Excitement on the Border: Highlights from Highwater
July 4th, 2016
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.