There are many things that we continue to discover about our favourite Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery. Most know that she is the magical creator of the Anne of Green Gables series, but there are many things we don’t know about her life. For example, she preferred being called Maud instead of Lucy. She was an avid scrapbooker and also a huge cat person (many scrapbook pages contained the real fur of her favourite pet cats). She was a minister’s wife, a mother of two, and a world renowned author.
What people may find especially shocking is that she actually spent over half of her life living in Ontario, away from her beloved Prince Edward Island. After her marriage to Ewan Macdonald in 1911, she was required to follow him to wherever his parish happened to be; in this case it was Ontario.
They first settled in Leaskdale, a small village north of Uxbridge. For this reason, Uxbridge continues to attract tourists with a museum dedicated to Lucy Maud Montgomery. She spent fifteen years in the Leaskdale Manse, publishing eleven of her twenty two novels.
Even so, she did not spend the rest of her life in Uxbridge. In 1926, the Macdonald family had to relocate once again for Ewan’s parish. This time they settled in a small village just west of Toronto called Norval. The Presbyterian Manse gave Maud a wonderful view of the Credit River, and Norval became a place close to her heart.
She wrote in her journal in 1927:
“Norval is so beautiful now that it takes my breath. Those pine hills full of shadows – those river reaches – those bluffs of maple and smooth trunked beech – with drifts of wild white blossom everywhere. I love Norval as I have never loved any place save Cavendish. It is as if I had known it all my life – as if I had dreamed young dreams under those pines and walked with my first love down that long perfumed hill.”
She found many secret havens in and around the area, but the duties and responsibilities of being a minister’s wife also took up a lot of her time. In fact, Ewan was the minister for two parishes in the area, Norval and Union (in Glen Williams). So not only was Maud continuously writing and raising her two sons, but she was also balancing the responsibility of two parishes!
They resided in the quaint Norval village from 1926-1935. In those nine years, Montgomery had at least seven books published and wrote over two volumes of her journals. But, in Norval, she was not known as L.M. Montgomery, Canadian literary sensation- she was simply just Maud Macdonald.
This may explain why, up until recently, not many people have fully realized Norval’s significance in relation to the author. The Norval L.M. Montgomery Society hopes to change this. They are currently working with the Heritage Foundation of Halton Hills to preserve Lucy Maud Montgomery’s legacy in Norval.
Just over the last year, the Children’s Garden of the Senses was unveiled, inspired by the books of Lucy Maud Montgomery. You can find our previous post about the garden here: http://anneofgreengables.com/articles/garden-of-the-senses/
However, the Norval L.M. Montgomery Society has an even bigger project in mind. They hope to purchase the Presbyterian Manse and convert it into the Lucy Maud Montgomery Museum and Literary Centre. Many notable scholars support this vision, including University of Guelph professor Mary Rubio. She writes: “the large, stately Presbyterian Manse and the adjacent Church were the centre of the entire community, and remain well-preserved examples of late 19th century Canadian Ontario architecture.”
The Church was built in 1878 and the Manse in 1888. In 1931, Maud lamented that she hated “to think of all the lovely things being forgotten when I am dead.” According to Rubio, “her home in Norval and the natural beauty of the area were part of those memories.” This would be a way to make sure that the lingering traces of Maud’s life are not forgotten to history.
This project is a large undertaking for the town Halton Hills, and they hope to raise the funds with charitable donations. If you’ve ever wanted to preserve a piece of Canadian history, this is a wonderful chance to become involved with the project. The goal is to raise $800 000 for the purchase of the home by January 2017. You can find out more information here: http://heritagefoundationhalton.ca/
There is still much to learn about the woman behind Anne of Green Gables. L.M. Montgomery and Maud Macdonald are one and the same, yet we often overlook the quiet treasures she left behind as both an author and an active member of her community. Her home in Norval is one of these treasures, and it is time we recognize Maud of Norval.
By Jessica Young, Sullivan Entertainment