Going back one hundred years to the corner of what is presently Mansonville’s Principale and Joseph-Blanchet Streets depicts a much different streetscape from what we see today.  Postcard views from the early 20th century showing the town square and the corner that was then Main and Bridge Streets are striking for the tree-lined roads and picturesque buildings, which are only vaguely recognizable to the contemporary viewer.

Existing only as a parking lot today, the Manson House hotel, sometimes also known as Mansonville House, has its origins at least as far back as the 1860s, when it was operated by James Manson.  The hotel was taken over by one of James’ sons, William B. Manson, in 1871.  Over its 120+ years of existence, Manson House was operated by a series of different owners, from Benjamin Sisco/the Sisco Brothers in the 1890s, to Samuel H. Botterill from sometime in the aughts to around 1916, followed by Galen Heath and his sons, Arnold and Merrill. Following the Heaths, the hotel went through a revolving door of owners from 1958 to 1983, when the Mansonville Hotel met its fate with a fire that destroyed the top two floors on June 8th, 1983 and it was subsequently demolished.

Before the hotel’s slow decline in the second part of the 20th century, it was a focal point of the town, attracting visitors from near and far. From the time of William B. Manson, the ETRC Archives has this lovely ledger recording the guests of the Manson House, beginning in 1876 and then jumping ahead to the 1910s when it was owned and operated by Samuel H. Botterill.  The ledger records guests from places such as Cowansville, Magog, Montreal, California and a great many from towns in Vermont, often welcoming 5-10 guests on any given day.  The Manson House had a short-lived existence as a temperance hotel in 1915, hopping on the prohibition-era trend of offering hotel-goers an alcohol-free option for their travels. The Manson House also served an important role in the social life of the town, including a third-floor ballroom and served as a gathering place for the community.

While the Town Hall resides in its original spot from the 1800s, it has gone through three versions, with the present Town Hall dating from 1923.  The first Town Hall building was built by James Manson, giving it the “Manson Block” name.  This building was destroyed by fire in 1910 and rebuilt as the Manson Block pictured here.  For a short-lived 13 years, the three-story cement building housed the Town Hall, customs office, general store,  post office, telephone exchange, and the Canadian Bank of Commerce.  On January 29th, 1923, it, too, was destroyed by fire, causing upheaval in the town’s services, including a days-long interruption in telephone communication and rural mail delivery.  The only items that were saved from the building were, reportedly, two barber’s chairs from the barber shop in the basement.  Newspapers at the time lamented at the loss of Mansonville’s “most beautiful building.”  The town hall rose from the ashes once again, however, and is the building we see today.

Brookbury. Canterbury. Bown. Bury.  At one time, each of these villages located in the historical boundaries of Bury Township had their own Anglican church (most are still standing today).  The proliferation of churches in Bury, which stand as important institutions in the social and religious lives of the people, can make historical research a challenge at times. A document might make reference to an Anglican church in Bury.  Do they mean Bury-the-town or Bury-the-township?  Moreover, if they mean Bury-the-township, exactly which Anglican Church can become a question without an immediate answer. 

This is how the process goes with research sometimes.  Ask a simple question and down the rabbit hole we go.  A photograph identified simply as “Bury Anglican church on fire” caught my eye recently for the intensity of the flames and smoke; the photo snapped mid-destruction.  A little checking and it became clear that it was not St. Paul’s in Bury but St. Thomas’ in Bown. Now a collection of a few houses and a cemetery, it once included a Protestant school, a Catholic school, and a post office along with the Anglican Church as part of its small community.

While Bury Township would eventually be home to a number of churches, St. Thomas’ in Bown was the first.  Construction on the church started in 1836 and it was consecrated by Bishop Mountain in January 1849.  St. Thomas’ was built by the British American Land Company to serve the immigrants they were trying to settle on the lands they had recently acquired from the government.  In particular, St. Thomas’ Church and cemetery served the Bown and Canterbury communities for many years, until Christ Church in Canterbury was built in 1896.

The St. Thomas’ pictured here is the second church to sit at that spot.  The first church, from 1836, is said to have been destroyed by fire, possibly around 1878 but the details are a bit fuzzy in the records.  Some accounts suggest the first reconstruction attempt for St. Thomas’ ended when it was damaged in a windstorm and it was not until September 1897 that the second church, the one pictured here, was consecrated.  On June 10th, 1943, a grass fire ignited and destroyed St. Thomas’, but not before most of the contents were saved from the flames.  One item that could not be saved was a memorial tablet, erected in the church to commemorate Guy Thompson who lost his life while serving in World War I.

 St. Thomas’ in Bown was never rebuilt, with other Anglican churches available relatively close-by to serve the Anglican community, but the cemetery remained the Anglican burial ground for the area, particularly since Christ Church in Canterbury did not have their own.  In 1956, a commemorative sign was placed at the cemetery to remember St. Thomas’ Anglican Church and it remains as a testament to Bown’s rich past.