These days, with increased interest in self-sufficiency and recognition of the importance of bees in maintaining pollination, beekeeping feels almost commonplace in this area. A century ago, however, beekeeping was the realm of relatively few across the Eastern Townships. A perusal through old issues of the Sherbrooke Daily Record reveals an enthusiastic group of beekeepers, often expounding on the “splendid opportunities to keep bees.”
One apiary (also then known as a bee yard) that was a going concern for over a century was F.W. Jones & Son, established in Bedford in 1878. Not only did they harvest and sell honey across the country, Frank W. Jones was also well respected for his beekeeping products and leather coloured Italian bees (apparently well-suited to the Canadian climate), which they bred and sold. F.W. Jones even invented and sold his own honey comb foundation, known as the Jones-Weed foundation.
Later on F.W. Jones beekeeping supplies was taken over by his only daughter, Audrey, and her husband Richard Craighead, eventually to be sold to Propolis-ETC. During its height, F.W. Jones was one of Canada’s leading agricultural enterprises and Frank continually promoted the business and art of beekeeping, including through the foundation of Quebec’s Bee-Keepers Association.
On the east side of the Townships, among those with notable apiaries were John L. Kennedy in Stanbury and Charles Gill of Coaticook.
In 1914, a science in agriculture portrait noted that “an abundance of wildflowers and the rich clover fields afford the busy bees ample territory to work,” which is a characteristic that continues to flavour Townships honey today. If you have not yet had a chance to purchase some local honey, this is the summer to treat your taste buds!