Hardships, poverty, loneliness and Indians; these were the beginnings of Magog. The natural beauty of the district, coupled with the fact that the land was heavily wooded and conveniently situated at The Outlet of Lake Memphremagog, was a strong attraction to the group of British Empire Loyalists who first settled there in 1793. The story of the development of this one-time stop over place for the Indians into its present status as a thriving industrial community, one of the greatest in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, is surprisingly fascinating. It is primarily the story of one man’s faith in the community–and his remarkable talent for getting things done.
Alvin Head Moore (1836-1911) was his name, teacher, trader, dreamer, builder, business man, and politician. His efforts and errors put Magog on the map and kept it there. Yet history treats him lightly – he is seldom mentioned. One biographer states:” He died of a broken heart.” But the Magog of today is built on the foundation he laid.
The first men in Magog were red men, Abenakis. There is little to show they ever settled the region, but then, settlements were not for them. They stopped over on the banks of Lake Memphremagog at the outlet of the Lake, as a break from searching the hills and fields of the Townships on hunting expeditions. They passed through Magog, their faces hideously painted, as they paddied southward to make war on their enemies, the Iroquois. In them they met men of the fierceness and cruelty to rival their own. Up and down the great waterway of the St. Francis River and Lake Memphremagog, through centuries of warfare Abenakis and Iroquois, English and French, canoe parties passed through Magog. It was a resting place before facing either the 30 mile paddle south ward up the Lake, or the turbulent passage northward down the rapids and around the falls of the Magog River.
It is impossible to say who was the first white man to set foot in Magog. Possibly it was Francois Hertel in the days of Frontenac. Hertel led an expedition of Abenakis and French soldiers that passed through Magog en route to New England in 1690.
French missionaries surely had stopped at times, for they travelled deep into Indian territory in search of converts to Christianity. Or the first white settlers may have been John Stark and Amos Eastman, who was captured by the Abenakis and forced to run the gauntlet on the shores of Lake Memphremagog. Perhaps some of Rogers Rangers camped furtively there in 1758 on their retreat from the bloodier massacre of the Indian village of St. Francis, though the raiding party split up on its return trip through the Townships, and just a handful of them travelled as far west as the Magog district.
White men had seen Magog, but none stayed. Settlement was still afar off.
When settlement did come it was from the south. From the Thirteen Colonies appeared settlers who would have no part in the Revolution. Others came later, even men had fought with the American forces but who found the new nation not of their liking. They trekked northward, some with grants of land waiting for them, others lured by their desire for elbow-room and opportunity in an untouched wilderness. They settled throughout the Eastern Townships, many of them up and down both sides of Lake Memphremagog, for it was still as valuable a transport system as it had been to the Indians. Some of the settlers built their cabins near the Lake at its northernmost point, where Magog stands today.
These people were sturdy, nourished on hardships. They came, some of them, on foot, men and boys with foodstuffs, axes, and arms, trudging nortward. Women with babies sometimes were lucky enough to make a hundred mile trip by horseback. Slow-trudging carts and sleds, drawn by oxen, lumbered along.
The settlement phase might have been launched earlier had it not been for the unusual objections of Governor Haldimand. The region remained British after the Revolutionary War, but before the treaty was signed, United Empire Loyalists had signified their desire to settle in the Eastern Townships. Governor Haldimand blocked them, holding that thick forests were the best of all protections, against our too enterprising neighbors to the south.
However, the influx of settlers could not be denied for long. Up from the south they came — sturdy, independent, self-reliant stalwarts, raised on hardship and hard work, wise to wilderness hazard, and inured to the privations and loneliness of frontier life. By the final decade of the Eighteenth century many axes were ringing in the woods around the outlet of Lake Memphremagog. There was water and wood and good farm lands along the low green banks of the lakes, and though it would be a long time before there would be either the opportunity or time for much community life, it was then that Magog was born.
There were also a great number of Americans that had fought as Patriots against the Crown. They came looking for a new start, coming from a war weary nation that was tired and broke after a prolonged war with Britain. One of the founding families for Magog and Hatley was REXFORD. I know someone that has service records for at least 3 of them that fought for the American position against the crown. After there time in service, they walked up the Ct. River from Wallingford Ct. and settled in the area (1795). Some arriving with Hovey. These men were NOT Loyalists. They were U.S. Patriots that came north for free land and a new start. I believe it likely that many people share this lineage.