By Jazmine Aldrich
Many of the Eastern Townships Resource Centre’s archival holdings document the lives of families who have impacted our local history. One example is the Davidson family of Georgeville – especially the father and son duo whose craftsmanship shaped much of the landscape along Lake Memphremagog’s shores.
James Everett Davidson was born in Brigham, Quebec on March 7, 1860. He was the son of William Davidson and Caroline America Everett Beach. On January 1, 1883, he married Annie Myrtella Brevoort, the daughter of James Gunn Brevoort and Janet Hurst. He built boats, furniture, and many summer homes in the Lake Memphremagog region. His noteworthy accomplishments include working on the Narrows Bridge, a covered bridge over Fitch Bay which was constructed in 1881. The bridge remains standing today and was recognized by the Government of Quebec as a protected heritage site under the Cultural Heritage Act in 2019.
James Everett Davidson’s son, James Arlington Davidson was born in Georgeville on October 17, 1891. “Arlie,” as he was known colloquially, married Margaret Hazel Merrill and had two daughters, Jean and Janet. He lived almost all his life in Georgeville, working there with his father as contractors and builders.
J.E. Davidson & Son built houses, cottages, log cabins, and boathouses – especially around Lake Memphremagog. In 1931, they were contracted to work on the Anglican Church and Church Hall in Fitch Bay and, in 1934, they worked on St. George’s Anglican Church in Georgeville.
Much of the Davidson family’s archives consist of account books in which they recorded detailed notes about the jobs they were completing (how many days worked, what they worked on each day, and so on). Thanks to these books, we know precise details such as the rate charged for one day’s work ($2.25 per day, per person in 1914, which would amount to about $58.95 in 2023).
The Davidson family made its impression on the Georgeville community outside of their business, as well. Both father and son’s names appear on a 1930 petition to the Southern Canada Power Company, amongst a list of ten Georgeville residents pledging four hundred dollars “towards the installation of an electric power line and distribution system for the lighting of the village and to enable electric service to be made available to the residents thereof.”
Following his father’s death on August 25, 1933, Arlie continued the family business. As of 1950, he was a member of the Building Trades’ Joint Committee of the Eastern Townships’ District, qualified as a journeyman in the positions of carpenter-joiner and painter-paperhanger.
Arlie retired in 1955 but spent the next twenty years repairing and making reproductions of antique furniture. In 1977, he wrote a booklet entitled Copp’s Ferry, Georgeville, 1797-1977. The booklet includes information about the settlement of Georgeville, transportation, accommodations, schools, churches, cemeteries, industries, infrastructure, and inhabitants. James Arlington Davidson died on February 24, 1979, aged 87.
By Joanie Tétreault
Freemasonry, with its rich history and enigmatic symbolism, has long captivated the imagination of many. In the Eastern Townships, the Freemasons have left an indelible mark on the community, fostering brotherhood, charitable endeavors, and personal growth; however, an air of secrecy has surrounded the organization, fueling curiosity and speculation. In this article, we delve into the secretive aspect of Freemasonry in the Eastern Townships and shed light on its traditions, rituals, and esoteric symbolism.
Freemasonry has been traditionally known for its confidential nature, which has perpetuated the perception of secrecy surrounding the organization. The Freemasons in the Eastern Townships, like their counterparts worldwide, adhere to certain practices that are not publicly disclosed. This veil of secrecy has both historical and symbolic significance, providing members with a sense of exclusivity and fostering a bond of trust among brethren.
Central to the secretive aspect of Freemasonry are its rituals and ceremonies. These rituals, steeped in symbolism and tradition, are performed within the confines of the lodge and remain private to Freemasons. Initiations, degrees, and the passing of knowledge through allegorical teachings form integral parts of these rituals. The secrecy surrounding these practices adds to the allure and mystique of Freemasonry.
Another facet of Freemasonry that contributes to its secretive reputation is its extensive use of symbolism. Masonic lodges in the Eastern Townships, adorned with intricate symbols and emblems, serve as repositories of hidden knowledge and profound meaning. From the square and compass to the all-seeing eye, these symbols convey moral and spiritual lessons to members, inviting personal interpretation and reflection.
The secrecy surrounding the symbolism and esoteric teachings of Freemasonry adds to its mystique, cultivating an environment of intellectual exploration and personal enlightenment within the brotherhood.
While Freemasonry embraces a certain level of secrecy, it is essential to recognize that it is not shrouded in clandestine activities or hidden agendas; instead, the secretive aspects of Freemasonry serve to preserve the traditions, values, and rituals that have been handed down through generations.
The exclusivity of the Masonic lodge provides members with a safe space for personal growth, self-reflection, and the exchange of ideas. By maintaining a level of confidentiality, Freemasonry seeks to create an environment of trust and mutual respect among its members, fostering a sense of brotherhood and camaraderie.
