Twin Danvilles to Celebrate Another 50-year Anniversary

Deux Danvilles Jumelées Célèbrent Un Autre 50e Anniversaire

By Sharon Lakey
Reginald Smith, Town Moderator in 1960, gave official warning for the inhabitants of the Town of Danville, Vermont, who were legal voters in Town Meeting “to meet at the City Hall in Danville, Quebec, Dominion of Canada, on Saturday, July 30, 1960, at 4:00 p.m., to transact the following business:

  1.         To see if the Town will vote to elect Honorary Town officers from among the citizens of Danville, Province of Quebec, Canada to be named to comparable offices in Danville, Vermont, United States of America
  2.         To establish a permanent record of the kind invitation of the citizens of Danville, Canada, to the citizens of Danville, Vermont, and to extend expressions of appreciation therefore.
  3.         To transact any other business that may come before said meeting. Dated at Danville, Vermont, this 18th day of July, A.D. 1960.
Harold W. Beattie
Warren C. Church
Howard G. Calkins
Board of Selectman”

So began the official twinning of the two Danvilles, one that the Canadians at the official ceremony claimed was “the first time in the annuls of the history of the United Sates of America that a Town Meeting has been authorized and carried beyond the borders of the States.”

It was a connection that began in the early 1800s, when a group of New Englanders from Danville, Vermont were enticed to make the 130+ mile trek north in wagons to resettle in Canada. Some of the immigrants may have been American Loyalists, who were unhappy about outcome of the revolution. However, most of the immigration is attributed to the fact that Canada was offering 200 acres per person for making the change. The immigrants, missing their New England home, began referring to their new one as Danville, and it stuck. (Immigration wasn’t always a one-way trip, either. Roland Perkins, of Danville, Vermont, was born in Kingsey, five miles from Danville, Quebec.)

Simeon Flint, a settler who arrived in 1806 from Vermont, was the first Governor of the new Danville. He bought land around beautiful Burbank Pond and sold it to other Danville immigrants.  According to the Danville Times monthly newsletter published between 2004 and 2007, “Our Danville coat-of-arms has the stag from the coat-of-arms of Vermont, reminding us that our town takes its name from Danville, Vermont.”  From the same article it is stated, “By 1812 children were being taught school in his house and in 1817 he contributed money to build Danville’s first school, reputedly on the site of today’s Carmelite Monastery.” Danville was officially recognized as a town in 1860.

The offer of free land was given as an enticement to English-speaking settlers to what is known as the Canadian Eastern Provinces, and it remained the prevalent language until the mid-1970s. At that time, a migration of the younger population to English-speaking Canada and Montreal contributed to a reversal of the prominent language to French. However, the New England roots of Danville are still apparent.

In 2004, three artists from our area accepted an invitation to take part in the annual Artists Symposium held in Danville. Jeff Gold, a wood block artist from Walden, took part in the event for several years. “We had a special invitation,” remembers Gold. “The town wanted to reestablish the ‘twinning’ between the two towns.” He reports that they were treated like royalty, and he thoroughly enjoyed the four-day event. “About 50 artists are scattered throughout the town and are actually working on pieces while residents and tourists watch,” said Gold. During that event he created an interesting wood block print that depicts a farm in the area.

Gold describes the scenery as “more flat, but rural like Vermont.” He remarked on the architecture, which he says is, “much like here–New England style.”  That is corroborated by the Danville Times which describes their Green on one of their articles. “The Square still fulfills its traditional role providing us with a diverse range of goods and services such as; the bakery, butcher shop, drugs store, hardware store, bistro, barbershop, beauty salons, several restaurants, pet supplies, and insurance and real estate offices.”

One of the most striking things encountered during this research was the feel of similarity between the two Danvilles. Our Canada twin was built on a major road, the Chemin Craig, a road built in the 19th century connecting Quebec to New England.  Like US Route 2, this highway now brings speed as well as commerce.  The Danville Times reported that the town had its own highway project to enhance the town: “Water Street was narrowed in order to slow down traffic at this strategic entry point to town. A sidewalk was added, and a lane reserved for cyclists. This stretch of Water Street is bordered by the ADS elementary school, Hôtel-deville, Burbank Pond, the Fleuron seniors’ residence, and Reine-de-la-Patate  with its mini-put and playground. The improvements make Water Street safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and far more attractive. Oak trees have been planted, thanks to the generosity of coop forestière de l’Estrie. The trees will provide welcome shade in years to come.”

Here are a few of the concerns covered in the Danville Times that sound familiar: a strong effort to recycle, worry about a downturn in the economy, a Chamber of Commerce that urges support of local business, an encouragement of tourism and treating tourists in a friendly manner, advice on how to protect your debit card, caution about the use of alcohol and driving, denouncing of vandalism, and the promotion of democracy by advocating citizen involvement in the political process.

The celebration of the connection between the two Danvilles 50 years ago was a great success. According to the Canadian reports, “A cavalcade of over a hundred cars left the Town proper and touring by Route 5, approached the Town by Academy Street where the official ceremony of ‘Opening the Doors,’ took place.” Afterwards, a parade formed and dignitaries from both Danvilles were seated upon a float and taken to the Town Hall. Filled to capacity, many had to sit in their cars and listen to the proceedings over a loud speaker system. “It was so crowded,” reports Kate Beattie, “that no one noticed the pick pocket that cleaned out several of our leading citizens.”

In spite of that unfortunate event, every one attending had a great time. We reciprocated with an honoring of Danville, Quebec, at the fair later that summer. Most remarkable was a chuckwagon and team that was shipped to Vermont for Hertel and Margot Boisvert and their two children, Chantel and Jean-Louis, to drive back, following the original route taken by their forefathers—all 134 miles of it.  “At three-and-a half miles an hour, it took ten days,” reported the Boisvert’s.

Now, 50 years later, it is time to renew our vows of friendship and cooperation. On July 3, we are planning to send a busload of well-wishers and dignitaries to participate in the ceremonies in Danville, Quebec. A reciprocal honoring of our twin town will occur, once again, on Danville Fair Day.

French translation of headline by Wayne Majuri

This article was first published in the March, 2010, edition of The North Star Monthly 

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