One of the best parts about writing historical fiction is doing the research. I love discovering things that maybe people haven’t, or see something in a new way.
Maud had been very careful about what she left behind. She burned her correspondence, so the only letters we have are the ones other people, like her best friend and cousin Penzie, and her two pen pals Ephraim Weber and G.B. MacMillan kept.
Over the years, I visited the L.M. Montgomery sites and archives, exploring what she left behind. This helped me to connect to Maud, her time and setting. Cavendish is where most of the novel takes place, so I spent a lot of time there doing the walk that Maud would do from the church to her home, or from her home to school. When I visit the Island it is usually the first place I go. The cemetery is nearby, at the crossroads, and I pay my respects to the author.
I was also grateful to have the opportunity to visit the Island during different seasons, so I could feel what it meant to be there on the cusp of Spring. This was the Island in May 2014 when they had a terrible winter, with a storm just the week before I had arrived. You could still see ice on the water.
The site of L.M. Montgomery’s Cavendish Home or the Macneill Homestead is on the land where Maud had lived with her grandparents, and is elsewhere her Uncle John had lived with his family, including her cousin Lucy (Lu). As discussed on the L.M. Montgomery Literary Society’s website, when Uncle John’s grandson, the late John Macneill (who just recently passed away) and his wife, Jennie, read the journals, they wanted to do something to honour Maud, so they set up a beautiful path and garden with quotes from the journal. The home itself has gone into disrepair and torn down, but the foundation still remains and now a garden is growing from the roots. The Homestead also has some artifacts from the home including the original letter desk. Unfortunately, someone stole the stamp that was attached to it, it has never been recovered.
The post office the family ran is also still there, rebuilt to look like the original one and, from my understanding, is still managed by the Macneill family. The picture to the right is from the post office, welcoming people to the take a look around, as there is a museum attached which discusses the history of the post office on the Island. The poster also shows a picture of the old homestead as it was when Maud had lived there. You can see the top window which was her bedroom and the tree she could look at while she wrote.
The post office has been built to look like the original homestead. When I took this picture, it was twilight, Maud’s favourite time of day, and the window here is supposed to mimic the original. Lovely light in the front of the house, isn’t it?
The day I visited the site in 2014, Jennie Macneill accompanied my friend and I and she showed us around Cavendish, pointing out where some of Maud’s friends had lived.
Penzie Macneill’s house next door
Nate Lockhart’s house across from the Baptist Church
Where Mollie’s House Stood
I also attended a church service on Sunday at the new old church where Maud’s organ now sits. The old church featured in the novel was torn down and this is the one put in its place. The one in the novel is near the cemetery. That’s because of this picture I found in the archives where the stones are close by the church, as was custom.
As you can see, I could go on and on about the paths I walked, like Lover’s Lane:
Or finding the tree that Maud talks about in her journals:
Stepping into Maud’s world, hopefully allowed me to show you how sacred these spaces were to her…and what they are to me.