History of the Eastern Townships

Joyce Marshall as a young girl, ca. 1920s, (P047 Joyce Marshall fonds)

Joyce Marshall: Author and Accidental translator

Author and award-winning translator, Joyce Marshall’s roots are found in Montreal and much of her adult life was spent in Toronto but some of her formative years have Townships connections.  Marshall was born in Montreal on  November 28th, 1913 to William Marshall and Ruth Chambers.  As a girl, Ruth had been forced to quit school in order to care for her younger siblings after her mother had become bed-ridden.  This forced end to her education was something that Ruth resented and, as a result, she strongly encouraged her daughters to seek out personal and economic independence.

Marshall attended public schools in Montreal until 1929, when she left to study at St. Helen's School, a prestigious girls boarding school, in Dunham, in the Townships, until 1932.  Her family had early ties to the Townships, as well, with her maternal grandfather having received a degree from Bishop’s University and lived for a time in Knowlton. Following graduation from St. Helen’s, Marshall went on to study English at McGill University, where she obtained her B.A. in 1935 and was awarded the English Department’s language and literature medal.  

Following graduation, Marshall chose to leave Montreal, where she felt limited and stifled as an English-speaking, non-Catholic woman in the politically conservative Quebec, in favour of the fast-growing city of Toronto.  Marshall had started to write fiction in her childhood and had her first short story published in 1936.  She published two novels, Presently Tomorrow in 1946 and Lovers and Strangers in 1957, but some of her most well-known work is in short stories, published in magazines and anthologies as well as read on CBC Radio.

In 1959, Marshall had serendipitously found herself with her first translation job when she was asked by the CBC to translate one of Gabrielle Roy’s stories.  In reflecting on her career, Marshall noted later that she was initially asked because her knowledge of French but her deep knowledge of Quebec literature, skill as a writer, and passion for the intricacies of both languages contributed to her success as a translator.  Following her first translation of Roy’s work, the Quebec author reached out to Marshall to pursue further translations, which began a long professional relationship between the two.  She recounts instances where she and Roy would spend hours over the proper translation of a single word or how to structure a passage in English so that it would convey the same meaning and flow as the French original.  In 1976, Marshall won the Canadian Council award for translation for her version of Gabrielle Roy's "Cet été qui chantait".

In addition to her work as an author, editor and translator, Marshall was dedicated to various associations for the promotion and protection of writers and translators and remained active in literary world for much of her life.  Joyce Marshall passed away October 2005 at the age of 91.

This article appeared in The Record (Sherbrooke) on 24 October 2016.

Interested in checking out the ETRC's holdings for Joyce Marshall?  Visit the Portal

Joyce Marshall, 2nd from back right, with St. Helen’s classmates, 1932 (P047 Joyce Marshall fonds)
Joyce Marshall, ca. 1980s. Photo by: Patricia Starkey (P047 Joyce Marshall fonds)
Asbestos Evening UCW cookbook, 1951 (UC046/015.02.02 Asbestos United Church fonds)

Home Cooking and Life Hacks: Everything in a Cookbook

The colourful foliage does not lie: autumn has arrived in the Townships!  And with autumn, we are stepping in to the “eating” seasons as the fall and not-too-long-off winter are often filled with comfort food, holidays, gatherings of family and friends.  Thoughts of food preoccupied my quest for an article subject this week and, as a result, I bring to you the community cookbook, examples of which can be found in the archives.

While most of us are familiar with cookbooks, less familiar may be the recipe books contributed to by a local group in the community.  In the early 1900s, these recipe books were often put together by women’s groups, such as the Women’s Institute or a church group.  One of those in our collection is from the East Clifton Busy Bees, which was organized in 1914 as a teenage girls’ Sunday School class.  Early on the group’s aim was to teach sewing and have Bible studies but over time broadened their activities to helping with the Sunday School programs and bringing food to the sick and shut-ins.   In this context, the compilation of a cookbook fits right in.

Not only did these books contain family-favourite recipes, however, they also included what are now often referred to as “life hacks”: little everyday tips that make one’s life easier.  In the East Clifton Busy Bees Cook Book, they call them simply “hints.”  Need to get grass stains from clothes or keep your windshield dust-free?  They have tips for that!  Grass stains can be removed with molasses and a cut potato can help your windshield; who knew!?   To further ‘flavour’ to these little gems, the cookbooks also may have included jokes, which makes perusing the pages a delight today.

With the Townships’ local orchards in mind, abundant with glowing, fresh apples, I bring to you a recipe for Apple Jonathan, submitted by Eva Ellis to the Busy Bees cookbook:  Combine 3 cups apples, ½ cup brown sugar, ½ tsp. nutmeg in a bowl and then place at the bottom of a greased baking dish.  Then, cream ¼ cup shortening with ½ cup sugar brown, followed by adding 1/3 tsp. vanilla, 1 egg (beaten), 1 tbsp. orange juice, 1 cup pastry flour.  Drop by spoonful on top of the apples and bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes.  Bon appetit!

This article appeared in The Record (Sherbrooke) on 11 October 2016.

Take a closer look inside the Busy Bees cookbook

East Clifton Busy Bees Cook Book, ca. 1970s (UC052/015.01/001 East Clifton United Church fonds)
St. George’s Anglican Church on the left and Clarenceville Methodist Church on the right, 1909. (P058/010.05/001 Herbert Derick Collection)

A Tour Around Clarenceville

The beginnings of Clarenceville can be traced back to the late 1700s, about the time of the U.S.’s War of Independence, when those loyal to the British crown sought refuge in Canada.  Among the early settlers were the Salls, Dericks, Beerworts, Vaughans, and Hawleys, who came to an area that was initially, called Christie’s Manor.  It officially became Clarenceville in 1845, based on the name of the post office there, which was named for King William IV who was initially the Duke of Clarence.  

Renamed in 1989 after the parish, the municipality is now known as St-Georges-de-Clarenceville.   The town is located just north of the Canada/US border, in between Missisquoi Bay and the Richelieu River.  In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Clarenceville served as an important supply centre for the surrounding agricultural communities as well as a customs post.   At the turn of the 20th century, it included four churches, a hotel, two cheese factories, a mill, a school, a convent and six stores.

