Rising near the mouth of the Shubenacadie River the Kennetcook River flows south westward, parallel to the central highland ridge of Nova Scotia until it empties into the Avon River near Windsor. With the Musquodobit, Stewiacke and Shubenacadie Rivers it formed part of a canoe trail between Canso fishing settlements and the French settlements at Port Royal. The four rivers still bear their Aboriginal names. It is said that Kennetcook is derived from an Mi’kmaq name meaning “The Place Ahead”.
Kennetcook, one of the largest villages of East Hants, lies halfway between the source of the river and the tidal water. This village is situated on the road which in early times was the overland trail from the Acadian Settlement in the Noel area to Halifax. The highway still serves as the main artery between the Cobequid Shore and the Capital City. In 1900 the Dominion Atlantic Railway between Windsor and Truro was opened, making the village the Hub of this part of the country.
Like many other communities in the province, the facts of it’s early settlements are somewhat obscure and one must rely on the memory of the older inhabitants. It seems that the first white settlers took up land in this area in the 1820’s. These first settlers cleared their land in the west end of the village which now belongs to the Ettinger families. The old road from Noel passed back of the old elementary school and crossed the river at a natural fording place below the present bridge, (which until recently was the only covered bridge remaining in Nova Scotia).
One of the original settlers was a man named Jack and the hill back of the Railway Station where he settled is still referred to as “Jack’s Hill”. The Ettingers who later settled in this part of the village were of German descent and their descendants still occupy the land. The central part of the village was granted to the Barron family and their descendants still own most of the land on the south side of the river, having sold their buildings on the north side in recent years. The Barron grant has been broken up into many small lots.
A line running roughly north and south through the centre of the present United Church building divided the original Barron grant from the Anthony grant. The east end of the village is predominantly Anthony’s. This family came to the area from Rhode Island around 1830, and is of English extraction. East of the Anthony’s at one time was settled by Germans, these people have since moved to other parts of the province.
On the north side, beginning about one half mile out the Noel Road is the McCulloch grant. This family, as the name implies, was Scottish and migrated to this area from Pictou County early in the 19th century. North of them are the Whites who are also of Scottish descent and who also came here via Pictou County. The McCulloch grant is now owned by Sidney Hennigar.
The early industries of the village were farming and lumbering. The wooden slopes of the river valley provided logs for the sawmills and ship timber for the shipyards in Noel.
The building of the railway gave easy access to the city market. For a time dairying was an important industry but a limited supply of arable land seemed to have hindered expansion of this branch of agriculture.
At one time a brickyard was in operation near the covered bridge, but this industry soon lapsed, and for the most part the people of the village depended on mixed farming and lumbering for their livelihood. A fishing trip along the Kennetcook River and adjacent brooks still shows many an old mill site.
Kennetcook was once referred to as the capital of East Hants since the Municipal Council, used to hold its annual sessions there during the third week of January in Anthony’s Hall. Furthermore Kennetcook is connected to the larger centres by train service to Truro and Windsor and by bus service via the Shore to Truro.
In 1960 the village was described as having one church, one hotel, three stores, a gift shop, a beauty parlor, a Canadian Legion Hall, an elementary school and a Rural High School, a bank and a resident doctor. Today, 20 years later, a post office, a Texaco garage, a Maritime Tel. & Tel. building, a bank, Whites Lucky Dollar Food Market and a recreation area (ballfield) have been added to the village.
The first church building was near the site of the present one. This old church became inadequate to accommodate the large number attending services. It was decided to build the present church. This church was officially opened in 1890 as a Presbyterian church but since church union in 1925 it is known as the United Church. Because of its location high on the hill above the village it is known as “the church on the hill”. During the years since the opening of the church it has been served by more than a score of ministers.
The first elementary school was what is now the Canadian Legion Hall. This. school became inadequate to accommodate the school children so, in 1901 the present school building was started, being a one room school and later another room was added. This two-room school served for many years but recently another separate classroom was built to take care of the ever increasing number of school children.
In the spring of 1919 a branch office of the Bank of Nova Scotia was opened, using the rooms of the Kennetcook Hotel. The manager of this office was Frank Ray and teller Roy Woodbridge. Since then it has become necessary, due to increased banking business, to build what is known as the bank building.
In 1944 an oil company established drilling operations at a site about half a mile northwest of the village but their operations ceased with the end of the war, to be resumed again in 1950. There has been no drilling done since the fall of 1951, but it is hoped that the future will see further development of these operations.
In 1954 the provincial government erected a fourteen room Rural High School in the village thus making it an education centre for the area. This school, located on the property formerly owned by the late Edgar Anthony, is known as “Hants North Rural High School”.
Construction of an additional eighteen rooms to this school provided elementary facilities for seven school sections as well as added rooms for the high school.
Since 1938 the village has been supplied with electricity from the Nova Scotia Light and Power Company. This service has proved a great benefit to the community in many ways.