STANSTEAD EN BREF
Contact Info

425 Dufferin street
Stanstead, Quebec J0B 3E2

Phone : (819) 876-7181
Fax : (819) 876-5560
Email : info@stanstead.ca

Town Hall Business hours
Monday to Wednesday
9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Thursday
9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Friday
9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Water or sewer emergencies
Service : (819) 876-7181, extension 7
Quick links
 

History and Heritage

Located on the Quebec-Vermont border, the community was settled in the 1790s. Before the first settlers arrived, the region was populated by the Abenakis, whose presence is still felt in the names we use every day: Tomifobia, Massawippi, Coaticook, etc. The first family to arrive were the Taplins, who settled in 1796. The Taplins were like virtually every other pioneer family of that era. They came to Stanstead from New England. And they were looking for good land, which was becoming scarce in the new American republic.

The Taplins came to a country that was a complete wilderness. They were not alone for long, however, for they were soon followed by other families. The names of some of those families are still reflected in local place names: Pierce, Lee, Beebe, and others.

The “Stanstead Inn”. Main St, (now Dufferin). Stanstead, Stanstead County, Quebec. Late 1800’s. Later became Pellerin’s Meat Market with appartements above. Consume by fire.

Source : The Three Villages and area

Several waves of settlers followed in the region. The first was primarily Americans seeking land. A flood of settlers started in the 1790s and lasted until the 1830s, when there were few loyalists immigrating to the region. Soon after, the government sold 300,000 hectares of crown land to the British American Land Company. The company heavily marketed in Europe, resulting in a new wave of settlers comprised largely of English, Irish and Scottish citizens suffering from illness and famine. Beginning in 1850, the government allowed Catholic parishes to be set up in the region. Once again, the lack of available crop land in Quebec forced many families to migrate which forced the accelerated development of towns and villages. The government’s strategy was a success as there was already a majority of francophones living in the Eastern Townships as early as the start of the 20th century.

Until 1807, Stanstead was made up of a handful of inhabitants. Their first preoccupation was to cultivate enough farmland to feed themselves. Thereafter, the population increase saw entrepreneurs, like Wilder Pierce, who opened the first general store in 1815. The village began to gain importance. The British Crown quickly to set up the first customs office in 1821, to take advantage of the opportunity to collect duty. But some years later, officials were still complaining that Stanstead was “a community where smuggling is popular and the population is shrewd and lawless and ever willing to aid smugglers.” It is even said that some early pioneers made their fortunes smuggling.

The founding of a school by Benjamin F. Hubbard in 1816 improved the village further. Before this time, pioneers home-schooled their children until an association of parents helped to open the first school. The school was private, with tuition fees ranging from three to seven dollars per month. Even at that time, education was at the forefront for these primarily protestant pioneers.

Be that as it may, Stanstead blossomed in the 19th century. Growth and prosperity were everywhere. Where once there were forests were now wide streets with elegant homes, inns, and prosperous businesses. A major advantage to the economy was the stagecoach, which linked Quebec City and Montreal with Boston. So, early in its history, Stanstead took on the role of transportation centre, a role which, due to its strategic location on the border and its proximity to Highway 55, it retains to this day.

Source : Courtesy Stanstead Historical society Archives

Another advantage was the Tomifobia River, which winds its way through town, and whose thundering falls are still an impressive site. The Tomifobia gave birth to some of the first mills in the Townships. In 1803, Colonel Charles Kilborn built grist and saw mills in what is now the Rock Island part of town, and for many years that settlement was known as “Kilborn’s Mills.” The river, whose current powered the first waterwheels in town, would in time power a whole string of factories all the way down through the village. These shops, which manufactured everything from whips to overalls to tools, would transform Rock Island into an important industrial town. These were boom times for the village: full employment, and fortunes being made. The Butterfield Tool factory, which was built directly astride the border, and which at its peak employed hundreds of workers from both sides of the line, may still be seen today.

