South of the Lake

Millette house

The home of Charles Adonias Millette (1859-1942) and Clémence Mourëz [Mourey] (1863-1939) south of Lac-des-Seize-Îles, 
near Argenté Lake.
Source: Luc Lamond

Two distinct migratory routes, one English-speaking and the other French-speaking, took shape during the colonization of the Laurentians. The first, originating from Saint-André-d'Argenteuil, began at the end of the 18th century, giving rise to the hamlet of Lachute, from which certain Irish, Scottish, English and American pioneers from Vermont continued their journey towards the counties of Gore and Wentworth. 

The later French-speaking movement spread north and west from Saint-Jérôme and was greatly facilitated by the railroad that spread from Montreal to the Northern Townships beginning in 1876.

Lac-des-Seize-Îles, nestled between the Laurentian hills, was better suited to fishing and vacationing than to farming. However, the land bordering Laurel and Argenté lakes in the southern sector seemed promising enough for settlers of both English and French origin to settle there as early as the mid-19 th century.

Charles Adonias Millette

Charles Adonias Millette (1859-1942) and Clémence Mourëz [Mourey] (1863-1939), photographed around the turn of the 20 th century.

At the end of the summer of 1885, Charles Adonias Millette, his wife Clémence Mourëz and their three children left Saint-Sauveur to take possession of a property of nearly 300 acres on the shores of Argenté Lake.

'...Charles Adonias [was] very dexterous with his hands and Clémence a master in the preparation of butchered meats and root vegetables, this couple who became farmers and livestock breeders shared the inherent tasks: the raising and keeping of animals such as chickens, pigs, cows, sheep, goats and horses, as well as the development of a very large vegetable garden, entrusted mostly to Clémence, in order to provide for the family. It is said that Clémence's buckwheat pancake was very popular in the area.'
- Luc Lamond, The Millette family, Heritage Vision, May 2019

A big family

Adonias Stanislas Millette (1883-1957) with a vacationer, circa 1910.
Source: Luc Lamond

Charles Adonias and Clémence had fifteen children and most of them remained in the region. To live well in this countryside far from the big cities, one had to master several trades. Charles Adonias and his sons built several cottages around Laurel Lake and Lac-des-Seize-Îles, cut wood, made shingles, cultivated the land and raised farm animals. In the summer, his son Armand toured the residences by boat to sell their vegetables and milk. Charles Adonias also offered room and board for a few vacationers during the summer months, and his eldest son, Adonias, took enthusiasts by rowboat to fish for trout, which were always plentiful and of good size at that time. 

The McGarry/Stronach house

The McGarry/Stronach house in 1918
Source: Luc Lamond

John Smith, a cabinetmaker from Glasgow, Scotland, was a regular customer of the Millette Mourëz couple. He lived in the village of Calumet near Grenville-sur-la-Rouge and travelled over 40 km by horse and buggy to reach his summer destination. In 1902, his daughter bought a rustic rooming house with land from Charles Adonias. This house located at 230 Millette Road was probably built around 1870. Over the decades, John's descendants have made modifications that respect the heritage value of the building.

Adonias Millette and Alphonsine Lafantaisie

Adonias Millette and his wife Alphonsine 
Source: Luc Lamond

Adonias Stanislas, son of Charles and Clémence, was only two years old when he arrived at Argenté Lake, southeast of Lac-des-Seize-Îles. He remained on the farm for more than thirty years, helping his father and his siblings' families with his fishing and hunting skills. At the age of 33, he married Alphonsine Lafantaisie of Saint-Adolphe-d'Howard with whom he had five children.

It is said that Adonias was a good and generous man. He had his children, whom he adored, educated at the Institut Feller de Grande Ligne, a bilingual boarding school founded by a couple of Swiss Protestant missionaries, near Saint-Jean-sur-le Richelieu.

The inn

Alphonsine in front of her Laurel Lake home, before it was turned into an inn.
Source: Luc Lamond

After living for a few years on the shore of Lafantaisie Lake, Adonias and Alphonsine settled on the eastern shore of Lake Laurel, on a lot that Adonias had acquired from his parents. In addition to his farm, he operated a sawmill which was very profitable and in the summer they offered board to vacationers. 

In 1946, one of his sons-in-law convinced him to transform the family home into a luxurious inn. The project was a failure, with debts incurred far exceeding income from the inn. At the age of 67, he lost his inn and had to sell his land on the shore of Laurel Lake. After living in his stable for a year, Adonias built a small house for himself and Alphonsine and died of illness in 1957. In his monograph on the Millette family, Luc Lamond, a resident of Lac-des-Seize-Îles, speaks of them as follows: 'History will remember this big fellow as a gentle, attentive, hard-working, honest, courageous man, without malice and always ready to help others.'

The Biéler family

The Biéler children, Jean-Henri, Étienne, André, Philippe and Jacques, learned carpentry by building an annex to La Clairière, around 1912.

In 1908, Swiss-born Charles Biéler, master of theology and director of a college in Switzerland, accepted, a position as professor at the French section of the Presbyterian College in Montreal. In 1911, the Biéler family acquired a large farm on the west shore of Laurel Lake which they named 'La Clairière'. The main house was made of squared timber and dates from the same period as the McGarry/Stronach house. The Biélers spent several summers restoring and expanding it. The professor had set up an office on the second floor of a barn, inspired by the peaceful view of the surrounding pastures. He was regularly invited to preach at the small Sixteen Islands Lake Protestant church.

Four Biéler sons left for the Great War of 1914: Philippe died in 1916 and André returned with respiratory problems caused by exposure to mustard gas. A little-known Canadian painter, he was close to the members of the Beaver Hall group and the Group of Seven. His wartime experience gave rise to a desire for harmony and rapprochement which manifested itself in his participation in the organization of the 
Canadian Artists' Conference in Kingston. This landmark event in t h e history of Canadian art was designed to create links between artists from the west and east of the country who knew very little about each other and to discuss the role of the artist in democratic society. The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec has the largest collection of works by André Biéler and presented the exhibitions 'André 
Biéler et le Québec rural' in 1990 and 'André Biéler. Draughtsman and Engraver' in 2003.

Sketch of "La clairière"

André Biéler (1896-1989). Sketch of La Clairière, summer 1919. Graphite on paper.

Extract of
Lac-des-Seize-Iles... History and Heritage

Lac-des-Seize-Iles... History and Heritage image circuit

Presented by : Municipalité de Lac-des-Seize-Îles

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