A peek into Wolfville's history

Wendy Elliott
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This hand-blown blue glass bottle, held by Acadia student Ann Deck, was found at Kent Lodge in Wolfville. It once held poison.

By Wendy Elliott

welliott@kingscountynews.ca

Public history students at Acadia University have been delving into little-known aspects of Wolfville’s yesterday.

A display titled Bottles, Guns and Houses - Histories and Memories of Wolfville's Past, was on display at the Vaughn Library.

Paul Wadden looked at some history of the Wolfville Police Department leading up to officers carrying guns. He said it was a significant change when officers were armed in 1975.

His recent talk, Loaded Guns, revolved around two violent crimes in 1974. The incidents are now known as the Main Street Riot, when a crowd freed a couple of prisoners lodged in the town cells, and the Basin View Brawl.

During the brawl, two officers received minor injuries and RCMP intervention was required. Wadden could not find anyone involved with either crime who would talk to him.

He stated that there was no controversy in the local media about the arming of Wolfville Police. The RCMP as already carrying guns and the province had a “get tough on crime agenda” at the time.

Wadden added that not only is there little recorded history about the Wolfville Police, community policing across the country is underrepresented.

Ann Deck chose Message in Bottles to describe her talk. She examined the contents of a dozen boxes that had been exhumed from an old well adjacent to Wolfville’s oldest home, Kent Lodge.

The house, which dates back to 1761, was used as an inn. It once had a wing that, beginning in 1919, was a men’s residence for returning soldiers. Since the addition burned in 1922, Deck concluded that some of the contents of the well had belonged to those students.

She found more than 100 bottles caked in mud, test tubes, bike parts, cosmetic jars and three alcohol bottles. Her favourite find was a hand-blown poison bottle circa 1890.

Deck learned a great deal about glassware in her exploration. She believes that the well’s contents were put in place between 1904, when the town’s new well was created, and the fire 18 years later.

Curtis Stanford called his talk Lest We Remember: The Politics of Naming. He examined how three communities approached the commemoration of local history. He looked at the renaming of Cornwallis Junior High School in Halifax, the infamous Donnelly murders in Lucan, Ont., and Wolfville’s recent decision not to name public spaces after individuals.

Stanford pointed out the public participation was left out of the Wolfville decision, but not the other two. In terms of what we value in our communities, he said, history is so important to tourism, it seems counter intuitive not to name a park after second World War heroine Mona Parsons.

Krystal Tanner, meanwhile, researched the history of the Blomidon Inn, which she referred to as “the Big Red.” It was constructed by prolific shipbuilder Rufus Burgess around 1881.

The house began to be used as an inn in 1847. An annex was added two years later. In 1962, the  Blomidon Lodge became a university residence for 49 men and then, in 1980, it turned into the Blomidon Inn.

Elisabeth Tanner took a look at another heritage property in Wolfville, now known as Hayward House, formerly owned by the West family. It currently houses Acadia recruitment offices.

Dr. Gillian Poulter also asked the class to inquire into visual depictions of the history they presented and interpretive display.

 

Organizations: Wolfville Police Department, RCMP, Acadia University Vaughn Library Main Street Riot Blomidon Inn Cornwallis Junior High School Hayward House

Geographic location: Wolfville, Halifax, Lucan

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