The Perils and Magic of Bolton Pass


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Four months ago I began to archive a few tidbits about Bolton Pass. To this day I can remember driving through the area many times and just being taken back on what I saw on each side of the road. Two months ago I bought some travel books from the late 1800s and low and behold there was a majestic illustration of Bolton Pass.

In 1818 Nathan Hanson married a daughter of Simon Wadleigh and he opened a public house. Even though the road was not really passable for wagons until 1820, those who travelled on foot or horseback needed a place to stay. It was the only road as shown in the history of East Bolton where you might be able to reach the west side of the mountain.


As with a lot of locals in those days Hanson found a mineral spring and offered up its medicinal purposed to his patrons. There were also many tragedies of those that did not make it through the pass.  One day a stranger from the States decided to make his way through the pass but he never came back.

A search party was sent out the next day and they found his body on the east side of the mountain- frozen to death. Owing to the amount of snow and the absence of a road the men had taken some boards and nails and made a coffin for him right on site. A rude slab was made to mark his burial site that said:

Dr. Levi Frisbie, January 28 1800

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Photo from my private book collection.

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Thanks to Rob Forster—History Of Brome County, Quebec, Vol. 1″ by Rev E Taylor, 1908, pp 281-282: “Mr Lester Ball, when a young man setting up sable traps, discovered the Bolton Pass as a suitable place through which to construct a road [a footnote states *settlers were scattered along through the Pass, at each end. But there was no wagon road through connecting them.] He came over and told Col PH Knowlton….[A surveying party] went over to where the old Magog road enters the Bolton Pass at the Isman Coon end and began the survey through the forest. The first day they surveyed as far as the tub factory, just above Knowlton Village […] The second day the survey party started out [from the last place] and that night they camped beside a spring near [Mr Edward Owens house]. The third day the party completed the necesssary survey… [at what is] now called Gilman Corner, where they again struck the old Magog Road, which had been constructed many years before…. [The surveyor made a report and a grant was received from the Legislative Council of Lower Canada to for the construction of a road….] This was about seventy years ago.”




Nathan Fontaine —When going through the pass during the depression my great grand father Kirby would sit at the back of the wagon with a rifle to chase off beggars as my great grand mother would drive the horses.

Rupert H Dobbin– I remember talking with Miss Phelps years ago and believe it was she who told me that the original track ran along the south side of the pass at the foot of the mountain. Being in the shade longer than the north flank it was abandoned and the new and improved route followed the foot of the north side of the pass. Many years later it was re-routed right down the middle which required more than levelling with a lot of gravel required to fill the wet swampy centre of the pass. From the description, I think you may find that the Old Magog Road became what is to this day referred to as Stage Coach Road. That ‘steep drop down’ into the pass is a real very real.

Rob Forster —I inherited a hand tinted photograph by Norman Edson that shows the Pass had almost no trees on it at one point, that would have been in the early 1900s; I was told that once it was deforested it was used to graze sheep. Even in the 1970s, there were very few trees on the more vertical cliffs but now you can hardly see them any more, at least by comparison. Nature is taking the place back.


The Old Magog Road: Townships Heritage Webmagazine
The Old Magog Road was only a track when first opened in 1794, becoming one of the routes settlers took into the Townships from the United States. They came by way of Philipsburg on Lake Champlain. From there, they followed the rough track to Dunham, where they joined the Old Magog Road and continued to Nelsonville (Cowansville), Gilman’s Corner, Calls Mills, and Brome Village. After Brome Village, the road dropped down a steep slope into Bolton Pass near Sally’s Pond and on through the pass to the Missisquoi River Valley. From there, it continued over the ridge to drop down once more to the shores of Lake Memphremagog at Knowlton’s Landing.

Settlers going to Georgeville on the other side of the lake during winter had to cross the lake on the ice. During summer, they took Copp’s Ferry. Until 1820, the Old Magog Road was not considered passable for wheeled vehicles. In 1826, an effort was made to improve it. In 1830, a government grant was arranged and the road was greatly improved so that wagons could pass.

Please take the time to read: A History of Bolton Township and the Municipality of Austin


This was sent by Jean Wighton-Hudson— and posted on the ‎People From The Eastern Townships in Quebec


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News

CLIPPED FROMThe GazetteMontreal, Quebec, Canada15 Apr 1902, Tue  •  Page 7

CLIPPED FROMThe GazetteMontreal, Quebec, Canada09 Sep 1965, Thu  •  Page 4

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

9 responses »

  1. One of my ancestors ( Great or Great/ Great Uncle, Isman Coons owned and operated a Stagecoach Way Station in Bolton Pass in the early 1800s. I have a charcoal sketch of the building and a picture of the building after it was restored

    Liked by 1 person

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