Lucy Maud Montgomery is the famous author of the beloved Anne of Green Gables series, and a well-loved figure in the Canadian literary landscape, with 20 novels, a book of poetry, 530 short stories, 500 poems and 30 essays to her legacy. Her popular work is mostly based in the Atlantic province of Prince Edward Island where she was born and grew up. But did you know that this talented woman spent fifteen years in the community of Leaskdale, in the Township of Uxbridge, Durham Region?
For L.M. Montgomery enthusiasts, Discover Uxbridge, with support from the L.M. Montgomery Society of Ontario, has created a self-guided driving trail, providing participants an opportunity to learn about this author’s life in and around the Uxbridge area, while they take in the beauty of the region. The trail encourages you to follow in the footsteps of Lucy Maud Montgomery (Maud for short), and engages you along the way with a podcast full of fascinating information about each stop, and how it is connected to this prolific writer and national treasure.
The guided tour begins at the historic Uxbridge train station, which today is home to the York Durham Heritage Railway. This not-for-profit organization is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the heritage of Canadian railways in South-Central Ontario, and runs popular train rides and themed events for the public. It is from this spot that Maud first arrived in Uxbridge in 1911, and it was from this very platform that she would travel to and from Toronto to attend meetings of the Canadian Author Association.
Another stop is the Leaskdale Manse National Historic Site, the home where Maud lived with her husband, Reverend Ewan Macdonald. Ten of her 22 novels were written from this house, mostly featuring Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables) and Emily Starr (Emily of New Moon). In 1993, with lobbying from a local community member who recognized the significance of Maud’s writing, the Township of Uxbridge purchased her home from the church where her husband ministered. By 1997 the Canadian government bestowed upon it a national historical recognition. The Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario eventually took ownership and today promotes Maud’s life and accomplishments, maintains and preserves the site, and operates tours, teas and other Montgomery-themed events throughout the year.
The Uxbridge Historical Centre brings to life the days of early settlers in the area. This stop on the trail, which also runs seasonal tours and events, boasts a collection of ten historical buildings on the property—three of which have a direct connection to Maud. One, the Scott Township Municipal Hall, was a place where Maud likely attended many community events in her lifetime. Two other buildings made appearances in the television series Road to Avonlea. What would Maud think of her beloved characters being brought to life on the television, we wonder?
There are a total of fifteen stops on this wonderful and well-planned tour, and we invite you to visit each and every one. In a recent Toronto Star article, Lisa-John Mackenzie, Tourism Development Coordinator for the Township of Uxbridge, explains the vision for this tour. She says, “For Lucy Maud Montgomery enthusiasts, history buffs, and fans of Anne of Green Gables, the Lucy Maud Montgomery Trail provides a safe and fun way to get out to explore our area and hear the incredible story through Maud’s voice of what life was like for the famous author living here 100 years ago.”
Of the legendary author herself, Melanie Whitfield, president of the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario says, “She never gave up her love of [Prince Edward Island], and visited it many times while she lived in Leaskdale. But she also came to love the manse and the Leaskdale sideroad. When she arrived here, the manse was the first place that she could call a home of her own.”
From the age of 16, Maud had already written poetry and short stories for magazines. By the time she married the Reverend Ewen Macdonald, she was independently wealthy. She could therefore afford a maid for the time she was in Leaskdale. Melanie says, “This was important because, in her line of work, she was so busy with the church. Her most important thing was to try to find time for herself to write, and having a maid gave her that opportunity.” It was in the parlour of the manse that Maud set pen to paper, and she describes in her journals how wonderful it was to have a place of her own to set up her writing tools.
Lucy Maud Montgomery was a woman of humour and of great intelligence. Though she never found her kindred spirit in the Uxbridge area (a yearning about which she wrote in her journals), she did find many close friends. Her contemporary critics in Toronto referred to her work as fantastical children’s stories when it was released. Yet none of her novels have been out of print, and the Anne of Green Gables story has been published in over 40 languages. Just one of the many reasons to love this extraordinary writer—as you will find out when you travel the trail!
For more information on how you can begin your Lucy Maud Montgomery Trail adventure today visit https://discoveruxbridge.ca/lucy-maud-montgomery-trail/. To learn more about Lucy Maud Montgomery’s life in Leaskdale, or to book a tour of the Leaskdale Manse National Historic Site visit https://lucymaudmontgomery.ca/.
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES and other indicia of ANNE are trademarks and Canadian official marks of the Anne of Green Gables Licensing Authority Inc. L.M.MONTGOMERY is a trademark of Heirs of L.M. Montgomery Inc.
Story by Katherine Ryalen