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Gordon Bryson Fonds (P672)

Excerpt from a Brysonville general store order form (detail), 1934. Gift of Mr. Selkirk J. Bryson, Gordon Bryson Fonds P672, M2005.75.1.1 © McCord Museum

The vegetable gardens of Brysonville

"2.......lbs........... Beans.... Montreal Wax.,,....... .19.......... 38
2........ " ................."........ Stringless Green...... .17.......... 34
3........ " .............Peas...... Blue Bantam............ .20.......... 60
2........ " .................".........American Wonder..... .20.......... 40
5........ " ............Swede Turnip Elephant............. .32..... 1.. 60
3........ " ............[Mangels] Mammoth Long Red.. .26.......... 78
3........ " ................." ........Giant Rose Sugar...... .26.......... 78"

Intended for human and animal consumption, the colourfully named seeds on this list were supplied by legendary Montreal seed merchant William Ewing Company Limited. They can be seen in one of the numerous completed order forms found in the archives of Gordon Bryson, the former owner of the Brysonville general store in Montérégie. Some of the varieties on this list like "Stringless Green" beans and "Blue Bantam" peas can still be found in Quebec vegetable gardens. Others, like the "Montreal Wax" bean, an early variety with a long yellow pod specially developed by William Ewing, seem to have disappeared from the market once the store closed in 1963.

Although it only presents a sample of the wares sold at the Brysonville general store, this document nonetheless reminds us that, in the early 1930s, market gardening and animal husbandry were still critical to the livelihoods of the citizens in this small town in the Upper St. Lawrence Valley.

P672 Gordon Bryson Fonds. - 1916-[before 2005]. - 5 cm of textual records. - 7 photographs.

Biographical Sketch

Gordon Bryson was born in 1885 in Brysonville, in the Upper St. Lawrence Valley. He was the son of James Bryson (1850-1921), a farmer, and Catherine McClintock (1850-1939). As a child, he attended McCormick's School, a one-room schoolhouse on the neighbouring farm. On June 16, 1916, he married Mary Ann Cairns (1877-1959). A native of the village known as Cairnside or St. Pierre, his bride studied at the Fertile Creek School for least two years. The couple had only one child, Selkirk James (1917-2009), who married Verna Olive Cullen (1920-2005) in 1942.

As its name indicates, the hamlet of Brysonville (also known as Bryson or Bryson's) was named in honour of the family who settled in the area. Actually part of the parish of Très-Saint-Sacrement, the town is located on the south shore of the Châteauguay River, halfway between the villages of Howick and Ormstown. Initially devoted primarily to farming, Brysonville largely owed its development to the presence of the Grand Trunk Railway, which cut through it beginning in 1883. Grand Trunk built a train station there, called Bryson's Station (or sometimes Point Round Station), as well as a water tank to supply the steam locomotive boilers and a railway bridge over the Châteauguay River (named Point Round Bridge). In addition, a post office opened in the village train station in 1899.

It is not known what date the Brysonville general store began operating. In addition to supplying local farmers, this business supplied the train crews who would stop in the small town. Initially a farmer like his father, Gordon Bryson purchased the store from a neighbouring farmer who went bankrupt. This transaction probably took place some time in the 1920s and, shortly thereafter, a gas station supplied by the Shell Oil Company opened right next to the store.

Following Gordon Bryson's death on December 12, 1944, his widow Mary Ann Cairns took over the running of the business. In 1948, the Brysonville train station ceased operations and the post office moved into the general store. William Cairns, Mary Ann's brother, worked there as postmaster until 1956, when the store closed its doors.

Scope and Content

This fonds focusses primarily on the business activities of Gordon Bryson as the owner of the Brysonville general store. It documents the products sold, their prices, and the purchasers' names. It draws a fascinating portrait of consumption in a rural area, more specifically a hamlet whose development was dependent on the presence of the railway. This collection of documents covers a period of nearly 25 years, from the late 1920s to the early 1950s.

Order forms and invoices issued between 1932 and 1952 document the goods purchased by the general store and some of its major suppliers. While these records illustrate the variety of products sold, notably food products, fuel, medicine, clothing, shoes and hardware, they also provide information about the suppliers, the majority of which were located in Montreal. Among these suppliers were the Forbes Brothers - Wholesale Grocers; William Ewing Co. - Seed Merchants; Birks, Corner & Co. - Wholesale Grocers & Tea Importers; and Frothingham Starke Seybold Ltd.

Invoice books illustrate a sampling of the products sold and consumer prices from 1929 to 1931, in addition to mentioning the names of most of the customers. There are also two inspection certificates for weighing equipment, issued by the Inspector of Weights and Measures (federal government) in 1928 and 1931.
The fonds also contains seven photographs. Portraits of Mary Cairns and Gordon Bryson can be found alongside images of Brysonville, the general store and adjoining Shell gas station, and the water tank located next to the railway tracks.

Source of title proper: Based on the creator of the fonds.

Immediate source of acquisition: The documents were donated to the McCord Museum by Selkirk James Bryson in 2005.

Language: The documents are in English and French, but primarily in English.

The fonds is divided into the following series and sub-series:


Last update: March 11, 2018