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Good Shepherd Chapel, Laurel. (Photo - Sandra Stock)A major concern for the entire historical community of Quebec has been, and remains, our vast and varied religious heritage. Regardless of language or denomination, our cities, towns and countryside are populated by empty, or seasonal, or much diminished churches, many of which have old cemeteries attached to them. These cemeteries are of importance to the local historian, to the genealogist and to anyone interested in the cultural practices and beliefs of our ancestors. There are also some rural cemeteries that either never had a church nearby or have lost their church building over the passage of time.

In the Laurentians, one of the most interesting, and largest, pioneer cemeteries is located in the small hamlet of Lost River in the Municipality of Harrington. The initial settlement of this area was predominately by Scottish emigrants in the mid-nineteenth century: Frasers, MacMillans, Fergusons, MacCreas, Chisholms and others. This was the farthest northeast thrust of the Rouge River-Harrington-Lachute settlers. Many of the oldest tombstones indicate the places of origin in Scotland – mostly Invernesshire in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The notorious Clearances of tenant farmers (to make way for sheep), the failure of the North Sea herring fishery in the 1850’s, and the generally depressed state of Highland Scotland at the time sent thousands of people to Canada. The long tradition of emigration and the remarkable tendency of the Scots to prosper in North America probably also played a part.

Lost River Cemetery. (Photo - Sandra Stock)There were also some Irish pioneer families which came from the other direction (Morin, Mille Isles, Lakefield) and first settled around Montfort and Laurel in the Municipality of Wentworth North. Morrow, Clifford, Morrison, McClusky, Reid and Beattie were some of these primary settlers. These Laurel families established the Good Shepherd Chapel on Lost River Road in 1890 on property donated by Albert Morrow. This small Anglican Church has recently been lovingly restored by local residents and still maintains its pioneer atmosphere with its simple wooden construction and old-time appearance. There is a small cemetery behind the Good Shepherd with no more than twenty graves, many of which have lost their stones. However, as the full time population is so small there is great concern about the future of this historic site.

The high mountains from Montfort to Laurel and on to Lost River, was a tough landscape for agriculture even by Laurentian standards. This is one of the highest, rockiest, and certainly (until at least the 1960’s) one of the most isolated parts of our district. It was not until the late 1950’s that there was school bus service for the children of this area to attend Morin Heights School and have easier access to a complete high school education. There was a small elementary school in Lost River (now a private residence) and Jeanie Ferguson Boutin remembers that her mother, Ruby Morrow Ferguson drove the school buggy (horse power!) in good weather and the school sleigh in winter in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

On the hill beyond this small rural schoolhouse is the Lost River cemetery. Like a number of other rural Scottish pioneer cemeteries, it is not adjoined to a church nor located on the main road of a village but is sited on a very high elevation overlooking the community. This cemetery is remarkably well maintained and has graves dating back to the 1870’s and 1880’s. Five and six generations of local families are buried there. Many of the earlier stones have interesting nineteenth century symbolism and a few give brief outlines of the lives of those interred beneath. However, like the remaining pioneer churches of the area, there is a concern for the future care of this remarkable heritage site.

References:Jeanie Ferguson Boutin, Morin Heights, Fernand Janson, Chapelle”Good Shepherd” à Laurel, The Porcupine-Le Porc-épic # 8, 2006, Morin Heights Historical Association, Robert Luck, Good Shepherd Chapel heritage group, Laurel.