Brome County Historical Society / Arts Williamsburg

And so it was on the Friday before Thanksgiving the painting was lifted on to an easel in the gallery of Arts Williamsburg. (Still Life, page 7, Paperback Edition)

Brome County Historical SocietyA central “character” in Louise’s magnificent Still Life, Arts Williamsburg was inspired by the real life Brome County Historical Society. Located just south of Brome Lake in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, the Historical Society was established in 1898 with the mission “to acquire, preserve, research, exhibit, interpret, and publish items of historical interest encompassing all of the historic Brome County and its sites.”

Incorporating multiple buildings, the Historical Society’s museum is a visual and tactile celebration of the power of the past. From the Tibbet’s Hill Schoolhouse (built in 1844) to the Old County Courthouse (built in 1858) and right up to the Children’s Museum (inaugurated just last year), the museum is a must-see for those who identify with George Santayana’s famous quote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Not to be missed is the extensive archive which houses a bevy of material from the original pioneers of the area, including census and church records, founding family trees, and cemetery inscriptions. The Historical Society also hosts wonderful events. Upcoming happenings include a concert comprising local musicians, a picnic to celebrate the upcoming season, multiple antique and craft fairs, a Harvest Festival, and much, much more.

While not announced yet, keep an eye out for the remainder of the 2015 Lecture Series. Past topics have included “The King of Terrors:” Benedict Arnold’s Trek to Quebec Through the Eastern Townships and “A Beautiful and Picturesque sheet of water ensconced among the hills:” The Development of Tourism in the Lake Memphremagog Region, 1850 – 1900.

Brome County Historical SocietyLastly, any visit to the Historical Society should include a stop at the War Museum which houses, among many important artifacts, a WW1 Fokker DVII aircraft. Manfred von Richthofen, a.k.a. the Red Baron flew one of the first experimental versions of this plane and complained bitterly about its performance. As one would expect, his words did not fall on deaf ears. The engineers went back to the drawing board and modified it to the Baron’s liking. History tells us that von Richthofen was “highly” pleased with the new design although he never got to fly the DVII in combat as he was killed just 2 weeks prior to the plane’s introduction to squadron service.

For more information about the Brome County Historical Society, please visit: www.bromemuseum.com.

Has anyone here been to the Historical Society or the Eastern Townships?

How do you feel the Arts Williamsburg/Historical Society fits into the overall theme of Still Life?

57 replies on “Brome County Historical Society / Arts Williamsburg”

I went to Bishop’s University in the Eastern Townships town of Lennoxville. The autumnal scenes in the book remind me so much of that place.

I have not been to the museum since the 1960’s and have seen from the outside how it has expanded. I keep planning to re-visit and now I will for sure. I spent my summers in that area as a child and teen and have returned to enjoy my retirement summer days. God’s Country.

Totally agree with you Joyce!! Glad we have reconnected after sharing so much of our younger days! Also thanks Joyce for getting me hooked on Three Pines and Louise Penny!

My father grew up in the Eastern Townships and I spent time there in the summer when I was a kid. He lived near Chateguay I believe, in a town called Huntington. The name of the family farm was Three Pines! His family were Anglos but the town was pretty much mixed. There used to be a local paper called The Gleaner but I don’t think it exists anymore.

Penny, thank you so much! I wonder if your husband knew any of my family? Wilsons, McClenaghans, Graham, Elder. It’s been a long time but I’m pretty sure some of them still live in the area although I don’t have their names.

Graham, you say, and around Huntingdon. Would Lyall Graham be in that family? He was an auctioneer of great repute in the neighbourhood. an interesting character, always dressed the part (think barbershop quartet clothes, straw hat.) A real gentleman. I was a yard-sale and farm auction junkie and was always good for giving a quarter for a miscellaneous cardboard mystery box – to the extent that he would just steer some lots my way. “This one’s for you, Jim.” and I would have bought something sight unseen and bid unbidden!

I went to kindergarten and part of first grade at the french school in Huntingdon, back in the late 1970s. I remember a parade (for Fair Day?) when I was 5, where I was Snoopy on top of my doghouse. There are pictures in the Gleaner of it.

