Potton : Portrait of a Farming Community

For a second year, the Reilly House Museum presents a summer community event. It will take you to relive, from 1850 to the present day, the epic era of the first settlers in the Township of Potton who cleared the land to establish their farms.

The exhibition will be held at Reilly House, 302 rue Principale, Mansonville.(Tel. 450 292 3109). Opening hours will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, June 4 to October 2. This project was produced by Hilary Head from Potton, assisted by Gérard Leduc and Gwynne Basen. Financial assistance was provided by the Townshippers’ Research Foundation, the MRC Memphremagog and the Caisse Desjardins. We also wish to thank the contributors to the museum collection.

To brush up a portrait of our agriculture from 1850 required Hilary Head hours of research through archives, museums and talking to older people. It brought to light the great varieties of crops as compared to the present ones. These farms insured the families’ subsistence and had to provide all essentials to eat and other commodities, such as hops for the local brewery. Other items such as baking soda, salt, tobacco, cotton thread, tea and lime were purchased at the General store. Did you know that flax was grown here? In 1851, 800 hundred pounds of linen was produced. Looms were built by hand and farm wife would weave the linen thread into clothing and sheets.

Around 1900, farms were growing with many more cows, horses and sheep. This was the time when the famous round barns showed up in the landscape, which could house about fifty cows distributed in a circle. The modern era is approaching and farm machinery pulled by horses shows up on the farms. Then, the railway, with the Orford Mountain Railway which roars through the whole Township offers the farmers a better opportunity to export their dairy products. Comes 1950 and electricity radically transforms the farm; tractors replace the horses. Whole milk is now delivered to butter and cheese factories which flourish.

The 1970’s see Potton’s demography changing. Several farmers abandon the farm or switch to beef cattle. Other, gladly sell their land to city people who wish to enjoy a rural environment for their vacation. Many of these are now full time residents but few will farm. Today, only one dairy farm is still alive. Cottages, business and industries have replaced the dairy farms and, slowly, Potton lost its rural identity.

Potton: Portrait of a Farming Community is presented to you with a series of photographs and texts about the different periods to illustrate the work at the farm in bygone days, as well as an assortment of antique farms tools. A unique opportunity to better know our agricultural heritage.

Vernissage will take place on Friday June 3, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Welcome to all.

Gérard Leduc