Head over to Derby Line !
“Come take the tour!”
For the first time, this summer, the town of Stanstead has been offering visitors free, guided tours of the Rock Island sector and its historic buildings. The town’s intrepid and incredibly wellinformed tour guide is Karianne Cossette, a Bishop’s University student who knows so much about
the history of Stanstead, including lots of entertaining details and anecdotes, you’d never guess she was raised in Trois-Rivières and knew very little about Stanstead just a few months ago. I believe even Merrick Belknap would be impressed with her historical knowledge of the town!
“I came to Lennoxville about three and a half years ago to study in English. I didn’t speak any English when I came to Champlain College,” said Karianne who now speaks excellent English and does the tour in both languages.
The tour begins outside the Granite Central Museum and heads to lovely Banting Park, situated alongside the Tomifobia River and almost hidden behind the Museum unless you know it’s there. “Stanstead was founded by the American, Johnson Taplin, in 1796,” began the entertaining history lesson.
At the historic Lee Farm, Karianne spoke about insulin co-discoverer Sir Frederick Banting and his wife, Henrietta, the former owner of the Lee Farm. “Henrietta didn’t need a man in her life. She was one of the first female doctors in Canada, she researched breast cancer, and she fought in the Second World War,” said the guide. Our ‘fountain of knowledge’ even knew the name of the Quebec artist who sculpted the dead trees on the property, Maurice Harvey, and what the tree sculptures represented.
Learning many things at every stop, the Stone Circle was no exception. Besides explaining the significance of each of the large granite chunks that form the Stone Circle, we also learnt a few other interesting mysteries about the Stone Circle, things best left to discover on site!
Moving on to the town’s first Customs House, Ms. Cossette began sharing her bootlegging stories. “In the beginning, they only smuggled booze from dusk to dawn, at night. Then they got bolder: they were hiding bottles on children and dressing as priests. They were called ‘bootleggers’ because they’d wear those high boots, fill them with bottles, and then cross the Tomifobia River into the United States. In 1851, Customs Officer James Thompson wrote in his report that: ‘The local population was very clever and they didn’t follow the law!’”
According to Karianne, the Haskell Library is one of the most popular sites with the tourists. Before entering, she clearly explains the exceptional rule to access this unique building that sits in both Canada and the United States. “There’s one rule: as long as you stay on this sidewalk, you can cross the line and go into the library.”
“Some tourists are only interested in visiting the Haskell. That can be a problem on Sundays when the Haskell is closed,” said the tour guide who adjusts the tour to her tourists needs and desires. “The tour could last half an hour or one and a half hours if you have a two and a half year-old running everywhere at the Stone Circle!”
Feedback from the tourists who take the tour has been positive. “They’re impressed with how beautiful the Haskell Library is, how beautiful Stanstead is. They say that a guide really helps, otherwise they’re just looking at old buildings.”
Asked what this keen tour guide, who did a lot of extra research on the town besides studying the documents given to her by Stanstead’s Development Agent, Joanne Lajeunesse McKay, enjoyed about her job, she answered: “I like talking to people and seeing their interest in learning about a place. I like this city, too, and I love the Haskell Library. I’m a member now and I go there on my days off. I just discovered the Farmer’s Market – they have great pastries there! The people here are nice and even the Customs Officers wave at you.”
Ms. Cossette is available to give free tours from Wednesday to Sunday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. For more information call her at 819 876-5576.
Stanstead’s tour guide, Karianne Cossette, sits in both Canada and the United States in the Haskell Free Library, one of the most popular stops on the tour.