of Champlain and De Monts almost pale in significance.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the ancient native site in Debert but I bet you didn’t know this about it:  There’s a Kings County connection with its discovery

A native son of Kings County, Ernest Steckle Eaton, discovered the Debert site 1948.  Born in Canning in 1923, he was the son of Ernest L. and Ellen S. Eaton of Upper Canard.  Ernest Steckle Eaton attended school in Kentville, earned a degree in Arts from the University of Western Ontario and attended the NSAC and Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown.

It was while he was on the staff of the Agricultural College in Truro that Eaton discovered the native site.  The artefacts he collected wound up in Kentville, in the hands of a collector who donated them to a Halifax university.  The collector, W. A. Dennis, wrote about the artefacts and the native site in an American publication and this caught the attention of archaeologists here; a full scale investigation of the site was mounted and it was only then that the antiquity of the native settlement was realized.

As I said, this was a magnificent find.  However, Ernest Steckle Eaton’s role in discovering the site has never been fully recognised.  Perhaps one day he will be properly saluted for his find.

WAR ANNIVERSARY: EVERYONE HAS A STORY (May 19/14)

My father was one of some 10,000 Canadian soldiers who were either killed or wounded in the taking of Vimy Ridge, a battle said by historians to be a defining moment for Canada.

I remember Vimy for reasons other than Canada’s coming of age; and like countless Canadians of my generation, I have my own war memories and a few war stories.  As we mark the Great War’s anniversary I’m reminded, for example, that I wouldn’t be here today if the Vimy Ridge battle hadn’t taken place.  My father was shot at Vimy.  My mother to be was a volunteer at the field station where he was treated.  As they say, romance blossomed and she became a war bride.  This is why the First World War and the battle of Vimy Ridge are of significance to me.

Like many veterans of the Great War and of World War 11, my father was reluctant to talk about what happened over there. But sometimes a few cups of cider on a Saturday afternoon loosened his tongue.  Then he would tell us about the souvenirs he brought home, about German snipers and a blood-stained German knapsack, why he treasured a broken cavalry regiment sabre, what it was like to participate in a cavalry charge in the face of machine guns.

As I said, everyone of my generation has a war story, a war memory; mostly because everyone of my generation – today’s seniors – had fathers and grandfathers who served in the first world war; and brothers, sisters, uncles, friends and neighbours who served in the second world war.  Most of us grew up hearing firsthand about trench warfare in the First World War, about the deprivation, the rats in the trenches, the ever prevalent diseases.  As teenagers we witnessed firsthand how the Second World War tore communities apart and disrupted family life.

The current marking of the 100th anniversary of the Great War rekindles many of those memories.  The souvenirs my father brought back from the war are still here to remind of us what took place then.  Among them are the stirrups, spurs and bit from the last horse he rode with the Lord Strathcona’s and the remains of the sabre he carried on a cavalry charge.

Why he kept a broken sabre is another story.  Ordered to clear a strip of woods, his regiment charged with sabres out.  Half way into the charge a German soldier stepped out from behind a tree and levelled a handgun at my father.  “He had me,” my father said but his gun misfired. “My sabre snapped off near the hilt when it caught him in the chest.  That’s why I kept it.”

MI’KMAQ/ACADIAN TRAILS CREATED VILLAGES, TOWNS (May 5/14)

Looking at the early history of Kings County, one thing appears  obvious – early on, wherever there were crossroads, ports and river crossings such as fords and bridges, villages often sprung up; villages that in more than a few cases evolved into towns that still thrive today.

This is true of Kentville, which according to the dean of county historians Arthur W. H. Eaton, owes its location to a narrow area, a ford on the Cornwallis River where a bridge eventually was constructed.  Would Kentville have evolved into a town if the river wasn’t narrow and fordable  at low tide and was an ideal place to have a bridge? My guess is, most likely not.

Many of the crossroads existing today were trails laid down over the centuries by the Mi’kmaq and Acadians.  For example, an early Acadian road running north from downtown Kentville, now Cornwallis Street creates a crossroads with the Cornwallis River, which was a waterway for Mi’kmaqs and Acadians.  Another old Acadian trail running east and west, now Main Street, creates a T-junction with Cornwallis Street and this is another factor contributing to the town’s prosperity, a prosperity accelerated by arrival of the railway.

