IN 1916 – WINDSOR GIVES THE 112th Btn. A GREAT SEND-OFF (March 8/22)

In November 1915, recently commissioned Windsor M. P., Lt. Col. Hedley B. Tremain, received orders from Ottawa to form an infantry battalion, pulling it from “all counties in Nova Scotia west of Halifax.” Recruiting began immediately and after basic training in their community militias, the newly formed 112th Battalion, CEF, assembled for the first time in Windsor the following spring. The Battalion camped on the grounds at Fort Edward for more intensive training over the next three months.

The official records tell us that over 1500 men volunteered for service in the new battalion but only 1200 made the cut. The average age of the volunteers was 23. They came from farm country and fishing villages, all with patriotic zeal, as if going off to war was something to celebrate. Sadly, as a side note, of the 1200 that eventually sailed off to the war in Europe, many of them, at least 200, would never return.

My father, one of those patriotic farm boys, enlisted in the 112th Battalion shortly after it was formed This piqued my interest in the Battalion, especially when I recently saw a copy of the Hants Journal, dated July 5, 1916. This issue was devoted to the departure of the 112th from Windsor and apparently, it was an occasion for celebration. They are off, declared the Journal, to participate “in a final glorious victory and a safe return home.”

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On February 27, 1844, a petition was presented to the Nova Scotia House of Assembly by James Fullerton of Cumberland County, requesting in effect that funds be provided for the “running of a packet between Windsor, Horton and Parrsboro.”

Recorded also is the petition of one Arthur Weir, asking for assistance for the “running of a Packet of large size, between Horton, Parrsboro and Windsor.

Another petition, presented on behalf of “John Fisher and others of Horton,” was in a similar vein. The petition requested aid for the “erection of a wharf or pier at Blue Beach on the Windsor (Avon?) River for the accommodation of a Steam Boat plying between St. John, NB, and Windsor.”

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At midday on August 19, 1869, a steam locomotive trailing passenger cars carrying government dignitaries shunted into Kentville from the Western Counties Railway.

Earlier that day, a passenger train had arrived in Kentville from Grand Pre, carrying some 100 dignitaries – among them the Governor General and the Receiver General of Canada. The occasion was the official opening of the Windsor and Annapolis Railway.

But despite the celebration, there was an uncompleted section of the railway in the Horton area, obliging the Governor General and his entourage to take coaches from Windsor to Grand Pre and to pick up the train there.

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In 1889, British-born explorer and geologist Henry Youle Hind published a book on the early history of Windsor. In the book also are historical references to Kings County, which are puzzling if you didn’t know that the two counties once were one.

Hind’s book (An Early History of Windsor) and Gwendolyn Vaughan Shand’s book, Historic Hants County (a series of historical essays published in 1979) are recommended reading for history buffs. However, to achieve a historical overview of Hants County, the books by Hind and Shand should be read along with L. S. Loomer’s book, Windsor, A Journey in History.

Published in 1996, Loomer’s book takes over where Hind and Shand stop. Well, sort of anyway. In effect, the three books offer a wide-ranging view of Hants County (and parts of Kings County) from the early days up until recent times. All three books are available in branches of the Annapolis Valley Regional Library.

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When the Free School Act was passed in 1865, schools in Nova Scotia became open to all children. As a result, hundreds of one-room schools opened in Hants and Kings Counties in the following decades.

Jumping forward to the early 1950s, when school districts were consolidated, many of those community one-roomers became obsolete. More than a hundred one-room schools were affected, for example, by Central Kings opening in Cambridge in 1952. Kings County had 112 school sections at the time and some, such as section number 78 in Aldershot, held two or more one-roomers.

Many of the one-room schools affected by consolidation became obsolete and were sold to private interests, were torn down or became functional as community halls. Typical of what happened to some of the single-room schools is the amazing fate of the Meadowview building in section 78. This section comprised Aldershot, Meadowview and the area that generally has been known as the Pine Woods.

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The Masonic Lodge #58 of Kentville celebrated its 150th anniversary last year and a historically appropriate collaboration, one involving the old railway, took place.

First of all, the Lodge has some solid railway connections. The Lodge was organized in 1869, the year the Windsor & Annapolis Railway, while incomplete, was officially opened with a celebration in Kentville. But there’s more.

Behind the drive to complete the line was one Thomas Timmis Vernon Smith, later simply Vernon Smith, who is appropriately recognized as a railway pioneer. What is little known, however, is that Smith, the driving force behind the railway’s completion through the Annapolis Valley, was also a Master Mason.

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