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MORIN HEIGHTS: A BRIEF HISTORY

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Augustin-Norbert Morin (Photo - Morin Heights Historical Association)Before the mid-19th century, there were only seasonal aboriginal Indian hunters in the Morin Heights region, most likely Mohawks.Government minister Augustin-Norbert Morin came with his Indian guide, Simon, in 1850 to survey the area. In the same year the first permanent settlers --three Seale brothers, originally from Connaught, Ireland -- arrived from Lachute.

Morin was settled partly by newcomers who had started as pioneers in Gore or other older townships, as well as others who came directly from Ireland. Among those who arrived in the early 1850s were George Hamilton, Lawson Kennedy, Archibald Doherty, John Reilly, William Watchorn and John Newton.Morin Flats, c.1910. (Photo - Morin Heights Historical Association)

In 1855, the Township of Morin was incorporated. Within a few years there was a community of pioneers clearing the land for farms and building churches and schools. Irish and Scottish immigrants continued to arrive as well as French-speaking settlers -- families such as Corbeil, Belisle and Groulx -- brought by Curé Labelle to help populate the region. Early settlers must have suffered many hardships and felt very isolated, but they managed to eke out a living from the rocky soil. Their only cash crop was potash, made by burning felled trees. Soon a few grist mills and sawmills were established, as well as the first stores. Anglican and Methodist churches were soon established by the first residents and a post office opened in 1877. Christieville was a busy little village too, one of the two commercial centres in Morin in the late 19th century.

Early pioneers cleared the land for farming, but the rocky soil was poor and the terrain too rough for mechanized agriculture. By the 1950s few farms were still operating.The Argenteuil Rangers. (Photo - Morin Heights Historical Association)One of the more colorful chapters in our history was the volunteer militia, the Argenteuil Rangers, created in the 1860s to repel the Fenian Raiders. There may have even been a fort / watchtower at the approach to the village.The construction of the railway in 1895 brought many changes. The arrival of a train was a familiar sight in Morin Heights. Steam locomotives always made a noisy and impressive arrival. The first summer residents began to build cottages on the shores of nearby lakes. In 1911 the town's name was changed from "Morin Flats" to the more appealing "Morin Heights".

Snow bus, c.1945. (Photo - Morin Heights Historical Association)Lumbering became a major industry with the arrival of the railway, and the town's sawmills along the Simon River provided employment for many during the difficult Depression years. Until the mid-20th century, lumbering was an essential part of the local economy. The lumbering industry had always been important, even in the earliest days when potash was made from burning felled trees.

In the 1930s, skiing became popular and the trains brought many visitors to the many new boarding houses every weekend. Boarding house sleighs regularly used to meet the trains. Morin Heights offered tourists more than a dozen inns and boarding houses in the ski train era, especially 1920 to 1950.

Ski train. (Photo - Skiing Legends and the Laurentian Lodge Club)In those days, it was a very lively little town. Meeting the CNR ski trains was a regular activity for locals back in the 1930s and 40s. The last train, in 1962, brought this era to an end as better roads were built and plowed and more people owned cars. The Aerobic Corridor cycling and cross country ski chalet is now located where the old station was.

There were several rope tow ski hills in the 1940s and the first cross country trails were cut. Ski races were important events in the early days, and Morin Heights produced many stars. New ski trails, cycling paths, and the building of Ski Morin Heights in 1981 confirmed this area as a popular recreo-tourist destination.Many roads in the area were not plowed until the 1950s, so winter transportation was either by sleigh, or by early Bombardier snowmobiles, used as taxis and school buses.An influx of Swiss and German settlers in the early decades of the 20th century added to the area's cultural mix.

Many new people moved to Morin Heights in the 1960s and 70s, including young Americans opposed to the Vietnam war. The town became a more cosmopolitan and cultural area known for its music and art.The industrial base diversified in the 1980s with new industries such as Gourmet du Village.Residential developments continue to bring new residents to our growing little town. Protection of the natural environment has always been a priority here. Morin Heights prides itself on its bilingual heritage and vibrant family and community life. The town's slogan, "Harmony is in our nature" is very appropriate.