In Dr. Glen Hancock’s (1919-2011) obituary, it was noted that the Wolfville native was first and foremost a writer. Hancock began writing and successfully selling short stories for Western and Mystery magazine while in his teens. After achieving degrees from Acadia University, the University of Toronto and Edinburgh University, Hancock followed a career in journalism and at one time wrote a syndicated column that ran in 35 newspapers. While he was a public relations adviser for Imperial Oil, Hancock founded the School of Journalism at the University of King’s College.
When he retired to Wolfville, Hancock wrote My Real Name is Charley in 2000, which was a memoir that also provided often amusing historical glimpses of Wolfville. Hancock followed this up in 2004 with a book about his wartime experiences, Charley Goes to War, and was working on a semi-historical book at the time of his death.
Hancock also wrote a series of columns for The Advertiser, many of them in a historical vein. He also taught short story and article writing at Acadia University, giving many aspiring local writers their start in journalism.
Henry Youle Hind (1832-1908), one of the most interesting writers of historical books in the Valley, was British born but spent his late years in Windsor. As well as being an author, Hind was a teacher, professor, geologist and explorer. He spent much of his career working as a geologist, mapmaker and surveyor in little explored areas of Canada. He also published a series of scientific articles promoting Canada’s natural resources.
Hind came to Nova Scotia as a consulting engineer for the provincial government. In retirement, he settled in Windsor where he was on the board of governors of King’s College in the 1880s and he wrote a history of the college.
Hind is best known for a book published in 1889 by the Hants Journal. Titled originally as a Sketch of the Old Parish Burying Ground of Windsor, the book was much more than a treatise on a graveyard. Actually, there’s a lot of little known 17th and 18th century history about Hants and Kings counties in the book. Hind writes, for example, about the Acadians, the Planter settlements and about the various dykeland catastrophes.
Hind’s book was reprinted in 1989 by Lancelot Press, again with a misleading title, An Early History of Windsor, Nova Scotia. A history of Windsor it is not, and a better title might be, Sketches of Early Kings and Hants Counties. The book is available from the West Hants Historical Society.
New Minas historical writer Daphne Frazee has three historical books in publication, two with a Gaspereau Valley theme. Frazee grew up in the Gaspereau Valley where her father, Dean Gertridge, worked the family farm. In her bio, Frazee says that she “fell into the role of local historian.” After a history of White Rock appeared, interest was high in producing a similar work on the Gaspereau Valley, Frazee says, but no one stepped forth to do it. That’s when she decided to take on the task.
Frazee’s first book, Looking Back – A Portrait of Gaspereau – was self-published in 2002. Her next book – A Second Look – was on the same theme and was published the following year. These books, which were combined into a single volume in 2004, were illustrated with numerous photographs from past days in the Gaspereau Valley.
In 2007, Frazee wrote Charles H. Wright – Building Memories. Wright, who was Frazee’s grandfather, partnered with R. A. Jodrey in establishing the Minas Basin Pulp and Power and in pioneering the building of electric power companies in this area. Wright designed and built many of the fine churches and other buildings that grace Kings County. In 2007, Frazee launched a community magazine called the Gaspereau Valley Gazette, which is still going strong and will celebrate its 10th anniversary this spring.
Including a distinguished scholar and university administrator the likes of Watson Kirkconnell (1895-1977) in a series on local historical writers may seem irreverent at first, but let me make my case. Dr. Kirkconnell is internationally acclaimed as a translator, writer and scholar, was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and on numerous occasions was shortlisted for the Nobel Prize; he served as president of Acadia University from 1948 to 1964.
Despite his scholarly pursuits and administrative duties, Dr. Kirkconnell found time to write and co-write a couple of historical books. Along with B. C. Silver, Kirkconnell researched and compiled a book called Historic Homes (of Wolfville). Kirkconnell also wrote The Streets of Wolfville, 1650-1970.
Kirkconnell’s finest local history book – and my favourite historical work, I must add - is Place-Names in Kings County, which was published as a paperback in 1971. As per its title, the book explains the origin of many historical county place names. In the text, Kirkconnell harks back to some of the original Mi’kmaq and Acadian place-names and explains how many Planter place-names came to be. The book is really interesting and is a worthy addition to every amateur historian’s bookcase.