Lennoxville was legally incorporated as a village in 1871. One hundred years later, fully 75 per cent of residents were anglophone: “While this is the reverse of the situation in most of the province, the two groups live together in peace and harmony.”
This from the history Lennoxville: Volume 1, compiled by Kathleen Atto and Committee (1975, and sponsored by the Lennoxville-Ascot Historical and Museum Society). That peace is, of course, the raison d’etre of Friendship Day, celebrated Saturday throughout Lennoxville (including at the library, where we’ll be hosting a book sale blowout that should meet many of your summer reading needs).
The village was nestled next to water and a sawmill and was a busy trading centre but, it is noted, “industry has never played a major part” in the town’s economic life – that niche was gobbled up by nearby Sherbrooke. Lennoxville did benefit from a hearty business scene, however – the researchers have collected up a delightful overview of local entrepreneurs and tradespeople (famed watchmaker G.S. Henry, the lives of country doctors and pharmacists, the grain and feed business!).
Plus there’s round-ups of early sports and automobiles. There’s a section on heroes and zeros (every town has a fraudster or two in its past), and disasters. Certainly the great fire of 1874 (the village had a population of 800 at the time) was one of the more notable horrors. The destruction also made it difficult for those who care about history: municipal records and personal documents are made of paper….
Atto and company, however, did an admirable (and undoubtedly time-consuming) job of tracking down what they could, presenting a historical overview and adding day-to-day vignettes and stories that bring Lennoxville’s past alive. For the bigger picture, and from a francophone perspective, try Jean-Pierre Kesteman’s short Aborder l’Histoire Des Cantons-De-l’Est (2007).
With confederation, Kesteman notes, anglophones became a minority in the new Quebec. Alexander Galt (for whom the high school is named) tried to enact formal protections, such as the entrenchment of electoral boundaries (to protect language-based voting blocks) and English schooling. Kesteman notes the well-known “bonne entente” between French and English in the area, but does ask whether this harmony was myth or reality. Perhaps, in the end, it was a bit of both? Friends can get along yet still disagree.
There’s little disagreement about Friendship Day, however. Greet old friends, make new ones, watch the parade, eat up some pancakes… Friendship Day is June 8, and our annual book sale will offer all sorts of great finds at a great price. After your browse at the sales tables, pop inside for the Lennoxville Library’s Eastern Townships Collection. Lots of good reads here too!
And a library membership is free to all Sherbrooke residents. That’s all the time, not just on Friendship Day. Pop by and read, free. It’s a gift.
– Eleanor Brown, June 7, 2013