The be­gin­nings of Bolton Town­ship in cel­e­bra­tion of its 215th an­niver­sary

A pub­lic lec­ture at Holy Trin­ity Church in South Bolton

Stanstead Journal - - FORUM - Spe­cial col­lab­o­ra­tion Mau­rice Langlois Serge Wag­ner

On Au­gust 19, 2012, the small Angli­can Church in South Bolton was full ... filled not by the faith­ful but by cit­i­zens in­ter­ested in the be­gin­nings of Bolton Town­ship. The town­ship was cre­ated 215 years ago, in 1797, and the lec­ture ad­dressed not only the his­tory of Bolton Town­ship but also the ori­gins of Holy Trin­ity Church.

Bolton, one of the first town­ships cre­ated af­ter the Con­sti­tu­tional Act of 1791, was the largest of the Eastern town­ships. Dr Mau­rice Langlois, well known for his re­search on the his­tory of Ma­gog, Stanstead, and else­where, spoke of his re­cent work on the ori­gins and pro­gres­sive dis­mem­ber­ment of Bolton Town­ship be­tween 1797 and 1939. By royal de­cree in Au­gust of 1797, the British Crown cre­ated Bolton Town­ship and awarded Let­ters Patent to Ni­cholas Austin and his 53 as­so­ci­ates. Austin, a Quaker, was charged with sur­vey­ing the land and with build­ing roads, bridges, and mills. Though he ar­rived from south of the bor­der with con­sid­er­able fi­nan­cial re­sources at his dis­posal, un­for­tu­nately -- and for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons in­clud­ing land spec­u­la­tion and un­clear ti­tles -- Ni­cholas Austin died in poverty in 1821.

Mean­while, the can­tons re­mained with­out lo­cal gov­ern­ment. Af­ter the 1837 Re­bel­lion and the Act of Union in 1840 cre­at­ing the Prov­ince of Canada, the first mu­nic­i­pal struc­tures took form. The Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Bolton Town­ship was cre­ated in 1845. Dr. Langlois dis­cov­ered that the first mayor was not John McMan­nis, as had been thought, but his brother-in-law, Wil­liam Greene. Both are buried in the Angli­can ceme­tery be­hind Holy Trin­ity Church in South Bolton.

Be­tween the years 1849 and 1939 the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Bolton Town­ship was con­sid­er­ably di­min­ished by no less than five par­ti­tion­ings. Bolton lost more than 75% of its ter­ri­tory as well as all ac­cess to Lake Mem­phra­m­a­gog, which en­tailed a size­able loss of tax rev­enue. Here is the list of the new en­ti­ties that were cre­ated and the year each sep­a­rated from Bolton: 1849: Ma­gog Town­ship; 1876: West Bolton, oblig­ing the re­main­der to adopt the name of East Bolton; 1888: East­man; 1938: Austin, from which the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of

St-Benoit-du-Lac broke off in 1939; 1939: St-Éti­enne-de-Bolton. Now an en­clave, the East Bolton Mu­nic­i­pal­ity is the heir ap­par­ent to the orig­i­nal town­ship and the first mu­nic­i­pal­ity. It has also in­her­ited, Dr. Langlois added, a rich de­posit of archives that date to the first half of the 19th cen­tury.

The be­gin­nings of Holy Trin­ity Church in Bolton Town­ship were stormy as well. The early Amer­i­can colonists in the re­gion ar­rived pri­mar­ily from New Eng­land, be­long­ing for the most part to such evangelical Protes­tant de­nom­i­na­tions as the Bap­tists and Methodists. These Protes­tant churches fo­cused on the Bi­ble and per­sonal piety while the Church of Eng­land leaned more to­wards the sacra­ments and hier­ar­chi­cal author­ity. In fact, ac­cord­ing to the af­ter­noon’s sec­ond speaker, Serge Wag­ner, the con­flicts be­tween these two reli­gious cur­rents dur­ing the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion (1775-1783) spilled over into Bolton Town­ship.

