The Road to the L.M. Montgomery Museum in Leaskdale

Yuka Kajihara
The Avonlea Traditions Chronicle, Autumn1997, Issue No.21.

The manse in Leaskdale, Ontario where L.M. Montgomery lived with her family from 1911 to 1926 opened to the public this July and August. The 'open-manse' was organized by the L.M. Montgoemry Committee of Uxbridge as a fund-raising activity to aid in its restoration into an LMM museum.

I visited the manse on the bright early afternoon of July 31st. The maple trees in the garden greeted me with rustling leaves. The white house, which was built in 1886, was packed with visitors from various places in Ontario, the States and even from Japan. We surely all know that there is no other place in the world where we can visit the house in which LMM lived and wrote so many of her works. And many think that this is the rightful place for a memorial to LMM herself, as a writer and as a woman.

On the first floor, to the right of the entrance, is the library. In this room, early editions of LMM's books and scrapbooks with many articles on LMM, owned by committee consultant Wilda Clark, were displayed. And the organ that LMM used to play in the Zepher Church was also soundlessly set in the corner as a symbol of LMM as a minister's wife who helped her husband. The people in Leaskdale and Uxbridge who remembered LMM would say that she was a very active and tireless volunteer in the community.

To the left of the entrance hall is the parlor. LMM wrote about it just before moving out for Norval:

It has been the dearest room in the house to me--a room which in my life here took the same place as my little bedroom did in my Cavendish life. It was my room. It was a beautiful room with a pleasing outlook. I wrote all my books here from The Golden Road up. I came here to read my letters and to dream. And I came here to be alone in hours of anguish and dread. How often have I walked up and down it and fought for strength and composure... Stuart, when he was two and three years old and found himself shut out of the parlor when "mother" was writing would sweetly and patiently lie down on the hall floor outside and "throws kisses" to me under the door, desisting not until I had thrown him a kiss back, then going away contented. This room has been a friend to me and now it has vanished out of existence... (Selected Journals, Jan.16, 1926)

Thinking about LMM as an author and mother, I entered her favourite parlor. Even though the furniture had vanished, leaving it with a rather vacant look, the room was brightened by a display of beautiful porcelain dolls made by committee consultant Ed Powell. His hand made 'Anne' doll fits exactly the description in Anne of Green Gables. The room was brightened even more by the presence of the 93 year-old Elsie Bushby Davidson who was maid to LMM and lived with the family in this manse in the 20s. Elsie kindly shared her precious memories of LMM with the visitors.

In the main bed room upstairs, antique clothes were displayed. Among them was the top part of one of LMM's trousseau dresses from 1911. There were also baby robes of LMM's first son, Chester. He was born in this room in the summer of 1912.

In the kitchen on the first floor, visitors were served tea on china with delicious sweets which were baked by the members of the committee and residence in Uxbridge and Leaskdale. A member of the committee told me that they might be able to establish a Bed & Breakfast business inside the manse as a financial resource. And, although the Federal Government recognised the manse as a National Historic Site last February, matching funds from the government have not yet arrived.
Through out my visit I felt that the manse was deeply loved not only by LMM but by the people of Leaskdale and Uxbridge. I witnessed the efforts of the members' fund-raising to restore the manse into the LMM museum. I think that their volunteer spirit resembles the determination and resilience of LMM herself.

The road to a Montgomery Museum seems not to be a smooth one. The wonderful volunteers still have to climb up their 'Alpine Path' to establish their dream. Even though the path is steep, their smiles reminded me of the words of Felicity in The Story Girl: "I DO like a road, because you can be always wondering what is at the end of it."


LMM in Ontario

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Copyright 1999 Yuka Kajihara