A drive through Clarenceville today will find only pieces of the past visible in its present landscapes, small testaments to the thriving village centre that it once was.  Among the ETRC’s collection are a number of postcards from 1905 to 1915 with views from the Clarenceville of a century ago.  They are fantastic windows onto a past long gone and offer so many views of the town that it’s almost possible to imagine yourself in Clarenceville 100 years ago, strolling down the dirt streets lined with trees, past all the shops and waving to familiar faces.

This article appeared in The Record (Sherbrooke) on 26 September 2016.

View of Main Street and the Clarenceville town centre, ca. 1906. (P058/010.05/001 Herbert Derick Collection)
Saint-Georges Catholic Church, convent and presbytery, 1909. (P058/010.05/001 Herbert Derick Collection)

Odd Fellowship in the Townships and Beyond

Odd Fellows picnic, Kinnear’s Mills, August 26th, 1916 (P999/019/004/002 ETRC Postcard Collection)

The IOOF, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, or simply the Odd Fellows.  But what gives them the self-proclaimed description of being “odd”?  The order of Odd Fellows has its earliest beginnings in 18th-century England as a fraternal order of individuals desiring to do charitable things independent of religious and political affiliations.  The IOOF was officially founded with the Washington Lodge No. 1 in Baltimore, Maryland in 1819, which set in place a more formal method of operation and organization for the order.  At the time of the Lodge’s founding, Baltimore was suffering from a yellow fever epidemic and, in response to this specific need, their first objectives were to "visit the sick, relieve the distress, bury the dead and educate the orphans."  As time progressed, however, their motto became that of friendship, love and trust, commonly represented by the triple link.

Although the Washington Lodge received its charter from their parent order in England, the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows, in 1826 Manchester Unity granted an independent charter to the Grand Lodge of the United States.  The first lodges of Canada were established in Montreal in 1843 under the IOOF.  The first decade of Odd Fellow lodges in Canada was a time of accomplishment and flourishing, as the number of chartered lodges spread rapidly throughout much of the country.  This quick expansion with a peak of 28 lodges was followed by an equally rapid decline, however, so that there only eight active lodges remained by 1854, none of which were located in Quebec.

Nonetheless, the IOOF had continued to grow in the United States during this time while also becoming the first national fraternal order to include both men and women when the Rebekah Order was adopted in 1851, establishing the Rebekah Lodges of the IOOF.  Despite challenges faced by the Canadian lodges mid-century, they continued to grow into the 20th century.  Among the approximately 100 lodges country-wide in 1906, six lodges were in Quebec with three in the Eastern Townships (in Dunham, East Angus and Magog). 

Into the 1910s, the IOOF in the Townships appears to have experienced new growth as a number of Lodges and Rebekah Lodges were founded around this time.  As with other fraternal organizations, the Lodges of the IOOF were involved with a wide variety of charitable works but, more uniquely, they also aimed to provide care for the elderly and orphans through the establishment of homes dedicated to their care.   Lodges in the Townships contributed to this objective with the establishment of the Edith Kathan Home I.O.O.F. for senior citizens in West Brome.   As with many similar organizations, membership in the I.O.O.F. has declined into the 21st century, resulting in the closure of a number of lodges. 

Despite these challenges, however, the remaining Odd Fellows and Rebekahs in the Townships continue to persevere in their fundraising to help local homes, hospitals, and schools, as well as humanitarian organizations.

This article appeared in The Record (Sherbrooke) on 12 September 2016.

Magog Oddfellows, taken outside Henry Chamberlin's house on Pine Street, Magog, ca. 1910. Among those pictured: Tom Broadbent, Bill McKenna, Charlie Styan, Scotty MacDonald, Willi Brevoort, Harry Spinks, Foster Baker(?), Jim Conners, Norman Ratcliffe, George Cunningham, Fred Whittaker, Ernest Snape, Frank Williams(?), George Mallinson, Glen Hitchcock, Jimmy Mitchell, Francis Milne, Harry Spinks, Henry Chamberlin, Alfevick, Dan Peters, Jack Sampson, and Alec Mitchell. (P135/008 H.K. Warren Milne Collection)
Bessie J. Banfill, 1923 graduate, pictured in her training uniform, ca.1922 (P190 Bessie J. Banfill fonds)

Sherbrooke Hospital School of Nursing

When the Sherbrooke Protestant Hospital officially opened its doors in 1896, its effective operation required not only trained doctors but also capable nurses.  It was out of this need that the Sherbrooke Hospital School of Nursing was born.

The first two nurses to complete the ‘training’ were Jean Shirriffs and Blanche Thorpe, who were awarded certificates at a special ceremony in 1898.  However, the first decades of the Sherbrooke Hospital’s nurses training program involved what has been described as something more akin to “bonded service” than a formal education.  In the early years, a normal work day for a nurse was 19 hours and consisted of all manners of work, from carrying boiling water or patients in stretchers up to the third-floor operating room to washing linens and medical equipment by hand.  In addition their nursing duties, it wasn’t uncommon for the nurses to be asked to go into Sherbrooke to seek donations.

Nurses seeking some respite from their long days were obliged to stay in less than pleasant quarters in the Sherbrooke Hospital until 1901 when the first nurse’s residence was built next door. Over the next two decades, the school continued to grow but it was not until the 1920s that standard exams were introduced and more formal training was established at the Nurses school.  To help supplement what was offered in Sherbrooke, the school also began to foster affiliations with Montreal hospitals. 

Following the construction of the new Park Street hospital in 1914, a new nurses' residence was completed in 1919 to accommodate the growing needs.  Despite various hurdles in professional programming and on-going ambivalence of hospital administrators towards the school, young women from across the region and even from other provinces continued to enroll in the program.

The Park Street nurses’ residence would remain their home until 1948 when the sale of the Sherbrooke Hospital property forced the nurses to be housed in military barracks until 1950, when a new residence and nursing school was built on Argyle Street.  The building, called the Norton Residence, was partially the result of a generous donation from Harry O. Norton.  The completion of the Norton Residence also marked a shift in the nursing program, as the academic curriculum was formalized and the administration of the school was reorganized.

Finally, in 1972, with the transfer of nursing education to universities and CEGEPs, the Sherbrooke Hospital School of Nursing witnessed the graduation of its final class and closed its doors.  From 1898 to 1972, 798 nurses graduated from the Sherbrooke Hospital School of Nursing. Through the ups and downs its 75 years of existence, the school produced proficient nurses, taught life lessons that stayed with graduates for their lifetime, and forged lasting friendships.  Reading the stories of early nursing, looking through photographs from their time during training (the serious ones with patients as well as those disclosing the shenanigans in the nurses’ residence), it’s impossible to deny the significance of this time in these women’s lives.

This article appeared in The Record (Sherbrooke) on 29 August 2016.

School of Nursing 1948 graduating class (P997/007.03/006, ETRC Textual Records Collection)
First nurses residence pictured to the left of the Sherbrooke Hospital, ca. 1910. (P999/053/009/001, ETRC Postcard Collection)
The first Sherbrooke Hospital, ca. 1906, on Pine Avenue (P999/053/009/003, ETRC Postcard Collection)
The second Sherbrooke Hospital, ca. 1920s, on Pine Avenue, later Park Avenue. (P999/053/009/005, ETRC Postcard Collection)

Nine years in the making: the Sherbrooke Protestant Hospital

This July marked the 120th anniversary of the official inauguration of the Sherbrooke Protestant Hospital, which had its beginnings rooted nearly a decade earlier, in 1887.  The impetus for the hospital was two-fold:  Chiefly, fast-growing cities, such as Sherbrooke in the 1860s and 1870s, with their closely-populated neighbourhoods and lack of city-wide sanitation, were especially good places for contagious disease epidemics, such as smallpox and typhoid fever.  The establishment of hospitals allowed for the treatment and quarantine of infected people.  Secondly, and more specifically, the prominent Sherbrooke businessman Richard W. Heneker felt strongly that the Protestants of the area should contribute to the health care of their fellow brethren with the establishment of a hospital. 

These things came together so that by 1887, the general public sentiment was in support of a Protestant hospital to complement the work being done by the Catholic Hospice du Sacré-Coeur. A site for this new hospital was chosen, consisting of 13.8 acres overlooking the St. Francis River on Pine Street (later Park Ave. and now rue du CEGEP), and funding-raising began in earnest.  However, it was not until Heneker, himself, gifted over half of the funds necessary that the hospital Corporation could finally purchase the property. 

The Sherbrooke Protestant Hospital was officially incorporated in 1888 but it would be seven years before the building was completed and yet another year before it was officially opened.  After nine long years, the grand opening was met with excitement as long-time supporters gathered on the hospital lawn on July 8th,1896 to see how their work had finally come to fruition.

The original hospital consisted of two wards, with a capacity of 14 patients, an operating room, a nurses’ and servants’ quarters, dining room, electricity, hot and cold water, bathrooms, and a modern laundry.  The first doctors of the hospital were A Norreys Worthington, Frederick J. Austin, W.D. Smith, and William A. Farwell.  Notwithstanding its name of the “Sherbrooke Protestant Hospital,” the governors emphasized that it would serve the people of all the Townships, regardless of their religion.

The hospital governors spoke with pride of the public contributions and generosity that was the source of the vast majority of the funds, totalling $20,826, needed to bring the hospital into being.  In the following years, fees paid by patients covered only one third of the expenses and, so, it was a continual exercise through private donations and philanthropic organizations to keep the hospital in good financial standing.

For 18 years, this first hospital building served the population until the region’s needs outgrew its capacity.  In 1914, a new hospital was inaugurated as the “Sherbrooke Hospital,” again largely the result of donations and special gifts. This building was followed by a third and final building in 1951, built on Argyle Avenue.

This article appeared in The Record (Sherbrooke) on 15 August 2016.

Metal registration card case (P006/003/002 Minnie Hallowell Bowen fonds)

The 1918 National Registration

A little metal case, showing  only a string of numbers through a small window.   On the other side, one half of the document can be seen through a plastic jacket.   Once opened up, the small piece of paper warns that “this certificate must always be carried upon the person of the registrant.”  The date recorded identifies it as being from 1918. 

The card was a certificate issued as proof that the holder had been registered by the Canada Registration Board.  In 1918, the Board set out to register all individuals in Canada over the age of 16 for the purpose of creating an inventory of people that were well-suited to be recruited for military service or for work in essential wartime industries.  The registration questionnaire asked general questions such as name, address, and age along with specific questions pertaining to employment history and state of health.

Despite its rather innocuous appearance, this item is a small symbol of a larger, more significant movement that was afoot in the later years of World War I.   From early on in the war, various voices in government and the military had been calling for a more effective way to recruit capable men for the Canadian troops and for a way to ensure that vital sectors of the economy were not lacking in labour.  These appeals were met with two recurring suggestions to rectify the situation: national registration and/or compulsory  military service.  The first attempt at a national registration was done in 1917 by cards distributed by the post office.  In the effort to avoid adding fuel to the heated question over conscription,  the completion of the registration card was voluntary and the returns were not as high as they had hoped. 

As the war pressed on, however, Prime Minister Borden and his government decided to go ahead with a compulsory national registration in June 1918.  The questionnaires completed through this registration would have provided rich information for genealogists and researchers today.  Unfortunately, the records were not retained so that these little certificates are all that remain from the 1918 national registration.

This article appeared in The Record (Sherbrooke) on 1 August 2016.

Registration certificate for Minnie Hallowell Bowen, 1918 (P006/003/002 Minnie Hallowell Bowen fonds)
Harold Saunders, 1920 (P006/004/007 Minnie Hallowell Bowen fonds)

Adventure on the Memphremagog

Glorious summertime, when school is out and children can spend days creating their own adventures.  In June of 1920, summer adventure was certainly on the menu when four 16-year-olds set out for a canoe trip from Sherbrooke to Newport, Vermont.  

