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CHRISTIEVILLE

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Hammond Farmhouse. (Photo - S. Stock / Morin Heights Historical Association)As the economy of the lower Laurentians evolved after the start of settlement in the 1830s, certain areas thrived and grew, or withered and dwindled at different times. When the economic base of the Morin Township was agriculture and forestry, and the best (and in winter, only) mode of transportation was the train, the little hamlet called Christieville was a hive of activity.In the 1850s and 60s, the part of Morin that later became Christieville was cleared for farming. The original land grants were awarded to the Campbell, Hammond, Newton, Durocher and later, Brown families.

The village was named in honour of the brothers David and Ebenezer Christie.In the centennial book, Morin Heights 1855-1955, the Christie brothers are described as follows: “The first Post Office in Morin Flats is believed to have been in this store as it is known to have been in this vicinity. This store was bought before 1880 by two brothers, David and Ebenezer Christie. They moved to Christieville and bought the store from M. Maille in about 1883. David Christie built the house that is now (1955) owned by Mr. Kirkpatrick about that time and it is the oldest house in Christieville… W. Christie paid $3.00 per thousand feet for the lumber he used to build it. At the same time, he paid sixty cents for a cord of firewood and refused to take it if it was not all maple… The Christies also bought the grist mill…”(1)The store in Morin Flats referred to here is now “Mickey’s” and has been a store for more than a century. It was built by a Mr. Cuffling and subsequently run by Ebenezer Christie, J. E. Syvret, J. E. Seale, Jack Watchorn, and finally Owen and Mickey LeGallee, the current owners.

CHRISTIE FAMILY
The Christie family obviously had investment funds, and although they did have a farm, it appears to have been secondary to their milling and commercial interests. They intermarried with the Davis and Hammond families, both of which were prosperous in the early days of Morin. Through marriage, the Davis family acquired part of the Newton property. The Newtons had had the good fortune to receive as farm lots, properties that evolved into the Morin Flats village core, river bank land suited for mills, part of Echo Lake, and the mill in Christieville.

SAWMILLS
The dam at Christieville was built by John Newton to supply energy for his mill. The first mill was a grist mill, but such mills were never very successful in Morin as the area was never a grain-growing locale, even during the times of peak agricultural production. When the lumber industry started to boom in the 1880s (and especially after the arrival of the Canadian National Railway in 1895), all of the local mills became sawmills. The date of the conversion of the Christieville mill is not known, but it was some time in the 1880s.In Morin Heights 1855-1955, we read that “The opening of the new bridge at Christieville in 1953 marked the 100th anniversary of the building of the first bridge across the river there.”(2)

The date of this early bridge is an indication of how long this part of Morin Township had been settled. Morin was only organized as a municipality, with a mayor and council, in 1855. This date agrees with the history of Morin found in Cyrus Thomas’ History of Argenteuil County, published in 1896. Thomas, of course, had been able to speak with many of the first settlers or their sons and daughters.According to Thomas, “Morin, like Milles Isles, was settled in part by those who had first settled in Gore or other older townships, but quite a number… were directly from the old country…” He says that the first farm in Morin was that of the Seale family in 1850.(3) This holding was quite extensive and extended from the Echo Lake area to what later became Christieville. Given the technology available at that time, and the first-growth forest that had to be cleared for farming, it is probable that occupation of the first range of Morin began in the 1840s.

HAMMOND FAMILY
The Hammond family had come from Milles Isles, and John Hammond, the Christieville settler, was most likely a son or nephew of Matthew Hammond, one of the first farmers of Milles Isles, who was well established there by the mid-1800s. John Hammond married Martha Saunders of Shawbridge. Two of their sons married sisters: John Jr., who married Mary Jane Davis, and Allan Hammond, who married Martha Davis. John and Mary Jane lived on the Christieville farm after John Sr. died, but they both died young. Around 1890, Allan returned to Christieville from Colorado, where he and his family had gone some years before, and now ran the farm. Around 1907, Allan Hammond sold the farm to William Campbell, who then sold it to his brother John Campbell. The John Campbell family lived there until 1920, when they sold the property to Felix Piché. The Piché family lived there at the time of the Morin Heights centennial in 1955. Today, the Hammond farm is now a bed and breakfast. The house has been restored and maintains the appearance and atmosphere of a Victorian farmhouse (above).

BLACKSMITH
Some time before 1880, Allan Hammond had established a blacksmith shop Old Ivall blacksmith shop. (Photo - S. Stock / Morin Heights Historical Association)on his father’s farm. “After he went to Colorado the first time, his brother sold this with 18 acres to John Ivall in 1881 or 1882. This was part of the farm nearest to the St. Sauveur line. A. M. Paradis bought a piece of the property between Ivall’s and the river and built the first store on that site.”(4) This blacksmith shop continued under Ivall’s son, Robert John Ivall, into the 1950s. Another son, Oscar, had a sheep farm on the rest of the property. The sawmill thrived for some time. The Christie family (males anyway) seem to have gone from the Morin Heights vicinity by the 1930s. The mill was purchased by the Legault family in 1922, and operated until 1948, after which it was converted into a general store. By the 1980s, both the blacksmith shop and the stores of Christieville had disappeared. The sheep were gone from the riverbanks, and the Browns, Seales, and other families had ceased farming the land in the area. The large properties had been divided into building lots, many of the old stores and mills had been converted into homes, and -- most noticeable of all – much of the land had returned to forest after 150 years of cultivation and grazing.

CHANGING ECONOMY
Long before this time, the economy had changed in the Morin area. Farming and lumbering had given way to recreation and tourism, much of it related to cross-country and downhill skiing. The train, which had been built to take the lumber out, had also brought the tourists in. Boarding houses, for summer, then year-round holidays, loomed along the village street in Morin Flats, which someone with a flair for public relations expediently changed to Morin Heights in 1911. Morin Heights was on the line of the CNR and had a station. Christieville was not quite so close. Also, Christieville did not follow the boarding house trend. It remained residential and pastoral, and the few businesses faded away, without replacement. Exceptions today are a riding stable and the bed and breakfast.

Old t-bars at Mont Christie. (Photo - Matthew Farfan)The new road from St. Sauveur (Route 364) entirely bypassed the core of Christieville. Mont Christie, which was run for a time as a ski hill by the Elder family, is actually in St. Sauveur and rather remote from the little grouping of buildings on the river. The village dam remains and has been maintained to provide swimming for local residents. If natural beauty and charm of both architecture and layout were the measure of success, Christieville would surpass most of the larger, more bustling centres of the lower Laurentians.

References:

1) Laura (Davis) Nesbitt, Morin Heights, 1855-1955, 1955.
2) Laura (Davis) Nesbitt, Morin Heights, 1855-1955, 1955.
3) Cyrus Thomas, History of the Counties of Argenteuil, Quebec & Prescott, Ontario, 1896.
4) Laura (Davis) Nesbitt, Morin Heights, 1855-1955, 1955.Also consulted: cemetery lists of Trinity, Morin Heights, Christ Church Milles Isles, etc. compiled by Bob Alderson, 1986.

**Editor’s Note: This is an edited version of an article that appeared in The Porcupine, Morin Heights Historical Association, Vol. 4, June 2001.