Reford, Robert Wilson
Les Amis des Jardins de Métis Collection
The arrival of a fishing camp at the mouth of the Metis River was not greeted with enthusiasm by all local residents. While many were employed building the lodge and landscaping the grounds, others were put out of work by the closure of the lumber mill and timber establishment at the mouth of the river.
Letters written by locals in 1886 and 1887 to Thomas Fenwick, the former minister at the Presbyterian Church at Leggatt’s Point, provide a fascinating portrait of the impact of Sir George Stephen’s new fishing camp. Some locals were grateful for having a boom in their business supplying the domain with cream, butter, eggs and potatoes to the Lodge. But the closure of the mill put many out of work. The Price Brothers manager left and took much of his business with him. The boarding houses emptied and business slackened. Some even suggested they would have to sell their farms and predicted the demise of the English-speaking community in Metis.
To calm the discontent, the Catholic priest in St. Octave reported that Stephen bought seed for the local farmers to help them start their crops. One beneficiary of the change was the local church. Stephen was a generous donor and made a contribution of $50 to the collection plate on his one and only visit in 1888.