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Ayer's Cliff at 100

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medium_ayers.100.jpg--July 14, 2009

2009 marks the 100th anniversary of the municipality of the village of Ayer’s Cliff. Situated near the south west end of Lake Massawippi, the municipality was created back in 1909 when it was detached from the township of Hatley. But the village’s history extends as far back as the 1790s.

In 1799, Thomas Ayer, after whom the village was eventually named, took up residence in the area. A native of New Hampshire, Ayer was the first settler within what would later be the village limits. Around 1815, John Langmaid opened an inn in the area. His establishment catered for a number of years to travelers on the stagecoach line between Boston and Quebec City. In time, the village took on the name of Langmaid’s Flats.

By mid-century, the Ayer family had acquired much of the land in the area and the community was re-named Ayer’s Flats. In 1881, the Belden Atlas, which was published in that year, described the village as having the “county buildings, with floral hall below for fairs, and dining room above; a Union church, in which Protestant services are held; railway station; several stores; mechanics shops; etc.” The population at that time numbered about 150.

In 1870, the Massawippi Valley Railway was completed. This line linked the Vermont border with Lennoxville, and Ayer’s Flat was situated about mid-way. The railway, more than anything, contributed towards the prosperity of the village. It, together with the lure of Lake Massawippi, combined to transform the village into a tourist destination.

medium_ac.100.jpgIn 1904, Ayer’s Flat was re-named yet again – this time to Ayer’s Cliff. The rationale for this was that a cliff was thought to sound more picturesque and more enticing to tourists than a flat. The strategy apparently worked, and it was thanks to this name change that American city-dwellers began buying up lakefront property in the community. Ayer’s Cliff (and Lake Massawippi) provided those who could afford it a pleasant refuge during the hot summer months. Best of all, the village and lake were fairly close to the American border and easily accessible by train.

Though the railway has long since ceased to operate, Ayer’s Cliff is still a popular summer destination for cottagers and tourists who stay in the village’s inns and bed and breakfasts. Today, however, the village is probably best known for its county fair. Held each year in August, the Ayer’s Cliff Fair has attracted visitors from all over the Eastern Townships for well over a century.

A number of events are planned throughout 2009 in honour of the Ayer’s Cliff’s centennial. The municipality has also published a brochure on the village’s history.