Gallows Hill is a prominent rise of land just across the Cornwallis River on the north edge of town. Early in the 18th century, a gallows was built on the peak of the hill. Legend has it that the gallows was used once and torn down. Shortly after it had served its grisly purpose, a jail was constructed on the flat near the present courthouse, and it was there that the next gallows would stand.
A man named Bell (or Belle) was hung on Gallows Hill in 1826 or 1828 for the murder of the County Sheriff or a Court Constable. Bell escaped from custody before his trial, but was caught immediately afterwards when he tried to swim across the Cornwallis River. While researching this topic, Yarmouth historian Arthur Thurston said that what little he could find on Gallows Hill indicates that Bell was convicted of killing a constable named Rudolph (or Rudolf).
There is also a persistent rumour that Bell was innocent and was a victim of racial discrimination. Bell, a black man, may have been convicted because he had been in a fight with the murder victim. In his work, The History of Kings County, author Arthur Wentworth Hamilton Eaton mentions that several black families lived north of Kentville at the time the murder took place, one of these families had the surname “Bell”. Oddly enough, the Bell family lived close to where the gallows would be constructed.
The last public hanging in Kings County happened on September 12, 1904, at 1:35 A.M. William S. Robinson was convicted of, and hanged for, the murder of his wife Theresa (McAulay) Robinson, by a jury of twelve men. The trial took place at the Courthouse in Kentville from June 19th to 22nd, 1904.
* The majority of information used in this write-up was taken from Ed Coleman’s article “Gallows Hill” in the Friday, April 12, 1996 edition of The Advertiser.
Coleman, Ed. “Gallows Hill.” The Advertiser. April 12, 1996: pg.6.
“Paid the Penalty on Gallows at Kentville.” The Nova Scotian and Weekly