Laurel Church and Development

Notre-Dame des Neiges Chapel

Notre-Dame des Neiges Chapel, 
at 3470, route principale

Here you are in front of the Laurel Chapel, built in 1952 on land given by Louis E. Paradis, at the time owner of the general store on main Road. Several parishioners contributed to its construction with the help of Father Arès of the Congregation of Holy Cross and some orphans from t h e Notre-Dame-des-Monts School in Lisbourg (Montfort). The building is comprised of two wings, one o f which is the former schoolhouse that was closed in 1949 and transported to the site to be integrated into the body of the chapel.

'If you pass through the pretty village of Laurel, fifteen miles northwest of Morin-Heights in the Laurentians, you will notice a small church in the style of Dom Bellot [a French Benedictine architect], whose interior decoration was carried out by the famous ceramist, Vermette. This church (rather a chapel) is admired by many [vacationers] every summer.'

Claude Vermette (1930-2006) was a ceramic painter who resided in the Laurentians with his wife Mariette Rousseau (1926-2006), both internationally renowned artists. Vermette was 22 years old when he created the Way of the Cross for the Notre-Dame des Neiges chapel. He made architectural ceramics his specialty and many of his works adorned the stations of the Montreal metro. The chapel is now owned by the municipality. It houses the library and a multi-purpose room for Laurel's community associations while retaining its function as a place of worship.

The first settlers

John Morrow (1864-1951) and
Sarah Ann Copeland (1872-1953) 
on their wedding day, 1893.
Source: TCACWN

Laurel is the most populated hamlet in Wentworth-North. It naturally became the administrative centre of the municipality because of its geographical position between Saint-Michel and Montfort. Settlers arrived in the mid-19th century, many of whom were Irish and Scottish, and the area was known as 'New Ireland' for a time.

Some vestiges of this era are still visible on the Lost River Road, such as the farm building built by Hugh Morrow around 1885 located between MacTavish Street and Millette Road. Further on, near the intersection of Chisholm Street, we find the James McCluskey dwelling, a rooming house dating from 1860, purchased in 1911 by John Morrow.


Stanley and Nelson Morrow 
with an aunt in 1935.
Source: TCACWN

The less rocky land produced oats and hay, while the others are used to raise sheep or dairy cows. In the mid-20 th century, Mr. Barlow's goats could be seen along the railroad near the Laurel station. To survive, the inhabitants had to diversify their sources of income: tree cutting, potash making, road opening, maintenance of vacationers' second homes and work in the sawmills of McGibbins, McCluskey, Charland and Paradis were some of the local opportunities. Nature was fortunately plentiful; fishing, hunting and trapping provide food for the family.

Country school

Laurel School No.3, 1935 next to the old 1883 square log schoolhouse on the right.
Source: TCACWN

The first French-language school was built in 1883, with two more schools to follow according to plans supplied to the commissioners by the Department of Public Instruction. Students arrived at eight in the morning and left at four in the afternoon, travelling to and from school by dog sled in the winter and by foot or buggy in good weather. Starting in 1949, Laurel's children went to school in Montfort and the first school bus system was organized. In 1972, the small village schools were regrouped into larger institutions: elementary students went to school in Morin-Heights and secondary students in Saint-Sauveur.

A teacher is needed for the school in Laurel, St. Louis School (No.3). Salary $30 per month. To be addressed to Mr. Pierre Paradis Jr., school commissioner, Laurel, Argenteuil County. P.Q. - L'Avenir du Nord of December 1926.

In the early 20 th century, female teachers were paid half as much as male teachers and made up 95% of the profession. They often came from local families and were generally dismissed when they married or became pregnant. The social and religious pressures of the time valued marriage and large families and for these young, educated women, finding a husband was relatively easy, as Jeanne Labrie and Valentine Desjardins did in Laurel.

Mineralogical wealth

Diopside and calcite from a rocky crag on Route 327.
Source: - Photographer: JR Montgomery

The Laurel area has been known to mineralogists for over a hundred years. The first samples taken at the end of the 19 th century identified several minerals including diopside, scapolite, sphene and augite, which suggested hidden treasures that excited geologists and landowners.

'One of the remarkable mineral riches of Wentworth Township are the deposits of shell marl seen at Silver Lake and elsewhere, and these deposits, I am told, are of considerable strength. The settlers in the vicinity use them to whiten and cement the walls of their dwellings. It may be believed that with this, the farmers of the township will not need gypsum or other artificial fertilizers to enrich the soil.' Le Nord, July 14, 1881.

In the first half of the 20th century, a small number of men worked in the mica and chalk mines of the Charles Guertin, William and Thomas Argall and Laurel Mining companies. However, after 1950, several unprofitable mines in the region were closed.

Some wells, which were at only an exploratory stage, became overgrown with vegetation as well as the clusters that border them, but this did not discourage amateur mineralogists hoping to find beautiful specimens there. 

Laurentian Acres

Ad in La Patrie newspaper of August 6, 1964.
Source: BAnQ

At the beginning of the 20 th century, the hamlet of Laurel was served by two train stations: Laurel Station and Chapleau Lake. These stations welcomed many vacationers and cottagers on their way to summer camps or cottages.

Laurel’s economy, much like that of most the Laurentians, became increasingly dependent on leisure and tourism. In the 1960s, the Laurentian Acres company bought land from Mr. Chisholm, a descendant of Donald Chisholm, a settler of Scottish origin, to build small cottages on cement blocks. The estate was located in the crook of Laurel Lake, then called Long Lake. To attract buyers, free plots were given away by random draw, which seems to have been quite successful according to residents who remember watching the charter buses drive around the development site.

Outdoor destination

Photograph from a 1966 Ski-doo Alpine and Olympic sales brochure.
Source: Bombardier, online archives.

Wentworth-North is strongly associated with outdoor activities. In addition to the Aerobic Corridor that crosses the northern part of the municipality, the Multi-Activity Centre located in the heart of Laurel and easily accessible from the chapel parking lot invites hiking, mountain biking and cross-country skiing. Laurel is also a prime destination for snowmobile enthusiasts. The trails that cross it are maintained by Le Hibou Blanc, a Lachute club founded in 1970 with over three hundred members. 

The club maintains and ensures the safety of several trails that are linked to the Trans-Quebec Trail, the Regional Trail and the Argenteuil Trail. Ecotourism has been present in Laurel for many years, as well as the preservation of its greatest asset, nature.

Extract of
Historical Tour of Wentworth North

Historical Tour of Wentworth North image circuit

Presented by : Municipalité de Wentworth-Nord
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