Former Halton Hills Mayor Kathy Gastle spoke about Lucy Maud Montgomery, the acclaimed writer of Anne of Green Gables fame, in her address at the Milton Historical Society’s Monthly Speakers’ Series.
Ms. Montgomery (1874 - 1942), lived in the north Halton village from 1921 to 1935 and was, arguably, at the most prolific stage of her career while there, post the Anne of Green Gables novel she wrote in 1908 while living in her home province of Prince Edward Island.
She published 20 novels as well as 530 short stories, 500 poems and 30 essays during her life.
Ms. Gastle said that, beyond her global reputation as an author, Ms. Montgomery was also an accomplished culinarian, diarist, essayist, historian, illustrator, journalist, needleworker, poet, photographer, public speaker, scrapbooker and teacher.
Ms. Montgomery's time in Norval, which came about when her husband, the Rev. Ewan MacDonald, was appointed Minister of Norval Presbyterian Church, saw her actively engage in each of those pursuits from her home in the stately, red-brick Presbyterian manse that overlooked the Credit River, a grove of pine trees and two local parks.
Ms. Gastle recounted Ms, Montgomery's active participation in the community, organizing numerous church activities, music concerts and plays, and keeping a very explicit journal of her experiences in Norval, much to the embarrassment of some members of the small rural community when it was published following her death.
While a significant volume of her writings and memorabilia can be found today at her Cavendish, P.E.I. home, now a national historic site, the largest collection of her work can be viewed at the McLaughlin Library's Archival and Special Collections at the University of Guelph.
Other locales where Ms. Montgomery's life have been faithfully documented include the Leaskdale manse in Uxbridge Township, now also a national historic site, and the Bala's Museum with Memories of Lucy Maud Montgomery, found in Bala, Ontario.
But, a growing collection of Ms. Montgomery's published work and personal effects can now be found in Norval, with more to come.
Ms. Gastle explained that the Montgomery Heritage Society, a committee of the Heritage Association of Halton Hills, purchased the manse in 2017 from a pair of Presbyterian churches in the area.
The Society has sympathetically redeveloped the manse and property into a museum and literary center, which now includes a garden and historic saltbox cabin.
Just as Ms. Gastle is back in the larger Halton community -- post the latest COVID wave -- sharing the life of Ms. Montgomery with interested audiences, she is confident her native Norval will shake off the effects of the pandemic this year to reveal much more about a time in its history when it was home to Canadian writing royalty.
Shazia Nazir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Milton Reporter, Milton Reporter