Glorious Kingsport captured in book

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E.C. Borden, the proprietor of a new hotel in Kingsport, inserted an advertisement in an 1891 newspaper in which he draws attention to the opening of a first-class hotel.

He promises ideal accommodations with no effort spared to secure the comfort of guests. The hotel is situated at the eastern terminus of the Cornwallis Valley Railway, overlooking the “beautiful and picturesque Basin of Minas, a most desirable stopping place for the transient visitor or summer tourist.”

And so it was more than a century ago, during the exciting age of sail, when Kingsport was a bustling Planters community engaged in the business of shipbuilding and a thriving apple industry.

It had three hotels, according to McAlpine’s Gazeteer in 1906, as well as a store, a lighthouse, a planer mill, a marine slip and two churches. J.D. Ells operated a medicine manufactory. The community had a population of 500 and was looking forward to a promising future.

Fifty years later the population was less than half that number. Kingsport had suffered – as had many other small communities – from changing times: the end of the age of sail and the loss of markets for the Annapolis Valley’s luscious fruit.

Growth energy had drained off to larger centres. The Central Valley Railway (absorbed in 1892 by the Dominion Atlantic Railway, itself a subsidiary of the CPR) was eventually phased out. The ferry service between Kingsport, Parrsboro and Wolfville capitulated to the motorcar and the legendary Kipawo (an acronym comprising the first letters of its ports of call and not an old Indian word!) passed into history.

Important addition

All of this is recounted in a thin book called Kingsport by the Sea, compiled by the late Cora Atkinson from information received from local citizens and old records. I missed its publication last year, but such a document never grows old and it’s an important addition to the written heritage of the Valley.

Atkinson tells of the motion picture shows, pie socials, strawberry festivals, harvest suppers, card parties and the game of whist, of Boy Scouts, the temperance society, the Women’s Institute and other activities that made Kingsport a happy and busy community.

It’s quieter now. The celebrated weekly dances that drew young people from surrounding areas on Friday nights have passed into memory. No longer do residents hear the screams of flanges as the railway engines turned on the wye, witness the daily arrivals at the government wharf, hear the beckoning whistle of the Kip or the ringing of the school bell.

One thing still remains, however, and that is the attraction Kingsport has had for tourists who still visit to see the beach and the tides, and to view the summer cottages of people from around whose families still take up residence as they have done for generations.

The first schoolhouse in Kingsport still stands, used now as a dwelling. Christmas concerts and public meetings were held here.

When the school’s new teacher arrived in 1891, she came in the first train plying between Kentville and Kingsport. The engine stopped at the crossing to let her off and then waited for her to walk up to her boarding house.

Heritage community

It may seem incredible to visitors that its mudflats hosted three-masted and square-rigged sailing ships and that its shipyards built many vessels to carry on the trade of the sea.

In 1864, the Bigelow brothers built the brig J.E. Woodworth of 300 tons, and the barque William H of 850 tons. The Bigelow yard built most of the fleet of C. Rufus Burgess of Wolfville, including the Harvest Queen of 2,044 tons, and in 1891 the Canada of 2,137 tons. One of the largest sailing ships was the barquentine Skoda of 658 tons in 1893. This was originally owned by Burgess, but was later owned by the Scoda company that made pharmaceuticals in a building on the Wolfville waterfront. Rufus Burgess, incidentally, built the fine mansion in Wolfville now known as Blomidon Inn.

The excitement of the glorious shipbuilding days has gone from Kingsport, but Cora Atkinson’s account of the early days reminds us that Kingsport, as well as other tidewater locations along the Fundy shore, is firmly established as a heritage community for the pleasure of generations to come.

Organizations: Cornwallis Valley Railway, Central Valley Railway, Dominion Atlantic Railway Blomidon Inn

Geographic location: Kingsport, Wolfville, Annapolis Valley Parrsboro Kentville Canada

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