The Last Of The Frontiersmen
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.