Carved In Time

Stanstead Journal - - NEWS - Merrick Belk­nap Spe­cial col­lab­o­ra­tion


June 26, 1979 The Gazette pub­lished the ar­ti­cle, “Old Carv­ing may change our out­look on his­tory,” writ­ten by Har­vey Shep­herd. Imag­ine my sur­prise when I dis­cov­ered that Merrick Belk­nap, from Stanstead had a first­hand knowl­edge of the dis­cov­ery of the stone carv­ing and where the carv­ing is now, thanks to the ef­forts of Yves Ro­bil­lard, a re­tired his­tory pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sité de Mon­treal.

In 1976 Merrick Belk­nap and a group of 5-6 sports­men headed north to do some cari­bou hunt­ing and a lit­tle fishing. The men drove to Seven Is­lands, took the train 300 miles to Sch­ef­ferville, and then an out­fit­ter flew the men an­other 100-130 miles to the area where they would be set down on the shore of one of the many lakes. In con­ver­sa­tion, Mr. Belk­nap de­scribed the beauty of the lo­ca­tion, the sur­round­ing lakes and trees, with no houses any­where to be seen. The men set up their camp­ing gear, pre­pared lunch and then de­cided to do a lit­tle fishing. The fish were un­be­liev­able, as swarms of them rushed to their lines. It was ev­i­dent that fish would soon be on the menu. Merrick Belk­nap de­scribed it as a “fish­er­man’s par­adise.”

One of the men, Mar­shall Lougheed, de­cided to dam up an area in the small brook nearby where he would keep his catch fresh, al­low­ing him to take some home at the end of the trip. He be­gan to gather rocks from along the shore. On top of a rather large rock was a moss cov­ered, ir­reg­u­larly shaped sand­stone, which Lougheed picked up. When he turned the rock over he dis­cov­ered the carv­ing. He set it aside and, upon re­turn­ing to camp, placed the rock on the grass and called the other men over to see the carv­ing. They rec­og­nized that this rock very well might be of sig­nif­i­cance.

Mar­shall brought the stone carv­ing back to Sher­brooke and it was placed on dis­play for a time. How­ever, it seemed to have been for­got­ten un­til it caught the at­ten­tion of Yves Ro­bil­lard and Merrick Belk­nap, who would to­gether bring the stone back into the lime­light. The two men do­nated the carv­ing to the Colby Cur­tis Mu­seum, in Stanstead, Que­bec, where it re­mains.

Mr. Belk­nap mar­velled at the prob­a­bil­ity of any­one stum­bling across this ar­ti­fact. The stone carv­ing ul­ti­mately caught the in­ter­est of Thomas E. Lee, a Laval Univer­sity arche­ol­o­gist. Lee felt this carv­ing was clear ev­i­dence, both racial and cul­tural, that re­flected a Euro­pean pres­ence in Que­bec’s north. Lee had ar­gued that arche­o­log­i­cal re­mains he had stud­ied in the far north in­di­cated Norse­men trav­elled and built there well be­fore Colum­bus reached North Amer­ica.

Lee stud­ied the fea­tures of the carv­ing. “The face is alive. It is speak­ing to you,” says Lee. The so­phis­ti­ca­tion of tech­nique con­vinced Lee that the face was a por­trait of a par­tic­u­lar per­son. The rock is or­di­nary, ir­reg­u­lar in shape, most likely carved with a blunt tool, and yet pro­vides a win­dow onto mys­ter­ies of the past.

Lee con­sulted many ex­perts to es­tab­lish the carv­ing’s au­then­tic­ity. Far­ley Mowat, whose works have dealt ex­ten­sively with Inuit sub­jects and spec­u­la­tion on Vik­ing ex­plo­ration in the North, com­mented, “very, very likely Norse,” and, “sketch done by some­one who knew what he was do­ing.”

If Mar­shall Lougheed had not picked up the rock, seen the carv­ing and brought it back to the East­ern Town­ships, a key to our his­tory would have re­mained un­known. As a re­sult of the ac­tions of Yves Ro­bil­lard and Merrick Belk­nap, who rec­og­nized the sig­nif­i­cance of pre­serv­ing the stone carv­ing, this piece of his­tory is now avail­able to the public.

Yves Ro­bil­lard and Merrick de­vel­oped a great re­la­tion­ship and shared a love of his­tory, while

I keep dis­cov­er­ing the end­less trea­sures that Merrick Belk­nap has kept for all of us to re-dis­cover. Need­less, I am truly amazed at his cir­cle of friends and their im­pact on lo­cal his­tory.

Photo col­lec­tion Merrick Belk­nap

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