(we eventually ended up farther east, and had a farm just outside Scotstown, near the edge of the Townships, and almost into the Beauce region)

Go by this beautiful place nearly every day. Have visited it many, many times in my youth and since I have grown up. I visited the museum about two years ago. Well worth the trip and I feel so blessed that I live in such a beautiful part of Canada!

Visited the museum last summer for the first time in many years. Went with a much younger brother, his wife and children. We had a great time.

My husband was a descendant of the Barnes family who donated many artifacts to the museum. We visited this site many times.

On Sept. 11, my husband & I were packed & ready to leave for a vacation in Tuscany, when a friend called to tell us to turn on the t.v. Obviously, we were not flying to Italy that day, or any day soon. What to do w/the packed suitcases & heavy hearts? After pondering for a few days, we decided to visit the Eastern Townships & ended up in Knowlton. We spent a lovely week in the area, visiting Sutton, Brome, & other little towns, tasting wine at the vineyards, chocolate in every little village, & wonderful cheeses & breads. One of our favorite places was the “General Specific” store. The whole area was lovely, and a soothing, heart-healing place to be after such a terrible event.

I’ve only been to Canada once. For the Expo ’67 in Montreal. I just finished refreshing my memory with a Google search. I didn’t realize it is now considered the most successful & most attended World’s Fair of the 20thC! No wonder we couldn’t find a hotel room! 🙂 Mom still thinks reservations aren’t necessary. lol

Other than the magnificence of the fair itself two things stand out. Our first experience of real traffic! OMG! And the warmth and kindness of the people. There were special kiosks set up at the entrance to help people find lodging. We were told of family homes who had prepared space for visitors when it became apparent the hotels were maxing out. We stayed with a delightful family with 3 children. I remember one of the boys was called Guy! I believe it was in the ‘Eastern Townships’. Having lived most of my life in ‘row houses’ in big cities with little to no yards, I was amazed at the size of their home and property.

It was wonderful to end a day of touring and play with the Québécois kids in the yard. Badminton, for one. My brother and I were really bad since we had never played it before. Where? But what I really loved was the openness of the area and the people and their more relaxed attitude towards ‘life’, once away from the traffic at least. Remembering this has added another level of understanding comments in Louise’s books, such as “Annie and Jean-Guy are coming but caught in traffic…” I had completely forgotten.

I also remember spending evenings around the picnic table outdoors with the 3 kids and the fun and giggles of them teaching us words in French and we teaching them words in Spanish. We communicated in English but but there was a sence of fascination and joy in learning not only new words and how others lived and spent their time. One of the best summers of my childhood. We all wished we could have explored more or at least return, but life took us in a different direction. That’s OK. Hopefully soon.

Thanks to all who have posted for expanding our view of the area.

I worked at the Museum for two summers in the mid ’70’s. Surrounded by amazing artifacts and every item had a story behind them. Still my favourite job.

I totally enjoy Inspector Gamache’s treks through the picturesque Townships – it really takes me home again.

I’ve visited the Eastern Townships many times but unfortunately I only discovered the Gamache novels last year — after we’d moved from Montreal to Geneva! Reading them is a lovely reminder of back home — especially the endless winters we’ve escaped from!

“an unread book is a treasure”
I am a bit of a book hoarder, never have too many, especially by Louise Penny.

Once I discovered the Inspector Gamache series, like many others I am sure, I have had to work my way through the series. At the Darwin Barker Library, Fredonia, NY USA, today, I settled down at one of the computers to do a little research, and was totally surprised to see that a previous user had left their search in the boxes. Name “Louise Penny”. Book: “Still Life”. I only wish I had been able to meet that person to discuss our mutual admiration of the author!

I live in Saint-Jean, QC, and really enjoy having areas I am familiar with in your books. Maybe this summer, some visits to places like the Brome County Historical Society, etc., would be fun!

20 years ago i stayed at Bishops U for a week at a conference and enjoyed exploring the eastern townships with my young son. I still have a pewter souvenir from Brome Lake

My husband and I are traveling to Quebec from Texas this summer. How perfect to be able to visit some of the sites that inspired some of the locations in the Gamache novels. I am also looking forward to hearing French spoken. I minored in that in college years ago and cannot really speak it, but took it because I thought it was a most beautiful language.

