Dunham dollars : The secret name of Chemin Hudon
Art and Culture
Most of Brome-Missisquoi residents have heard of Chemin Hudon but they probably haven’t driven down this lonely gravel road except when on their way to somewhere else. In 1987 I bought an old abandoned church on this infamous road. My first project was to set up a co-op printmaking studio and I began renovating and collecting artists, mostly painters who had never done printmaking.
Since this was the first co-op etching studio in the Eastern Townships, the Minister of Cultural Affairs was ready to support the idea. They gave us grants to help renovate the bottom half of the church and support the functioning of the co-op for six years. At that point we were not printing money nor making any and we had never heard of the big counterfeiting operation that operated on Hudon in the 1800’s! They were creating original copper etchings in the form of fake money for the US and Canadian market and was the biggest operation in North America in the 1800’s. However the road was given a special name used only by the members of the gang and its extended network of people who participated. It was called Cogniac Street to keep the authorities in the dark about where they were located.
Near the end of 2016 this history of Chemin Hudon was brought to my attention by a neighbour who handed me an article written by Heather Darch of the Missisquoi Museum. It spoke about Ephraim Knight, (1787-1868) the bailiff who tried to put an end to the production of fake money and how he was beaten up many times by counterfeiters trying to sway him from pursuing them.
Inspired by what I read I started digging into the history books of the region and interviewing people who had tales to tell. It seems that many people had heard of the infamous operation and each had an anecdote to tell. It was like digging into the collective unconscious of the local people. A title came to mind, “The Presses of Brome-Missisquoi County”, coming out soon! But, of course, all the work was still to be done. A title is no good without a plan. In January, 2017 I presented my project, “Dunham Dollars”, to Dunham municipal councillor Maguy Carpentier, who was very enthusiastic.
Description of Dunham Dollars Project
Bernice Sorge will create original etchings using photos of people who were important figures in the early days of Dunham. They will be the cameo figures on fake money. These etchings will be commercially reproduced into a booklet of discount bills that can be used to purchase products around the village. The three dollar bill is very popular and the other bills are just as phoney!
As I continued my research, two counterfeit printing plates surfaced from 1800’s. They were on display at the Musée Missisquoi Museum in Stanbridge-East. I have been given permission to display these plates and make hand-printed etchings from them. A limited number will be sold to the public. They will be available to buy at Gallery-Studio Sorge and the Musée Missisquoi Museum.
The limited-edition etchings from copper plates that I created for Dunham’s 150th, will be for sale at the Dunham dollars launch on July 15th at the Brasserie de Dunham. They will also be sold at Galerie-Studio Sorge on “Cogniac” Street, Dunham. (shhh! 1626 Chemin Hudon) throughout the summer and fall.
They will also be displayed at the Tourist Bureau of Dunham this summer. ” Finally, I’m making some money, an artist’s dream!”
For more details and open hours phone: 450 295 2567 to make an appointment or go to the following websites:
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