Lloyd Bowen, Harold Saunders, Raymond Bonner, and Darel Darey, all of Sherbrooke, set out on the Magog River in two canoes, well-laden with camping gear and food.  They camped the first night on the shores of Little Lake Magog and then made their way down Lake Memphremagog, staying the night in the Boat Club House once they arrived in Newport.  Along the way, the boys stopped to explore and visit various points, including places like Georgeville and an unknown, mysterious, uninhabited village.  Included in the adventures were getting caught in a rainstorm and portaging along some difficult points of the rivers.  They rounded out their trip with a Boy Scout Dominion Day celebration in Magog and hike up Mount Orford.

Through it all, the boys documented their experience with a camera they had brought with them.  Their sense of adventure and fun is almost palpable through the photographs captured, which make them a joy to look through today.


This article appeared in The Record (Sherbrooke) on 25 July 2016.

The boys getting their canoes ready to set out in 1920. L-R: Lloyd Bowen, Harold Saunders and either Raymond Bonner or Darel Darey. (P006/004/007 Minnie Hallowell Bowen fonds)
Lloyd Bowen (P006/004/007 Minnie Hallowell Bowen fonds)

Excitement on the Border: Highlights from Highwater

Highwater, Quebec – North Troy, Vermont. For some today, the knowledge of these places might be linked only to the border crossing there, as a way for adventurous motorists to circumvent long holiday line-ups at the larger, highway border crossings.  For Highwater, however, the past holds stories of livelier times as border town.

In 1873, with the completion of the South Eastern Railway’s line from West Farnham – through Brome, Sutton and Potton Townships – to Newport, Vermont, the area became a railway stop known as Mansonville Station.  With the station came a telegraph office, hotels, small industries and businesses, and a customs office. 

The presence of the railway also nearly gave rise to an international incident in 1877, as a dispute between the South Eastern Railway (SER) and the Connecticut and Passumpsic Rivers Railroad (C&P) escalated.  Facing financial hardships, the SER line had been leased to the C&P in 1875 so that service would continue between Montreal and Boston, with the stipulation that the SER tracks be well maintained. 

By 1877, however, portions of the track were showing signs of neglect and the concerned directors of the SER decided to take action by removing a section of the track between New Richford and Highwater, with the intent to make repairs.  This move effectively cut off C&P's access to Montreal and frustrated the directors.   Threatening to head across the border into Canada to seize the equipment the SER men had been working with and to relay the torn up track, the C&P men were thwarted by militia men that had been dispatched on behalf of the SER to stand guard.  After weeks of disputes and negotiations, the SER and C&P reached a final arrangement in December and full service resumed.

An entirely different sort of incident arose in July 1928 when, in the midst of prohibition and Roaring Twenties, Miles Wright of North Troy crossed the border to rob a tea room near Highwater, owned by Arthur Boucher.  In the course of the robbery, Wright shot Raymond Brulotte in the groin, took $20 from the register, and fled.  Police and customs officials worked together to arrest Wright and transfer him back into Canada for prosecution.

Just two events in a history specked with tales of bootleggers, oil pipelines, and artillery and space innovation with the Space Research Corporation.   A history shaped by Highwater's location as a border town, and while Highwater has its own particular people and events, the distinctive influences of border life are not so uncommon amidst the history the Townships.

This article appeared in The Record (Sherbrooke) on 4 July 2016.

View of Chemin de la Mine in Highwater, with the SER train station and water tower visible on left, 1913 (P058/010 H.R. Derick Collection)
Mabel Derick’s letter in shorthand, December 1908 (P058 Herbert R. Derick Collection)

“The opportunity of a lifetime”: a brief history of shorthand

The letter seen here turned up among some documents I was working on recently, as I was getting them organized and described for others to have the chance to also discover them.  At first glance, it was a peculiar page, looking mostly like hieroglyphics to my untrained eye but then I noticed a note by the writer at the end identifying it as shorthand.  As a child of the late 20th century, shorthand is a complete curiosity to me.   Shorthand, also known as stenography, is defined as “a system for rapid writing that uses symbols or abbreviations for letters, words, or phrases.”

While versions of shorthand existed prior to the 19th century, it came into a new era with Isaac Pitman’s creation of shorthand system in 1837, which consisted of symbols based on sounds.  Variations of this style of shorthand were initially used primarily for the recording of personal thoughts, personal correspondence or to copy the works of others in quick and discrete way.  This latter kind of use would be akin to way that movie-goers today might stealthily film a movie at the theatre using their smart phone or camera. 

However, by the age of industrialization in the late 1800s, it became more widely used in business and law as a way to record oral dictation. It was particularly popular among court recorders, journalists, and secretaries.

The letter that caught my attention was written by Mabel Derick, daughter of Morris C. Derick and Elizabeth M. Beerwort, born in Noyan, Missisquoi County, in 1886.  She left for Brookline, Massachusetts as a young woman to live with her uncle and aunt and studied shorthand at a school in the region.  Following her completion of the course, she wrote back to her father about her efforts to find employment: “Mr. Hickox offered me a place.  I went down to see about it they wanted all typewriting had no use for shorthand, and I would not give up the shorthand so I didn’t take it.” In the end, Mabel’s resolve to stick to shorthand was not an obstacle and she eventually found a job as a stenographer.  From what she wrote back home in later letters, she felt she had found a gainful profession.

During the same period, Gleason’s Shorthand and Business College (also known as Boyd’s Syllabic Shorthand Business College) offered enterprising Townshippers the chance to study shorthand locally.  It was founded in 1903 by Ellsworth S. Gleason, originally of Dunham.  The college was situated on Wellington Street in Sherbrooke and taught bookkeeping, typewriting, and business correspondence in addition to shorthand as it advertised that all graduates would find employment.  According to Gleason, “knowledge of shorthand and bookkeeping may be the opportunity of a lifetime.” 

This article appeared in The Record (Sherbrooke) on 20 June 2016.

