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The early days of the border

After the treaty was signed, customs posts began appearing all along the border. By 1850 there were five between Lakes Champlain and Memphremagog, at Philipsburg, Frelighsburg, Sutton, Potton (Troy) and Stanstead. The least active is the one in Sutton Township. Established in 1844, it was first run by Anson Kemp and later by Dr. Benjamin Seaton. It was renamed Abercorn in 1848 after the town’s newly opened post office adopted that name.

Map showing 13 customs posts on the Canada-U.S. border between Lake Champlain and Lake Memphremagog. From left to right: Lacolle-Rouses Point, Haut Richelieu, Noyan, Saint-Georges de Clarenceville, Saint-Armand, Morse’s Line, East-Pinnacle-Richford, Abercorn (Sutton)-Richford, Glen Sutton-Richford, Highwater, Stanstead and Stanstead.

A string of customs ports dotted the Canada-U.S. border.


A montage of three images: top, the parchment formalizing Anson Kemp's appointment; below left, the large Victorian house of Dr. Seaton, who was also a customs officer; on the right, the former house of the miller, which also served as a customs post.

Anson Kemp was Sutton’s first customs officer, followed by Dr. Seaton, whose large Victorian house in Abercorn (left) served as a customs post, as did the former miller’s house (right).


Two other customs posts are later added along Sutton Township’s border  — between East Pinnacle and Richford and between Glen Sutton and East Richford.

The practice of housing customs posts in private homes continued until the mid-20th century.

Iboya Szabo Hancock recounts the cohabitation involving her husband’s family and the East Pinnacle customs post in the 1930s and 1940s.

Side view of the combined East Pinnacle house and customs post with: a flagpole in front, and an arrow under the words Canada and US to indicate the location of the border.

The Hancock family’s home in East Pinnacle housed a custom’s office for several decades. This photo was taken in the 1940s.


Recollections from Iboya Szabo-Hancock about the East Pinnacle customs post (captions available in both French and English). View this video with an English  transcript.

The customs posts along the Vermont border are far apart, so many crossing points are unguarded and lack any real barriers.

In the photo at left, small road signs block the way to the border; on the right, the border is indicated by a simple strip of paint on the ground. One side reads Canada and the other U.S.A.

A crudely barricaded road and a strip of paint on the ground are not enough to stop anyone who wants to cross the border between Canada and the United States.


Even former customs officers Wayne Kemp and François Cusson admit that the border with Vermont is not easy to guard.

Wayne Kemp and François Cusson discuss the complexity of customs work (captions available in both French and English).  View this video with an English transcript.