A Belknap Road in Baldwin Mills

A Belknap Road in Baldwin Mills

YVES ROBILLARD

Baldwin’s Mills should have a road named Belknap. This family has lived in the area since 1823 and has greatly contributed to the shaping of the physical environment as well as taking their place in the local history.
Obadiah Belknap (1774-1834) (60years) and his wife Abigail Locke (1779-1861) (82 years) settled on Range 8, lot 2 (chemin Stage) on Barnston Township in 1807. In 1823, they left the settlement to their son Mitchell (1799-1880) (81 years) and went to settle at R 11 L8, on the old chemin Lyon, next to the Ameri¬can border and near a road leading to Holland, Vt. They had with them their 3 children: Thomas – 20 years, William – 18 years, and Hannah – 13 years.
William (1805-1847) (42 years) would go on to build the very long covered bridge on King Street across the St-Francis River in Sherbrooke. Mitch¬ell Belknap married Elsea Charlotte Mosher (1806¬1843) (37 years) in 1822. It was after the death of his wife in 1843 that he settled at R 11 L8, at his mother’s place. She was 64 years at this time and gave her cousin Andrew Belknap (1817-1899) (82 years) her lot on chemin Stage. Mitchell would have 18 children. His house would burn around 1885. All that remains there today is the old cemetery comprised of 10 tombstones.

The Modern Generation

Walter George Belknap (W.G.) (1864-1940) (76years), the distant cousin of Mitchell Belknap, settled in Baldwin’s Mills around 1880 (16 years) to become the apprentice of John Fox (1838-1911) (73 years), a house builder. He built his house and it still stands there today. We can suppose that W.G. helped him to build the house.
As you come from Barnston and make a left turn on the chemin May bridge, you will see to the left on the bridge, the mill path leading to the fish hatchery and, to the right, a large hollow where the box factory of W.K. Baldwin (1857-19350 (78 years) was located. This was also the area where John Drew (1848-1919) (71 years) had his blacksmith shop. This building consisted of two stories and it is possible that W.G. Belknap lived here or close by during his first years in Baldwin.

W.G. and John Fox would build many homes in New Hampshire before returning to Baldwin to build the Baptist Church in 1886, located to the right of Lakeview Cemetery on chemin Lyon. This church was demolished in 1942 He also built the Methodist Church in 1888 (1915, chemin May) which is known today as the United Church. This same year he married Salome Bacon (1870-1904) (34 years) and in 1889 lie began working for himself building barns, houses, cottages, etc.

In 1897, W.G. built his own house at 1855 ch. May which is presently the home of Mr. Adrien Cabana. In 1899 lie built the “Pinnacle Belle” in John Drew’s blacksmith shop. The Pinnacle Belle was a steamboat which was capable of taking 40 passengers on excur¬sions around Lake Lester. The Pinnacle Belle was in operation until 1916. In 1899, W.G. started to build the general store for W. K Baldwin which was de¬stroyed by fire in 1975. In 1900, along with 3 other persons, lie founded the Lake Lester Fish and Game Club. Using a water reserve from Baldwin’s Pond, the first fish hatchery was constructed. Certain ele¬ments of this hatchery are still in place today at 1331, ch. des Chalets. W.G. was the manager of this fish hatchery for more than 40 years.

After 1900

In October 1904, Salome died of diphtheria leav¬ing 2 young children. W.G. went on to marry Bertha Annis (1890-1978) (88 years) and they would have 10 more children. He rented his house on ch. May and built another house Gloser to the fish hatchery. This house was demolished in 1983. It was situat¬ed in front of the house belonging to Lilian Webb¬Ball, 1348 ch. des Chalets. In 1912, he constructed the older section of the JbarC, 55 ch. Côté for Jessie Lego Carter. In 1914, lie built the house where Louis Roch Séguin presently resides, at 386 ch. Séguin, for William Washburn. In 1930, he met with a Mrs. S. Mitchell of New York City who asked him to build a resort where wealthy Americans could come and vacation. “The Lodge” consisted of a main building, 2 small sleeping cottages and a dining hall. The main building remains today as the cottage of the Preston family at 1411, ch. des Chalets. The other cottages were taken away. The cottage at 1405 used to be the dining hall and the cottage at 1397 was the dormitory. “The Lodge” lasted about 10 years. W.G. Built several facilities for the first fish hatchery but his building days were not yet over. In 1936, at the age of 72 years, he built the barn located between 1334 and 1348.
W.G. had a passion for photography. He had a wide angle lens camera which he used to take impressive pictures of Baldwin during the early 1900’s. This passion for photography was passed on to son Merrick (1922) the 10th child in the family. Merrick Belknap is certainly the person who has collected the most pictures of the Baldwin’s Mills area. He has written 5 articles for the Stanstead Historical Society Journal. I owe him a lot for the information that he has passed along to me. He lives in Stanstead but manages to spend about 6 months of the year at his log cabin at 1385, ch. des Chalets. He also owns 2 other cottages which he rents. One of the cottages is lived in part of the year by his nephew Ozias (Zack) Belknap, at 1385, ch.des Chalets. Then there is the nice home belonging to his son Keith at 1394, ch.des Chalets. Brian Belknap, another one of his nephews, built an impressive home at 1334 where he resides with his family. Another of his niece lives in Baldwin. Her name is Marjorie Belknap and she is married to Clarence Lusty. As you can see, several members of the Belknap family continue to live in Baldwin. The youngest member of the family, Jim (1933), lives in Dixville but comes to Baldwin every Saturday to pick up his papers at the local depanneur and to pass the time with his relatives and friends. He also is a Baldwin historian and has published several articles in “Le Courant”, the journal of the Coaticook Historical Society. In his youth, Jim played in several country and western bands around the area as well as at the JbarC: the “Night Riders” (1952), Cactus Jim and his Night Riders” (1953), and the “Country Quintet” in 1967.
The Belknap family, as we have seen, has been very implicated in the history of Baldwin’s Mills. It would be quite within the scheme of things to have a road named after this family. I would suggest that chemin des Chalets, beginning at the original fish hatchery (the sub-station at 1331), become chemin Belknap. This chemin Belknap could also be started at ch. de la Source, since Baldwin’s Pond played a part in the first fish hatchery.