Story of Magog
Magog, originally called “The Outlet” of Lake Memphremagog City, Estrie region, southern Quebec province, Canada, lying along the Magog River, near the foot of Lake Memphremagog, 20 miles (32km) north of the border with Vermont, US. The townsite, originally an Indian camp, was a stopping place on the trail from the Connecticut River to the St. Lawrence. It was first settled about 1776 by loyalist refugees from the United States of American. Water-powered gristmills and sawmills were built in 1798, and a school was opened in 1818. Calico printing began in 1884. Originally called The Outlet of Lake Memphremagog. Because of its location where the Lake empties into the river, the settlement adopted an abbreviation of Memphremagog for its name in 1855, when it was incorporated as a town.
The Abenaki Indians, the first to discover and enjoy nature’s blessings here, left a lasting mark in the form of place names, such as Memphremagog, Massawippi, Megantic and Coaticook. 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 settler, 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 in 1840, because of the potato famine.
In the 1850’s the demographics of the population, at that time predominantly anglophone, started to change. The economy’s driving forces, the railroad and the forestry industry, employed many french Canadians, who eventually became local landowners. By the beginning of the 20th century, most of the population was francophone. That prompted the need to find a french name for the Townships. “Canton” the suggested equivalent, comes from novelist A. Guerin-Lajoie, author of Jean Rivard, le defricheur (1862). Before writing his book, Guerin-Lajoie declared that “while my novel is set in the Townships, I don’t want to use a foreign word. In Switzerland, where French is spoken and written, they refer to similar territorial divisions as ‘cantons’. I intend to follow their example”. So for the first time, “Cantons-de-l’Est” appeared. The appellation Estrie is also commonly used for the region, mainly in terms of the administrative designation for the territory.
Nicholas Austin was granted the Township of Bolton on the west shore of the lake. He soon moved to the east shore of the lake and then build a rudimentary dam across the Magog river. The dam was used to activate a flour-mill as well as a saw-mill. A documentary released by White Pine Pictures talks about this great man.
Preview of A Scattering of Seeds:
Peaceable Kingdom: A view of Nicholas Austin (White Pine Pictures)
In 1799, Ralph Merry III took over. He purchased the mills from Nicholas Austin and turned them into such a profitable enterprise that, to this day, Merry is recognized as the founder of Magog. He settled in the vicinity of the bridge which joins both sections of the street now named after him. He is now buried at Pine Hill Cemetery.
On both sides of the river, more saw-mills were built. The small hamlet, known as The Outlet, thus became a famous trading post. Modes of transportation improved: a stage-coach line was established between Sherbrooke and The Outlet, as well as between The Outlet and Stanstead. At the end of the 19th century, the Waterloo and Magog railroad line was laid down.
As early as the first half of the 19th century, hotels were built for guests seeking a quiet holiday in a country setting. Seasonal navigation on the lake was established, serving the industries and commercial enterprises as well as providing an additional tourist attraction.