Gleason’s Shorthand and Business College, Sherbrooke (Wellington North), ca. 1910 (P997/004.04/006, ETRC Textual Records Collection)
A page from Leeman Mackey’s account book for K.A. Willard, ca. 1919. (P125/001 Aleta and Leeman Mackey fonds)

A window onto Dudswell Township

As with many other areas in the Townships, Dudswell Township was first settled with farms in the early 1800s.  With the discovery of calcium, marble and, later, lime deposits, the population of the area grew and villages began to spring up.  The influence of the various minerals can be seen in the region’s toponymy, with villages such as Marbleton and Lime Ridge as well as Silver Lake.  Bishopton (initially known as Bishop’s Crossing) was a notable exception to this trend in Dudswell.

In 1875, the villages of Dudswell Township got a boost with the completion of Quebec Central Railway’s line between Quebec City and Sherbrooke, which passed near Marbleton and Bishopton.  With the extension of the Hereford Railway from Cookshire to Dudswell in 1889, the Dudswell Junction station was a key transfer point for passengers and freight coming from Portland or Boston headed to Quebec City.  As a result, the Dudswell station was large in relation to the surrounding population and included a restaurant that operated during train service hours in addition to the typical waiting and baggage rooms.  The station remained open until 1925.  In 1927, the Canadian Pacific Railway acquired the Maine Central line and began to dismantle it soon after. 

Along with the train access, the villages were the central places for a variety of services that supported the surrounding farming communities, such as general stores, blacksmiths, carriage makers, millers, and churches.   Among the services coming from Marbleton was the traveling butcher, Leeman Mackey.  Born in 1883, Leeman was the son of William Mackay and Jemima Rice, farmers in Weedon.  By 1911, Leeman had found his way to Marbleton and appears to have been an apprentice under Alvin Barter, a butcher.

Leeman married Dora Mackay in 1912 and together they had one child, Lloyd Allen, born in 1913.  They also had a daughter, Una, who died in 1920.  From the dates of Leeman’s account books that are part of the ETRC’s collection, it appears that he took over Alvin Barter’s butcher business around 1916.  The history of Bishopton makes note of Leeman Mackey as the first traveling butcher to serve the surrounding villages. 

In the days before widespread use of cars and before refrigerators, a butcher that could come right to your door a few times a week would have been an invaluable service to many.  Leeman’s account books show that he sold fish, pork, sausages, turkey, lamb, suet, and lard in addition to the most common listing of “meat.”  Later, Leeman expanded his supplies to include sugar, butter and ketchup.  The account books also provide a window onto people’s buying habits in the 1910s and 1920s; some making purchases several times a week while others only every few weeks, purchases often slowing down during the winter months when food could last longer in the colder temperatures. 

Leeman sold his business to Philibert Thibodeau, who continued to travel to surrounding communities with his delivery truck.  He passed away in 1966 and is buried at the Lakeside Cemetery in Bishopton.

This article appeared in The Record (Sherbrooke) on 30 May 2016.

Silver Lake, near Marbleton, ca. 1910 (P058 H.R. Derick Collection)
Dudswell Junction Station, ca. 1908 (P058 H.R. Derick Collection)

"Tuberculosis is only a bad habit": Tuberculosis in the Townships

Minute book of the I.O.D.E. Memorial Hospital for Tuberculosis (P061/001, I.O.D.E. Memorial Hospital for Tuberculosis fonds)

Consumption. The White Plague. These were among the common names given to tuberculosis in the 19th and 20th centuries.  In the 1880s, one scientist reported that 1/7 of all humans worldwide at that point in time would die from tuberculosis.  It is a slow-progressing disease, most often infecting the lungs, causing chronic coughing, fever and weight loss.  If left untreated, it kills about 50% of those who become infected and for centuries, the nature and spread of tuberculosis was misunderstood. 

Even when Robert Koch proved definitively that tuberculosis was a contagious disease caused by an infectious agent in 1882, misinformation regarding the causes of the disease continued to circulate for decades.  A newspaper article appearing in 1904, quoted in the title of this article, asserted that tuberculosis was caused by “laziness in breathing.”  Today, this notion seems ridiculous, but the article was just one example of some of the social and cultural stigmas surrounding tuberculosis at the turn of the 20th century.

Despite some of the persisting misinformation, there was an emerging movement towards the establishment of sanatoriums to house and treat those infected with tuberculosis.   Health authorities, city councils, and philanthropic organizations began to set in place strategies to better diagnose, contain, and treat the population.

Sherbrooke joined the charge with the establishment of groups such as the District of St. Francis Anti-Tuberculosis League in 1903 and other philanthropic organizations, such as the I.O.D.E., the Red Cross, and the Child Welfare Clinic, became involved in the fight.  The hospitals of Sherbrooke made efforts in the treatment of tuberculosis but were often faced with over-crowding in their facilities that were not well-equipped to deal with contagious diseases.  Without adequate help available in the Townships, those seeking treatment were sent away to sanatoriums the Laurentians and Colorado.

It was in response to this need that the Sherbrooke chapters of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire established the I.O.D.E. Memorial Hospital for Tuberculosis in 1925. Situated on a large property with a house and barn, somewhere within the city of Sherbrooke, the directors of the sanatorium hired a nurse and purchased or received donations of the necessary equipment.  Patients could receive treatment and recuperate for a monthly fee of $50.

Despite the constant warnings from various authorities that Quebec needs more beds for tuberculosis patients, the I.O.D.E. Memorial Hospital for Tuberculosis never had more than a handful of patients at any given time.  Each year, it was a challenge to keep the sanatorium’s doors open, until it declared its first closure in 1928.  At the time, the minutes of the committee show much contention among I.O.D.E. members.  Interest was expressed by English doctors to use their building a contagious diseases hospital due to overcrowding of the Sherbrooke Hospital, while others wanted to use it as a convalescent home for paying patients.

After a short time as a convalescent home, the City of Sherbrooke had taken over use of the building as an infectious diseases hospital by end of 1928 and by 1933, the house and land were being rented.  In 1936, the property was to be given new life in the service of others, as it was transferred to the Canadian Legion to be used as a veteran’s home. 

