Discovering L. M. Montgomery and ‘Anne’ in Cavendish
Carolyn Strom Collins
with additional media by Emily Woster and Elizabeth Epperly
The beauty of Cavendish’s north shore—with its spectacular sunrises and sunsets, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, sand dunes and wide beaches, red sandstone cliffs, woods and barrens, wildflowers, and farm fields—continues to evoke memories of L.M. Montgomery for those who have read and loved her work, but there are other sites dotted around Cavendish that pay tribute to her and her legacy, rooted in this “little triangular peninsula jutting out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence” (Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 1). 1
Green Gables Heritage Place
Green Gables house, “Lover’s Lane,” the “Haunted Wood,” as well as the Site of L.M. Montgomery’s Cavendish Home (the Macneill house) are all part of L.M. Montgomery's Cavendish National Historic Site. You can visit Green Gables Heritage Place, which preserves the house itself and the surrounding trails (just as you can visit the foundation, kitchen, and grounds of the Macneill homestead, Montgomery’s actual home).
In 2019, the Cavendish community dedicated a park to honour L.M. Montgomery, the founding families of Cavendish, and the Avonlea Women’s Institute. The centrepiece of the park is a life-size bronze statue, entitled “A Glimpse of Beauty,” designed by Prince Edward Island native Grace Curtis and sculpted by Nathan Scott.
Curtis said that she “hoped to portray Montgomery in her late 20s, during the time she lived in Cavendish and was inspired to write Anne of Green Gables.” The statue, according to Curtis, “depicts Montgomery taking on a posture of awe in a moment of pure inspiration. She wrote about this creative moment and called it ‘the Flash’” in the Emily books. “Inspired by the beauty of nature, she lifts her head heavenward to take a deep breath, to take it all in; in part, a moment of joy, and in part, an acknowledgment of the gift of creativity she has been given.” Notice that a few of Montgomery’s beloved cats are in attendance.
Montgomery Park is located on the eastern side of Highway 13 just before the intersection with Highway 6. Trails from the park lead to Montgomery-related sites nearby.
Cavendish School site
The one-room school that L.M. Montgomery attended was located first in a spot just south of the Cavendish Community Cemetery. It was later moved across the road and stood in what is now Montgomery Park, though the schoolhouse has since been removed.
Cavendish Community Cemetery
The Cavendish Community Cemetery at the corner of Highways 6 and 13 is the final resting place of L.M. Montgomery. She wanted to rest near her childhood home, with the murmur of the sea in the distance. The large granite gravestone is flanked by two large evergreen shrubs and is often planted with colourful annuals. Montgomery’s husband Ewan Macdonald is also buried here. Other members of the Macneill family are buried in this cemetery as well, including Montgomery’s mother, Clara Macneill Montgomery; her Macneill grandparents, Alexander and Lucy Woolner Macneill; and her cousins who owned “Green Gables,” David and Margaret Macneill.
Cavendish United Church
The Cavendish United Church (Cavendish Presbyterian Church until 1925) just east of the intersection of the two highways commemorates L.M. Montgomery’s membership with a plaque (dedicated in 2001) and a triple stained-glass window dedicated “To the Glory of God in loving memory of Lucy Maud Montgomery: November 1874.” Montgomery was organist here from 1903–1911 and the organ she donated and played is still used for services here. The church that Montgomery attended in her earlier years (until the present church was built) stood at the corner of the Cavendish Cemetery. When it needed to be replaced, Montgomery’s uncle, John Franklin Macneill, donated the land for the new building; it opened in 1902. Ewan Macdonald, Montgomery’s future husband, served as pastor of the Cavendish church from 1903–1906.
L.M. Montgomery’s funeral service was held here in April 1942.
Cavendish Post Office
Next to the church is the Cavendish Post Office, which operates in the summer. It is housed in an Island vintage home, moved to this location in 1973, that is virtually identical to the Macneill home that Montgomery lived in for most of the first 37 years of her life (and where the original post office was housed in Montgomery's time).
Montgomery indicated that, had it not been for her personal connection to the post office, she might never have published her work. The anonymity of sending and receiving her manuscripts was assured, thus saving her the humiliation of anyone in Cavendish knowing about her rejections (for instance, Anne of Green Gables was rejected four times before L.C. Page and Co. of Boston accepted it, publishing it in 1908).
The present building serves not only as a Canada Post office but also as a small museum with displays that reveal some of the history of the post office on Prince Edward Island, including the use of ice boats to transport mail during the winter months, and even examples of those “red letter-bills” on which Montgomery used to write some of her early stories and poems. Letters, cards, and packages mailed from this post office are stamped “Green Gables.”
“Rachel Lynde’s house”
North of the intersection of the two highways is Shining Waters Country Inn, originally the home of Pierce and Rachel Macneill, Montgomery’s cousins. Montgomery is said to have had this large home in mind for Rachel Lynde’s house in Anne of Green Gables. It was moved, some years ago, from its original location a short distance away to its present location.
“Bright River” Train Station
“Bright River” in the Anne books was actually the town of Hunter River about nine miles south of Cavendish. The train station there would have been the one that Montgomery had in mind for Anne’s arrival and where she waited for Matthew to meet her. When the trains were discontinued in Prince Edward Island in the late 1960s, the depot was purchased and moved to Marco Polo Land, a large campground on the outskirts of Cavendish on Highway 13. Today it serves as a private residence near the entrance to the campground.
Incidentally, two of L. M. Montgomery’s earliest published pieces were an essay and a long poem about the Marco Polo, a famous ship that was wrecked on the Cavendish shore in 1883. She witnessed the wreck and the rescue of the ship’s crew.
Two buildings in Avonlea Village, a group of small shops and restaurants (on Highway 6), hold memories of L.M. Montgomery. The one-room schoolhouse in which she taught for a year (1896–97) was moved from Belmont, P.E.I., to Avonlea Village and restored. The Long River church was moved here, as well. Montgomery attended this church on occasion when she visited her Montgomery and Campbell relatives in Park Corner.