I envy all of those who have had the opportunity to visit the Eastern Townships. It is definitely high on my list of things to do.

I wanted to ask, for those who are familiar with the area and inspirations for Louise’s books, do you find that familiarity makes it easier or harder to fully involve yourself with the stories?

I have read books set in areas very familiar to me and if the setting is too close sometimes I find it jars me from the world of the story if the two intersect too closely. I find it easier if the fictional world is not exactly like reality. I wonder if this is one of the reasons why Louise uses the fictional Three Pines, apart from giving her imagination full reign to set up the village as she pleases.

A ‘real’ guided tour was created in old QC based on the sites Gamache visited. Sometimes people just need to ask! Maybe whoever set that one up would be willing, or know a travel agent who could, set one (or several) up? With discounted rates for a stay at Manoir Hovey? Wonderful.

A year ago a dear friend introduced me to the Gamache novel Still Life. While reading I realized the story is set in the Brome area of Quebec. My Grandmother was born in Brome in 1889. I contacted Arlene Royea Ayotte, Managing Director at the Brome Historical Society and Museum. She provided me with some family history and last October I went to visit Arlene and the museum. What a wealth of historical information. Also, I have 3 landscape paintings, painted in the mid 1870’s by my great grandmother. We think they are scenes of the Brome, Knowlton, Lac Brome area. Although we were unable to determine the exact location of the scenes, I like to look at the paintings while ready about Three Pines and imagine they were painted somewhere near Three Pines. I will be returning to the museum again this fall and am eagerly awaiting the release of The Nature of the Beast.
Thank You Louise Penny for the wonderful Gamache stories and for helping me to reunite with lost family history.

How very exciting for you, Carol. And for me, your story, interestingly enough, brought memories of Clara, et al looking at Peter’s last paintings and trying to find the exact spot he may have painted them… Please tell us more about your grandmother’s painting. I’m sure they were not like Jane’s, in Still Life! Are they oils? Large? Small? What seasons did she capture? Seasons are so important in Still Life.

My husband and I go to Manoir Hovey (Bellechasse!) for our anniversary in late September. Celebrating our 40th this year. We want to explore the Tibbits Schoolhouse in Brome as my maiden name is Tibbits and my grandfather, Will Tibbits, came from this area!

This is so exciting! It will be lovely to see places I probably never saw when I lived in the Eastern Townships in my youth. I also went to Bishop’s University, in the 1950’s. I loved the E.T., and I do know one place fairly well, which we will come to later. I had wondered if Williamsburg was real or fictional, but the Brome County Museum is such a treasure!

Hi Sylvia, miss you at ‘The Bistro”. If anyone here is unfamiliar with “The Bistro”, our hero Paul, set that up for those of us who wanted to continue discussions after TLWH, or just stay in touch. Last night a gentleman posted how much he adored Louise for creating ‘a true old fashioned gentleman’. It may seem daunting at first, this morning there were 800 comments! But its a magical a place to just sit for a while or jumping in with questions outside the confines of a specific topic. If anyone here is unfamiliar with the site, the link is on the right, above the list of links to the book series. Please pop back and forth.

My mother was born in Clarenceville, Quebec. I grew up just south of the border in Alburgh, VT (1950s, 1960s) and made many trips to my grandparents’ farm in Clarenceville and later to the small home in Bedford where my Grandmother lived until her death at age 90. I stumbled onto the Gamache novels and am now working my way through in order. I listen on my iPod while walking and driving and love hearing familiar names like Cowansville where I used to drive to with grandfather. I always smile at the references to “Anglos” which my family was. I hope Louise Penny keeps the books coming for many years.

We visited the area last fall and had a wonderful time hunting for the inspirations for Three Pines.
The Historical Society also displays the Still Life painting that was done for the TV show.

Thank You to all who are sharing your knowledge, experiences and love of the Eastern Townships. Louise Penny makes many of us wish we could visit the area.
Thank you Paul, for providing a site where those who are familiar with the locations can share.