In the continued efforts to stem the spread and death rates of tuberculosis, the St. Francis Sanatorium opened in 1944 as part of the Hotel-Dieu, which included an anti-tuberculosis clinic and dispensary.  The first antibiotic treatment for tuberculosis was discovered, followed by the creation of more effective antibiotic drugs in 1952 and in the 1970s.  These discoveries, along with better detection and vaccination programs helped to significantly curtail the rate of infection into the latter part of the 20th century.

This article appeared in The Record (Sherbrooke) on 16 May 2016.

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View of the New Rockland slate quarry, ca. 1910 (P020/003.06/002/216, E.T. Heritage Foundation fonds)
View of the New Rockland slate quarry, ca. 1910 (P020/003.06/003/755, E.T. Heritage Foundation fonds)

Welsh Community and the New Rockland Slate Quarry

Driving along the gravel road leading to Kingsbury from Route 249, a small service road is all the remains easily visible of what was once the vibrant mining community of New Rockland.  While almost a century has passed since the New Rockland Slate Quarry was closed, it has left a lasting mark on the people and geography of the area.

In 1865 and 1866, the Rockland Slate Company of Montreal purchased 500 acres in the Township of Melbourne.  A few years later, in 1868, the New Rockland Slate Quarry had started production under the direction of George Drummond and Mr. Ferrer.  Notably, many of men that came to work for New Rockland Slate were from quarries in Wales and Cornwall.  They were recruited for their skill and knowledge of slate to work in the Eastern Townships, where they made a new home for their families in what would become the village of New Rockland.  They retained the Welsh culture despite the move, however, and it was not uncommon to hear Welsh being sung or spoken throughout the village.  Among the family names, Welsh and others, found among the village of New Rockland were Colton, Evans, Davies, Roberts, Lewis, Killingbeck, Thorely, Fraser, Vallée, and Pépin.   Sense of community ran strong in the village, demonstrated by the summer Sunday “strawberry socials” hosted on the quarry manager’s lawn, a Welsh mission church, and the organization of their own Eisteddfod festivals.

At the beginning, the technology used to quarry slate from the mines was still basic; water-power was used to hoist the slate, drilling was done by hand with dynamite, and it was hauled by horses to the nearest railway.  Eventually, however, these methods were largely replaced by steam-powered machines and drills, and a company-built narrow gauge railway line carried the slate from the quarry to the Grand Trunk Railway at Corris, on the other side of the St. Francis River.

The slate coming out of New Rockland was admired and in demand for its notable strength and varied colouring of red, green, and purple.  Used for products such as roofing, hearthstones, washtubs and sinks, billiard tables, and library shelves, New Rockland  was the most significant slate quarry in Canada from the 1870s to 1890s.  Yet, as the 21st century dawned, with its new roofing technologies and changing trends in building materials, the market demand for slate declined drastically and steadily.  By 1897, the number of employees at New Rockland had dropped to 90, from a peak of about 300.   The decline continued until it closed for good in the mid-1920s.  The village gradually disappeared over time, some people relocating to other towns in the Townships, while others chose to try their luck in other parts of Canada and the United States. 

In 1945, the quarry was purchased by Armand Bombardier, who transferred it to Rockland Industries Limited, which was owned by Bombardier’s company.  The company used the quarry to dump burning rubber waste until 1979, when the practice was stopped by Environment Canada.

This article appeared in The Record (Sherbrooke) on 2 May 2016.

Steam shovel at the New Rockland quarry, ca. 1910 (P020/003.06/002/212, E.T. Heritage Foundation fonds)
Shaw & Cassils Tannery, Drummondville, ca. 1895 (P020/003.06/002/061, E.T. Heritage Foundation fonds)

Drummondville’s Difficult Beginnings

Today, Drummondville holds the status of being the Eastern Townships’ second largest city, but its beginnings and through the 1800s were slow as the region tried to find its niche.  The earliest settlers to the area that would become Drummondville were largely British veteran soldiers, headed by Colonel F. George Heriot.  Under the directive of the Governor General, Sir Gordon Drummond, they were given land along this part of the St. Francis in 1815 primarily for the purpose of increasing the military presence and strength of the colony, but also to offer decommissioned soldiers something constructive to do with their newfound time. 

The first years were fraught with disasters for the Drummondville settlement as the “year without a summer” led to crop failures in 1815 and 1816, an epidemic wiped out a portion of the population in 1820, and a devastating fire in 1826 that razed all but three buildings.  The early days were also made difficult by the fact that military men were not always the kind of settler that was best suited or prepared for life as farmers in the relative wilderness of the Townships.   Despite all of these challenges, Col. Heriot remained steadfastly committed to the settlement, his contributions helping to secure the foundations of the community and included donating land for the Catholic and Anglican churches.

Still, the development of Drummondville was sluggish and inconsistent throughout the 19th century.  Small industries, such as potasheries, saw mills, and foundries, came and went with local supply and demand and the population was often driven by broader economic situations.  By 1901, the population was a modest 1450 people, whereas Granby, Thetford Mines, and Magog each consisted of over 3000.  

The turning point for Drummondville from town to dynamic city began in 1915 with the establishment of several large industries.  First was the Aetna Chemical Company in 1915, known as the La Poudrière, which produced gun powder, in high demand for the allied war efforts during WWI.  Although Aetna Chemical shut down in 1918 with the end of the war, its establishment put into place foundations of the infrastructure and resources necessary for other industries to set down roots.  Over the next two decades, it was followed by the Butterfly Hosiery Company, the Canadian Celanese, Drummondville Cotton, Dominion Silk, Dennison Manufacturing, and Holtite Rubber, to name only some of the industries that sprung up in the city.  Despite the sudden closure of some of the larger companies in the 1940s, Drummondville’s economy had expanded and diversified enough to maintain its path of growth through the 20th century.

This article appeared in The Record (Sherbrooke) on 11 April 2016.

