Skip to main content

SHAWBRIDGE: A BRIEF HISTORY

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

A Shawbridge home - a fusion of Quebec and New England styles. (Photo - Sandra Stock)Where the North River divides the first mountain ranges of the Laurentians from the St. Lawrence plains, the settlement of what later became Shawbridge was established in the early nineteenth century. The first inhabitants came from Ireland and many descendants of these families still live in our area. William Shaw, for whom the town was later named, came in 1842, although the village was at first called Mount Pleasant. Shaw inaugurated the first bridge across the North River, and for some years it was operated as a toll bridge. This was not an uncommon private enterprise at this time before provincial public works in the Laurentians.

Other English-speaking settlers such as the Robinson, Saunders, Scott, Selby, Cleary families also came as pioneer farmers and later branched out into various local industries. The Clearys operated a local brick factory on the hill on the east side of the present Route 117. The many brick houses in Shawbridge village and the remaining original buildings at the Boys’ Farm (started in 1903), now Batshaw, are constructed of these locally made red bricks and of fieldstone quarried from the rock falls of the Piedmont mountain cliffs behind Shawbridge. Shawbridge has many notable heritage buildings, private homes and a remarkable United Church from 1861. Eventually the clay for bricks dwindled away and the site was taken over by a sawmill. Also a small ski tow was installed briefly on this hill. One of its owners was Jack Rabbit Johannson who is of course much better known for his seminal work in establishing cross-country ski trails like the Maple Leaf that ran from St. Jérôme to Ste. Agathe.

Shawbridge United Church. Built in 1861, this is one of the oldest Protestant churches in the Laurentians. (Photo - Sandra Stock)The Laurentian Lodge Club, one of the first ski clubs in the Laurentians, was started shortly after the Canadian Pacific Railway came to Shawbridge (1896) and made the countryside accessible as a holiday destination for Montreal residents. Alex Foster built the first ski tow in 1931, using a 1928 Dodge engine to whisk skiers up the Big Hill-the hill behind Montée Ste. Therese overlooking the Laurentian Autoroute. Although still a cross-country centre, downhill skiing soon moved from Shawbridge to the longer runs of the hills to the north.

In 1925 Route 11 was opened as a gravel road that ran along the present rue Principale of Shawbridge, nearer to the river than the present Route 117. It wasn’t until 1940 that Route 11 was kept open in the winter. Train travel remained dominant until quite recent times, but Shawbridge lost its train in 1981. However, the former CPR track is now the recreational Parc Linear.

In 1977 the municipalities of Shawbridge, Lesage and Prévost were merged into the one larger municipality of Prévost. However, Shawbridge still maintains its many well-preserved nineteenth century buildings and its distinct ambience of another quieter time.

(Thank you to Vincent Thorburn of Shawbridge for so much background information).