A Brief History of Waterville
The area we now call Waterville was first occupied by the Mi’kmaq and known to them as Mi’kma’ki and included all the Atlantic Provinces and the Gaspe Peninsula for thousands of years. The Mi’kmaq people lived near waterways, where they could use their birch-bark canoes to travel and trade. During the warmer seasons the Mi’kmaq lived along the Minas Basin, where the rivers flow in and out with the tides. During the colder winter months, they were known to move inland where they hunted large game. Evidence of this has been found in the Waterville area in the form of arrowheads, which where found in close proximity to the river.
The first Europeans to settle in this area, where the French at Port Royal in 1604 and later on in Grand Pre. Much like the Mi’kmaq, the French settled along the Minas Basin for ease of travel and trade and where there were plenty of fish to eat. These early French settlers were a hardy bunch, who built dikes and aboiteaux to reclaim large areas of fertile flat marshlands, which they used to raise livestock and crops. During the first half of the 18th century they had developed a strong and distinct identity and a special relationship with the Mi’kmaq. The Acadians tried to remain neutral during the Colonial Wars between England and France, but when they refused to pledge allegiance to the King of England, they were rounded up and deported. The Expulsion of the Acadians began in 1755, with more than 6,000 men, women and children being loaded onto British ships and relocated to American colonies to the south. Many of their homes and churches set a blaze by the British.
Following the Expulsion of the Acadians, their lands were granted to New Englanders, who would later become known as the Planters. The first grants were given in 1761 and like the Acadians most of these early grantees chose to live and farm close to the Minas Basin, where they could take advantage of the rich soil that was cultivated by the Acadians for almost a century. The land in the western part of present day Kings County was virgin forest and it would be another twenty years before any Planters or their descendants settled in the area now known as Waterville.
Kings County was divided into three townships including Horton Township, Cornwallis Township and Aylesford Township. J. Borden in 1764, E. Caulkin in 1761, J. Condon in 1764, E. Lummis in 1761, Stephen Post in 1764, J. Sweet in 1764, J. Goreham in 1767 and Ben Belcher in 1797 were all granted land in what is now called Waterville, which was located in Cornwallis Township. These lots were mostly large tracts of virgin forest and there is no record of any of these men living in the Waterville area.
The earliest record we have of anyone living in the Waterville area is recorded in The History of Kings County Nova Scotia by Arthur Wentworth Hamilton Eaton. In the book the author shares a letter written by the Rev. Jacob Bailey describing in detail his journey over land in 1782 from Cornwallis Township to Annapolis Royal. The Rev. and his company stopped at Marshall’s, which was located on the south side of the Annapolis Road in what is now Waterville, where they had dinner. When they left Marshall’s and headed west the Rev. Bailey said, “We now entered a wilderness of vast extent, without a single human habitation for the space of eleven miles, the roads extremely rough, sheltered with tall forests, encumbered with rocks and deformed with deep sloughs.”
In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, a James Congdon or Condon owned a tremendous amount of land in the Waterville area. In the early 1800’s, James Condon sold and or mortgaged most of his land to Elisha DeWolfe from the eastern part of Kings County.
In the early 1800’s, several families were living in the Waterville area including names like Pineo, Mashman, Best, Boles/Bowles, Lyons, Condon and Shaw. These Planters and Loyalists intermarried and help populate the area we call Waterville.
The first school was located on the Annapolis Road and the teacher was a man by the name of Eyre E. Crowe, whose yearly salary was 65 pounds.
In 1848 there was a school located on the Corner of Highway 1 and the Black Rock Road.
In 1849 the Presbyterian Church was officially opened by Rev. George Struthers.
By the mid-1800’s the area now called Waterville was referred to in the news, the mail and on legal documents as western Cornwallis, Cornwallis, Bowles Corner and Pineo Village.
With Confederation in 1867 and the coming of the railway a few years later there must have been some confusion especially with the mail.
On November 21st 1871, the residents of Pineo Village held a public meeting and changed the name of Pineo Village to Waterville.
The name Waterville was most likely chosen because of the close proximity to the Cornwallis River and there were three large mill ponds located on the Pineo Brook, which is now called the Ratchford Brook.
The railway brought an influx of new people and connected Waterville to the rest of the world. A new two storey train station was built in 1890.
