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SHAWBRIDGE CLUB, SHAWBRIDGE

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The Shawbridge Club. (Photo - Ray & Diana Baillie)The coming of the railway in the 1890s opened up the Laurentians to skiers who had previously had to content themselves with cross-country skiing on Mount Royal. Shawbridge became “the gateway to the Laurentians”. Before the car and cleared roads, skiers would travel north by train, stop off, and ski back down the line, picking up a Montreal-bound train at a lower station, such as Shawbridge.The village was named for William Shaw, who with his wife Martha Matthews, founded the town in 1840. Shaw, who had come out of Ireland in 1827, was “a member of the large Shaw clan that included the immortal George Bernard himself”. Other Irish and Scottish immigrants joined the farming and mill community which was known as Mount Pleasant.When the Manitou Club burned in 1922, skiers selected this mid-19th century farmhouse of Frederick Scott, later transformed into a guest house by the Stephens family, as their new head-quarters. The Laurentian Lodge Club (official name) was formed in 1923, and would make Shawbridge “the cradle of skiing in the Laurentians”. Believed to be the “oldest residential ski club in North America”, it pioneered downhill skiing on this side of the Atlantic. Using rope and an old Dodge engine, Alex Foster developed what is considered the first ski tow (c.1932) in North America, maybe in the world. This allowed more skiers to use the Big Hill. With the development of various types of tows at St. Sauver and Mont Gabriel, downhill skiing was in.

Among the early founders of the club were Cy Kennedy, Percy Douglas, and “Mac” Yuile who became its first president. Some interesting members over the years have been Dr. Wilder Penfield, Brooke Claxton (M.P.), Charles Peters (The Gazette), Frank McGill, and the legendary “Jackrabbit Johannsen who pioneered cross-country skiing throughout the Laurentians.