History of the Eastern Townships, province of Quebec, Dominion of Canada: civil and descriptive: Chapter II

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History of the Eastern Townships, province of Quebec, Dominion of Canada: civil and descriptive: Chapter II

Day, C. M. (Catherine Matilda), 1815-1899


Under the hand and seal of Sir Robert Shore Milnes, a warrant was issued for the survey of a tract of land in the district of Montreal, bounded north by Farnham, east by Dunham, south by St. Armand, and west by the seigniories, bearing date of May 7th, 1801; when after the preliminary forms it was erected into a township named Stanbridge, September 1st of the same year, and granted to Hugh Finlay and his associates, viz, John Cutting, Hannah Kellar, Clark Reynolds, Edward Martindale, Solomon Dunham, Adam Schoolcraft, John Bockus, Willard Smith, David Partolo, Caleb Tree, James Martindale, Mathew Kemble, John Boomhower, Luke Hitchcock, Jacob Boomhower, Griffin Reynolds, Benjamin Reynolds, Frederick Whaler, Thomas Wrightman, Mathew Saxe, Joseph Smith, John Ruiter the younger, Stephen Lampman, Adam Clapper the elder, Moses Westover the elder, Peter Cutler, Peter Rosenburgh, Adam Clapper the younger, Henry Clapper, Peter Krans, Michael Lampman, Christopher Cartwright, John Hogle the. elder, Philip Kruller, John Ferguson the younger, Frederick Kemmerman, Almond Cartwright and Thos. Douglas.

From what has transpired respecting the proprietorship of land in Stanbridge, it would appear that comparatively few of them made "Actual settlement" upon the lands drawn; and that consequently many tracts reverted to the Crown.

The first locations in this township were made as early as 1797, when Nathan Andrews came in from Rhode Island and settled here. The same year Caleb Tree with his family came from Williamstown, Mass. These two pioneers settled near the site of Stanbridge village. The latter left a large family, some of whom retain the old homestead. About the year 1800, William Wilson from Waterbury, Vt., became owner of the lot on which is situated the mill privilege and where the main part of the village now stands, when he built both grist and saw-mills, and put up the frame of a building which was long kept as a public house. The first country store was opened here by Ebenezer Hart, about the year 1810. Ebenezer Martin built the first tannery here in 1808. In March 1820, John Baker from Barre, Vt., started the wool carding and cloth dressing business; and being a skillful mechanic, not only made the machinery required in his own works, but also for other establishments of the same kind; no small undertaking when considered in connection with the fact that then it was exceedingly difficult to obtain the necessary materials and tools for such work.

The early settlers of Stanbridge had their share of the difficulties incident to pioneer life; particularly during cold and unproductive seasons. Some who are now living, remember that as boys they used to be sent on horseback to Saxe's mills in Highgate, Vt., for Virginia corn (brought there by boats on the lake) for which they had to pay three and a half or four dollars per bushel; and then to convey it through the woods over wretched roads, one bushel at a time.

Before reaching Stanbridge, the mountain range which comes from the South into Canada, seems to have "melted into a plain," as the land in the township is level, generally soft timbered, some portions low and marshy, and altogether better suited to the production of grain and vegetables than for grazing. The most considerable stream of water is Pike river, which enters at the south-east from St. Armand. This stream is so called from the kind of fish found most plentiful in its waters; and it appears that the Indian and Frenchman as well as the English speaking settler, had each a name for it significant of this fact. Frequent rapids occur in its circuitous course through the township, which afford numerous mill sites, many of which have been improved by the erection of machinery. Grout Creek coming north from St. Armand, falls into Pike river at Bedford.

The assessable property of Stanbridge is valued at $1,066,920. This may appear a high figure compared with the valuation of property in other townships; but can no doubt be satisfactorily explained to the inquirer. One fact which will of itself throw light upon this point has already been mentioned; viz: the existence of numerous valuable mill privileges along the course of Pike river. The number of legal voters is 787. An assessment or two mills on the dollar is levied on the rateable property for the support of schools. The government grant averages from $400 to $425 per year. Beside two academies, are twenty-one elementary schools under control of the commissioners, and also several dissentient schools, as a proportion of the inhabitants are French Canadians. A Roman Catholic parish named "Notre Dame des Anges" has been formed in Stanbridge for ecclesiastical purposes. There are in all eight post offices in the township, which will be indicated in their respective localities; also five grist mills, five tanneries, and fifteen or more saw-mills.

