Surrounded by forests and mountains at the very heart of the Eastern Townships,Sherbrooke was born at the junction of the Magog and St. Francis rivers. In 1802, a loyalist, Gilbert Hyatt established the first flour mill at the juncture of the two rivers. The site was then called Hyatt’s Mills. In 1818, this site took the name of the Governor General of Canada, Sir John Coape Sherbrooke. Today with the fusion of surrounding municipalities, it is a city with more than 140,000 inhabitants.
The characters in the “Traces et Souvenances” production : Geraldine Mollins, wife of a French colonist; Mary O’Malley, housekeeper of Alexander Galt; Gilbert Hyatt, business man and first mayor of Sherbrooke; Andrew Paton, business man; and Mrs. Tompson, mother of the first female student at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville; make us discover the history of the city of Sherbrooke.
It is aboard a modern day “stage coach”, that Mary O’Malley, an Irish immigrant at the service of Lord Alexander Galt (one of the fathers of the Canadian Constitution), makes us discover the history of the city of Sherbrooke. For more than two hours, this hostess who is not tongue tied, guides us in fine fashion to discover a typical region of the townships.
She tells us of the development of Sherbrooke, first on the west bank and then on the east bank of the St. Francis River.
She also showed us the many buildings that are part of the history of the city: St. Jean the Baptist Church, the cathedral, the seminary of Sherbrooke and other buildings that were banks, post offices, city hall…and let us not forget Bishop University which is one of the oldest universities of Canada. She also guided us through old residential quarters of the city with modest houses more than a century old.
Our tour gave us the chance to meet historical people like: Mrs. Tompson who wished to enroll her daughter in a university when literacy was not expected or required for a woman; Andrew Paton who owned a weaving mill; Gilbert Hyatt captain in the loyalist army who settled in Sherbrooke, became the first mayor of Sherbrooke, owner of a flour mill and built the first dam across the Magog River; and finally Geraldine Mollins who expressed the laments of colonists whose life was not always easy.
Thanks to all our hosts for this most agreeable and educational tour.