When people think of Stanstead, they sometimes think of its only indigenously named “species”: Stanstead Grey Granite. This stone, which is quarried in and around Beebe, began to be worked on a large scale in the late 1800s. It would grow to become the cornerstone of the local economy, the rock, as it were, upon which Stanstead is built. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, it was granite that kept the town going, for the largest office building in the British Empire, Sun Life of Montreal, was going up, and it was built entirely of Beebe granite! Today, granite and related industries employ hundreds of workers in Stanstead. The town, in fact, is sometimes referred to as the “Granite Capital of Canada.” During the Great Depression, the local population took advantage of their proximity to the border and made a fortune in smuggling. Although illegal, this pastime allowed many families to survive the massive economic downturn.

There were other reasons for Stanstead’s prosperity. Long before the honour went to Magog, Stanstead was the seat of county government. A seminary was built here in 1829, eventually becoming Stanstead College, now a renowned private school. A second private school, the French Collège des Ursulines was built in 1881. It too was an important part of the community. The registry office was established here in 1839, and here it remains to this day. The Stanstead Journal has served the community since 1845, making it the oldest weekly paper in the province of Quebec. The Eastern Townships Bank opened a branch in Stanstead in 1859, one of the first banks in the Townships. And with the growth of commerce and industry saw yet another arrival: the railroad. The whistle of a steam locomotive in 1870 signalled the arrival of the Massawippi Valley Railway, which in later years became the Quebec Central.

That, of course, was long ago, and things have changed. The stagecoach is long gone. So too are the railways and many of the factories. Yet, many things remain that are both reminders of Stanstead’s colourful past and signs of its promising future. For instance, the railways may have disappeared, but the old tracks have been transformed into a bicycle path that winds its way right through town. The disastrous fire that wiped out the north end of Dufferin in 1915 may have changed the look of that part of town. But most of the homes were quickly rebuilt, and some of them were even more splendid than their predecessors. The granite industry is bigger than ever. Dufferin and Principale Street in Beebe zone are still just as beautiful as they always were. Rock Island zone is still the commercial centre it always was. Stanstead was officially formed in 1995 after the unification of Stanstead Plain, Rock Island and Beebe Plain. And the border is still a major part of local life, as evidenced by Border Fest, which takes place here each year.

Source : The Three Villages and area

Anyone interested in fine architecture and history will love Stanstead. Located on the American border just opposite Derby Line, Vermont, Stanstead was created in 1995 out of the former “Three Villages” of Stanstead Plain, Rock Island, and Beebe Plain.

Stanstead is one of the most interesting towns in the Eastern Townships. Settled by New Englanders in the 1790s, it grew in importance as the last Canadian stop on the Quebec-Boston stagecoach route. In time, the town became a centre of genteel society, and home to many well-to-do families. Banking, county government, education, the railroad, manufacturing, and the granite industry (still the major employer) have all contributed significantly to Stanstead’s development.

Thanks to its colourful past, Stanstead boasts a wealth of historic homes and institutions.

Dufferin Street in Stanstead Plain has been called an “open-air museum.” Superb residences line this street, and testify to the New England roots of the town’s founders. Carrollcroft (1859), the former home of Charles Colby, is now the Colby-Curtis Museum. Colby was a cabinet minister under Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister.

The Butters house (1866), the Amsden house (1846), the Wilder Pierce Store (which later became the Customs house) (1813), and many other sites make for an interesting tour. Also lining Dufferin are several churches: Sacré-Coeur (1917), Christ Church (1858), and Centenary (1866). The Golden Rule Lodge (1860) is home to one of the oldest Masonic lodges in Quebec. Stanstead College (1873), the Collège des Ursulines (1881), and the old Stanstead Plain Post Office (1935) are other noteworthy landmarks.

In Rock Island, visitors should take the time to admire the Tomifobia River Falls. The falls are quite awesome during springtime. Downtown Rock Island retains much of its historic architecture, including the old Eastern Townships Bank (1904) with its superb granite columns and classical façade. Nearby, the old Customs (1929) is now a restaurant, and the former Southern Canada Power Company (1930). Just over the footbridge looms the clock tower of the old Rock Island Post Office (1912).

