Christie hits treasure trove researching Amherst author

Second part of two-part story first published in Fridays Amherst News

Dave Mathieson
Published on June 18, 2014

Clare Christies three books are available throughout Amherst, including at the Cumberland County Museum and Archives (above). Displaying the books are (from left) Natasha Richard, curator at Cumberland County Museum & Archives, Chantelle Taylor deputy chief librarian at the Four Father’s Library in Amherst, Marie Trueman, of the Cumberland County Genealogical Society and Clare Christie. The booklets, are entitled ‘Me, Myself and I: to Age 4,’ ‘Grace McLeod Rogers; Moving On,’ and ‘Read About Amherst.’

Dave Mathieson - Cumberland News Now

AMHERST – Upon researching the life of author Grace McLeod Rogers, Amherst’s Clare Christie hit the mother lode.

She compiled that research into a book in 2010. The biography is entitled Grace McLeod Rogers: Moving On, and is now available throughout Amherst.

Grace McLeod Rogers lived in Amherst and wrote ‘Stories of the Land of Evangeline.’

Christie worked with her great grandson, John McLeod Rogers, when they both articled at a law firm in the mid-80’s.

“We worked in Halifax in a space that was so small that when he backed up his chair I had to make sure my chair was into my table or the other way around,” said Christie. “He ended up becoming a manager of that law firm and I ended up leaving at the end of my articles.”

Christie became interested in the life of Rogers and would sometimes ask John about her.

They have kept in touch over the years.

“One time when I talked to him about it and he said, ‘my cousin Carol has this suitcase.’”

In 2006, Christie travelled to Gananoque, Ont., where Carol lived.

“I went to Ontario to see her and I’ll never forget it,” said Christie. “I went to see her where she worked in Gananoque and she came in with this suitcase and said, ‘you can borrow it.’ It’s a writers dream.”

Rogers died in Toronto in 1958 at the age of 95, but before she died she whittled her belongings down into that one suitcase.

“In it was all her memorabilia to do with her writing career and all her reviews. She had fabulous reviews,” said Christie.

Christie also received a lot of letters written by Rogers.

“They couldn’t read these letters because of the writing, but I was an English teacher and I can read just about anything, so I was able to read them and they got a kick out of that,” said Christie.

In 1890 Rogers published Tales from the Land of Evangeline, true stories of Acadia between 1690-1796. It was re-published in 1923 as Stories of the Land of Evangeline.

Rogers’ books were known throughout the world, but her life in Amherst didn’t reflect her fame.

“One thing of interest was, here was this amazing woman who was having her work published in school books and anthologies throughout the English speaking world, in New Zealand and Australia, but here in Amherst she was quite lonely,” said Christie. “Her husband had been the Mayor of Amherst but he was a fair bit older and towards the end of their lives they became somewhat estranged, over politics actually.”

Her true friend was Dr. Steel who is represented in the sculpture in front of the Baptist Church in Amherst.

“He was kind of her soul mate, so when he died she was really quite bereft.”

Rogers was passionate about politics and couldn’t understand why other women in Amherst didn’t share her passion.

She also held recitals at her home on Rupert Street in Amherst, where there was readings of novels and poetry, and the playing of the piano.

“The door would open right at the specific time that had been mentioned, and then it would be closed,” said Christie. “The idea was that you were waiting at the door when it was ready to start.”

Christie then read a quote of Rogers’ from her book.

“I’ve had some wonderful tea parties. Women and children waiting across the street in anticipation of my door being opened at the appointed hour to be invited in. They knew the door would then be shut, and if they were late they would miss out on the event.”

“She was definitely a character,” said Christie.

Christie completed the book in 2010.

“I read it, I was pleased with it and decided to make it available to the public,” said Christie. “The Rogers were thrilled with it. They printed it for a commemorative booklet for their family reunion.”

Christies third book is a collection of mostly histories she has written for the Amherst News, which she started writing in the spring of 2011.

“When I was first asked I said no but that first night I came up with 12 ideas and the next day I decided to change my mind.”

Some stories are about people, while others are about places.

“It varies,” said Christie. “Writing is a wonderful way to gain access to people and places, so that’s been fun.”

Another of the three books, entitled Me, Myself and I: to Age 4, was discussed in the June 13 edition of the Amherst News.

All three books are available at the Cumberland Museum, the Cumberland YMCA, at the Artisans Market at the Amherst Curling Club, at Stephanie’s Market in Dayle’s Department Story, at McCulley’s Market, and from John McKay at the Farmers’ Market on Fridays at the Lions Den.