Anna, great discussion question about reading a book that one is familiar with the local. I was born and raised in Trenton, NJ and Hamilton Twp (suburb of Trenton) and worked in Princeton and family living in Pennsylvania . I enjoyed David McCullough’s 1776 maybe more so because of knowing the area. Also, the Stephanie Plum series until they got ridiculous for my taste (when the ghost/spirit started). I now live in Los Angeles for the past 22 years and enjoy the local mystery writers who set their books here.

Whether a real place or made up, I appreciated when the author/publisher includes a map to follow along.

My local library just started a mystery book club this past Jan (Burbank’s Buena Vista Branch in California). I introduced them to Louise Penny’s series with our Feb book. I just checked out their mystery blog and found this very interesting website. Will let the group know about it, too. What a great idea!

How do you feel the Arts Williamsburg/Historical Society fits into the overall theme of Still Life?

Apart for being about art, it was a more interesting way to help move the plot/story along. Since Jane’s painting was the means to help solve her death, it was the springboard early on in the story. The Arts Williamsburg was also a great way to introduce Peter and Claira’s characters.

I think locations are as important as the characters Diane and not just as set pieces. They contribute a spirit and a feeling. There was a creative vibrancy to the Arts Williamsburg but also the byplay of some politics involved in the choosing of the paintings. It gave another depth to the story.

People revolve around places and locations so I think this sort of tribute to their importance to the nature of the story is really interesting.

It’s funny Diane but depending upon how a location I know is portrayed in a story my reaction can range from excitement and extra interest to cringing. If the locality is woven naturally through the story then it’s fun, if it becomes a showcase of tourist spots then it is cringeworthy.

I had hoped that the building selected would be the one that inspired Jane’s house whose walls were covered with paintings of the people of Two Pines. I know I have seen this in a museum many years ago, but where?

I have just been reading the May newsletter and realize that I totally missed out on the April addition….changed computers maybe? So I did not know about the new feature of places in the Gamache stories.
I traveled to the Eastern townships on a research trip in September 2011 via Newport, VT were I also was also on the trail of ancestors. We stayed at the Auberge Lakeview Inn at Knowlton and had a wonderful French meal there. I walked to the Brome Historical Society and spent a thrilling day with the staff there who had done some preliminary research for me. We toured the area for several days and I also met with Ms. Antle at the Missiquoi Museum and Historical Society.
Now, I did know that the Gamache series was set in this area and it was on my mind but it wasn’t until I heard Louise speak in South Hadley, MA the following September that it came home to me that I had totally missed the Brome Bookshop and how close I was to all the places that Louise holds so dear. There is nothing like the emotional ride one gets visiting the homeland of ancestors and I can not wait to go back. Louise’s characters and sense of place are so real and I have been drawn there since the first book and my family connections just make it all the more intense. I did the reread last year and enjoyed it even more than the 1st time. Will look forward to checking out the next location and can’t wait for August.

David knall I spent every summer of my life with my grandparents
Janet and wells Martin at argyle farm in Knowlton quebec.
From 5 or six years old continuously until I was about 14. The farm was in west Bolton.
I rode my bike into Knowlton. Also played golf at Knowlton g c
I have such great memories. Think about it all the time.
Live in the u s now. One of my sisters gave me 2 Louise penny books I am hooked

I was fascinated by the museum’s exhibit about the Home Children.
Perhaps this part of Canada’s history could provide the basis for another Inspector
Gamache mystery?

I think my ancestor James Rogers first settled in the Eastern Townships before getting a grant from England for an area near Kingston in Ontario as he was Scots Irish and served in the British Army during the French and Indian wars and was a Tory.

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I so appreciate your books. I’ve taught in theological seminaries for over 50 years, Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, CA), Oral Roberts Graduate School of Theology (Tulsa OK), Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (Northwestern University Evanston, IL) and for the last 25 years at Asbury Theological Seminary both in KY and FL. I am presently Emeritus Professor of World Christianity. I’ve written 20 or so books but every time I read one of yours I am amazed at your ability to tell a story (your prose is brilliant). Thank you for sharing such gifts with the world. I even catch myself praying for you on occasion. Bless you! Keep on writing!

I recently provided an article for Copp’s Ferry Museum in Georgeville. I’d dare suggest that others look around you, and I am sure you can find something worthwhile to share with those in your community.

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