While Freemasonry may hold secretive elements, it is vital to acknowledge the organization’s significant impact on the Eastern Townships community. Freemasons actively engage in charitable initiatives, support local projects, and contribute to the well-being of society. Their philanthropic efforts extend beyond the walls of the lodge, making a tangible and positive difference in the lives of individuals and the community at large.
Freemasonry’s commitment to brotherhood, personal growth, and philanthropy is evident in their contributions to the Eastern Townships community. While the allure of secrecy adds to the intrigue surrounding Freemasonry, it is the principles of charity, integrity, and fellowship that truly define the Freemasons of the Eastern Townships. As the legacy of Freemasonry continues to evolve and adapt to modern times, it is essential to appreciate both the secretive and charitable aspects.
Delve into the world of this esteemed fraternity, focusing on their distinctive attire and the symbolism found within their sacred lodge at the exhibit “Unveiling the Mystique: Exploring the Secretive Aspect of Freemasonry.” You can visit this exhibit on weekdays in the historic Old Library of McGreer Hall, nestled on the picturesque Bishops’ University campus.
By Jazmine Aldrich
One of the great pleasures of archives is diving into the past and discovering new perspectives. I recently stumbled upon James ‘Jim’ Wark’s journal which was written to his family in Sherbrooke as he travelled from Quebec to England on his way to the European front during the First World War.
James Howard Wark was born in Sherbrooke on August 1st, 1897 to John G. Wark (1855-1925) and Catherine Fraser (1857-1938). As a young man, Jim, as he was known colloquially, served for a brief period with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during WWI. He enlisted with 1st Depot Battalion, 1st Quebec Regiment in May 1918 at an enlistment office in Montreal and was quickly on his way to England, arriving in mid-July.
His journal begins on Wednesday, June 26, 1918: Jim describes waking up at 4:00 AM, forming up at the parade grounds, traveling by train to the ship they would travel on, and setting sail. What becomes clear through Jim’s journal entries is that he was optimistic and earnest in the face of the unknown awaiting him at the end of his Atlantic crossing. Of their first evening aboard the sea vessel, Jim writes that “After supper we went on deck and watched the sun-set. It was beautiful. We could see a great many porpoises coming to the surface.”
Despite his grim destination, Jim’s journal entries reflect the thoughts of a 20-year-old man experiencing his first overseas trip. He describes the journey as being “most interesting. It wakes you up to the fact of how little you do know and how much there is to be learned.”
The fun didn’t stop when the military vessel anchored in Halifax harbour to await others destined for their convoy. On July 2nd, 1918, Jim reports that “About 20 nurses came on here this A.M. too. Some real nice ones among them. We had lots of fun with a bunch who were at the wharf to see the others off. One of them gave my side-kick a doll and he is carrying it all around with him now. You should see the men look at him.”
Interspersed with his comments about the fine weather, delicious food, and diverting entertainment are references to the stark reality that drew closer with each passing day. The contrast in his two realities is most evident in this entry from July 10th, 1918:
“This has been the finest and best day we have had on the water yet. The sea was just as smooth and calm as the St. Francis on a fine day, not a ripple on it only an easy swell which gave the old boat a nice see-saw motion. We saw hundreds of porpoises today swimming right in among the boats. I guess we are getting into the danger zone now because the cruiser is going back and forth across our front on the lookout for danger signs. I heard this morning that we are only about [censored] miles from England. Tomorrow they expect to meet the convoy which is to escort us in. This afternoon they sighted a whale but I missed it.”
Another reminder of Jim’s wartime reality are the passages struck out with a black marker, indicating censorship of sensitive military information. References to the ship’s relative location and speed are censored. Postal censorship was common practice during the First World War to avoid enemy interception.
As their vessel inched closer to England, they took greater precautions to avoid detection by enemy ships: “They put us off the deck now at 7:30 sea-time, that would be about 5 at home. After that there are no lights showing anywhere on deck. The penalty for showing any light after dark on the war zone is death.”
Though the threat of death lay over his head, the tone of Jim’s entries remained cheery until the end of his journey; on July 12th, 1918, he vowed that “If I ever get the chance I will take this trip again in peace time on a big boat, it is certainly great, something one will never forget.” Jim’s journal entries end when he arrives in England on Monday, July 14th, 1918; fortunately, his story did not end there.
Upon arrival in England, Jim was placed in a segregated camp for CEF recruits as part of a quarantine set up in response to the Spanish flu. This quarantine lasted 28 days and, along with other precautions taken in response to influenza, drastically lengthened the training period for Canadian recruits. As a result, he would complete his training as the war was drawing to an end and would not reach continental Europe during his time overseas. Jim was discharged from his duties in Montreal, demobilization being given as the reason for his discharge. He lived to be 72 years old; he married Florence Bryant (1901-1993), of the J.H. Bryant bottling company family and together, they had two daughters: Catherine (1929-2009) and Barbara (b. 1930).
Jim’s journal is digitized and available online. If you are interested in reading this fascinating tale, please visit the Eastern Townships Archives Portal: https://townshipsarchives.ca/jim-wark-wwi-journal.