Butterfly Hosiery Company, Drummondville, ca. 1920 (P999/012/001/001, ETRC Postcard Collection)
Canadian Celanese Ltd., Drummondville, ca. 1930 (P999/012/001/005, ETRC Postcard Collection)
East Angus paper mill, ca. 1900. (P020/003.06/002/656, E.T. Heritage Foundation fonds)
View of East Angus, including the wooden bridge, ca. 1910. (P020/003.06/003/677, E.T. Heritage Foundation fonds)
The first mill erected in East Angus, ca. 1890 (P020/003.06/002/654, E.T. Heritage Foundation fonds)

The Mills of East Angus

With William Angus’ acquisition of land and damming rights along the St. Francis River in the Township of Westbury, so were the beginnings of what would become the town of East Angus.  William Angus had already made his mark on the pulp and paper industry in the Eastern Townships as the co-founder of the mills in Windsor, by that time known as the Canada Paper Company.  In 1882, however, he left his partnership with Thomas Logan and established a new company, William Angus & Co., in the dense forest of Westbury.  Francis P. Buck, of Sherbrooke, was Angus’ partner in this new business venture.

Before long the company had established a pulp mill, which was accompanied by the building of a dam, sawmill, bridge, and a railway siding.  With the construction of the mill came also the settlement of the surrounding area, going from largely forest and farmland to a busy town of 600 in a decade and included 35 company houses which were rented to employees.   In 1891, the company was sold and became the Royal Pulp and Paper Company, which would be the first of many company transfers and restructurings.  At this time, construction started on a new paper mill, which began production in 1892. 

In 1896, the pulp mill was producing 45 to 50 tons of pulp each day and the newly renovated sawmill producing 25000 to 30000 feet of wood in a 10-hour work day.  The Royal Paper Mills Company employed 300 people in the mid-1890s, with half working in the mills and the other half working on the rivers, driving logs to supply the mills.  In 1907, the East Angus paper mill, now owned by the Brompton Pulp & Paper Company, was renovated and became the first mill in North America to use the kraft process to make paper.

Beyond its importance in exporting goods from the Townships, the East Angus paper mill provided an important service locally in first part of the 20th century as it printed special orders such as custom stationery and butcher paper for the businesses of the area.   With the shifting market demand for paper products and the changing economy, the East Angus mills went through a number of company reorganizations in the course of the century.  In 1930, Brompton Pulp & Paper fell under control of the St. Lawrence Corporation, which then became Domtar Limited in 1961 with the merger of three companies.  In 1983, the mills were sold to Cascades and in 2014 it was announced that they would be closing their kraft paper plant after over a century of production.  Today, the cardboard plant continues its operations under Graphic Packaging International.

In November, the ETRC ran an article on the pulp and paper mills of Brompton, which resulted in the donation of some wonderful photographs from mills as well as readers supplying us with additional information on its history.   Perhaps you may have some old documents or photographs relating to one of the topics we have featured, or connected to Townships history in another way.  For more information on what options are available for making sure they are preserved for future generations, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

This article appeared in The Record (Sherbrooke) on 14 March 2016.

The Early Days of the Coaticooke Observer

Newspapers are not, by nature, considered archival records because they are not unique.  At the time they were printed, they were widely published and distributed and subsequently,  many copies remain preserved for decades.  Newspapers today are carefully catalogued and preserved by various archival bodies and many of the papers of the past are available on microfilm at libraries.

Every so often, however, an old copy of a newspaper comes through our doors that catches my eye and makes me pause.  Sometimes it is because of the date, other times it is because of the name, but usually I recognize that there is something unique about this typically common item.  One such case was with a handful of issues of the Coaticook Observer that we received as part of a family’s papers, which predate most other available issues of this newspaper by  10 to 20 years.  

When it was established in 1869 by William Bowden, it was titled the Coaticooke Observer, with the motto “Independent in all things, neutral in nothing” proudly displayed as part of the paper’s elaborate nameplate.  By 1876, the paper had been purchased by Frank P. Newman and Company and the name had dropped the “e” on Coaticook Observer and now identified itself as “a family devoted to local interests and county and general news.”  In 1883, it was a reported that it had a circulation of 3,000, a number that was on par with the Sherbrooke Examiner.  Later on, the paper was purchased by William L. Shurtleff.

The Observer was published weekly on Saturdays and featured articles meant to appeal to varied interests.  From political news and murder trials to local interests and tips on how to care for one’s fruit bushes, it had a little bit for all readers.  Like many newspapers from this era,  it also featured poetry and literature, such as chapters of stories that appeared weekly.    Within the pages of the Coaticook Observer, like so many of the old newspapers, are treasure troves of information and is fascinating when compared against the content of newspapers today.   Local news notes about a man slipping and breaking his bottles of whiskey and the prices of goods at the Sherbrooke market, along with fantastical advertisements for all sorts of medicines and promotions for local businesses that are long-gone make browsing through old newspapers always entertaining.

For a list of the newspapers available in the Old Library, and links to historical Townships newspapers you can read online, visit our webpage: http://www.etrc.ca/archives-department/genealogical-resources.html.

This article appeared in The Record (Sherbrooke) on 29 February 2016.

The Coaticooke Observer nameplate, 1870 (P997/005.07/023)
Frank and Isabel Vial, ca. 1920s (P143 Dorothy Dutton fonds)

A Lifetime of Words: Dorothy Dutton

Dorothy Dutton was born on October 9th, 1901 in Gaspé.  She was the daughter of Reverend Arthur W. Dutton, an Anglican clergyman, and Mary Ready.  She studied at King's Hall in Compton and later graduated from Bishop's University in History in 1920, at a time when few women were able to pursue post-secondary education. 

During her varied career life, Dorothy Dutton worked as a teacher, a business woman and a manager.  She worked for a time in Montreal for Sun Life but spent much of her career in New Hampshire, working for Indian Head, a tourist resort.   When Dorothy returned to Lennoxville, she worked for many years at Bishop's College School and was also a dedicated volunteer at St. George’s Anglican Church. 

Dorothy was particularly passionate about the history of the Eastern Townships and New England.  This keen interest was expressed through her writing as she wrote and published historical novels and Bible stories for children.  Among the titles were The chosen, From Egypt to the Holy Land, Come to Jerusalem, Hunter's Landing, , Jonathan's Long Furrow, of which two were published.  She also carefully put together a rich and detailed history of the Lennoxville/Ascot area.  Dorothy’s literary enthusiasm followed her well into old age and she continued to write until the age of 97. In 1998, Dorothy Dutton moved to The Wales Home in Richmond where she lived until she passed away on February 8th, 2003 at the age of 101 years old. 

