There was a time in Kings County (in the mid-19th century) when potatoes sold for one dollar a bushel. In a letter from Sacramento City, California, written over 100 years ago, Kings County native Henry Starr mentions this bit of trivia.

However, the real purpose in writing the editor of Kentville’s Western Chronicle wasn’t to talk about potato prices. As Starr rambles on in the letter, we find he wants to reminisce about old friends and inquire about their well-being. In doing so, he establishes a tentative, disputed date for the hanging in Kentville that gave Gallows Hill its name.

Starr lived in Kings County for at least 20 years before emigrating – “I left Nova Scotia in 1839 and came to the States when in my twentieth year.” He hailed from a prominent family, the Planter Starrs who received major land grants in Cornwallis and Horton townships when the Acadians were expelled. “I was born on Starr’s Point, Cornwallis,” he wrote, “in the old Starr house that was built one hundred and twenty-five years ago.”

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In 1864 the population of Pineo’s Village was in the neighborhood of 30 and most of its citizens made a living on the farm.

Never heard of Pineo’s Village? Well, Hutchinson’s Nova Scotia Directory for 1864-65 has it listed as a community in Kings County. We assume that to be listed in the Directory, Pineo Village must have been a substantial, well-recognized community. A blacksmith, two shoemakers, several carpenters and millers, and a Justice of the Peace resided in the community; as well, there was the mid-19th century equivalent of a post office – a resident, Arawnah (?) Randall, is listed as its way office keeper.

I’ve brought up Pineo Village as one of those curious examples of old Annapolis Valley place names that have mysteriously vanished off the map, existed only on paper (in deeds, for example) or have merged with nearby larger communities. I have in mind Horton Corner, the early name for Kentville, the sleepy little village that, once it prospered, became the bustling shire town of Kings County and changed its name. Then there’s Jackson’s Mill, said to be an earlier unofficial name for Coldbrook but probably existing only on paper. There are also curiosities like Brooklyn Corner, mentioned as a community in old deeds and shown on maps, but existing today mainly in the minds of people who have long memories.

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Discovered in an Ottawa violin shop in 2018 – a fiddle showing such fine workmanship that it caught the eye of the shop’s proprietor. Inscribed inside the fiddle was the name of the maker and a date: “William H. Wallace, 1927, Wolfville, NS.” The inscription indicated that the fiddle was the maker’s sixth.

A friend who told me about the discovery of the fiddle’s said the shop’s proprietor, himself a fiddle maker and violinist, was taken with the instrument; so taken that he decided to refurbish it and keep it as his personal violin. Further, said the friend, based on the workmanship and the overall finish of the instrument, its value likely was in the range of two to three thousand dollars.

So, in the 1920s a Wolfville craftsman was making fiddles – violins if you wish – of such excellent quality in the finish and wood that they’re treasured today. My first question on hearing this story was who is William H. Wallace and where was he from?

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