A window to the past

A window to the past
Bill Busteed arrayed a selection of his family’s historical documents on his table; he has crates more that were very well preserved in the attic of his family’s home (Photo : William Crooks)

Knowlton man seeks preservation for family’s extensive historical documents

By William Crooks

Local Journalism Initiative

Bill Busteed, a retired man living in Knowlton, is actively seeking a new home for his extensive collection of historical documents, some dating back to the 1700s. These documents chronicle the rich history of his family and their homestead on the Restigouche River in the Gaspé, which spans over two centuries.

“I’ve reached an age where the things I have need to be dispersed out,” said Busteed during a June 17 conversation with The Record at his home. “We don’t want to leave these things to the next generation.” Busteed, who has been living in Knowlton for 21 years, has been meticulously organizing his belongings, including a vast array of historical documents, in preparation for their transfer to a suitable repository.

Busteed’s family home, built in 1800, was a cornerstone of his family’s history. “My family built the home in 1800, and we lived in it for 209 years,” he said. However, located within the unceded territories of Listuguj Miꞌgmaq First Nation, the property was the subject of conflict, seen as a symbol of colonialism.

In 2009, Busteed sold the house and all the land to the Canadian government, and it was eventually transferred to Listuguj First Nation. “Rather than live there and go through conflict,” Busteed explained, “I decided to move back to Knowlton, where I felt very much at home.”

In sorting through his papers, Busteed discovered numerous historical documents that provide a window into his family’s past and the broader history of the region. One of the most notable items in his collection is a letter about Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1838. The letter, written by a young girl attending school in England (in exquisite handwriting), describes the grand procession and the unique spectacle of a printing press distributing verses about the Queen to the crowd.

“The procession on the coronation day was very grand,” the letter reads. “It was a gratifying sight to see all of the different trades walk in regular order and many of them working at the same time. For instance, the printing press was drawn through the town and the men were at work printing verses about the Queen which were distributed among the crowd.”

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