Lennoxville’s annual Friendship Day is marked by its celebration of heritage, history and culture — or rather, cultures in the plural. The French and English in the Townships have long lived and worked here side by side. Though similar in many ways, there are differences, also: “English institutions and communities have developed in a different way from those of the French,” write Ray and Diana Baillie. “While most French institutions in Quebec were developed under the aegis of the government or the church, those of English Quebec tended to rise from the grassroots via individuals, groups and communities.”
After they both retired, the Baillies began to travel Quebec, photographing heritage landmarks and jotting down their stories. Their work culminated in a three-volume series, with the middle book, Imprints II: Discovering The Historic Face Of English Quebec (2002), focusing on the Eastern Townships.
It’s a picture book of sorts, black and white portraits accompanied by short texts.
Each old home, covered bridge, school house or church gets a page or so — a photograph and a brief write-up — with the contents separated out into seven regions: Brome, Stanstead, Shefford, Mississquoi, Richmond/Drummond, Compton/Megantic. Sherbrooke and Magog are presented together.
Lennoxville is ably represented by two educational bodies — Bishop’s College School (BCS) and, just across the bridge, the university, via its administration building. The BCS “headmaster’s house” is a former fishing lodge, it turns out, and the institution has produced four Rhodes scholars. As for the university, there used to be a well in the quad for a water supply, and students were expected to bring their own lamp and oil (or they’d be doing school work only during the daylight hours).
The borough’s pride and joy, the Speid Street Uplands museum and cultural centre, is also featured (though oddly, it only gets three sentences; perhaps that’s because the museum already has a certain stature, and thus didn’t require any extra explanation?).
Most of the photographs are contemporary and were taken by Ray Baillie, although there are a handful of older pictures. For example, Sherbrooke’s Great Eastern Exhibition Building, used for the city’s now defunct agricultural fair, was torn down in 1999.
Imprints II is a perfect morning dawdle, and allows you to pause and recall your own memories and anecdotes. Then you might want to indulge in an afternoon drive to see how each building has fared in the years since publication. Does the historic home located at 12 Merry South in Magog still host an eccentric party of plastic penguins roosting on the roof?
Well-known Townships creative team Louise Abbott and Niels Jensen created their impressive book, The Heart Of The Farm: A History Of Barns and Fences In The Eastern Townships Of Quebec (2008), as a gorgeous collection of full-colour photographs of buildings, cupolas and fences, also accompanied by written sketches of the local builders and farmers who left behind these structures — some of them truly innovative in design.
“[M]ost of the pre-eminent barns of the nineteenth century and early 20th century were built by Townshippers of American or British descent. Our investigations revealed that these longer-established Townshippers, who were a minority in the region by 1881, were more apt to read agricultural publications, embrace agricultural innovations and maintain better breeds of livestock and larger herds or flocks than their more recently arrived, less affluent French-speaking neighbours.
“Today all that has changed: It is francophones who dominate the Townships agricultural scene, and in many cases, it is francophones who are conserving heritage barns built by long-departed anglophone families.”
There are stories of hard homesteading and frozen cows, as just-arrived farmers quickly realized a solid barn was more important than a perfect house. Later, there was time for more homey touches: “witch balls” were placed on weather vanes or in windows “to banish malevolent spirits…. Their mirror-like surface made them useful for monitoring comings and goings– and the activities of courting couples.” Meanwhile, a shattered ball on a lightning rod was a vivid reminder to check the grounding system.
Abbott and Jensen bring readers all the way up to modern agriculture, pointing out the emus now raised in Brigham and the elk in St. Armand (their antlers are prized by some health food store aficionados). Interviews with current agricultural producers are icing on the cake (or should that be a sprinkling of oats on the hay?).
Both Imprints and The Heart Of The Farm are published by Price-Patterson, a Montreal-based press with a long connection to Townships publishing.
Now, let’s take a quick tour of the world. At the age of 84, northern Ontario resident Robert Holden began writing a manuscript. He kept the text tightly focussed, ignoring all his many travels save one long trip. Though the British-born Holden went to sea at 14, his worst moments occurred in 1864. He was shipwrecked when he was in his mid-20s.
A full year later, only three sailors were left alive. They included Holden, of course, and they were finally rescued from the Sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands.
Lennoxville’s Madelene Ferguson Allen traced her roots to Robert Holden, who was her great-grandfather. The book Wake of the Invercauld (1997) mixes Holden’s manuscript with Allen’s research. She travelled ’round the world herself, rediscovering her family’s past. In Ferguson, the world comes to Lennoxville.
Unfortunately, you can’t meet Allen this weekend at Friendship Day events — she died in 2003. But you can honour her, and the spirit of Friendship Day, by reading her book.
– Eleanor Brown, June 10, 2011