This is also true of Wolfville where a port spurred early commercial development.  It is true also of Centreville where ancient Mi’kmaq/Acadian trails running east and west crossed well used Mi’kmaq/Acadian roads running north and south.   Near this crossroads, and no doubt because of it, a large general store servicing the area was built circa 1850 and Centreville for a time was one of the most prosperous villages in the county.

Canning also owes its development into a major commercial and shipbuilding center to its natural port.  At one time, thanks mainly to shipbuilding, Canning was the most prominent village in Kings County, outshining for a long-time the sleepy village of Horton Corner, which eventually became Kentville.  Because of the port, it was natural for Canning to become a major shipbuilding area and that it did in spades.

The potato market was another factor in making Canning thrive.  In his county history, Arthur W. H. Eaton writes that “modern Canning owes its existence largely to the potato industry of Cornwallis.”

As I mentioned above regarding the crossroads, keep in mind that many of them originally were ancient pathways, created with centuries of use by native people and adopted by the Acadians.  Seasonal roads to and from summer and winter fishing and hunting grounds of the Mi’kmaq are today main thoroughfares throughout Kings County.  If a road runs roughly parallel to a river on its course to the ocean – Belcher Street, Brooklyn Street, Canard Street and Commercial Street, for example – you can almost be sure it was first a main Mi’kmaq route and later an Acadian trail.

JAW BONE CORNER – FOLKLORE AND FACTS (April 21/14)

 

 

While the province calls it highway 341, the route that runs from Upper Dyke to Porter’s Point, about 12 kilometres in all, is known locally as Canard Street.  The area from Upper Dyke down to where Canard Street meets highway 358 has traditionally known as the community of Upper Canard.  The area Canard Street runs through, east from highway 358 to Porters Point, makes up the community of Lower Canard.

I’ve given you this little geography lesson, which is well known to long- time Canard residents, to establish the location of Jaw Bone Corner.  The corner is the junction where highway 341 meets highway 358 and it about is the halfway point between Upper and Lower Canard.

Of course, anyone living here any length of time knows exactly where Jaw Bone Corner is.  However, there are no signposts and Jaw Bone Corner won’t be found on county maps – and the fact is the corner’s name is a colloquialism based on folklore often mentioned in tourist literature and county history books.

If seems that if we wanted to be correct, Jaw Bone Corner really could be known as Hamilton’s Corner.  You will find Hamilton’s Corner indexed in Eaton’s Kings County history, with the historian noting the general area was once an Acadian community.  But if you made the assumption that Hamilton’s Corner is correct and Jaw Bone Corner isn’t, you might be wrong.   Eaton also points out that what was known in his time as Hamilton’s Corner “at first and for a long time (was) known as ‘Jaw Bone Corner’, or more simply ‘The Whalebone’.”

Before getting into the folklore about the origin of Jaw bone Corner, let’s first see why Eaton also calls it Hamilton’s Corner.  Immediately to the northwest of Jaw Bone Corner stands the former residence of Planter descendant Dr. Charles Cottnam Hamilton.  The grandson of a Horton Township grantee, Dr. Hamilton (1813-1880) was for a time one of the most prominent citizens of Kings County.   As well as carrying on a medical practice for over 40 years, Dr.  Hamilton was the first president of the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers Association when it was formed in 1863, a position he held for 17 years.  He served in the provincial Legislature and was president of the Provincial Medical Board.

In the yard of Dr. Hamilton’s old residence, one either side of the driveway, once rested the huge jawbones of a whale; said whale,  believed to have been a blue whale according to one area resident, was beached along the Canard River.  This was “sometime in the late 1880s,” according to Zeke Eaton who grew up in Canard.  “After the carcass rotted away,” Eaton says, “the jawbones were salvaged and set up as gateposts at the property at the northwest angle of the crossroads.”  The jawbones remained there until “the early 30s, at which time they were removed to a location in a fence row on the north side of Church Street, about a mile east of Chipman’s Corner.”

Now you know why Hamilton’s Corner is called Jaw Bone Corner.  Also, a long-time resident of Canard tells the area is known as Canard Corner to many people and I’ve heard this reference more than a few times. Summing everything up, you could say that Hamilton’s Corner as a designation for the crossroads has been forgotten, Canard Corner is rarely used to refer to the area, and long-time residents of Kings County mostly know it as Jaw Bone Corner.