Rock Island has two churches, the modern Notre-Dame, with its original bell tower from 1916, and the neo-Gothic Stanstead South United (1876). Lee Farm, on Notre-Dame Boulevard, dates to 1810, and was once the home of Lady Henrietta Banting, whose husband, Sir Frederick Banting, won the Nobel Prize in 1923 for discovering insulin. Rock Island has too many splendid homes to mention here. But because this is a border town, no visit would be complete without a peak at some of Stanstead’s fascinating “line houses.” Line houses were built directly astride the Canada-U.S. border. The most famous of all is the Haskell Free Library and Opera House.

Built after 1915 to replace the “Union House” Hotel that stood on this site, but was destroyed by fire on february 25, 1915. The “Rock Island House” was destroyed by fire in 1932 and replaced by the “Del Monty” in 1934.

Source : The Three Villages and area

Completed amid much fanfare in 1904, the Haskell is an internationally designated historic site, and draws visitors from around the world. Featured in “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not,” it is the only library and opera house built directly astride an international border. The entrance, main office, and most of the seats in the 400-seat opera house are in the U.S., but the library books and the opera house stage are in Canada. The building was constructed thanks to a contribution by Martha Stewart Haskell. A Canadian by birth, Martha Stewart Haskell’s vision was to provide an art and cultural centre for both communities ensuring the long term collaboration of the two. The building of today is evidence that her original objective lives on. Still today, visitors are allowed to enter the library or opera house without first going through customs. Visitors will notice the granite border marker on the corner. Each summer, the Haskell hosts a full schedule of concerts and plays.

Railroad Street winds its way through Rock Island zone towards Beebe zone, the third of the former “Three Villages” that make up Stanstead. Butterfields, the massive brick factory that hugs the road, was built directly on the border, just like the Haskell. Employees came from both Canada and the U.S. Not far away is the neighbourhood known curiously as “Little Tokyo.” “Tokyo,” as many locals still call it, was designed to provide housing for local factory workers. The houses here are tiny and built closely together just like in a big city.

When Railroad Street becomes Canusa Street, visitors will know they are in Beebe. Canusa is another local oddity. The street is actually split in two by the border. The homes on one side are in the U.S., while those on the other are in Canada — hence the name, C-A-N-U-S-A. At the bottom of Canusa are the Canadian and American customs. Immediately facing them is a solid granite building, which is also cut in two by the border. This building (built as a store in the 1820s) was for a time the world’s only international post office. It had one postmaster, but two doors and two postal counters, each serving customers from a different country. The red brick dwelling next door (also 1820s) was once the home of Horace Stewart, one of the wealthiest merchants in town.

Principale (or Main) Street in Beebe zone is a picturesque street, which has retained its village charm. Like Stanstead zone and Rock Island zone, Beebe zone has its share of heritage architecture. The Bank of Commerce, formerly the Eastern Townships Bank (1909), was once an academy. Next door, and built at an angle to the street, is a former station of the Massawippi Valley Railway (1870s). It is now a private home.

Other notable buildings are the churches: the Advent Christian (1866), Wesley United (1891), and Sainte-Thérèse-de-l’Enfant-Jésus Catholic Church (1929). The old Baptist Church (1882) is now a private residence. Also in Beebe is the Advent Christian Campground, a unique site which has hosted revival meetings and a bible camp since 1874. The little cabins here are quaint and many of them are original.

Symbolism of the coat of arms of the Town of Stanstead

ARMS

Azure a stage coach Or embellished Sable between in chief three plates and in base a bar wavy Argent charged with a barrulet wavy Vert.

CREST

On a bridge of three arches Argent, the upper edge embattled, a great horned owl Or beaked Gules, its dexter wing resting on an open book Or.

MOTTO

Three villages one border

SUPPORTERS

Two horses Argent crined Or each gorged with a collar Azure, pendent therefrom a key Or, standing on a grassy mound Vert charged with two obelisks, the whole set on a base indented Argent.