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Le Courant

Fall 2008 | 10

A recognition tribute to Walter George Belknap

Susan Beaton, Andrée Bernard

On Friday, October 12, 2007, a recognition evening was held in honour of Walter George Belknap, Manager of the Lake Lyster Fish and Game Club Hatchery from 1900 to 1940. The evening was sponsored by the Parc Decouverte Nature whose facilities are located just outside the village of Baldwin's Mills, Quebec. Approximately 100 persons were in attendance to learn about a man who began one of the earliest fish hatcheries in Quebec.
Nature enthusiasts and conservationists met at the beginning of the evening in the reception area of the Louis-Roch Séguin Building for a friendly get-together and an aperitif. On view, for the guests to sec, were old ledgers displayed behind glass of the records for the fish hatchery. These records told the reader of the thousands and thousands of speckled trout, grey trout and salmon fingerlings that were raised at the fish hatchery in Baldwin's Mills and trucked to streams, rivers and lakes through¬
out the Eastern Town¬ships and further afield.
All the guests moved to the dining room on the bottom floor of the building after an appropriate period of time. The room was tastefully set up and all were seated around large oval tables in groups of about ten persons per table. The Belknap fam¬ily was shown to the table of honour near the front of the room. Fam¬ily members included Merrick and Jim Belknap, two sons of Walter George, or "W.G.", as he known by family and friends; Merrick's son, Keith Belknap; Jim's daughter, Robyn Belknap; and a nephew, Zack Belknap. Seated with the family members were friends Susan Beaton and Pearl Goodsell. Keith and David Baldwin were placed at the same table representing Pinacle Holdings, Inc. and Mr. and Mrs. Brian Luce were there to represent the Pinacle Fish and Game Club.

Dinner soon followed which consisted of oys¬ter stew, a hot and cold buffet, assorted cheese and desserts. The more adventuresome guests were invited into the adjoining garage to sample oysters in the shell.
Walter George Belknap was the son of John and Martha Belknap of South Barnston and "W. G." was born in their home on April 22, 1864. He attended the local school and when he became of age to learn a trade, he was apprenticed under John Fox of Barnston as a carpenter and a builder. Their work was much sought after throughout the Townships and as far away as New Hampshire in the United States. The United Church in Baldwin's Mills, built in 1888, is a fine example of their workmanship which can still be seen today. In 1898, W.G. Belknap founded the fish hatchery in Baldwin's Mills. It was at this time that Mr. Belknap made his most notable contribution to the fish culture industry. He was the first fish culturist to successfully raise fingerlings in the province of Quebec and possibly in all of Canada.
In 1900, the Lake Lyster Fish and Game Club was formed. According to Merrick Belknap, the club was formed "through the combined efforts of Albert E. Baldwin, druggist of Coaticook, and W. K. Baldwin general merchant of Baldwin's Mills, Walter G. Belknap, carpenter and millwright, R.H. Gooley, hotel owner of Coaticook, and several prominent business men of Rock Island, Sherbrooke and Coaticook." This enterprise ran until 1905when the Lake Lyster fish and Game Club was sold to the dominion Government and expansion of the business soon followed. "W.G." was now considered to be employed by the Civil Service of Canada and his wages came from Ottawa, Ontario. In 1916, the Quebec government bought the business and "W. G." and his workers were now paid by the Ministry of Fish and Game. The distribution of fish from the hatchery in Baldwin's Mills was first done by a horse drawn vehicle, then by car in 1914, and, finally by trucks starting in 1929. The family played an important part in the running of the fish hatchery along with "W. G.". His wife, the former Bertha Annis, kept the record books and did most of the driving in the transporting of the fish throughout the province of Quebec and into Ontario. She did this on top of raising a family of nine children! Hiram and Richard Belknap, sons of "W. G.", worked at the fish hatchery during the 1930's. Another son George also worked at the hatchery until 1927 when he was transferred to the Magog Fish Hatchery.

"W.G." was a well-respected fish culturist and always available to other people who were interested in the raising of fish. He remained active at the hatchery until close to his death on September 1, 1940.
In 2001, the name of the fish hatchery was changed to become known as the Station Piscicole de Baldwin's Mills. The Town of Coaticook became a partner of the hatchery in 2005 which led to further improvements and renovations and, a new name change once more. Today the facility is called le Parc Découverte Nature.
Each year le Parc Découverte Nature holds a fund raiser for projects which they consider to be important to all segments of the population. An observation tower has been erected to view a local marsh, new pools for fish have been built, and, of course, a new facility for raising fingerlings. Michel Dupuis, a member of the Parc Découverte Nature, is especially interested in the introduction of sport fishing to children. Each summer groups of children come on field trips to Baldwin and on certain promotional days are given fishing rods to remember the experience.
At the ceremony held on this year's recognition evening, Carolyn Sage, the co-ordinator of this year's fund raise, announced the planting of 100 new trees to be planted at this site. Another tribute by André Langevin, President of the association, was to also announce the founding of a research center to study why some types of fish are in danger of extermination and to find a way for them to survive.
As part of the tribute to William George Belknap, Mr. Langevin told the family that one of the pools on the property would be named "Lac Walter G. Belknap". His tribute closed with the presentation of a plaque to the Belknap family. Jim and Merrick Belknap both expressed their thanks to the Parc Decouverte Nature for a wonderful evening and in giving credit to their father's accomplishments.
Merrick Belknap summed up the evening by telling the audience, while showing the plaque, that "W. G." would have been pleased!
--Susan Beaton
Research: Stanstead Historical Society Journal, Vol. 14, 1991, pg. 55, Biography Walter George Belknap, written by his son Merrick Belknap.
The Record, October 15, 2007, Oysters in the park and a plaque for an ancestor by Nancy Nourse, Record Correspondent.
Civil Service List of Canada: 1911, Parliamentary Sessional Papers

Le Courant

Le Courant is published by the Society every year. Society's members, professional and amateur historian shared with the readers results of their searches. Articles are available in English and French. This publication received generous support from local sponsors that the Society wishes to thank with all it's gratitude.


Fall 2008 | 10 | Sommaire

Coaticook Historical Society

34 Main Stree East
Coaticook, Québec
(819) 849-1023

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Over 23,000 pictures from our weekly newspaper Le Progrès.
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