The Last Of The Fron­tiers­men

Stanstead Journal - - NEWS - Spe­cial col­lab­o­ra­tion Merrick Belk­nap

A life­long his­tory buff, Merrick Belk­nap is a reg­u­lar contributor to The Jour­nal. A res­i­dent of Stanstead, he has do­nated many items from his col­lec­tion of ar­ti­facts to our So­ci­ety and oth­ers.

When the term “fron­tiers­men” is used names such as Daniel Boone, Davy Crock­ett, Kit Car­son and Jim Bridger come to mind and de­servedly so. The Fron­tiers­men of whom I write came along at a much later date, roughly a cen­tury later.

In early 1939, war was erupt­ing in Europe and, soon after in Asia. Ger­many in­vaded Poland in June of that year and many years would pass be­fore the world re­turned to any de­gree of nor­malcy.

Dur­ing the sum­mer of that year, I was em­ployed part-time at the Magog Fish Hatch­ery, which was un­der the su­per­vi­sion of my brother George Belk­nap. The hatch­ery was lo­cated on a dike across from the vil­lage about mid­way be­tween the Do­min­ion Tex­tile plant and its “company houses”. It was con­ve­nient for the work­ers liv­ing in that part of town to walk down the dike to their place of em­ploy­ment. In fact, it was a common sight to th­ese work­ers pass­ing by on their way to work and hur­ry­ing home for lunch and after work. This all came to a sud­den halt with the out­break of World War II. In­stead of the usual sight of civil­ians on the dike, it was now be­ing pa­trolled by armed guards. The guards were mem­bers of “D” Squadron of the Corps of Im­pe­rial Fron­tiers­men, un­der the com­mand of James E. Kings­land, a veteran of the Great War and one of Magog’s most prom­i­nent cit­i­zens.

I was sev­en­teen years old, phys­i­cally unfit for mil­i­tary ser­vice, but with help from “Ed” Kings­land, I was ac­cepted as a mem­ber of “D” Squadron. I re­call we were all taken to Sher­brooke to be fin­ger­printed and that, quite fre­quently, we had pis­tol prac­tice in the base­ment of Ecole Sainte-Pa­trice.

There were two guard­houses, one on the dike near the hatch­ery and, the other, at the main gate of the tex­tile mill at the lower part of town. Each was equipped with a wood burn­ing stove and a bunk so that the off duty guard could rest while also get­ting warm. My time as a guard was un­event­ful with the ex­cep­tion of one in­ci­dent. I’ll not name the guard in­volved – this in­for­ma­tion can in fact, be ob­tained from news­pa­pers of the time – so I’ll re­fer to him at my co-worker.

To be con­tin­ued

Merrick Belk­nap’s Le­gion of Fron­tiers­men Cer­tifi­cate is­sued in 1940.

Merrick Belk­nap in 1940. This uni­form is in

the Stanstead His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety Col­lec­tion.

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