On April 18, 1928 The Georgetown Herald printed a press release about an upcoming play directed by Maud Macdonald / LM Montgomery. The three-act play, “Turning the Trick,” was a popular diversion in the village. St. Paul’s Parish Hall with its excellent stage provided the venue.
Maud later noted in her journal, “…it went off splendidly… We had a packed audience and took in over a hundred dollars. Some of the players did splendidly…”
Rubio, Mary, and Elizabeth Waterston. The Selected Journals of LM Montgomery, Volume III: 1921-1929. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1992. Print.
Maud spent some of her time with the Norval Women’s Institute, attending or hosting meetings and providing readings for members’ enjoyment. Her attendance would no doubt have increased membership, just to allow locals to listen to a famous Canadian author provide entertainment for free.
At this meeting in 1929 Maud provided a humorous address and enjoyed socializing with the women afterward.
Easter was a busy time in the Macdonald household in Norval. Ewan would be busy preaching, and Maud would be busy with church events, guests and preparing special holiday meals.
This article from the April 7, 1926 edition of The Georgetown Herald describes Ewan’s text, a visitor home for the weekend (Chester), and how Stuart and Elsie Bushby went to Leaskdale for the weekend. As was often the case, reporters with society column submissions did not worry too much about the proper spelling of names.
The slow creep of spring across our frozen Ontario landscape reminds me of LM Montgomery’s poetry simply because she loved spring. A couple of decades ago I asked my local librarian to search for a copy of The Watchman, and other poems through interlibrary loan – and I received one! A few years later when many fans and scholars began to talk of the value of the volume, I wish I had made the lending library an offer for it. My greatest concern was that it may have been discarded in routine library weeding.
If you fancy a read through those poems published 98 years ago, visit the Library and Archives Canada’s AMICUS (Canadian National Catalogue) database.
Go to Amicus
and click on Advanced Search (top right corner box). Here you can enter detailed search terms to find The Watchman.
Title Keyword: The Watchman
Name Keyword: Montgomery, L.M.
Publ. Name Keyword: McClelland Goodchild & Stewart
Click Submit and you’ll receive a record that gives information about the monograph. Thankfully, The Watchman is digitized and you can download a PDF (33 MB) to read at your leisure. On your tablet or smartphone outside in the spring air, perhaps?
These readings are particularly interesting in view of the upcoming LM Montgomery conference at UPEI this June that marks a century since the beginning of the Great War. For more information about L.M. Montgomery and War: The 11th Biennial International Conference explore the website.
The Georgetown Herald report of the events by the Norval Young Peoples Society at Norval Presbyterian Church, 88 years ago today. It was only a few weeks since Maud and Ewan moved into the manse at Norval, but they were immediately whisked into the social life and church events of the community. Note how the reporter for The Herald spelled their surname as McDonald instead of Macdonald.
Although the spring thaw is yet to occur in southern Ontario (recent forays outside show that there are at least two feet of snow left in my yard) there will come a time soon when the rivers begin to break up and floodwaters rise. Conservation areas have given their best efforts to controlling this annual occurrence for many decades, but when Maud lived in Norval there was not such a sophisticated system of control. Villages built in river valleys were at the mercy of winter’s retreat and often ended up underwater for some time. Worse, many items or properties could be damaged or washed away, not to forget the lives lost to spring’s floodwaters.
All photos courtesy of the Esquesing Historical Society, as seen in L.M. Montgomery: The Norval Years, 1926-1935, by Deborah Quaile. Wordbird Press: 2006.
“…People seemed both pleased and excited that a famous Canadian writer had come to live among us,” recounted Norval author Mary Maxwell. “The Entrance Class was more interested in her younger son, Stuart; he was cute, he was witty and he was twelve, and we all enjoyed the new addition to our class. Stuart made lasting friendships in the village, and in her published Journals his mother wrote at different times of Sparky Bignell, Hank Rankine, Clary Hunter, Mac Watson and other youngsters.”