Bedford. Before the war of 1812, little had been accomplished toward effecting the general settlement of this part of the township; yet some few openings had been, made in the wilderness, and a grist-mill built on Pike river at this place. This however, was carried off by a flood, and was not rebuilt till 1815. At that early day the standing forests in Stanbridge were valuable or would have been so, had there been a market available for the timber. In 1820, a large tract was destroyed by a fire which had been accidentally ignited, and spread north from St. Armand.

The village of Bedford is by no means compactly built, fife buildings being scattered principally along the left bank of the stream which is here quite rapid.

As Bedford is the chef-lieu of Missisquoi County, the building containing court and council rooms, registry office, &c., is located, here. There is an English church which was erected about the year 1832. The first missionary here was the Rev. Mr. Robertson; two others subsequently officiating for a short period each; when in 1842, the Rev. James Jones took charge and continued to reside here till 1854, at which time he was succeeded by the Rev. G. Slack, present incumbent.

A post office, several stores, an academy, public houses, mills, tanneries, a number and variety of manufacturing establishments, and some eighty dweIlings, help to make up the village.

Taking Bedford as a centre, about four miles to the east is Stanbridge village, near which the first locations in the township were made. In December 1834, a weekly Newspaper called the "Missisquoi post" was started here and published three or four years, and a post office was opened in 1836. The Wesleyan Methodists have a society and house of worship here, which was built in 1861. A two story brick building for an academy was erected in 1854, since which the school has been in successful operation.

The first Episcopal church which was built here in 1829, was taken down in 1860, to be rebuilt, enlarged and improved; and when entirely completed, will present both externally and internally, a fine specimen of church architecture. The Rev. John Constantine is incumbent. Stanbridge village also contains a banking and exchange office, three stores, two public houses, a tannery; grist-mill, the never-failing smaller mechanics' shops, and some forty inhabited dwellings.

Riceburg is a small but thriving place, one and half mile down the stream from Stanbridge village, and about three miles a little north of east from Bedford. The first opening in the forest was made here in 1799, by Jacob Seagel, many of whose descendants are now living in the township. About the year 1814, George Saxe built the first saw-mill in the place; and the first oat-mill in Lower Canada, was built here in 1827. A foundry was established here about thirty years ago by H. W. Rice, which has been in successful operation since, and more recently important additions have been made to the works by Messrs. M. & C. A. Rice. The Messrs. Lambkins have extensive shops and the best of machinery for preparing house-building materials, and are also largely engaged in the manufacture of furniture of every variety of style and finish. There are also mills and a cooper-factory in the place. A post office was opened here some years since.

Two miles west of Bedford is Mystic, or Stanbridge Centre; and five miles a little to the east of north, is North Stanbridge.

Stanbridge station is situated two miles west of Bedford, in the midst of an open and cultivated section of country, its general appearance indicating a village in its incipient stages. Beside the railway station, it has a post office, several stores, a public house, and some ten or twelve dwellings.

Malmaison. Large tracts of land in Stanbridge were at one time owned by F. A. Des Rivières, Esquire, (a French gentleman, as the name indicates) from whom it descended to his sons, Messrs. F. W. and Henri Des Rivières, who were natives of Canada, and came to reside on their property in the western part of the township in 1841. The first saw-mill was built here in 1842, and a grist-mill the year succeeding. A Roman Catholic church was erected near the place in 1845. The location is on a rapid on Pike river, and beside the family mansion which stands a little apart from the other buildings, the church and mills, is a collection of laborers' cottages. At a short distance is a station of the Junction railway between St. Johns and the Vermont Central, known generally as Des Rivières station, in which building a post office named Malmaison was opened in 1863.

Pike River Village is located on the western boundary of the township, where settlements were commenced as early as 1816, by persons named Larkins, Tilley, and Blakesly. The village now contains a Wesleyan Methodist church edifice, built in 1848; a post office opened in 1836; two school-houses (French and English), a grist-mill built in 1858; a saw-mill put up in 1836; several stores and mechanics' shops, and some sixty or more, dwellings, most of which are small. Large quantities of grain, lumber, &c., are collected and taken from this place, as vessels of 300 tons can come up from the lake. From this point the river flows south into Missisquoi Bay, an arm of Lake Champlain. The population of Stanbridge is given as 5,277.

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