Skip to main content

The Documentary Heritage of the Watts Family

The story of Grantham Hall and of those who called it home could not have been told without the written and photographic documentary heritage of the Watts Family, which has been preserved and carefully handed down in the family from generation to generation for over two hundred years.

Colour photograph of a montage of various archival documents, including letters and portraits of men and women.

Millward Cruickshank family archives.

This concrete testimony to the past is essential to understanding Drummondville’s history and it is a vital piece of the region’s collective memory; the fact that it was preserved at all is as rare as it is significant. Very few families still have archival material of any sort from ancestors who were living at the beginning of the 19th century. Despite the fact that paper is a fairly sturdy material, documents tend not to resist very well to the passage of time.

Black and white photograph of Grantham Hall, a large two-story stone house surrounded by a stone porch, trees, and shrubs.

Grantham Hall, Drummondville, around 1910.

The main reasons for the loss of our ancestors’ documentary heritage are general wear and tear or damage from bad weather, transport, or fire. What does survive is often forgotten in dusty attics, dispersed among relatives, or even discarded by people who don’t understand its value. It is only on very rare occasions, such as in the case of the Watts family, that precious documents are so carefully preserved and handed down that they survive not only for decades but sometimes for centuries, eventually being shared with the public and bringing recognition to those who originally created them.

Colour photograph of a handwritten letter on time-yellowed paper, stamped with a red wax seal.

Millward Cruickshank family archives.

The family collection of archival material was deposited in the archives of the Société d’histoire de Drummond (The Drummond Historical Society) by Jean Millward Cruickshank, the last direct descendant of the Watts Family, thanks to the invaluable support of historical researcher Chantal Proulx and historian Yolande Allard. The archive collection is made up of 33 centimetres of textual materials which includes approximately 500 iconographic documents and four maps, with dates ranging from 1756 to 1932. Specifically, the collection includes numerous handwritten letters—including a few signed by the founder of Drummondville himself, Frederick George Heriot—and deeds, wills, sales agreements, maps and plans, as well as old photos that bring to life a history of over 200 years, including Grantham Hall.

Colour photograph of a woman sitting on a bench, having tea on a porch.

Jean Millward Cruickshank, 2015.

Watch the video Interview with Julie Cruickshank and Jean Millward Cruickshank, (subtitles available in FR and EN) with transcript (EN).

Many others are represented in the collection’s old photo albums besides the Watts and the Sheppard families, namely the Nugents, Campbells, McDougalls, Johnsons, Millars and Newtons. The photographs help us to understand the relationships between them and the role each played in the history of Drummondville.

Watch the video Interview with Charlotte Stevenson Lynn and Victor Alexander Newton Jr., (subtitles available in FR and EN) with transcript (EN).