The Gollop house and gardens in Norval, ON. Courtesy of Mary Maxwell.
Mary also remembered the special treatment one young woman received while visiting LM Montgomery, or Mrs. Macdonald.
“Margaret Gollop, niece of Lucy Maud’s friend Geordie Gollop, had come out to Norval to visit her Aunt Belle (Mrs. Webster) and Prairie Maguire. Margaret had been given a new copy of Anne of Green Gables, and in telling Prairie how she loved it Prairie said, ‘Let’s go up the street and ask Mrs. Macdonald to autograph it for you.’ Which they did, and Margaret remembers that visit in detail. Lucy Maud Montgomery was an extremely kind and gracious hostess; not only did she sign the book for the child but she drew a little cat under her signature, then set the table with fresh scones and jam and a pot of tea.”
Until Ewan Macdonald’s induction into the Norval/Union parish, the family of LM Montgomery – which consisted of Maud, her husband Ewan, and their youngest son Stuart (older son Chester was at boarding school) – stayed with the Barracloughs, a Union Presbyterian Church couple who welcomed them into their luxurious Glen Williams home and introduced them to locals.
Shortly after arriving at the Barraclough home, Ewan and Maud Macdonald ventured out to see the manse and Norval’s Presbyterian Church, but challenging snow squalls forced “Dodgie,” their car, to stop halfway to their destination. Maud and Ewan hopped on the radial train to ride out to Norval. Stepping off the car at the radial station at the top of the hill, Maud’s twilight view of the village was obscured by trees, all except for the top of the Presbyterian Church spire.
Trudging through snow to the bottom of the hill, they passed houses with yards tucked beneath tidy white blankets, an Anglican church, general store, hardware, bank and butcher’s shop, before reaching the church and manse. As a wife and homemaker, Maud wanted to see inside the house where she would do the two things most important to her: raise her family and write.
Built in 1888, the house at 402 Draper Street has its own aura of good grace. Although her relationship with the house began when a jumble of crates, barrels and boxes took over their quarters, Maud soon saw the manse’s potential.
The manse, provided by the Norval and Union congregations, resided on a one-and-a-half acre property on the east side of Draper Street, behind Norval Presbyterian Church. The same contractor who built the brick church also constructed the house for $2,700. Notably larger than the Leaskdale, Ontario manse, their new home had bright, high-ceilinged rooms, bay windows in the parlour and dining rooms, and modern conveniences.
A small, antique wire gate opened onto the front walkway and led to the white gingerbread portico where four columns rose over the front door. Inside, a spacious front hall offered several options: a staircase to the second floor, a door to the dining room, or the entrance to the parlour on the left where a bay window looked out on Draper Street.
Through the hallway, the dining room’s bay window offered a sweeping view of the church lawn and its mature maples. Another door from the dining area opened onto the side verandah.
The least satisfactory room, in Maud’s view, was the library behind the parlour. She found it small and therefore installed her literary collection in the parlour and let the library serve as Ewan’s study.
The Norval manse had a larger, more convenient kitchen than the family’s former manse in Leaskdale. Although their maid did much of the everyday cooking, Maud often took time to produce something special for family events or social functions. There was a soft water pump in the kitchen to wash dishes, and Maud eventually purchased an electric range for cooking and an icebox to keep foods cold.
The main stairway to the second floor angled near the top and the hall window was where Maud gazed out to the Russell farm’s hill of pines – and sight and treasured walk that she enjoyed for years to come. In the evenings when she descended the stairway Maud could also gaze out the window at moonlit shadows spread across the church grounds.
Every bedroom had a closet, and every room had a lovely view. Maud’s room overlooked the church lawn, and her moderately wealthy author’s income allowed her to hire paper-hangers to install pretty grey wallpaper with white ferns.
The bathroom was situated above the kitchen, and behind that was a tiny room Maud used for sewing. To complete the family’s storage needs, there was also a linen closet at the top of the back stairs and a spacious garret, or attic, where Maud would spend time alone pouring over old letters and scrapbooks.
Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston, ed. The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Volume III: 1921-1929. Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 1992.
All photos by Deb Quaile, except Norval manse 1933, from the 1833-1933 Centennial: Union Presbyterian Church’s 100th anniversary booklet, L.M. Montgomery, ed. Published by Union Presbyterian Church, 1933.
…Last August I went up at her …repeated request and spent an afternoon with [Isobel] and her sister in Rockwood Park.
Rubio, Mary and Elizabeth Waterston, ed. The Selected Journals of LM Montgomery, Volume IV: 1929-1935.
Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1998, p34.
In 1929 when Maud visited the village of Rockwood, Ontario located on Highway 7 (north and west of Norval), Hi Pot Lo Park was owned by the Harris family, descendants of the 1820 pioneer John Harris.
Although I haven’t discovered a specific reason for the name Hi Pot Lo, it can be assumed that the park was so named for its high limestone cliffs and low geological potholes, which are circular cuts in the rock created during the last ice age.
Valley Road led west from Highway 7 along the Eramosa River, beside a chain of small wooden cottages where woolen mill workers lived. Maud would have seen the wide sweep of the river, limestone cliffs and abundant cedar in the river valley.
The road crossed a small wooden bridge and continued to the entrance of Hi Pot Lo Park on the south side. The park trail led up the hillside to fields and trees above the river. Stone pillars sat at each side of the trail, as they still do today, and although the park entrance is nearly overgrown by grasses and lilacs, the stone foundation is evident in the spring.
Opposite Hi Pot Lo Park was the entrance to the Harris & Co. Rockwood Woolen Mill.
Harris & Co. had been a major employer in the village of Rockwood. Founded in 1867, the year of Confederation, the mill may have been a Harris family project to commemorate the birth of Canada. A larger mill building with a tower was completed in 1884.
When Maud visited in August 1929 the mill would not yet have been affected by the Great Depression that was to come in the autumn. Not only would the riverside have been busy with woolen mill business, but also tourists looking at well-known spots such as the Giant’s Face or the Pinnacle.
Walkers could cross small footbridges over the river potholes and wander past fragrant white pine and birch.
Unfortunately a devastating fire destroyed the woolen mill buildings in the 1960s, but the stone ruins are still a popular attraction at Rockwood Conservation Area. Today, children visiting the area often mistake the ruins for those of a castle. They are a rather magical place, especially in winter.
“We had a magnificent ice-storm today and the pines along the road were amusing extremely.
They were weighted down with ice and looked exactly like a lot of disgruntled old spinsters
who had indignantly turned their backs on a derisive world.”
Rubio, Mary and Elizabeth Waterston, ed. The Selected Journals of LM Montgomery, Volume IV: 1929-1935.
Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1998. P 29.
December 21 and 22, 2013, almost 84 years after Maud mentions a Norval ice storm in her journal, here in Southern Ontario we had a similar occurrence, but with far worse consequences. Freezing rain plagued us for several days and the hydro was out for one day in my case, or many days in others. Ice accumulations on trees and power lines was heavy; in fact, on one of our village streets hydro poles snapped and crashed to the ground, not to forget the numerous trees and branches that broke on lawns, roofs and vehicles.
But for all that, there was a certain pleasure in being cut off for a day. We have oil lamps and candles for light, and a gas stove for making tea and chowder, or bacon and eggs. And thankfully, a fireplace for heat.
Outside, the headlights of snow plows shimmered through the glacial coating and an ethereal night beauty gleamed. The night the power went out was Solstice, and the dark season of the year was even more magical when crystallized.
As Maud noted about her pines during the freezing rain, there are still similar disgruntled cedars around my lawn, as well as many shattered spirits: trees with snapped arms or broken backs that bare the inside of their bones. Luckily for the Macdonald family in 1930 it was not quite so devastating, for it will be a mighty cleanup this spring when Norval is released from its ice.