A visit to the Historical Museum takes you back to the 1800s, into the lives of women and men who worked the fields and forests, or who provided services and professions for a growing population of farmers, merchants and tradesmen in this region of the Eastern Townships. Through the details of everyday life at home, on the farm and in the forests, we begin to understand the way of life and the cultural values of these people, many of whose descendants still live in the area.
The Society is preserving the fascinating and unique history of the earliest settlers in this part of the Eastern Townships. The first pioneers here were English-speaking immigrants from New England. Then others came from the British Isles. By the 1830s, Francophone farmers had migrated from the seigneurial regions of Quebec. Today, the early American influence still shows in the local architecture, in family names and in the continuing ties across the border.
Since 1959, the Compton County Historical Museum Society - La société du Musée historique du comté de Compton has been a non-profit community organization that manages the Historical Museum in Eaton Corner, maintains collections and archival materials donated by local families and organizations, and organizes projects, social activities, and educational events throughout the year which are related to its purpose. For example, during our 50th anniversary year in 2009, the Museum Society presented a fundraising supper and antique fashion show, a museum open house with activities, demonstrations, and horse and wagon rides. Other events in recent years have included a Historic Home and Garden Tour, numerous teas and musical events, and, in 2010, the Society hosted a Reunion for Home Children and Their Descendants.
Through all these endeavours, the Society still fulfills its mission as stated in its 1959 Charter:
To seek out and preserve the story and keep alive the memory of the pioneers and to promote, pursue and encourage the study of the history of Compton and surrounding townships...
The Museum Society is charged with preserving the history of Compton County and surrounding townships. This includes information about the Townships of Hereford, Clifton, Auckland, Compton, Eaton, Newport, Ditton, Chesham, Hampden, Marston, Bury, Lingwick, Winslow, Whitton, and Emberton. Their settlements include: Eaton Corner, Sawyerville, Cookshire, Island Brook, Bury, Bishopton, Marbleton, St-Malo, Westbury, East Hereford, Ascot, Kinnear’s Mills, Inverness, Lower Ireland, St-Jean de Brebeuf, Stornoway, Gould, Dudswell, Waterville, Compton, Hill Hearst, Moe’s River, Hereford, Perryboro, Randborough, La Patrie, West Ditton, Notre Dame des Bois, Piopolis, Marsborough, Ste-Cécile de Whitton, Spring Hill, Glenn River, St-Romain, and others.
A Board of Directors (currently composed of 12 members) administers Museum Society business and the collections. There is an executive committee of President, Vice-President, Treasurer and Secretary. Board Members are elected for a two-year term. Board meetings are held monthly. There is one seasonally employed museum administrator, and usually one summer student employee assisting the museum administrator. Special funded projects may have their own staff.
There are presently about 130 members of the Museum Society who pay an annual membership fee and who are welcome to attend and to vote at the Annual General Meeting held each May.
The Board welcomes volunteers to help with special projects, events, and planning.
The Museum has its collections in two colonial era buildings situated at the heart of the village of Eaton Corner. One is the former Congregational Church built in 1841, and the other, across the road, is the old Academy Building. The Provincial Government has designated both buildings as historic sites.
The architecture of the Church and the Academy, as well as of many homes in Eaton Corner, are excellent examples of the American influence of architectural styles which inspired the earliest settlers. The Church is built in the Greek Revival Style, while many local homes are of the Cape Cod Colonial style or the unique Loggia style.
The church was built in 1841 by the Congregationalists, and was later used by various church groups, lastly by the United Church of Canada. In 1959, the church was bought by the Compton County Historical Society and became a home for the County Museum. In collaboration with the Council of the Municipality of Eaton, the Museum added the second floor of the old Academy Building as exhibit space and now the Museum Society has full use of the rest of the building for housing the archives and for administrative space.
The old Academy was originally a school and later a teachers’ training school. When no longer needed for educational purposes, the Academy was taken over by the Municipality of Eaton and used for community gatherings and as the Town Hall. For some years, it housed the commissioner’s court, echoed to the sound of church suppers, community dances, and other forms of entertainment, and until January 2003, was used for the Eaton Council meetings and for elections.
In October 2008, the Society acquired the Alger House (built in the 1830s), an historic home in the village, which will become part of our “Eaton Corner Homestead” project. This significant expansion project involves the restoration of two historic homes in the village and the construction of a barn in the old style. These buildings will house part of our collections and recreate the way of life in the mid-1800s as a "living history" experience for visitors - complete with demonstrations of trades and crafts, and sale of "old-time" local products. It will be a pivotal site for tourists following the Townships Trail where people can spend the day. We hope to have the Homestead “up and running” in the next few years.
We have a unique and interesting collection of objects donated by many families of historic Compton County. The objects date from the beginnings of the settlement era at the end of the late 1700s, the mid- to late 1800s when Eaton Corner was in its heyday, and the turn of the 19th century to recent times. They show life in Eaton Corner and surrounding area: domestic life in the village and on the farm, women’s handicrafts, the work of farmers, woodsmen, tradespeople, professionals and merchants, teachers and education, and the role of religion.
Some highlights of the collection include: porcelain serving dishes from England; clothing, shoes, gloves and hats from the 1800s and early 1900s; handmade quilts and woven blankets; sugaring equipment; farming equipment and haycock covers; carpentry tools; blacksmithing tools; pump logs; millstones; classroom materials from the late 1800s; family bibles; farm machinery; and much more.
A recent acquisition is a display of photographs, memorabilia and informational materials about the Home Children of Canada. This special display has a great deal of information about the history of these “little immigrants” from the British Isles who were sent to Canada to work on farms. Over 100,000 orphaned or homeless children were sent to Canada between 1869 and 1940 by philanthropic organizations in England.
Another recently completed project is the Oral History Project, consisting of videotaped interviews with 21 elders of local communities talking about their lives and work. These can be viewed on-site, or purchased. An excellent summary of these interviews is currently on view in the Museum.
Researchers may have access to the Museum Society’s considerable archival materials which include fonds from many Townships Families, many of whose descendants are still living in the area. There are many catalogued photographs depicting home life and families, landscape, transport, work, and much more. Records from local businesses, churches and schools reveal much about the life and changes in Eaton Corner since the early 1800s.
The library of the museum contains numerous volumes of Eastern Townships history, including a unique history of local houses and families titled Eaton Corner by Sharron Rothney, a resident of the village. There are also many family histories, ancestral charts and other documents, all of which are available for study.
The Museum Society has recently taken over responsibility for the Centre d'archives du Haut-Saint-Franois of the Société d’histoire et du patrimoine du Haut-Saint-François (now dissolved). These archives will also be available for study and research.
JUNE THROUGH AUGUST the Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
In SEPTEMBER, the Museum is open on weekends only from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Special tours are possible by appointment during the summer season. Research access is year round, by appointment.
ADMISSION: $5 (seniors $4, children $3). No admission fee for Society Members.
SOCIETY MEMBERSHIP: $10 per year for individuals, $15 per year for families. A lifetime membership is $75.
The Compton County Historical Museum Society is situated at:
374 Rte. 253 in Eaton Corner, Town of Cookshire-Eaton, QC.
374 Rte. 253 (Eaton Corner), Cookshire-Eaton, QC J0B 1M0.