July 19, 1945
Ex-Printer Sees Beauty, Wealth, In Native Land
Looking as much like a blue-blooded Kentucky Colonel as if he had stepped right out of one of the magazine pages in which distillers have used that type of illustrate to lend dignity and charm to whisky advertisements for a good many years, a present visitor to Berwick was the cynosure of all local eyes for the past week, as he strolled about the towns streets in company with small boy, who was proud to act as guide and a one-person bureau of information. Although he exhibits all the distinguishing physical characteristics of the typical Kentucky Colonel a tall, erect carriage (he is 6-feet-5 in
Leslie E. Dennison
height); broad-brimmed, soft, black hat; and style of beard made famous by Napoleon III., an Imperial, the visitor confesses that he is not only not a Kentucky or any other sort of Southern Colonel, but that in his younger days when he had opportunity to lay the foundation for such a character, by becoming a citizen of the Southern United States, he refrained from even visiting that section of the country while he was establishing a record of having been in 31 of the present 48 states of the Union.
He tells listeners to his many tales of wander-lust that discretion prompted him to stay north of the Mason and Dixon Line.
The distinguished-looking visitor is Leslie E. Dennison, brother, of Albert F. Dennison, Commercial Street, with whom he has been spending part of a summer vacation in various parts of the Annapolis Valley, after an absence of more than thirty years since his last visit to this part of the country.
He is a retired printer, now in his eightieth year, and was born in Kentville. He is a descendant of Col. Robert Dennison, one of the original grantees in Horton Township, who migrated from Connecticut with the New England Planters to the Minas Basin country in 1760.
Mr. Dennison learned the printing trade in Kentville, at the old Western Chronicle newspaper and job office, which was under lease to John E. Woodworth for a year (March, 1890 to February, 1891), before Mr. Woodworth established The Register, in Berwick. Mr. Dennison, however, had started moving some years before Mr.
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Woodworth appeared on the Kentville scene, and kept on going for some thirty years until he finally settled down in Boston where he became more or less famous as a topnotch printer, humorist and historian.
It was while he was roaming through the states and territories of the United States domain that he passed up the chance to qualify as a genuine Southern Colonel. The Old South, in those days, was reputed not to be very hospitable to Northerners, and as the itinerant printer was distinctly Northern, he decided that as far as he was concerned there would be no great pleasure in going into Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi or any other state where there were ex-Confederate soldiers, and fighting the American Civil War all over again.
So he hired himself westward and took a hand in adding a star to the American flag by promoting adoption of the constitution of Idaho, while being one of the co-publishers of the Cassia County Times, a country weekly with a small circulation which could boast nevertheless that everybody in the county read it. Mr. Dennison, by voice, pen and typesetting, campaigned for adoption of the constitution, and at the age of 22 acted as one of the judges in the balloting which decided that Idaho should become a member of the Union.
Years later, at a convention of Daughters of the American Union, in Faneuil Hall, Boston, "Cradle of Liberty", he all but laid the orators of the day in the shade by telling the simple story of the part he had played in helping to expand the Union. By that time, however, he had become a veteran of the United States Army, having served in the Philippines when the United States decided that Spain was not fit to govern those islands; and had also become historian of the forces that fought that part of he Spanish-American War, which deprived Spain of all her overseas empire.
Mr. Dennison also took in seven of the provinces while knocking about the continent, and can now boast of having been in eight of the nine, Prince Edward Island being the only one he has not visited. He worked on newspapers, large and small as he went along, sometimes travelling in style in Pullmans, but being ready whenever his feet began to itch impellingly, to ride the rods if coach or Pullman fare was not in hand.
Illustrative of his care-free attitude at that period of his career which was characteristic of thousands of the most expert printers who helped to make newspapers when hand-set type was in vogue was his experience in a western town, which he reached, via the rods, late one afternoon.
The local printer had a job in hand which he wanted done in a hurry. Dennison undertook to do the job; the time required was computed and agreed upon by employee and employer; the owner paid in advance to have the work done, and went home, instructing his roving employee to put the door-key under the step. Dennison finished the job, hopped the next freight out of town and never saw his employer or the town again.
Twelve years ago, Mr. Dennison retired. He had been a printer for fifty years. That was long enough to work at any trade, he thought. He has done a great deal of writing, and has in hand now his memoirs now amounting to 270,000 words. Not having murdered anybody nor served a penitentiary term for any offense, he is doubtful if his writings will be considered profitable for any publisher to put into print.
Most interesting person Mr. Dennison has met in Berwick is Hardy P. Morse, who served in the Philippines at the same time as did the Boston printer. Neither knew they had been fighting the same war at the same time, until Albert Dennison told his brother about Mr. Morse. They spent an evening together, last week, recalling memories of the historic conflict, sequel to which is todays flights of U. S. Super-fortresses that are battering Japan into submission.
Altogether, Mr. Dennison says he is having an exceedingly interesting visit. After years of journeying hither and yon and living in cities, he is glad to move about in his native land, where he notes evidence of the progress that has been made since he took foot in hand to seek fortune in the neighbouring republic. He has seen nothing more pleasing, anywhere, than the scenes he has beheld while visiting relatives and old acquaintances in Kings County.
Most impressive, as he glances over the land, Mr. Dennison says, is the well-nigh universal aspect of prosperity. Farm homes, he notes are generally very beautiful, and with the exception of scarcity of apples, the acres he views seem to be highly productive. The extent to which machinery is now used in farming and orcharding he has found astonishing, contrasting as it does with the methods of production he knew as a boy, when practically all agricultural activities depended upon manpower, horses and a few oxen.
All this has given him a new appreciation of the foresight or good luck of the New England Planters, from one of whom he is descended, in leaving their lands in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York, and undertaking to develop the then-unoccupied Minas Basin country and other parts of Western Nova Scotia. These pioneers and their descendants, he thinks, did a good job.