The sawmill near the Notre-Dame de Montfort orphanage, around 1940.
Source: BAnQ, La Presse collection
The history of the village of Montfort begins with the purchase of about sixty lots
around 1880 by Montreal entrepreneurs in the northeast of Wentworth Township. These lots were to be the site of a new parish which they named 'Notre-Dame des lacs' and an agricultural orphanage for young abandoned boys from Montreal. A first clearing operation was undertaken in 1881 in order t o install a sawmill near the outlet of Lake Saint-François-Xavier, commissioned from J. H. Matte of Saint-Jérôme.
In 1882, many people attended the blessing of the mill, including Father Victor Rousselot of Montreal, Father Labelle of Saint-Jérôme, some benefactors of the future orphanage, settlers and journalists. Most of these guests travelled from Montreal to Saint-Jérôme by train, then an additional 21 miles (34 kilometres) on a winding country road through the townships of Mille-Isles and Morin.
'As we pass, we admire Lake Saint-François-Xavier, which extends for a distance of five miles, and near which the church will be built. Here we are at last! Here is the orphanage mill and the building sites which served the workmen, the whole at the bottom of a pretty waterfall 33 feet high, in the midst of a desert of thirty acres, and dominated by proud mountains crowned with luxuriant verdure, which seems to marry gracefully with the gray hues of the heavy clouds which hover over our heads.' Journal le Nord, August 3, 1882.
A year later, the parish was officially named Our Lady of Montfort in honour of the patron saint of the Montfort Fathers who had taken charge of the agricultural orphanage and had just completed their first home.