From electrification to computers
After World War II, telephone service was extended to the rural areas and a program of rural electrification was undertaken by the Quebec government. By the mid 1950s most homes in the region were equipped with both services.
A pivotal event of the fifties was the arrival of J.H. Boulanger in Sutton. He, with A. Deslauries and C. Dionne, bought the Sutton Daisy Creamery and founded Sutton Milk Products Ltd. The Boulanger family had the foresight and enterprise to develop Mount Sutton as a ski centre. In 1960 the Mount Sutton ski hill opened, paving the way for the development of the tourist area on the lower slopes of the mountain.
The first of many housing developments was the Projet Archimède in 1983. To service this project and the ski hill, sewer and water systems were built in 1984. The sewer system was linked to the Town's system and a sewage treatment plant was constructed as a joint project of the Town and Township. As this is being written (September 1999) a new sewage treatment plant is under construction as a joint project of the Town and Township. All these projects received generous help from Quebec.
It is to the tourist and recreation development that we owe the many fine stores, restaurants and auberges in the region. There are many other stories of enterprise and dedication which have not been mentioned, all have contributed to the lively and interesting community we choose to call home.
In 1949 The Sutton Library was founded as a private lending library. In 1995 the Township started a municipal library associated with the school. This library is a multi-media institution equipped with computers and linked with the South Shore Library System (C.R.S.B.P).
Wars and bridges
War came in 1914 and again in 1939. All told thirty eight men from Sutton lost their lives in the two wars. Their names are listed on a bronze plaque by the door of the Town Hall and commemorated by the clock at the top of the tower which was erected by the Junior Girls Institute in 1949.
From 1918 to 1928, the township entered a period of bridge construction. The first was built in Abercorn Village the next, the International Bridge, was built across the Missisquoi River between Glen Sutton and East Richford, Vt. Smaller concrete structures were erected across the numerous creeks in the region and sometimes bear the name of their builder. The flood of November 1927 swept away 45 bridges in the Missisquoi valley, including the International Bridge. By all accounts this flood was the worst of many in the region. Newspaper stories show that severe flooding of the Missisquoi river occurred once every 4 to 5 years between 1868 and 1927 and often thereafter, the latest being in 1998.
The Great Depression
In 1929 two important events took place. First the Town of Abercorn was incorporated as a separate municipality in June, and the Great Depression arrived with the crash of the New York stock exchange in October. In the 1930s, growth was slow but a trend started which would completely change the community. Increasing agricultural mechanization made the hill farms more difficult to work. They came on the market and often were bought by people from the city looking for a vacation home or a place to retire. About half the population now consists of part time residents and retired people.
The Big Fire
The water system had not been built by April 15, 1898, when fire destroyed the centre part of the Town. People were summoned from their beds at 3 a.m. by the bell of the Methodist Church, now the United Church. The Sutton Lumber Co. mill on Maple street was ablaze. Bucket brigades were formed and the fire was extinguished with water from the nearby Sutton river. The mill however, was a total loss.
Around 7 a.m., the fire bell sounded again. This time Dr. MacDonald's barn at the corner of Maple and Pleasant streets, where the Auberge St. Amour now stands, was on fire. The barn was full of hay and burned briskly. The Methodist church was opposite the barn on the other side of Pleasant street and the stone Baptist church opposite the Methodist church on the other side of Maple street. Wind spread the fire towards Main street, sparing the two churches which are among the most handsome older buildings in Sutton. The Catholic and Anglican churches were out of harm's way to the north and south of the railway tracks respectively.
The fire consumed 35 buildings in the centre of town, including the hotel and the railway station, before it was put out with help from Knowlton, Farnham, St. Johns, now St.Jean sur Richelieu, and Richford, Vt.
As a result of the fire, both the Sutton water works and the Volunteer fire department were created with bylaw 6, passed by the Town council on May 23, 1898. Fire service was extended into the rural areas beyond the reach of the water system in 1938, after the purchase of a pumper truck housed today in the Heritage Sutton museum. This marked the start of cooperation between the Town and the Township in the management and financing of the fire service.
Main Street Sutton 1920
Brief History Of Sutton
Sutton's main street in the year 1920
Sutton Township is a square, sixteen kilometres to a side, with the Town of Sutton near its geographical centre. The township is bounded on the north by Lac Brome, on the south by the American border and on the east and west by the townships of Potton and Dunham respectively. The western part of the township is gently rolling country and supports most of the farming that remains in the township.
The northern extension of Vermont's Green Mountains run north-easterly through the eastern part of the township. The highest peak in the region, at 980 meters, is Round Top which stands out as you descend into the Town of Sutton on route 139. This region is largely recreational, supporting down hill and cross country skiing, and hiking on the numerous mountain trails. The Missisquoi river passes through the south-eastern part of the township. The village of Glen Sutton lies on its north shore and the river valley supports the rest of the farming in the township.
Town and Township
The Town of Sutton received its charter as a separate municipality in 1896. The first Mayor was F.A. Olmsead and council appointed C.U.R. Tartre N.P. as Secretary-Treasurer. The reasons for the split from the Township are not clear in the records, although it was probably a consequence of a dispute over the installation of a municipal water system for the Town. The records show that council passed a resolution for the installation of a water system at the meeting of February 1892. At the next council meeting this resolution was rescinded, with no explanation recorded in the minutes.
The French-speaking settlers
By the 1840’s, good land was becoming scarce in the seigneurial area of Canada East, and the French-speaking population began looking elsewhere for land. They moved into the Eastern Townships and the families Dubé, Gendron, Godhue, Lusignan and Metiviers came to Sutton.