Writing about travelling through the province in 1933, Clara Dennis, in Down in Nova Scotia, mentions Jaw Bone Corner.  Dennis confirms this is what residents called the crossroads, which was some 80 years ago.  Writing in Blomidon Rose, published in 1957, Esther Clarke Wright also confirms the crossroads was known then as Jaw Bone Corner.

Finally, to read more about this topic, go to Google and search for “A mini-history of Jawbone Corner.”  You’ll find one of my columns from 2006 on the Nova News Now website.  Featured is an interview with a former residence of the Hamilton house and some general history of the immediate area around the corner.

CHIPMAN CORNER: ACADIAN, PLANTER ROOTS (April 8/14)

To many of us, Chipman Corner is an intersection, an area where  flashing lights and stop signs mark where Middle dyke Road crosses Church Street. Motorists never notice the old cemetery tucked away in the northeast corner of the intersection.  And I’d be surprised if anyone realises the community they drive through daily is one of the most historic areas of Kings County.

Chipman Corner may be a modest little community with roughly defined borders, but Acadian and Planter roots are deep.    The community is bounded on one side by dykes, which were started centuries ago by the Acadians.  Chipman Corner originally was an Acadian hamlet.  In fact, the entire general area north and roughly northeast of Kentville was an Acadian settlement known as Riviere aux Canards.

As for Chipman Corner being “historic,” as I claimed above, let’s look at the records.  An Acadian church once stood about where the cemetery is today.  Tragically, this was burned down during the expulsion.  Later, the Planters built a church, long since demolished, on the same site.  The cemetery has the distinction of being one of the oldest in Nova Scotia and possibly one of the oldest in Canada.  Beginning with the Acadians, Chipman Corner can also claim to be one of the oldest European settlements in Nova Scotia.

Here as well settled the Chipmans, a family destined to play a prominent role in county life for generations.  After the expulsion, Handley Chipman was the first of his family to settle in the area that was to bear his name.  Handley arrived in 1761 and built the house that still stands today near the intersection.  Regarding the importance of the Chipmans and their influence in religious, educational and political circles, we need only turn to the words of Arthur W. H. Eaton in his history of Kings County.  Eaton writes that “from the arrival …. of the New England Planters, the Chipman family has occupied a foremost place.”

Besides a long write-up in his family sketches, Eaton’s history has 20 entries for the Chipmans, making it one of the better sources for information on a prominent family who now only have a corner named after them.  James Doyle Davison’s book – Handley Chipmans, Kings County Planter – is another excellent source for anyone interested in the Chipmans.   James Fry’s book, Sketch of Chipman Corner, published in 1985 by the Kings Historical Society, not only salutes the Chipmans but is also a well-researched history of the corner from the Acadian period until recent times.   All three books are available for perusal at the Kings Courthouse Museum.

Now that you’re aware of Chipman Corner’s significance, and how important it is historically, perhaps the next time you drive through the intersection you’ll look around.   If you approached the intersection from the south, along Middle Dyke Road, you will have passed Handley Chipman’s home just before you reached the stop sign.  Picture as you drive by the Acadian church – and the Planter church – that once stood on the cemetery grounds.  Picture the Acadian homes that were once scattered along the road there in every direction from the intersection.  Then you’ll understand why Chipman Corner is rightfully said to be historical, meaning, of course, being of or concerning our history.

CANARD RIVER KEEPS ITS SECRETS – FOR NOW (March 17/14)

“The Canard River is holding on to her secrets for now,” says Kelly Bourassa.  At least one of its secrets he could have added – the exact site of a long ago shipwreck in the Canard River.

Bourassa is referring to recent efforts to determine where the brigantine Montague went aground in the Canard River late in 1760.  The chairman of a Kings Historical Society committee formed to locate the Montague and to produce a historical documentary on the shipwreck, Bourassa concludes the search was only partially successful.

The documentary is another story.  The video on the shipwreck has been completed.  I’ll tell you more about that shortly, but first, more on the search for the Montague and some historical nuggets the research unearthed.

