Carved In Time
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.