Lighthouse records

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Lighthouse records

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9 folders of textual records
2 maps

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Biographical history

William Thomas Kent came from Woolidge, England around 1811. After having served with Nelson at Trafalgar and the Nile, he was sent to Halifax where he took up the position of keeper of the military prison on Melville Island near the North West Arm. Soon after he arrived, he married Elizabeth May, who was a school teacher in Halifax. Their son, Robert Lloyd, was born in 1813 on Melville Island and about five years later the family moved to what would later be known as Kent Island, near Oyster Pond on the Eastern Shore. The island had been granted to William Kent as part of his naval pension, in return for his service to the King. He built the first frame house on the island. When William died, his wife had the island and all of her husband’s other property divided evenly amongst their eight living children: Robert, William, John, Libbie, Margaret, Sarah, Ellen, and Susan.

John Kent was the youngest of the children born to William and Elizabeth. He was born February 26, 1837 at Pleasant Point and worked as a fisherman there. He married Sarah Ann Thompson at Musquodoboit Harbour on December 19, 1859. She was born on June 30, 1842 and was the daughter of Thomas and Catherine (Welsh) Thompson. John built a house on his piece of the family land and his mother lived with them until her death. John and Sarah had twelve children: Isabella, Albert, Laura Elizabeth, Thomas Alfred, Harrison, Miriam ‘Minnie,’ Phoebe, Samuel, Arthur, Philip, Stanley, and Archibald Minard L. The lighthouse was built on Kent’s Island c.1904 and John Kent was the lighthouse keeper for a short time before he died on October 24, 1908. After his death, his youngest son, Archibald was appointed as lighthouse keeper.

Archibald ‘Arch’ Minard L. Kent was born on May 7, 1889 at Pleasant Point and worked as a fisherman and farmer in addition to being lighthouse keeper after the death of his father. He married Phebe Gertrude Garrison on May 6, 1914. She was born in 1888 and was the daughter of Henry and Melissa Garrison. Arch and Phebe had eleven children: Arthur, Donald Archibald, Graham, Iris Alfreda, Malcolm, Russell, Stanley, Thelma, Burton Alfred, Everett Haig, and Ivan Roy. Arch died in Dartmouth on May 10, 1942 and Phebe was later remarried to Everett Blakeley. Following Arch’s death, Phebe assumed the role of lighthouse keeper. During World War II, five of her seven sons were enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy, leaving her to run the farm and tend the lighthouse on her own with the help of her youngest sons. The light was lit each night and extinguished each morning at sunrise. Weather records were kept daily, although reports were only sent in on a quarterly basis. All supplies had to be accounted for and records of stores had to be maintained.

Donald Archibald Kent, to whom many of the records in the fonds are related, was the eldest son of Phebe and Arch Kent and was born c.1915. After fishing until 1923, he went to sea at the age of nineteen on oil tankers including the C.O. Stillman and then on the Canadian National Steamship Chomedy, followed by three years on the S.S. Talaralite. He joined the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve in February, 1939 and subsequently the Royal Canadian Navy in 1940, serving as an anti-aircraft gunner. He sustained injuries when the merchant ship that he was serving on was bombed and sunk en route from the Maritimes to the United Kingdom sometime c. 1940-1942. Chief Petty Officer Kent was at the wheel of HMCS Ville de Quebec when it rammed and sank a German U-Boat off the coast of North Africa in January, 1943 and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his actions. He also served on HMCS Hamilton in 1944 and was stationed at Cornwallis, Nova Scotia in May of that year. Donald went missing in Port Wade, Nova Scotia while stationed at Cornwallis in May of 1944, after the punt that he had set out in to do some herring fishing was found capsized. A search was conducted and his body was recovered on June 23, confirming that he had drowned. Although one newspaper clipping stated that word of his death was being conveyed to his wife, there is no mention of a spouse in his obituary and no evidence that he was married.

Stanley Kent was 2nd officer on the S.S. Markland and then in the Merchant Marine. Everett H. Kent was Chief Petty Officer on HMCS Transcona and also served on HMCS La Malbaie. Burton A. Kent was a Leading Seaman on the Chaudiere and a survivor of the sinking of the tanker Frederick S. Fales, and Malcolm sailed on the Markland. Graham Kent also went to sea when he was of age and by 1945, three of the Kent brothers had served in the Navy and three in the Merchant Service in the war. The youngest son, Ivan, helped his mother tend the lighthouse and run the farm during the war.

The Kent family land was passed on to the youngest son for generations. The Kent family served as the official lighthouse keepers of the Kent Island lighthouse until 1950 when the light, which was originally kerosene, was converted to electricity. Ivan Kent was the last lighthouse keeper, having taken it over in 1945 although he had assisted with tending the light since the age of seven.

Custodial history

Scope and content

Series forms part of the Ivan R. Kent family fonds and includes records created and accumulated by the Kent family during the course of their duties as lighthouse keepers on Kent Island from 1905 to 1950. Records were kept by John, Arch, and Phebe Kent and include lighthouse keepers' diaries from between 1905 and 1950, return of stores journals from between 1906 and 1948, correspondence from between 1908 and 1948, and maps.

Entries had to be made in the lighthouse keeper’s diaries on a daily basis, primarily recording the date, weather, wind, time of day that the light was lit, time of extinguishing, length of time for which it had burned, amount of oil used, chimneys, wicks, and remarks of the lighthouse keeper. The return of stores journals were used by the lighthouse keeper on a regular basis to record quantities of materials on hand, quantities of materials received that quarter, expenditures, quantities carried to the next quarter, and requirements for the next year. The journals referred to any materials that the lighthouse keeper might have used, from petroleum reflectors, paint, and lantern blinds to spirits of wine, scissors, and rouge. The correspondence consists primarily of letters to the lighthouse keepers from the Department of Transportation and the Department of Marine and Fisheries. The majority of correspondence is addressed to Phebe G. Kent and regards the completion of return of stores lists, supplies, inquiries from Phebe regarding where to purchase oil and hiring people to do repairs. There are also letters from the Department expressing sympathy for the death of former lighthouse keepers, the appointment of new lighthouse keepers, census forms, and a letter addressing the possible establishment of a rural postal route. Interestingly, one letter is addressed to Mr. P. G. Kent. In addition the series contains two maps. One is an original hand drawn map from 1903 showing boundaries, the John Kent homestead, the lighthouse, and the road. The second is a printed map of the Maritimes Region Lightstations dated April, 1996.

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Physical condition

Some of the records, especially the correspondence and original map, are fragile, torn, and had evidence of mould.

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Language of material

  • English

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Location of originals

The original 1903 property boundary and field notes map of the Kent homestead, Kent Island Lighthouse, and road is located in the Webber aisle.

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A photocopy of the original 1903 property boundary and field notes map of the Kent homestead, Kent Island Lighthouse, and road is available. Researchers are asked to refer to the photocopied version.

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