Ste. Agathe and the surrounding lakes have been the favoured destination of generations of North Americans. Ours is a Quebec town that has absorbed and reflects all of the various cultural influences that make up Canada.The indigenous peoples, the Weskarinis-Algonkians, wintered in our area for centuries before their fateful defeat at the hands of the Iroquois in 1651. Even so, its name may well come from the Algonkian word Mittawang, meaning sandy shores.In 1849 the first hardy settlers arrived, a handful of families with descendants in the community to this day. They came to the northern fringe of the settlement established by Augustin Norbert Morin, one of Canada's greatest patriots. Morin, author of the 92 resolutions of the Papineau rebellion, was the judge who is credited with having eliminated the seigneurial system and was co-author, with Charles Dewey Day, of the Civil Code of Lower Canada. It was this code that made Canada possible. He was the first Dean of Law at Laval University and was the Minister of Farms (Terres) in the united Canadian government of Lafontaine and Baldwin. His name survives in the township of Morin, Morin Heights, Val Morin and Bd. Morin in Ste. Agathe and he was clearly the principal founder of the Laurentians.
Ste. Agathe owes its survival and its golden age to the efforts of Curé Antoine Labelle. The curé envisioned a Catholic colony that would stretch beyond Ste. Agathe through the valley of the Rouge River and northern Ontario all the way to Winnipeg. His principal objective was to see a railroad built north through Ste. Agathe and onward to his destination. Sadly he died the year before the railroad arrived in Ste. Agathe in 1892.Perhaps unforeseen by the curé, the train brought with it thousands upon thousands of visitors and turned Ste. Agathe into a boomtown. By 1911 the total assessed value of buildings had grown to 20 times its size in 1892 and this despite the great fire that destroyed most of St. Vincent Street in 1907. During the fire, the mayor appealed by telegramme to St. Jerome and that municipality sent its firefighting equipment up by train in a record 53 minutes. Later that same summer the new Catholic church, completed in 1905, was officially blessed. Its existence stands as a monument to the dedication of its parishioners. Ste. Agathe's sandy lake proved to be irresistible to the wealthy families of Montreal and the northern United States. One of the first to arrive was Octavien Rolland, third son of J.B. Rolland, founder of Rolland Paper. By 1910 almost every resident of Montreal's Golden Square Mile had a residence around the lake or in the neighbourhood. Many of these homes are still with us. The Baumgarten house overlooking the lake is one of the better known.Ste. Agathe's major assets proved to be its cool, fresh air and its clean water. One of the first entrepreneurs to discover this was a nurse from New York City named Elizabeth Wand. Around 1895 she opened a health spa overlooking the lake. Today this building still operates as Auberge Tour du Lac. Shortly after, in 1899, Dr. Arthur Richer founded a tuberculosis hospital. Two hundred physicians and dignitaries were present for the grand opening. Even though the hospital burned to the ground in 1902, his efforts heralded the beginning of Ste. Agathe's vocation as the premier Canadian treatment centre for tuberculosis and other chest related problems.By the beginning of the First World War, Ste. Agathe boasted 2 major sanitaria and many preventoria and the Laurentian Chest Hospital soon became the treatment centre for Canada's soldiers.One architectural feature that resulted from the TB care is the large solarium. This purposely poorly insulated glass room was designed to house convalescing patients on day-beds. Many such solaria can still be found in Ste. Agathe.Today, Ste-Agathe stands poised at the beginning of a new century. The old railroad line that meant so much to our growth has been replaced with a linear park just in time for a new generation looking to stay fit and experience our recreational environment.
Click here to viewa heritage tour of Sainte-Agathe:http://www.ste-agathe.com/circuita.html