History of the Eastern Townships
The Abenaki Indians, the first to discover and enjoy Nature’s blessing here. The history of the Eastern Townships begins in the 17th century with the Abenakis, who according to oral tradition, had a number of villages in the region. The Abenakis used the region’s forests and waterways for hunting, fishing, trade, and travel. Their travels included visits to their ancestral lands in New England where they exacted revenge on the English settlers who had displaced them. They allied themselves with the French during the century of conflict that the Americans call “The French and Indian Wars”.
The American colonists retaliated with an expedition led by Robert Rogers. While Wolfe was taking Quebec in 1759, Rogers Rangers sacked the Abenaki village of Odanak, then fled back to New England through what is now the Eastern Townships.
Today, the Abenaki presence is still visible in the Eastern Townships. A small but growing number of families are tracing their ancestry back to those first inhabitants. Even more evident are the many place names of Abenaki origin that have come down to us, fittingly reflecting features of the landscape, the rivers, lakes and mountains that were so vital to those first inhabitants: Magog, Memphremagog, Massawippi, Missisquoi, Megantic, Tomifobia, Coaticook and Yamaska.
The Eastern Townships is a huge section of Quebec. It was opened up for settlement by the British in the early 1790’s. When the Americans declared their independence in 1776, those loyal to the British Crown decided that they did not want to live with the new republicanism. Many fled north, to a land that was still under British control.
The colonial government, only too happy to welcome these new and loyal settlers, gave them generous land grants within areas known as townships. Hundreds of Loyalists (as they were called) made their homes in the Eastern Townships. They were followed by tides of Irish Catholics in 1820, who left Northern Ireland when it became part of the United Kingdom, and again around 1840, because of the Great Famine of Ireland.
The best way to discover the magic of the Eastern Townships is to take roads at random and marvel at the beauty of the landscapes, and to explore the attractions which are scattered in every corner of the region. Mountains herald the approach of the Townships – not surprising, as the northern most chain of the ancient Appalachians cuts through the region. No matter where you travel, you can feel their formidable presence, sometimes as pastoral valleys, sometimes as age-worn peaks soaring 1000 metres skyward, the mountains are backdrops to inviting lakes and peaceful villages lying along sleepy rivers which meander around wooded hills.
In every season, another picturesque scene or stunning vista awaits you. Beckoning you to breathe the fragrant meadow and woodland air. Inviting you to explore the land.
For more information on the Eastern Townships visit Townships Heritage WebMagazine, it was designed to provide a window on to Eastern Townships history and to serve as a guide to the region’s heritage, past and present. Or visit the Eastern Townships Resource Centre which is a resource centre for the study of the Eastern Townships with a special focus on the English-speaking community.