by Harold Porter
It has been said that Centreville was so named because it was located about equidistant from the Minas Channel, the Cornwallis River, and the west side of Minas Basin. Another explanation may be that a considerable number of roads converge at this village.
There is some thought that the area was once the site of an Indian encampment before the coming of Europeans. They came for the abundance of green ash, which they used to make their baskets. Certainly Acadians were established in this locale before the Expulsion of 1755. Planters arrived from the New England States (mainly Connecticut) between 1759 and 1761, and were granted lands here – lands which had been worked by Acadian families for almost a hundred years. Saxon Street, one of the roads leading into Centreville, was formerly known as ‘The Old French Road’, and was part of an Acadian road that passed along the length of the Annapolis Valley.
In the early 1800s, a small school was located on what is now Sherman Belcher Road. It was replaced in the 1870s by a somewhat larger schoolhouse, which served at various times as both a school and a community hall. This building was demolished in 1997. A larger two-room schoolhouse was built in 1920.
The first church in Centreville was a Catholic church, built sometime before 1858. A Baptist church was built in 1918, and served the community until a new one was constructed in 1996.
A railway through the village began operating in 1890. It was not long before a passenger train was making thirteen return trips each week between Kentville and Kingsport. Among other things, it transported children to school in Kentville, serving as a school bus of the time. Another line, known as the North Mountain Railway, was started from Centreville to Weston in 1912, and completed in 1914.
Over the years, until the apple industry became a causality of World War Il, hundreds of thousands of barrels of apples were shipped through Centreville via the Weston Branch and the Kentville to Kingsport line on their way to Halifax, and thence overseas. The railway was abandoned in December, 1961.
During the first half of the 1900s, Centreville boasted four apple warehouses where apples were graded and packed in barrels for shipment. After the war the warehouses were converted to other uses, including the grading and bagging of potatoes, a potato chip factory, and a car dealership.
During the past hundred or more years, Centreville has been home to a considerable number of businesses, such as stores, garages, sawmills, a tavern, cooper shops, an antique business, nurseries, a very popular skating rink and even, at one time, a brick factory.
For many years, Centreville was essential to the surrounding district as a commercial centre and, besides the blacksmith shops where horses were brought from many outlying areas to be shod, Centreville contained a large general store that sold clothing, food, dry goods, feed, hardware and groceries – a kind of Walmart of its day.
Family farms were established with the coming of the Planters in the 1760s. Between World Wars I and ll apple growing was very manifest, and orchards were on every farm. Potatoes were also a huge crop. There were over thirty family farms in the Centreville district during the I800s and the 1900s, with most of them still operating even as late as 1970.
In much of the past century, people who lived in Centreville found their work in Centreville. Today, the sawmill no longer sounds its whistle four times a day; the Strauss waltzes that were played for the skaters at the rink are no longer heard in the frosty winter evenings; locomotives, with their long train of boxcars, no longer thunder through the village. With the population now five times what it was a hundred years ago, most people who live in Centreville find their work in other regions. Centreville has become more residential. And in spite of the many changes that have taken place through the years, those who now live here know that Centreville remains a very attractive place to live.