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Profile of Highwater, Quebec, Canada

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Date: 1797
Location: Potton, Brome, Quebec, Canadamap
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Background

HIghwater is a hamlet in the southern part of the Township of Potton, formerly known as "Mansonville Station" until 1908, and known before the 1870s simply as "South Potton".

The Township of Potton was created through the issuance of Letters Patent on 31 October 1797. The southern section bordering on the State of Vermont, was one of the earliest parts of Potton to be settled when Moses Elkins, reportedly in June 1797, headed north from Peacham, Vermont with two yoke of oxen, a cart and of course, his family. The following year he was joined on the next lot by Abel Skinner, also from Vermont.[1] They settled along the meandering Missisquoi River, finding out the hard way in their first spring season that their initial cabin had to be moved to higher ground, as the river overflows the meadows every single spring.

The area of South Potton developed much greater strategic importance with the completion of the first railway through the area - the line from Richford, Vermont to Newport, Vermont, was completed by Southeastern Counties Junction Railway Company in 1873. The route of the railway entered Canada from Vermont in Glen Sutton, Quebec, and then re-entered Vermont at South Potton. With the latter being given its own station, the area became quickly known as "Mansonville Station". Due to the regular train service, there were regular stages operated between Mansonville Village and Mansonville Station. Sometimes there were accidents.[2]

The following is a photograph of the hamlet of Mansonville Station, probably in the late 1890s. It is looking west from the crossing. On the right foreground was a general store. The railway tracks ran directly behind it. This building was later moved about 1000 feet towards the south and on the other side of the road. It continued to be used as a store, until purchased by the government and used as a Customs office on the main floor and a residence upstairs. Merton E. Bailey and two of his brothers were born in that house. On the left had side of the picture one sees the first hotel in the area, later called Highwater House, facing the railway station.

Mansonville Station in the late 1800s

A new railway was built a few miles away in the early 1900s, called the Orford Mountain Railway. With its first train on 6 June 1911, it passed directly through the village of Mansonville, which called its new station the "Mansonville Village Station". So to avoid confusion between "Mansonville Village Station" and "Mansonville Station", it was decided to change the name of the latter. A contest was held among the residents in 1908 to select a new name. The winner, the name "Highwater", was submitted by Freelove (Freda) Gilman (later Mrs. Damon Warner). Given the annual spring flooding phenomenon, this was a most appropriate name, still in use today. The new name took effect from the perspective of the Canadian Pacific Railroad in November 1908.[3] The Mansonville Station Post Office changed its name to Highwater on 1 Dec. 1908.[4] And the Customs Office had changed their official stationary to Highwater by 1909, as the following before and after examples show.

Customs Documents before and after Name Change

The following picture shows the main street of Highwater, around 1913, looking east towards the crossing. The railway station is on the left, and the hotel on the right. Today (2018) this road is called Chemin de la Mine, since it heads west (opposite where to camera is facing) towards the old Baker Talc (Soapstone) mine/mill.

Hamlet of HIghwater - Courtesy ETRC Collection.

This following is a slightly earlier picture taken from the opposite direction. You can see the future Highwater House on the left side in the distance.

Main Street, Mansonville Station, Looking West

The oldest picture we have of this railway station was probably taken in the 1890s. It was a large building, which included the first Customs and Immigration Office, a ticket office, detention room, freight shed, waiting room and a residence for the Stationmaster and his family.

Original Railway Station at Mansonville Station

And the following photo (circa 1910) provides a close-up of Highwater House as directly facing the railway station.

Highwater House, Facing Railway Station in Highwater

For further colour about the history of Highwater, a work called "Border Crossings - Potton Township" is also accessible for viewing.[5]

1927 was the year of the legendary flood, November 3 & 4th, not only at Highwater but throughout New England and the Eastern Townships. The likes of this flood has not been seen before or since. It was devastating all along the Missisquoi river, especially between Dunkin and HIghwater:

Loss at Dunkin By High Water Considerable. Dunkin, November 12 - "Buildings and bridges were swept away, cellars flooded, cattle drowned and roads undermined by the high water that swept this village on Thursday evening and Friday, November 3 and 4. The Ruiter Brook level rose quickly at about 6 o'clock Thursday evening, November 3, until at 8 o'clock it was a rushing torrent that carried away bridges in its path, tore up roadways and swept over the surrounding territory, the bed of the brook being too small to accommodate the great amount of water that was rushing down from the mountains. The bridges carried away were the Charles Newell bridge, the S. Aiken bridge, the P. Hawley bridge, the Guy Smith bridge, the Abe Woodward bridge, the Barnett bridge and the Truax bridge. The large bridge across the river between Dunkin and Highwater (Crowell bridge) was also swept away. The mill of Mr. Lee Brown was carried away by the force of the water, along with all the logs and lumber. Mr. Truax also suffered a severe loss when his barn was undermined to such an extent that it was tipped on one end, while the sugar house of Mr. W. H. Fullerton was badly damaged. Several cords of wood were also carried away. Messrs. Arthur Robitaille and G. Cushing were also heavy losers, the latter having seven cows drowned before they could be rescued. The government highway, recently completed, was considerably damaged. Large numbers of men are at present working to repair the damage,"[6]

The following is a postcard showing the Iron Bridge over the Missisquoi beside the railway crossing in Mansonville Station. This is one of the bridges lost in the above-described flood.

Iron Bridge across the Missisquoi at Mansonville Station

With appreciation to Charles Barnett, custodian of the collection of Edgar C. Barnett, the following are two photographs showing 1) the loss by fire of the rail station on 21 Mar. 1937, and 2) the construction in 1939 (straightening and widening) of the road south from Mansonville to Highwater village. The road passes (foreground) through Barnett's farm on the way to Highwater village in the distance.

Loss by fire of Highwater Railway station, 21 March 1937
Construction of Mansonville to Highwater Road, 1939, Edgar C. Barnett Collection, Courtesy his grandson Charles Barnett

Residents of Highwater

The following are some of the very first residents of Highwater, some even before that name even existed:

  1. Abijah Bailey - arrived 1806
  2. Moses Elkins, Sr.

The following people were born in Highwater:

  1. Merton E. Bailey
  2. Berton M. Bailey

The following people lived, at some point in their lives, in Highwater, either in the village or within a mile of it:

  1. Arnold AIken
  2. Frederick Herbert Aiken
  3. Flossie Harriet (Aiken) Smith
  4. John Samuel Aiken
  5. Edgar O. Bailey
  6. Charles A. Bailey
  7. David Bailey
  8. Jane Bailey
  9. Wilson Bailey
  10. Maud (Carter) Bailey
  11. Frederick Ernest Jersey
  12. Oliver Peabody
  13. Fanny Emily Peabody
  14. Lillian S. (Sargent) Jersey
  15. Guy Smith
  16. Ross Smith
  17. Malcolm Herman White (hotellier)

Thomas Lessard operated the village store and post office until he retired in May 1968.

Sources

  1. Contributions to the History of the Eastern Townships, by C. Thomas, Montreal, 1866| History of Potton, Pages 300-303
  2. Stage Accident, The Gazette, Montreal, Quebec, 16 Mar. 1898| Page 8
  3. Swanton Courier, Swanton, Vt., 26 Nov. 1908| Page 4
  4. Yesterdays of Brome County, Volume Five, Brome County Historical Society, 1982, Page 175
  5. Border Crossings The History of Highwater Customs
  6. Sherbrooke Daily Record, Sherbrooke, Que., 12 Nov. 1927| Pages Five and Ten

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