Early power com­pa­nies — a tan­gled his­tory

Valley Journal Advertiser - - OPINION - Ed Cole­man

When I asked his­to­rian Ivan Smith about early elec­tric power com­pa­nies in the An­napo­lis Val­ley, he said they had a “tan­gled his­tory.”

Smith’s web­site, Nova Sco­tia His­tory In­dex, con­tains some of this his­tory. But to get an over­view you’d have to read the com­mu­nity his­to­ries that have been pub­lished in Hants and Kings County. Once you did, you’d find what Smith said was an un­der­state­ment.

Let’s look at some of the early power com­pa­nies for an ex­pla­na­tion. We have one ma­jor source to­day of elec­tric­ity; but there was a time when vil­lages and com­mu­ni­ties in the An­napo­lis Val­ley ob­tained elec­tric power by form­ing their own com­pa­nies.

In the early 20th cen­tury a group of small in­de­pen­dent power com­pa­nies sprang up in Kings County com­mu­ni­ties such as Ca­nard and Cen­tre­ville, but I couldn’t find a sim­i­lar sce­nario in Hants County. While th­ese com­pa­nies were in­de­pen­dent, most were linked to a power source com­mon to all. What they did have in com­mon was that few gen­er­ated their own elec­tric power.

One such com­pany was lo­cated in Sh­effield Mills. This quote from the his­tory of Sh­effield Mills, Grist From The Mills, ex­plains how the com­mu­nity went about ob­tain­ing elec­tric power: “In the year 1922, a group of farm­ers formed a com­pany (the Sh­effield Mills Light & Power Com­pany) and brought the elec­tric power in from Ca­nard cor­ner. They bought poles, had them trans­ported to Sh­effield Mills by rail on flat cars and erected them.”

The story is sim­i­lar through­out Kings County. Rel­a­tively small com­mu­ni­ties such as Hil­la­ton, Chip­man Cor­ner, Pereaux, Wood­side, Som­er­set, Water­ville, South Ber­wick, Habi­tant, Cen­tre­ville, Lower Hor­ton and Ca­nard all formed their own power com­pa­nies, and at first all were in­de­pen­dent businesses owned by its res­i­dents.

As men­tioned, few of the com­pa­nies gen­er­ated their own power — one of the ex­cep­tions early on be­ing Wolfville. This be­ing the case, how did th­ese com­mu­ni­ties ob­tain elec­tric power? In 1920, the Gaspereau River Light, Heat & Power Com­pany was in­cor­po­rated by Roy Joudrey and Charles Wright. In 1921, th­ese same gen­tle­men in­cor­po­rated the Avon River Power Com­pany Limited in Wind­sor.

Th­ese pi­o­neer com­pa­nies sup­plied power di­rectly and in­di­rectly to all of the com­mu­ni­ties named above. Who sup­plied elec­tric­ity to whom among those com­mu­ni­ties is a bit dif­fi­cult to sort, which is why Ivan Smith said power com­pany his­tory is tan­gled, mean­ing per­haps a con­fused or com­pli­cated state. For ex­am­ple, the Ca­nard Elec­tric Light & Power Com­pany, which sold elec­tric­ity to the Cen­tre­ville Elec­tric Light & Power Com­pany, bought power from the Gaspereau River Light, Heat & Power Com­pany, which even­tu­ally was bought out by the Avon River Power Com­pany Limited. The Habi­tant Power Com­pany bought elec­tric­ity from the Can­ning Power Com­pany, which in turn was sup­plied by the Gaspereau River Com­pany.

Even­tu­ally all th­ese com­pa­nies, with the ex­cep­tion of the one in Can­ning and pos­si­bly an­other in Wind­sor, were merged into one en­tity — the Avon River Power Com­pany. Fur­ther, af­ter merg­ing with the Gaspereau Com­pany, Avon was pur­chased in 1929 by the Nova Sco­tia Light & Power Com­pany. By 1931, any re­main­ing in­de­pen­dent com­pa­nies had joined the fold.

In list­ing com­mu­nity power com­pa­nies I may have missed a few. Some com­mu­ni­ties, such as White Rock, bought poles and strung power lines, but there’s no record in gov­ern­ment files in­di­cat­ing it reg­is­tered as a com­pany. This may be the case with some of the smaller com­mu­ni­ties in this area.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.