While the place where the Montague capsized on the Canard was never found, at least not with any certainty, the research revealed some little known glimpses of early Planter life.  The Montague committee spent months digging into records in the archives in Halifax, delving into out-of-print books written around the time period relevant to the Montague’s sinking, looking at shipwreck records and interviewing people with an intimate knowledge of sailing ship history and the Canard dikes.  Among the marine experts interviewed for the video was Dan Conlin, curator of the Marine Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax.  Interviews with former dyke warden Jim Borden, Kentville, also are featured in the video, along with ships of sail historian and author Joey Patterson of Hantsport.

I participated in some of the research and took part as a bit player in the filming of the video.  Which, by the way, was filmed and produced by Stephen Wilsack of Innovative Systems.  What I found interesting was the court case resulting when locals attempted to illegally salvage the Montague after it went down in the Canard River.  The case involved a few influential Planters, some of whom made the history books. The storied career of the Montague’s captain, Jeremiah Rogers, who was a privateer and later a settler in Kings County, was also discovered during the research.  Rogers, it could be said, was a hard luck skipper who was involved in more than one shipwreck while a captain.

But you can discover all of this for yourself and you don’t have to wait until the video is shown on the history channel.  The premiere of the video will take place this spring in Wolfville as a fund raiser for the Kings Historical Society.  Miss it and you miss out on glimpsing one of the most fascinating periods, the early Planter period, in the history of Kings County.

“THE IRISH STARTED THIS TOWN OF KENTVILLE” (March 4/14)

Celebrating March 17th

“We like to think the Irish started this town of Kentville,” a former Nova Scotia premier said at a function in the Cornwallis Inn.

As reported by the Advertiser’s then editor, Harold Woodman, Premier Gerald Regan immediately qualified this offhand remark.  “Well, at least the Irish helped get it started and helped keep it going,” he said.

There’s a grain of truth to this.  Of Irish ancestry himself (the Regans are descended from Irish royalty) the premier may have had in mind men like Henry Magee (1739-1806) a pioneer merchant in Kentville.  Magee was born in northern Ireland, emigrated to the States,  and as a loyalist during the American revolution, was given land grants here.  You’ll find his tombstone in Kentville’s Oak Grove Cemetery.

Magee opened the first store in Kentville, in 1788, and for decades he helped the town prosper.   At one time he probably was the town in essence since besides being a merchant king, he built a saw mill and a grist mill, the latter in the town.  A pioneer merchant, miller and trader, Magee’s influence was felt in the town and well beyond it.  Arthur W. H. Eaton saw fit to salute Magee in his history of Kings County and he’s been the subject of various historical profiles; all of which suggests he fits Premier Regan’s suggestion the Irish helped get Kentville get its start.

Then again, the premier may also have had in mind the Irishman William Redden (1815-1894).  As a builder, farmer, trader and miller, Redden had considerable influence on the early development of Kentville.  Like Magee, Redden is profiled by Eaton in the Kings County history.  Eaton’s sketch notes that a large part of residential Kentville owes is existence to Redden.  His obituary says Kentville’s material growth and prosperity is to a marked degree identified with Redden.  Many of the houses Redden constructed along Main Street still stand and, in fact, the street once was known as Redden Row.

When Kentville incorporated in 1886 an Irish descendant, James William Ryan, served on the first town council.  Ryan, one generation removed from Dublin, was the town’s fifth mayor, serving two terms in this position, the first 1894-1895, the second in 1913-1914. Along with his son, Robert Holden Ryan, the Ryans were prominent in town politics and the county militia.  Eaton’s county history has a number of references to the Ryans and both, like Magee and Redden, are part of Kentville’s little known  and unsung Irish element.

Now, on to another pioneer Kentville family out of Ireland.  James Lyons emigrated from Ireland in the early part of the 19th century and became prominent as an hotelier.  The Lyons, James and son Joseph, were hotel keepers, stagecoach operators, politicians and postmasters. Kentville historian Louis Comeau tells me James changed his Irish surname, possibly to conceal his Irish origin and Catholic religion.

James opened the Lyons Hotel in Kentville and along with his son, Joseph, owned and operated the Stagecoach Inn.  The Lyons also started a stagecoach line that ran from Kentville to Halifax.  Joseph has the distinction of being the Kentville postmaster for 48 years.  Gerald Lyons, KC, Joseph’s son, served as mayor of Kentville.

There are many others with Irish surnames who contributed to Kentville’s growth and prosperity over the years.   So while Premier Regan’s remark may have been said jokingly, it has, as I suggested, a bit of truth in it.