Along the Old Roads Guided Heritage Bus Tour
Discover Brome by taking a ride on the free shuttle tour to the Brome County Museum where you will gain free admission to the museum, including the new addition of the Paul Holland Knowlton House, opened In August 2015. Also you will be able to visit the Fokker aircraft. Then catch a ride back to the fairgrounds for more discovery and entertainment.
Riding the bus also gives you a chance to win one of three fantastic overnight stays for two at the Auberge Knowlton, Auberge Lakeview Inn or Auberge Lac Brome. To participate in the draw, please tear off the stub you are given when you take the bus. Prizes will be announced at 4:30 p.m. at the stage at Brome Fairground T-Day site.
Bus stops are located at the Brome fairgrounds at the Fairview near the main gate and in Brome at Theatre Lac-Brome and St Paul’s Anglican Church parking lots.
Along the Old Roads: Historical Shuttlebus Tour Route Details
Pick up: Brome Fairgrounds
1) Stagecoach Monument
This is the Stagecoach Road Monument. It’s located at Brome Corner, on the Stagecoach Road in Brome Village, on land that was donated to the society by Gordon Marsh in 1993. It commemorates the first recorded use of the route in 1793. The route was in continuous use by pioneers, and was known as Old Magog Road in historical records and in property deeds. We’ll learn more about it on our return route.
2) Old saw mill and Smith Organ Company
At the right as you leave Brome there is a small falls, once a busy place, over the years there was a saw mill, and several other industries including in the late 1870’s the Smith Organ Company. A fine example of their organs can be found at the museum in Knowlton. The last industry to occupy the location was G. Wallace who manufactured Sashes and Doors.
3) Opposite this location is the Charlie Rhicard House built around 1859-60.
4) Tibbits Hill School house
Built in 1844 to replace a log structure which had been erected in 1827, the one-room fieldstone structure served English-speaking pupils until 1928. The schoolhouse was given to the Brome County Historical Society in 1937 by the Township of Brome School Commission and set up as part of the Brome County Museum in 1967. Visitors will find the schoolhouse in its original state and full of period furnishings.
The school is open Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. June through to the end of August. During the week for groups, by appointment.
5) Village of Knowlton:
Incorporated as a village in 1888 the town of Knowlton is named after Colonel Paul Holland Knowlton (1787-1863). Knowlton purchased a log house and began farming on the edge of Lake Brome in 1815, where he also set up a store and a distillery. This original log house was moved to the grounds of the BCHS in 2014 and has since been restored and opened to the public.
When the first regional highway was built, Colonel Knowlton moved his family to settle by the Coldbrook stream that flows into Lake Brome. There, this son of United Empire Loyalists built a sawmill, an ironworks, a potassium plant, a store and a grain mill – the industrial hub around which the present town was built. Mill Pond and Coldbrook became highlights of central Knowlton important for both industry and tourism.
By 1867, the town had attracted many rich merchants from the Montreal area, who built country homes in and around the town. The town’s recreational vocation soon took off with the development of a network of hotels.
The Brome County Historical Society (BCHS) was established in 1897 and has worked diligently for the past 118 years to preserve the history and heritage of the former Brome County, Quebec. Today, the Society, which has over 500 members, organizes educational activities, exhibits, events and lectures, and owns and maintains a Museum and Archives.
Housed in several historic buildings in Knowlton, Quebec, the BCHS Museum tells the stories of those who have called Brome County their home over the centuries. These buildings are not only historically significant in their own right, but also contain the Museum’s extensive collection of thousands of objects related to Brome County and beyond. These include costumes, ceramics, furniture, tools, early electronics, military artifacts, works of art, and much more. Our War Museum holds a WW1 military aircraft, the Fokker DVII, one of the few remaining in the world with its original fabric, in addition to many other war artifacts.
In 2014, two important additions joined the BCHS Campus. The 200-year-old log house known as the Paul Holland Knowlton House was relocated onto BCHS grounds and a project to restore this important building was undertaken. This house, the former home of Knowlton’s founder, is now open to the public. In addition, the Marion Phelps building was converted into a Children’s Museum. The Children’s Museum enables families and young visitors to explore life in 19th century Brome County with interactive exhibits and activities.
The BCHS Archives, housed in the Old Courthouse and the Centennial Building, consist of thousands of photographs, journals, scrapbooks, documents, and books. Together, these irreplaceable artifacts tell the story of Brome County from its earliest days. In 2014, a project to catalogue, digitize and preserve the archival collection, including over 30,000 documents and 12,000 photographs, was initiated.
Drop off: BCHS
Back to fairgrounds route:
Pick up: Theater parking lot
1) Auberge du Relais
Built in 1849 by Edward Blinn who aptly named this first public establishment offering accommodation, food and beverage, Blinn’s Inn. Located in the heart of bustling Knowlton, Blinn’s Inn also benefited from the fact that the stagecoach route from the Bolton Pass to Gilman’s Corner passed before its very doors.
In 1851, Blinn sold the Inn to Albert Kimball, who changed the name to Kimball’s Hotel and the Knowlton Stage House. For many years, two generations of Kimballs dispensed hospitality on this ever-popular corner.