In 1893, Charles O. Cook purchased several properties from Thomas Lawson, including the White Store. Lawson then went to Grafton and had a store at Buckley’s Corner, where he started the Farmers’ Telephone Co., which had an office in Waterville.
The Baptist Church was built in 1893. Prior to 1893, the Baptists and Methodist often met in Bowles Hall or attended services in Cambridge or Berwick.
The Rood brothers were operating one of Nova Scotia’s earliest canning factories at Waterville in the 1890’s.
The first two apple warehouses were built in 1899 by W.H. Chase and Northard and Lowe. C.O. Cook built his warehouse in 1900, Stan Banks built one in 1906 and the Waterville Fruit Company built one in 1910. Northard and Lowe (British North America) built another warehouse in 1919 and John Buchanan Sr. built the last warehouse in 1922.
A new canning factory was built by Judson G. Rood, which had its own railway spur on the south side of the railway tracks.
An apple evaporator was built by the Waterville Fruit Company, but was destroyed by fire in 1925.
At the turn of the 20th Century, Waterville had several young men take part in the Boer War in South Africa. F.M. Chute moved to Waterville in 1901, when he started operating a farm on the Bent Road. About 10 years later F.M. Chute purchased the former Tommy Margeson farm on the Black Rock Road.
Between 1899 and 1910, there were 5 apple warehouses, a canning factory, brick factory and bicycle factory built along the railway. Waterville was covered in orchards and now had the means to process, store and ship their biggest crop, which was the apple.
The Watts’ picnic was started in 1905 by Henry and Mable Watts on the Bond Road, which continued until after WWII.
Eleven of Waterville’s fine young men were killed during WWI, which must have been a devastating blow to such a small community. One of those young men was Henry Hoyt Pineo, who was the son of W.W. Pineo, and was practicing law when the war broke out. Henry attended the coronation of king George the V and was the youngest officer present as Lieutenant of Calvary in 1911. Captain Henry H. Pineo, of the 6th Canadian Mounted Rifles was just 24 years old, and had just passed an examination for Major, when he was killed in action, in Belgium.
Following WWI, Waterville experience a building boom. Two more warehouses were built by Northard and Lowe of London England in 1919 and John Buchanan Sr. in 1922. In 1922, Kings County amalgamated the three Poor Farms at Aylesford, Billtown and Greenwich and built a new County Home in Waterville. The Royal Bank of Canada opened a branch in Waterville in 1919. A new school and the United Church were built in 1923. Cambridge and Waterville amalgamated to form Fire Department in 1924 with the first station located on Park Street with C. Earl Chute as it’s first Fire Chief. The Waterville Amateur Athletic Association agreed to a 10 year lease with Vaughan Young to build an outdoor rink on his land near the Canning Factory. The Waterville Tigers hockey team won the Mid-Valley Hockey league three years in a row playing at the outdoor rink. In 1926, Kings County built the Kings County Hospital, next to the County Home. A number of new houses were also built during the 1920’s. Ard Rafuse purchased his first farm from Mrs. Thomas Durling on Maple Street and Kenneth V. Wentzell from Newburne opened a store at “the corner” in 1928.
The 1930’s were hard on everyone and Waterville was no exception, however the population was on the rise and a number of new homes were constructed in the late 1930’s. Cook’s built an addition on their warehouse and another classroom was added to the school. The many farms along with the warehouses and canning factory, as well as the County Home and Kings County Hospital provided work for many.
Just 20 years after WWI claimed 11 of Waterville’s fine young men, WWII would claim another 12 men, which must have been devastating to such a small community. During the war, an airport was constructed and the Evangeline Credit Union was organized. With the end of the war came the end of the British apple market. Following the war there was another addition to the school and a new Fire Station was built at “the corner.” In 1947, the community rallied behind the Farmer’s Softball Team, or 7-Ups as most people referred to them, as they were eventually defeated by Dartmouth in the Provincial play downs.
Small communities like Waterville were built on apples and the railway, so with the end of the British apple market and the closing of the railway in the 1990’s, Waterville has become a mostly residential area. Although there are a few large employers in the area like the Nova Scotia Youth Centre, Kings Regional Rehabilitation Centre and Michelin, the population has decreased to about 850 residents in 2019.