The first French-speaking person to participate in municipal politics was Baptiste Saint-Pierre (Battise Sampier in the records of the time) who was named assessor in 1858. About this time, the need for a Town hall was apparent and in 1859 it was built by Alden Olmsted from the plans of W.M. Dow, at a cost of $1,650. In 1912 the front part of the building was remodelled at a cost of $5,000, split between the Town ($2,000) and the Township ($3,000) despite the fact that the Township owned, and still owns, three quarters of the shares in the building. In the 1950s, the facade was again remodelled and the building took its present form after the repairs and remodelling of 1993.
The Fenian Brotherhood
In 1866-70 the Fenian Brotherhood, an Irish organization in the United States dedicated to the conquest of Canada and the liberation of Ireland, raided the border area. They came north from St. Albans, Vt., in 1866 and looted St. Armand. In the aftermath of the raid, companies of volunteers were equipped by the government to guard the border. Two companies raised in Sutton were led by Asa Frary and James Flannery. They saw action in 1870, when the Canadian militia volunteers and home guards routed the Fenians at Eccles Hill near Frelighsburg. On July 1, 1867, Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were united by act of Parliament in London to become the Dominion of Canada. At that time, Canada East became the Province of Quebec and Canada West the Province of Ontario.
The Railroad boom
The Southeastern Counties Junction Railroad, now the Quebec Southern Railroad, reached Richford Vt. in 1871. It passed through Sutton thanks to intensive lobbying by the Mayor of Sutton, Asa Frary, as well as a subscription of $63,000 to the railroad by the municipality. This sum represented more than three times the annual municipal revenue. The line was formally opened on October 31, with celebrations at every station along the route. The coming of the railroad sparked an economic expansion by allowing the export of agricultural and forest products from the region and promoting the formation of light industry. The area was not to see a similar boom until the opening of the ski hill on Sutton mountain in 1960.
The Township of Sutton
In March of 1802, the Township of Sutton was founded and 200 acres of land was granted to each of 181 people, including those already settled in the area. In this respect, the township was unusual. The normal practice was to grant a township to a prominent person and his associates. By the census of 1803, there were 500 people in Sutton Township, of whom 101 were land owners, indicating that a considerable number of the grantees had not taken up residence. Of the landowners, 82 were married men, 15 were single men and 4 were women. By 1832, the population had grown to 825 despite the disastrously cold year of 1815, when 6 inches of snow fell between June 6 and 8, and frost was on the ground every month. This resulted in widespread crop failure and great hardship.
The Sutton militia
In 1805 a militia was organized and possibly contributed men to one of the battalions from the Eastern Townships during the War of 1812. No record mentions the Sutton militia specifically, though the end of the war was celebrated enthusiastically at a distillery south of Sutton.
This distillery failed in 1815, when the twenty acres of potatoes planted to support it did not grow because of the unseasonable cold. Making alcohol was one of the most profitable ways of using surplus produce because of the difficulty of moving anything to market over the very primitive roads.
During the rebellion of 1837, two militia companies from Sutton, under the command of Asa Frary and Solomon Squire, served the government of Lower Canada. In an attempt to reconcile the political differences that caused the rebellion, the British parliament passed the Act of Union, which united Upper and Lower Canada as the Province of Canada. The old colonies became the districts of Canada West and Canada East. In its first term the new assembly of Canada passed the District Councils Act allowing the formation of municipal councils.
Sutton's first council met on July 21, 1845, and elected one of its members, Moses Westover, as mayor, and named George C. Dyer as Secretary -Treasurer. Ten years later, on July 1, 1855, the Township was incorporated. In 1845 the customs and excise port at Abercorn was opened.
Opening to the world
In 1848 the post offices in Sutton and Abercorn were opened and a telegraph line was installed between Abercorn and Knowlton passing through Sutton. In 1890 Mansonville Utilities installed the first telephones in Sutton and continued to provide service until about 1950 when the company was bought by Bell.
Two major archaeological sites, one near Missisquoi Bay on Lake Champlain and the other at the junction of the north and south branches of the Missisquoi river in Potton Township, show that the valley was inhabited some 2,000 to 3,000 years ago. A smaller site in Sutton Township near the Potton line dates from this period. Between 1771 and 1774, John Collins, assistant surveyor for the government of the British Province of Canada, explored the region and found the Abnaki Indians established in the area.
Fondest memory: The loyalist settlers
During the American war of independence, 1776-83, soldiers of the British Army under General Reidesel patrolled the country between the Richelieu and Chaudiere rivers, along the 45th parallel. After the British lost the war, colonists in the United States who remained loyal to King George had the choice of resettling in other British colonies or returning to England. Ten years later, after the end of the war, the first settlers arrived in the Eastern Townships. Some families fled the United States because they were on the losing side while others were lured by cheap land.
Between 1792 and 1800 nine families settled in what would become the Township of Sutton.
Thomas Spencer and Alexander Griggs came from New York State in 1792 and settled between Sutton and Abercorn. In 1795 Joseph Soles of Rhode Island settled in North Sutton near the Dunham line. The following year Moses Westover from Massachusetts settled near the corner of Mt. Echo and Elie Roads and in 1797 William Marsh settled in Sutton, which for many years was called Sutton Flats.
Fondest memory: The first mill
Thomas Shepard of New Hampshire came to Abercorn in 1798 and built the first grist mill in the Township. The village near the mill was called Shepards Mills until the opening of the post office in 1848, when it became Abercorn. In 1799 James Miller from Vermont came east along the Missisquoi River to Glen Sutton. The following year, Theophilus Hastings and Benjamin Burnett, also from Vermont, came to the Glen. This area was known for many years as Dodges, after a tavern at the south end of Bridge street. In 1861, the name Glen Sutton was suggested by J.M. Ferres, the first member of Parliament for Brome County.