No Wonder I’m Confused.

Today I was talking with LMC about why it is good to learn French, and where people speak French around the world. I told her that she would need to speak French if she wanted to go to Canada. 

“Can we just not go to Gettysburg?” she asked. 

“Gettysburg isn’t in Canada!” I said.

“It’s not?”

“No. It’s in America. It’s where there was a really decisive battle in the American Civil War, and where Abraham Lincoln delivered an important speech called the Gettysburg address.”

“Abraham Lincoln. Wasn’t he the guy on a coin?” 

“The guy on a coin…”

“Yeah, and if you’re under a bridge and it falls down on you, it’s good luck.”

“Dude, if you’re under a bridge and it falls on you, it’s not good luck.”

“No, I mean if the coin falls on you…”

“The coin with Abraham Lincoln on it.”

“Yeah!!”

The Philipsburg Pier. 

The Philipsburg Pier originated as a wooden jetty in the 1780s which enabled trade with the USA via Lake Champlain ports. 

The most common good exported via the Philipsburg pier were racehorses, marble, carriages, logs and milled timber. 

When the Champlain Canal opened in 1823, linking Lake Champlain to the Hudson River, trade with New York and the greater New England area of the US opened up. The jetty was upgraded and enlarged by 1836 so that supply, particularly of milled timber, could meet the demand. 

Despite competition from rail transport later in the 1800s, Lake Champlain trade continued unabated. By 1872, Philipsburg had a population of 271 and a very lucrative trade turnover of $20000 per annum. 

The pier was upgraded again in 1895, and was only downgraded due to lack of commercial demand in 1937. 

  
Today, the pier is used for recreation, largely fishing and pleasure boating. It’s also a really lovely place to sit and enjoy the beautiful scenery. 

  
   

Philipsburg.

The village of Philipsburg was established in 1784 by Empire Loyalists who moved to Canada from New York after the USA won her independence from the British. 

Two earlier attempts by the French to settle the area had been unsuccessful. The region was named St Armand by the French in 1748.

The Iroquois had villages here in the northernmost part of their territory, and they lived a settled and peaceful way of life. Across the lake were the Algonquians and some Abenakis, living in the southernmost reaches of their lands. 

  
The village was named after Philip Ruiter, a pioneer in the area.

The Canadian authorities were not keen to see settlement here because they felt it was too close to the American border. It’s easy to see why the settlers chose this place, though. 

  
Located on the shore of Lake Champlain among woods on rolling hills and rich earth for farming, Philipsburg offered plenty of opportunities for farming, hunting, fishing, and enjoying a pretty view of the lake from one’s front porch. 

  

Today, Philipsburg is still a pretty lakeshore village with those same opportunities, within easy reach of the Eastern Townships and the cities of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Montreal, as well as convenient access to the US state of Vermont via the border crossing at the Highgate Centre. 

I’ve had the privilege of calling Philipsburg home for only a short time, but I will always love this place. My mornings spent by the lake have been precious times of reflection and serenity, and part of my heart will always remain here. 

Accidentally shot…

A stone marker commemorating Margaret Vincent’s death is hidden on a back country road at Eccles Hill, near Frelighsburg, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. 

   

It reads “Margaret Vincent Accidentally shot by the Royal Fusiliers June 10, 1866.”

This dates to the time of the Fenian raids into Canada over the American border, which occurred throughout the 1860s. 

The Fenians were Irishmen who hated England and resented British domination over the Irish and their negligence during the Irish potato famine in the 1840s. Groups such as the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Fenian Brotherhood were formed in the 1850s, and it was these groups who surged over the border into Canada into areas such as Frelighsburg and St Armand. 

On June 7, 1866, hundreds of Fenian men crossed into Canada.

The only Canadian forces in the St Armand area were three companies of infantry, comprised largely of non-commissioned men and volunteers, under the command of Captain W Carter of HM 16th Regiment.

The alarm was raised: “The Fenians are coming!” Fearful farmers near the border tore up roads and railway lines, and abandoned homes and farms. 

Carter panicked and ordered his troops to withdraw. His troops never did forgive him for what they perceived as an act of impulsive cowardice. 

The Fenians held Pigeon Hill, Frelighsburg and St Armand. 

Mistaken for a Fenian, Margaret was a 71 year old deaf-mute who was shot when she failed to respond to an officer’s order.  Given her disability,  it’s no wonder she didn’t follow the Fusiliers’ orders.  Even so, she probably didn’t look much like an angry, armed man with authority issues. 

The marker is really quite diplomatically phrased, given that Margaret was hardly a threat to anyone. She was shot in error, but not accidentally. 

 
Margaret Vincent’s grave is located up the hilly road at Pigeon Hill Cemetery.  The marker at Eccles Hill is maintained by the local community in honour of the elderly woman who died there so long ago.