It’s funny how some things become ingrained in our memories from childhood, while others slip so easily away. I still remember the Ascot Consolidated School just outside of Lennoxville that sat at the end of Spring Road where it connects to Rte. 108, surrounded by the Experimental Farm’s fields. If you had tried to tell me recently that it was torn down in 1989, I would have told your dates must be wrong. From all accounts, however, it appears to have been demolished in the summer of 1989, meaning I was not quite six when it was demolished, and yet I can see the building so clearly in my mind’s eye. I can still feel the curiosity and wonder that the seemingly abandoned, run-down building evoked in my childish imagination (I learned later that AGRHS used it for storage for many years, so not quite abandoned).

We are a fortunate bunch, that a drive through country-side, small towns and larger cities in the Eastern Townships leaves us with persisting evidence of our educational heritage. From the one-room schoolhouses that have been preserved over the decades and academies that date from the some of the early days of settlement, to the words “high school” that remain etched into some of the local elementary school buildings. The Ascot Consolidated School attests to one part of this heritage: the process of consolidation.

The first steps of consolidating Quebec’s rural one-room schoolhouses into larger schools were brought forth early on in the 1900s. Following a survey of Protestant schools across the province by John Adams, a report was issued finding that rural schools were particularly struggling as many townships tried to maintain and fill their numerous small schoolhouses. To deal with this problem, Adams recommended that the schoolhouses be closed and larger, multi-grade schools be established to serve all the students in a school board’s territory. An early result of the Adams Report was the construction of a couple “consolidated schools,” with the hope that they would serve as examples of a more suitable educational model for other school boards across the province.

One of the model consolidated schools in Quebec was in the Eastern Townships, in Kingsey. By 1905, the new school was opened and included two classrooms with new books, maps and modern blackboards. In some communities, the move towards consolidation was met with resistance, as parents felt the long commutes and more impersonal learning environments would be detrimental to their children, while others were supportive, feeling that the greater resources of a larger, modern school would offer a better education.

Despite the initial push towards consolidation in the early 1900s, the government never made consolidation mandatory and, as a result, it was a gradual and largely organic process across most areas of the Townships over the first half of the twentieth century. In the face of a dwindling rural and English population, the move towards the consolidation of rural, one-room schoolhouses became unavoidable over time. Pushed by similar population shifts and educational reforms, Model/Intermediate Schools and Academies in towns and villages were expanded to become High Schools, offering elementary and secondary education to the surrounding areas.

The period of consolidation and local high schools would eventually come to an end in the 1960s, as new regional English high schools replaced local institutions in the secondary education of the Townships’ youth.

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.

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.

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.

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!


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 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.

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.

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.

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.