In the early 1870s, with an eye to improving business and capitalizing on the arrival of the railroad in Knowlton, the Kimballs expanded the building to the west and re-named it The Railroad House.
At the turn of the century, the Inn was purchased by James Robinson of North Sutton, who renovated and re-decorated the building. He later added the third storey and the Robinson’s Hotel sign on the upper gallery signaled to all that business was booming. Robinson’s sons, George and Nelson, continued to run the thriving business until the late 1920s.
Following the Robinson’s, the Hotel enjoyed success under the stewardship of J. Arthur Cadorette who bought the property in April of 1922. Soon thereafter, the freezer came into existence and there was no more need for the “ice reserve”that was located in the back garden. This building was then transformed into a blacksmith’s shop to accommodate the hotel guests as well as the local population. The blacksmith is in operation to this day.
Following the Cadorette’s, the Brome Lake Hotel enjoyed success under the stewardship of the Loubier family. In the early 1970s, Sophie and Maurice Proteau took the reins of the hotel re-naming it Auberge du Relais. Affectionately known by the local population as the Knowlton Steak House because of the excellent and extensive steak menu offered by the Proteaus, the reputation of Le Relais was second to none.
In the years following the Proteaus’ tenure, the hotel fell on hard times, passing from owner to owner until 1997 when new owners, Michel Gabereau and Signy Stephenson undertook extensive renovations to save the historic building from the wrecker’s ball. They re-named it the Auberge Knowlton.
2) Pettes Memorial Library:
Established in 1894, Pettes Memorial Library it is the oldest free rural library in Quebec. On March 7, 1894, Mrs. Narcissa Farrand Pettes instructed that a formal deed be drawn up making a donation of the library to the population under the administration of trustees whom she had appointed.
3) Sugar Hill:
Negro Hill, near Knowlton, was so called from a negro settler of the name of Tom Peters, who had a family and lived opposite Wm. Knowlton’s house. Peters afterward moved to the little hill through which the road has been cut on Levi Whitman’s big farm near Knowlton. This hill was called “Tom Hill.”
4) Farm at the corner of Sugarhill (now making wine):
The stone house is most likely one built by Scottish stone Masons who worked in this area in the 1850’s.
5) Stagecoach Road (Old Magog Road)
The first recorded use of this road was in 1793. Back then it was known as Old Magog Road. The route went from the shores of Mississquoi Bay through Dunham, Brome, and over the hills to Lake Memphremagog. This was for years the wagon road from this area to Montreal.
For a long time, the route remained little more than a blazed or ‘spotted’ trail in the forest. Until about 1820, the road was not passable for wheeled vehicles—only on foot, horseback, or sleighs. In 1826 an effort was made to improve the road. By 1830, the road was improved enough that wagons could now travel on it.
Mail stages started to come via the road in 1837. These carried mail and travellers. The stagecoach used on Old Magog Road is now in the Stanstead Historical Museum.
6) Stone church:
Going back down into Brome on Stagecoach there is the old Stone Church. Built by the Congregationalists in 1842-43, it once had a beautiful steeple which was removed. The building is now a private residence.
7) Village of Brome:
Brome was once called Cook’s Corner from Jacob Cook, who was appointed postmaster when the post office opened in 1831. It later became Brome Corner.
8) Brome Fairgrounds
The Brome County Agricultural Society (BCAS) is located in the tiny village of Brome, Quebec. The society was founded in 1856. A public meeting was held on July 12, 1856 at the Inn of Albert Kimball in the village of Knowlton, Que., (presently Auberge Knowlton) to organize an agricultural society. The Honourable Paul Holland Knowlton chaired the meeting and Nathaniel Pettes acted as secretary. The motion passed at that meeting, be it resolved that “ …whereas upwards of seventy people had already become members by signing the declarations and subscribing five shillings and upwards…” And the society was formed.
The first officers were George Boright, president, Asa Frary, vice-president, and Nathaniel Pettes, secretary-treasurer.
In the beginning the Society organized two cattle shows a year, one in the fall and one in the winter. The first fall show was held on the first Wednesday of October, 1856 and the winter show was on the first Wednesday of January, 1857 in the village of Knowlton. The total expenditures were $954.00 with the government covering most of this with a grant for almost $700.00.
In 1861, it was decided to hold only one exhibition, in the fall. These continued to be held in Knowlton until 1890 when the directors bought 12 1/2 acres in Brome. In 1905, they increased their holdings to 18 acres, the current grounds for the Fair.
The Brome Fair still takes place each year over Labour Day weekend. It is one of the oldest agricultural fairs in Quebec and the third largest. The tiny village of Brome, population 250, swells to over 40,000 people over the four days of fair.
Drop off: Brome Fairgrounds
Yesterdays of Brome County series, Brome County Historical Society, Auberge Knowlton site (http://www.aubergeknowlton.ca/history.php?lang=e), “One Hundred Years of Brome Lake Ducks: Flying their way to your local supermarket”, article by André Dumont (http://www.agannex.com/production/one-hundred-years-of-brome-lake-ducks); Pettes Memorial Library (http://pettes.ca); Brome County Agricultural Society (http://www.bromefair.com/brome-fair/)