The Famous Pole Supported Bridge
The famous pole supported bridge at “The Outlet” (now Magog) made this community famous and was accurately illustrated by a line drawing published in 1860 by Currier & Ives of New York. This drawing can still be easily related to by several sites shown, and we’ll use our ‘editorial license’ to point these out.
First, we’ll note that the originator also used his artistic privilege to bring into his drawing landmarks that would have been little further away than shown. At the left we see a church, unquestionably Magog’s first place-of-worship (1831), once called the “Union Church”, which still stands on Merry St. South. Bottom left we see boulders in the river and a fast current, just about where we’re told there were once fish traps set by the Indians who lived here. Some old photos show these traps.
The house to the right would probably have been that of Ralph Merry (around 1821), which is actually quite a bit further up on the hill, and still stands, as Magog’s oldest home. It is the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Garth Fields.
Above, we see an island, which would have been that in mouth of the Magog River, and belongs to Claude Charest, whose son is Jean Charest, premier of Quebec from 2003 to 2012 and who spent much of his youth in this community. We see a raised area to right of the island, obviously “Merry’s Point Park”. This helps prove that once there was considerable earth and rocks on this point of land that protrudes out into the lake, most of which disappeared when fill from here was used for purposes like road construction. And, we know once that there was a stone-crushing operation on the point. We see a horse and buggy which was being driven along a roadway that would in future years be used for the railway.
This bridge was famous because pictures of it hung on the walls of houses on both sides of the Atlantic. It was painted by William Henry Bartlett about 1838. Nevertheless, we know it was a flimsy bridge because Henry Tayler, a travelling book seller passed that way a couple of years after Bartlett and recorded that it was “The most miserable bridge I ever saw. Not a rail on either side.”. The bridge is near Merry South & Hatley Streets.
William Henry Bartlett was born in London, England in 1809. During his career, Bartlett made several trips to North America. In the late 1830’s, he traveled around Canada sketching towns, villages, and rural landscapes in what were then the provinces of Lower Canada, Upper Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. It was at this time that he visited the Eastern Townships. Ultimately Bartlett’s drawings would appear as a collection of steel engravings in Canadian Scenery illustrated, published in London in 1842 by Bartlett and N. H. Willis.
Twenty “Bartlett prints,” as they are affectionately called, feature scenes in and around Magog, Lake Memphremagog, Orford, Sherbrooke, Stanstead, Lake Massawippi, Bolton and Georgeville. Though romanticized in their depictions of the rugged frontier, Bartlett prints nevertheless represent a major contribution to Canadian pictorial history. They are also among the earliest depictions of the Eastern Townships. William Henry Bartlett died on board a french ship returning from a voyage to the Orient in the Mediterranean Sea in 1854.
Also Bartlett’s views were later used in his posthumous History of the United States of North America, continued by B. B. Woodward and published c. 1856.