PEI's oldest museum features history of Montague
by Treva McNally
In 2003, the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Society presented the Garden of the Gulf Museum in Montague an award for outstanding preservation of heritage on Prince Edward Island, and it was well deserved. P.E.I.'s oldest museum preserves and celebrates the history of some of the Montague's earliest inhabitants: the Miq Maq; the Roma settlers, who were sent by Louis XV of France to grow food for the soldiers at Louisburg in Cape Breton; and the Brudenell settlers, who left Scotland after the battle of Culloden to start a new life on this side of the ocean.
The beautiful former Post Office and Custom Building where the museum is located is made of Island brick and sandstone quarried further up the river. The brick maker, Robert Stewart, inscribed a number on many of the bricks to keep count of them and those numbers are still visible on the bricks. Large medallions on the sides of the building over the corner entrance represent the P.E.I. penny and, walking around the building, you can see where one corner is worn down from wagon wheels continually cutting the corner too closely on the way to the Post Office.
Inside, a pioneer exhibit includes a handsome hardwood highchair that converts into four positions, including a rocker, originally bought from Eaton's for $2. The Miq Maq display includes both quill and split basketry as well as a unique bark inlaid table, and in the school exhibit, a map of Prince Edward Island bears the words, "Air conditioned by the Gulf of St. Lawrence." A genealogy section contains family records collected over the years, and summer staff are kept busy sorting and recording the various news clippings into family registers. For anyone with Montague roots, it is worth the time to visit and see what is on file.
Amy Beck and Niki Lewis sorting newspaper clippings for family files.
The Centennial Album (with a note at the back stating it was completed at 5 am on July 1, 1967!) is a wall-hung page-turning display of old photographs and newspaper clippings. It records all the important events of the Montague community and includes a photograph of the first photo finish of a horse race in Canada which took place in 1915 in Montague for a purse of $500.
The featured exhibit this year honours the 200th Anniversary of the arrival of the Brudenell Settlers from Perthshire, Scotland. Artifacts donated by descendants of those five settler families, the MacLarens, Stewarts, Gordons, Robertsons, and MacFarlanes, include a piece of a tartan kilt believed worn at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 and a Gaelic bible from 1821.