A Brief History of Magog
Prior to the opening of the Eastern Townships to colonization, in 1792, the territory was frequently visited by semi-nomad tribes of Amerindians, notably the Abenakis. What is now Magog, was a choice place for them to camp in small groups while on their hunting and fishing trips.
Odanak, the old Abenaki village on the St. Francis River, East of Sorel, Quebec, was the origin of a well-travelled trail leading to the Connecticut River Valley. Travellers came up the St. Francis River to the Magog River, at the Great Forks (Sherbrooke), which led them to The Outlet of Lake Memphremagog at its northern end. Travellers paddled the lenght of the lake to its southern end (Newport, VT) and from there, via the Barton and Passumpsic rivers they reached the Connecticut River. Following the arrival of immigrants from the United States, Scotland, Ireland , Great Britain, and migration of French-Canadians, the presence of Indians virtually disappeared by the middle of the 19th century.
Although Nicholas Austin came to The Outlet around 1795, and built a gristmill and a sawmill, he returned to Bolton, where he settled permanently. Ralph Merry III, a Patriot and not a Loyalist as some thought, arrived here on March 20 1799 and bought from Austin thousands of acres of land including his rudimentary mills. Merry settled on the left (north) bank of the river, near the point that nowadays bears his name. It marks the beginning of the hamlet The Outlet that in the 1850’s changed its name for Magog. Ralph Merry III is widely acknowledged as the true founder of Magog.
To fulfil the essential needs of the inhabitants, gristmills and sawmills were first built and in 1809 a forge was erected. A carding and weaving mill was soon set up and completely mechanized by Joseph Atwood, by 1825. Decades later, the Magog Manufacturing Company became the foundations of the Magog Textile and Print Company.
Commerce and industrialization
As early as 1830, a stagecoach was in operation between Georgeville and Magog and, in 1850, the first steamboat (the Mountain Maid) plied the lake between Magog, Quebec and Newport, Vermont. Around 1837, Ralph Merry V, grandson of the settler, founded the first match factory in Canada. The venture was not a major success mainly because of a lack of efficient means of transportation and of commercial outlets. Cutting and floating wood to Sherbrooke and Newport was for many years the main industry.
Because early communications, both by land and water, were established with Vermont and the border region of Stanstead, the right (south) bank of the river became the commercial center of The Outlet, where the first hotels and businesses were built. In 1822, the Grand Voyer (Minister of Transport of today), visited the Outlet and officially laid the Main Street from the present Merry Street going eastward on the left bank of the river. The first bridge over the river was soon built, and business activities shifted to the left bank. Later on, the arrival of the railways and displacement of the wharf from the east shore of the lake to its present location, confirmed the left bank as the business center of Magog.
Creation of Magog
Until 1849, the land situated south of the river was part of the Township of Hatley and the land north of the river was part of the Township of Bolton. That year, the Township of Magog was created by merging the seven most western Ranges of the Township of Hatley with the nine most eastern Ranges of the Township of Bolton. In 1855, the new Township is known as the Municipality of the Township of Magog. In 1888, the core of this Municipality separated to form The Village of Magog and elected its own Council. Two years later, the Village became the Town of Magog. In 1952, a suburb called Omerville did the same. During fifty years, the three entities lived in relative harmony until they reunited, in 2002.
Magog-Orford, a resort region
The introduction of steamboats on the Lake, in 1850 (the Mountain Maid), in 1867 (the Lady of the Lake) and in 1909 (the Anthemis), the inauguration of Victoria bridge in 1860, and the arrival of the railroads in 1877-78 stimulated the development of the tourism industry during the second half of the 19th Century. After 1890, with the expansion of the textile industry, Magog became a Milltown and a single-industry community for a period of over seventy five years.
In 1965, in the context of a declining textile industry, the Town inaugurated its own industrial park with the goal of diversifying its economy by attracting other industries. Since then, considerable efforts have been made to give new life to the regional tourism industry in which lies the future of the Magog-Orford region.
|1799||On March 20th, Ralph Merry III arrived at The Outlet with his wife and their 8 children.|
|1824||Erection of the first school on Main Street.|
|1825||A wool carding mill is completely mechanized, a first in Lower Canada.|
|1830||Building of the Union Church on Merry Street South, a multidenominational, Meeting House.|
|1837||Ralph Merry V built and operated the first match factory in Canada.|
|1849||Creation of the Township of Magog.|
|1850||The first steamboat (The Mountain Maid) is launched at Georgeville.|
|1852-53||Opening of the Sherbrooke Turnpike, a toll route between Magog and Sherbrooke. It operated until 1892.|
|1861||The Irish founded the St. Patrick’s Mission and built the first catholic chapel.|
|1867||Marks the launching of the well-known Lady of the Lake, a double paddle-wheel steamboat that plied the lake for almost fifty years.|
|1877||On December 29th, the public opening of the Waterloo & Magog Railway took place.|
|1881-91||Massive arrival of French-Canadians drawn by the textile industry.|
|1884||Printing of the first piece of calico (cotton) by the recently opened Magog Textile and Print Company.|
|1885||The catholic St. Patrick’s Mission raised to the status of parish|
|1888||The Village of Magog separated from the Township of Magog, and in 1890 became the Town of Magog.|
|1897||The Magog hydroelectric plant went into operation and homes were electrified.|
|1952||Creation of the Municipality of Omerville.|
|1960-80||The textile industry shows signs of weakening and development of tourism industry is emphasized.|
|2002||Fusion of Magog, the Township of Magog and Omerville into one entity reestablishes the situation of 1849.|