Thursday, July 7, 2011

O Quebec II: The Eastern Townships

Watercolor by Hallie Cohen

The life of Agnes Elizabeth Winona Leclercq Joy is chronicled in the basement of the Missisquoi Museum in Stanbridge East, Quebec, an area just over the Vermont border known as the Eastern Townships. Missisquoi, by the way, is the Algonquin word for “lots of waterfowl.” Joy was born in Franklin, Vermont, in 1844. But, according to the text in the musty display case, she experienced a desire to escape the confines of her world even as a young girl. She joined L.B. Lent’s National Circus and ended up in Cuba. Darkly beautiful, she married the Prussian Prince Felix Salm-Salm after meeting him in 1862. Prince Salm-Salm fought in the Civil War, and in 1866 Joy followed him to Mexico, where he served under Archduke Maximilian. Salm-Salm died in 1870 during the Battle of Gravelotte in the Franco-Prussian war. Joy died in 1912, at the age of 68, in Karlsruhe. It was a long way from Vermont's Northeast Kingdom and the Eastern Townships, and she hardly had the notoriety of a Margaret Trudeau, who had seemingly been infected with a similar wanderlust. On a summer’s afternoon, Stanbridge East, which has a history of resistance to authority on a global level that is also chronicled in the Missisquoi Museum, affords another generation of travelers the kind of escape that Joy sought. Joy’s forbears ostensibly came to America, like so many immigrants, because they too were trying to escape from something.

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