Among the documents preserved by the ETRC that were Dorothy Dutton’s, are some photographs from her time as a university student, which include a couple of photos showing Rev. Frank G. Vial and his wife, Isabel.    Rev. Vial, or “Giffy” as he was commonly known, was a well-respected and admired professor at Bishop’s University until his retirement in 1935.  One obituary stated that he “radiated friendliness and goodwill” as his door was always open to students and colleagues, often acting as “kindly advisor to troubled souls.”   In the present more romantic atmosphere from the recent Valentine’s Day, the photograph of Frank and Isabel stealing a quick embrace, shown here, seems especially fitting.

This article appeared in The Record (Sherbrooke) on 15 February 2016.

Dorothy enjoying the snow, Christmas 1922 (P143 Dorothy Dutton fonds)
Dorothy Dutton, Isabel Vial, Nelly Dutton, Marjie Dutton, and Frank Vial, ca. 1920s, on the Lennoxville golf links (P143 Dorothy Dutton fonds)

Way's Mills: Two Centuries of Change

View of Way's Mills, ca. 1910 (P020/003.06/003/615, E.T. Heritage Foundation Fonds)

Prior to the 1840s, the area that would become the village of Way’s Mills was largely farmland, first settled by families such as the Cliffords, Kilburns, Sanborns, Bellows, and Clarks.  The Niger River, which runs through Way’s Mills, served as a prime location for entrepreneurial settlers to set up a grist mill and saw mill to serve the surrounding farming community. 

Born in the United States and first settling along the Tomifobia River, Daniel Way bought property along the river and moved his family to the emerging village in 1843.  By 1849, he had acquired damming rights and built a carding mill to prepare wool cloth.  Daniel Way had a sharp mind for business and his mill grew steadily.  Other skilled settlers also made their way to the area around this time, such as Ebenezer Southmayd, a tanner and shoemaker by trade, who would become the village’s postmaster and bailiff.  William A. Cramer arrived with his wife in 1851, serving the village as the blacksmith for decades.

As you have probably guessed, the Way family name was adopted as the official name of the burgeoning village, and by 1863, it is known as Wayville on the map.  The post office was called Way’s Mills, however, which led to the gradual shift in the formal name of the village.  Daniel Way eventually transferred ownership of the carding mill – known as the Way’s Mills Woolen Factory – to his sons, Lorenzo S. and Asa, in 1871.  By the 1890s, the ownership of the factory had passed to the younger generation and was operated by Johnson & Dyson.

As with many rural villages, the path in to the 20th century brought numerous changes that would have a significant effect on the population of Way’s Mills and surrounding area.  Businesses and industries gradually closed, though the woolen mill continued to operate into the 1940s as part of a group of smaller mills that supplied the large textile mills in Coaticook.   

The mid-20th century witnessed a new stage in the character of Way’s Mills as it became home to a number of artists and artisans.  Among this group were Stanley and Wanda Rozynski, a sculptor and a potter, respectively.  Originally from Montreal, the couple studied in New York City for a number of years before returning to Quebec.  Seeking more space than what could be offered by a studio in Montreal and desiring a place in the country, in 1963 the Rozynskis settled on Way’s Mills as their new home.  They transformed the old school house into their home, studio, and a pottery summer school.  From 1963 to 1985, hundreds of students would pass through their school.  Following Stanley’s death in 2012, their home and studio were transformed into the Rozynski Centre for Fine Arts.

This article appeared in The Record (Sherbrooke) on 1 February 2016.

Main Street, Way's Mills, ca. 1914 (P999/057/014/001, ETRC Postcard Collection)

Letters Home: Cora Lovell to Ruth May

In the early 1900s, the draw of new opportunities in the Canadian and American West captivated the imaginations of many, including Eastern Townships young men, women, and families.  Among those who made the trek to California was the family of Cora Lovell.  Cora was born in 1893 to Hazen I. Lovell and Adelaide May and grew up in the Coaticook area.  She was a cousin of Ruth May, with whom she also attended school before moving away.  In October 1912, Cora along with her parents and siblings (Martin, Artemissa or ‘Artie’, Alta, John, and Allen) moved to Glendale, California.  Like so many others, the Lovells seem to have gone California, possibly following other friends or relatives, in search of a better life than what the small town and rural living could offer.

Cora and Ruth exchanged letters for many years following the Lovells’ move to California.  Cora’s letters back to Ruth are an opportunity to catch a glimpse of what it was like to be a young, working woman in California during the 1910s – with dreams and the world at her feet. As a young woman, Cora worked as a telephone operator and, possibly, as a secretary in an office.  Around 1916, she married Paul Dilley and they would have two children together: Pauline and John.  

Cora’s letters are endlessly charming as she recounts her life and offers her perspectives on all things that often concerned young women in the early 1900s, from love life preoccupations to social news, but also included more serious topics, such as health and work concerns.  Just a sampling of a few of the colourful snippets from Cora’s letters to Ruth, to enliven your day:

“Ruth do you know we were two darn fools not to have gone to Sherbrooke and take a business course when we left school. Mollie was taking me at that time, we could have boarded with her and think of the times we could have had. Now she is fitted to draw good pay and we work for starvation wages.” 

“Sometimes I think I would marry the first guy who came along who had five thousand dollars a nice house and a machine.  Do you suppose he will ever come along?  He wouldn’t if he knew how much I wanted, would he?”

“Between you and I am getting mighty tired of work. I have been at the same old place doing the same old work for twenty-seven months with only one weeks vacation.  The work is getting harder every day and it seems like every day they expect a little more of you.”

“My brother-in-law expects to be married soon to.  I wanted you to come out and capture him but am afraid it is too late.  No doubt you are as good as gone to.  Please write and tell me all about yourself.  I love you just like I always did and want to see you.”

This article appeared in The Record (Sherbrooke) on 21 January 2016.

Letter from Cora Lovell to Ruth May, June 5th, 1915 (P173/003.01 Elvyn M. Baldwin family fonds)