"Feller institute, known as the
Grande Ligne Mission, was founded in 1840 by Henrietta Feller and Dr. Roussy,
who came from Switzerland. Later, Edwin Bosworth, who came from England,
became secretary of the school. (I am the proud owner of his bible dated
1850). They came to instruct the French Canadiens into the Baptist faith.
This majestic building began as a one room schoolhouse, which now houses
the Feller museum. Feller was a private boarding school for all faiths
and nationalities. There were to be many changes, since the early days.
The mission was closed during World war Two and used as a detention camp
for German prisoners. I can still recall, while out on a visit with my
parents, going to my father's brother, Albert Masseau, who lived in Grande
Ligne (we were living in the States at the time), seeing the high wire
fence surrounding all the territory of Feller, including the farmland.
The lookout towers everywhere inside. The soldiers being taken up for walks
up the Grande Ligne road every day. What a difference their life was compared
to the prisoners in Germany.
In 1948, my father, Theodore Masseau, moved his family back to his native Quebec. He was born in Sabrevois, Quebec. My mother, Gervais Granger, was born in Franklin, Vermont. They opened the General store that had been closed during the war. There was a two story house attached. By today's standards, all this would have looked primitive. There was one gas pump in front of the store; upstairs, his brother Camille had a barber shop. He also had a cobbler shop. My father started a garage in the back shed. He was also a machinist (brought with him from the States, a huge lathe which my brother Teddy has today). He worked during the war in Groton, Connecticut at the submarine base known s The Electric Boat Co. I could tell you stories of that period, with sirens and blackouts (during the war) as we were close to New london, where the Naval and Coast Guard base was.
So, back to Grande Ligne. These were exciting years for all who had anything to do with the re-opening of the Grande Ligne Mission. I went to this fine school as a day pupil (in the early 50's), as did my two brothers and sisters. In 1949, my father built a house and garage on 30 acres of land about a mile up the road. We would walk to school and return home for dinner, no matter if snow, sleet or rain (no school buses for us). Feller Institute was a complete village. It was self contained: there was a farm, and a store with a post office, and a church. Also behind Feller was Massey Hall which housed the gym, infirmary, residences for staff, boiler room which heated both buildings. There were two tubes connecting Feller and Massey Hall. One for the girls and one for the boys. There was also a laundry room which had a huge kitchen, staffed by many, with walk-in refrigerator, etc. 300 students and more ate in the dining room. There was a beautiful chapel, where many Feller graduates stood to receive their diplomas. It was also used for plays, etc. Every morning, all pupils had to congregate in the chapel before classes started. We were read the bible, then other things pertaining to that day, then a prayer. There were pupils from all over Canada, the States and overseas. we were all one happy bunch. There are memories of which I could only begin to tell you. There was a complete farm with dairy cows and a magnificent stand of maples and a sugar house. there was a water tower which furnished every house and building on the property. there was Roussy Memorial church, which my family attended every Sunday, including sunday school. My own children Michel and luke also attended this church, being in he Christmas plays, etc. There are still services now, but in French. Ours was mostly bilingual. Many ministers have passed through this small country church. Some are buried in the cemetery behind Massey Hall, including Mme. Feller, Roussy, Bosworth, Massey, Boisvert and others. I remember most of the church suppers we used to put on. I and the other women and men of the community helped organize this annual event in the fall. We helped serve tables and do mounds of dishes in the kitchen. Our turkey dinners were renown throughout the country. All the food was homemade, with all the trimmings (no catering for us).
The school was very strict, girls had blue uniforms and white blouses; the boys - blue blazers (girls also), grey flannel pants and white shirts, and (horror) ties. I wonder if the schools of today would be better off but..(this is an oldie talking!). The girls were in one wing (left side), the boys (right side), with thick steel fire doors on each wing and on every floor.
The last graduation was in 1966. my sister Charlene Masseau graduated that year. It was a sad graduating class, and more like a funeral than a graduation day. It was the end of an era. Families moved away, children left, only a handful of people are left to this day. There were Paradis, Lord, Peron, Masseau, Brownrigg, McTaggart, Maybee, Auclair, to name a few. Many are no longer with us. It is something that binds us together when we meet. For these were the golden years of our lifetime.
The next year was Expo year 1967. the school was used as a hotel for those going to Expo. Then, in 1968, the 22nd of December is etched in my memory forever. It was about 11:00 AM on a sunday morning, I was in the kitchen preparing dinner, when a frantic call came from my friend Peo, who lived on the property, saying "there's smoke coming from Feller". I looked towards the school, as I only lived three houses from the church, and saw smoke going skyward. I dropped everything and ran down the road to the school. Everyone watched far into the evening as this beautiful building, which had stood for many years, guiding the paths of many people, go up in flames. A community's way of life was ending. We were all in shock. To this day, I can remember every detail of that day. Later the whole building was to be torn down. My brother Teddy had the task of removing every stone, until nothing remained, only a slab of concrete where once stood the chapel.
My brother George (jug) still runs the garage my father built so long ago. I could probably write a book on Feller. there is so much to tell. My husband George, along with his mother and grandmother are buried in the cemetery behind Massey Hall. Someday I will join him. George always loved Grande Ligne as a youth. He would run away from home in Montreal and find his way to his Grandfather's house in Grande ligne or his best friend, Ben Lord. We both knew the early life of this historical setting. It was his first love, no matter what part of the country he was in. It was loved by one and all. Many people come back to see what is left of this once great institution. Even some of the German people who were in detention camp. To those who passed through the doors of this great school, I say we were all privileged. Now, only the ghosts of the past remain.
The reason I am telling you folks about the history of Feller is because I have a friend Janet Clough, who graduated from Feller in 1965. She and I are very interested in locating other students who went to Feller. There has never been a reunion of any kind. Very possibly, through "The Dialogue", which is distributed in all parts of Canada, we can reach students who attended Feller.
So Janet will start with a list of people she lost contact with many years ago. Maiden names: