The Guénette sawmill

Overview of sawmill locations in the early 1900s

43, chemin du Lac-Écho
Philias Guénette, circa 1940


You are now on the Guénette bridge named in honour of Philias Guénette (1886-1980), owner of a sawmill near the dam you see upstream of Simon River. This carpenter from Saint-Sauveur married Léondina Lorion (1890-1953) and had nine children. Their sons Hervé and Fernand took over the family business and added a second mill on the other side of the bridge, a door and window factory and a paint store.

Simon River

Station Bridge
Source: BAnQ


Simon River is a tributary of the Rivière du Nord. From its source at Lac à la Croix in the municipality of Wentworth-Nord, it winds from west to east through the MRC des Pays-d'en-Haut. Grain mills were established along its course, but the poverty of the land soon transformed them into sawmills.

At the time, the sawmills had rights over the lakes' level to have sufficient water flow to operate the turbines. In 1905, at the point where Lac Bouchette flows into the Simon River, a wooden dam was built by the Villeneuve lumber company to construct a mill, which considerably increased the lake's size. Although there is no longer a mill there, the water level is maintained for the residents.

The descent of the logs

Sources:Excerpt from the song «The Log driver's Waltz» from the album «The Songs of Wade Hemsworth», 1995


The descent of the logs

The trees were cut in the winter, and the logs were often left on the lakes to be floated to the mill in the spring. Laura Nesbitt Davis (1897-1993), who documented the history of Morin-Heights for the municipality's centennial in 1955, remembers that children would skip school to watch the logs go down Watchorn Falls and watch the men dislodge stuck logs with their log drives.

Transformation of the landscape

Javier Guénette's farm (not related to Philias) at Lac Bouchette before some of his land was flooded by the Villeneuve Wood Company in 1905. The timber industry provided essential income for families. Farmers could rely on these jobs in the forest or at the mills and make the most of the off-season. Wood was needed for construction, and sawdust was used to insulate houses. It was also effective in preserving the ice blocks used to preserve food in iceboxes, the ancestors of refrigerators.

Logging quickly transformed the landscape, and the surrounding hills were almost completely cleared, forcing loggers to go deeper and deeper into the
territory.

In 1959, there were still four mills in operation, those of Fred Black, Hervé Guénette, André Legault and J.E. Seale. Today they have all disappeared; only the remains of the dams remain to remind us of their contribution to the development of Morin-Heights.

Extract of
Morin-Heights | In Harmony with Nature

Morin-Heights | In Harmony with Nature image circuit

Presented by : Municipalité de Morin-Heights

Directions to get there

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