The Angli­can Church, whose tit­u­lar head is the King of Eng­land, un­der­went a dif­fi­cult pe­riod dur­ing the Amer­i­can War of In­de­pen­dence. Thus, in 1789, it adopted the name of the Epis­co­pal Church USA to sig­nal its au­ton­omy from Eng­land. Since a ma­jor­ity of the Amer­i­can colonists on the western shore of Lake Mem­phra­m­a­gog be­longed to the evangelical move­ment, the Church of Eng­land

des­ig­nated the Eastern Town­ships as an area for mis­sion and sup­ported by British mis­sion­ary so­ci­eties. They sent the Rev­erend John God­den, a na­tive of New­found­land, to es­tab­lish a mis­sion church in Man­sonville (Pot­ton Town­ship) with the in­ten­tion of es­tab­lish­ing other churches in Bolton. Thus, in 1860, Trin­ity Church -- as it was called then -- was erected in S. Bolton. It in­cited great op­po­si­tion in the community, and acts of vi­o­lence oc­curred pur­suant to Bishop Ful­ford’s con­se­cra­tion of the build­ing, in part be­cause of the ‘scan­dalous’ litur­gi­cal vest­ments worn by the clergy. The mem­bers of other de­nom­i­na­tions gath­ered around the church and hurled in­sults and later the sac­risty it­self was van­dal­ized, sur­plice and stoles car­ried off.

The con­flict car­ried over into the lo­cal ceme­ter­ies. The Angli­can Church ad­vo­cated the es­tab­lish­ment of church­yards ad­join­ing the church and sub­ject to Canon Law. But there was al­ready a community ceme­tery in S. Bolton -- Union Ceme­tery -- so the es­tab­lish­ment of an Angli­can ceme­tery gave rise to con­flict within the community and some fam­i­lies.

In 1864 a sec­ond Angli­can church, in the same neo-Gothic style as Trin­ity Church, was built in Peasley Cor­ner, Bolton (in what is now Austin). How­ever, since no dis­tinct Angli­can ceme­tery was des­ig­nated in this ham­let, the church ceme­tery con­tin­ued to serve as a community ceme­tery for the ma­jor­ity of an­glo-protes­tants.

Though in Austin, it is still called the East Bolton Ceme­tery.

To learn more about this fas­ci­nat­ing pe­riod of our his­tory, there are three more Sun­day lec­tures to come: The East Bolton As­so­ci­a­tion for the Preser­va­tion of Her­itage Build­ings has planned a se­ries of three fol­low-up Sun­day lec­tures: Septem­ber 30: «What the ceme­ter­ies teach us» pre­sented in English & French by Mau­rice Langlois and Serge Wag­ner. Ques­tions and dis­cus­sion in English and French. Oc­to­ber 14: «Pa­tri­ots, traitors, or op­por­tunists: The early set­tlers of Bolton Town­ship» pre­sented in English by Jim Man­son Oc­to­ber 28: «The early mills of Bolton’ pre­sented in French by the arche­ol­o­gist Daniel Chevrier and Hèléne Buteau. Ques­tions and dis­cus­sion in English and French.

All lec­tures take place on Sun­day af­ter­noon at 1:30 p.m. These ac­tiv­i­ties are sup­ported by the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of East Bolton dur­ing the 215th an­niver­sary of Bolton Town­ship. All lec­tures are free but vol­un­tary con­tri­bu­tions are wel­comed.

All lec­tures take place at Holy Trin­ity Church, 903 Bolton Pass Road (Route 243), S. Bolton. For more in­for­ma­tion: (819) 843-9595. N.B. the re­search car­ried out by Mau­rice Langlois has been pub­lished by the Mu­nic­i­pal­ité de Bolton-Est à l’oc­ca­sion du 215e an­niver­saire du Can­ton de Bolton: “Can­ton de Bolton. Ses orig­ines et les démem­bre­ments (1797-1939).”

Photo Frank Sal­va­tori

The lec­ture at Holy Trin­ity, Au­gust 19th, 2012

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