As it was due to be a rainy day today (7/26/11), we opted to stay local and spend a lot of time typing out poetry and catching up on things. Before the rain started, however, we chose to walk up to the Cavendish Cemetery to see where Lucy Maud Montgomery was buried. There are actually other members of her family buried in that cemetery as well.
After we checked out the graves, we decided to walk up to the Cavendish Homestead again. I had learned that Montgomery’s relatives, John and Jennie Macneill still own the old place and are actually the ones who fixed up the entire homestead for people to come and learn the true history of L.M. Montgomery’s life. It turned out that the receptionist at the bookstore was the Macneill’s granddaughter and offered to call her grandparents to see if we could schedule an appointment. Instead, her grandmother decided to come over to meet with us.
She gave us a tour of the bookstore with a great many details about her land. After sharing, she took us over to her house and allowed us an interview with her–a wonderful blessing. Her husband was a great-grandson of L.M. Montgomery’s Grandfather (His father was Maud’s first cousin), and he was born on the property. They still live in the house in which he was born. John remembered Maud coming to Sunday suppers, but he was a small boy, and she was an old lady, so he didn’t pay much attention to her.
After a general discussion on L.M. Montgomery’s life and books, I asked her about the obstacles in their journey with this homestead. Jennie shared the major obstacle was changing the minds of the tourists who were set on the fiction of Green Gables being the true origins of L.M. Montgomery and unwilling to see the importance of “a hole in the ground.” I then asked about the funeral since she had mentioned in the presentation that she had attended. This is what she shared:
Both Jennie and John had been attending a one room school house across from the cemetery. Because of its location, the school would be cancelled every time there was a funeral (since recess during a funeral service would not give the appropriate atmosphere.) When Lucy Maud Montgomery died, the whole town felt the loss, since she was quite famous by then. Jennie’s father helped dig the grave in the Cavendish Cemetery, while her mother cleaned the church since a number of important dignitaries were expected for the service. Jennie told her mother that she wanted to attend the service. When her mother asked her why, she responded, “I’ve read her books, and I know her.” (She was eleven at the time.)
At the service, Jennie sat in a pew by the wall. The Rev. John Stirling performed the service. Jennie recalled him being very sad and his voice was shaking. He shared a story from one of Montgomery’s short stories, “Each in His Own Tongue,” which is from The Chronicles of Avonlea. The story is about a father forbidding to let his son play the fiddle and not realizing that was how he shared his feelings. She remembers being upset that he didn’t tell the story right, since it was one of her favorites. She considered going up and telling him to sit down so she could tell the story properly and he could expound on it afterwards, but she didn’t.
She also remembered that Ewen Macdonald, Montgomery’s husband wasn’t well, and his sons kept taking him out. In those days, funerals were open casket, and she remembers Rev. Macdonald asking Mrs. Web (Macneill who owned the Green Gables property), “Who is the pretty lady in the casket?” She said he had suffered from bouts of “Religious Melancholy” which today might have been called being bipolar. Lucy tried to hide his condition and also put a great deal of stress upon herself by trying to be perfect at everything she did. Montgomery patterned Emily of New Moon after her own life experience.
It was such a blessing to meet with Jennie. (John was out working on their well which was having some problems.) I’d love to hear his stories as well, but that may be an adventure for another time.