The official proclamation describing the limits of Rawdon Township
in Lower Canada was issued July 13, 1799. Officially Rawdon is over
200 years old, but its story begins yet a few years earlier. The
natives of the Algonquin Tribe visited the area regularly establishing
hunting and fishing camps from time untold. They camped along the
rivers and hunted in the forests where game abounded.
at Rawdon began with grants to Loyalists in 1792 when a new township
was created from the wastelands of the crown. In 1798, it was
officially named Rawdon by the Governor General, Sir Robert Prescott
to honour Sir Francis Rawdon, Lord Hastings. He had distinguished
himself at Bunker Hill and other battles of the American Revolution
and escaped confinement in Ticonderoga ending up on St. Helen's
Island. He never visited the area that was to bear his name.
Petitions were received for grants of land at Rawdon as early
as 1793 and an order to survey the first two ranges into 200 acre
lots was made in 1798. It is unclear if the first four individuals
who received grants of land in this new township in 1799 ever
visited or settled there. They were not residents when the first
census took place in 1825.
and James Sawyers, a veteran of Wolf's army, were both Loyalists
from the great refugee camp at William Henry (Sorel). Sawyers
married Margaret Tucker, widow of John Tucker of the 53rd regiment
who also received grants for her late husband's loss of life in
defence of the crown. George McBeath, of l’Assomption, a
native of Scotland, also was given a grant of land. He served
as deputy for Leinster (Lower Canada) from 1792-96 and was a founder
of the North West Company. In total, these four received 1900
acres in the First and Second Ranges.
The next two
names were definitely in the class of investors or speculators.
In 1805, grants totalling 3000 acres on the First and Second Ranges
were issued to Ralph Henry Bruyère and George Selby. Bruyère,
a British military man, was married to Jessie Dunbars. There must
undoubtedly be a connection to Captain William Dunbars, a Loyalist,
1st Battalion, 84th Regiment, who was recipient of 3000 acres
north of St-Sulpice Seigneury in 1789 which lay just south of
has it that there were Irish Catholic settlers who settled in
the area without permission from the crown before 1820. In his
report, August 24 1824, Surveyor General Joseph Bouchette speaks
of this matter. He says: “little or no progress has been
made in respect of Settlements except by a few Irish emigrants
who have without authority and contrary to the agents instructions
set themselves down promiscuously in various parts of the Township
and in some instances when the lands already located to the officers
and privates of the late Embodied Militia.” Bouchette
says nothing of their religion: who were these the mysterious
Irish Catholics? Who were “the officers and privates of
the late Embodied Militia”? Were they the forty or so settlers
who were given certificates by Order in Council for the Township
of Rawdon 1820 – 1823 who were mainly Irish Protestants?
(See NAC Microfilm C2515 pages 29100-1.) Any squatters who did
not obtain a ticket of location to their clearings would have
to abandon them as they outside the law.
arises were these Irish really squatters? At Kilkenny Township,
just west of Rawdon, a legally placed Irish Protestant settler,
Richard Foster and others, had to appeal to the governor when
the agent, Captain Guy Colclough, granted their lots to officers
of the Canadian Militia. Foster wrote that Bouchette read them
a letter written by Colclough “representing the whole of
us as Rebellious and Troublesome people”.
of settlers was at times so rapid that bureaucracy could not cope
with the volume. Squatting was not unusual and they could be accommodated
if they weren't on land already issued to another settler. If
this were the case, they would have to move on. In fact, the agents
filed lists of those who had gone on to Lots without Permits of
Occupation or Location Tickets. (See PAC Microfilm c 2515, page
29106.) This is a list dated 10th October 1825 - all were legitimate
new arrivals who became, in time, prominent citizens. The descendants
of the names on the list – Holtby, Corcoran, Blair, Rowan
and Sinclair – can be found in Rawdon today.
There is a
list of early tickets of location which were granted from 1820-21.
(PAC Microfilm C2515, p. 29100 –0.) They are the earliest
known families to receive tickets to settle and are almost exclusively
Irish Protestants. Some of these men received their Letters Patent
in very short order, so it is possible the may have been at Rawdon
earlier. Acadians and (French) Canadians were moving up from St-Jacques.
There were a few settlers of Loyalist and or American origin as
well, although this was a good thirty years after the Revolution.
to trickle in from Ireland, England, and Scotland, arriving first
in Quebec City. From there the new arrivals sailed up the St.
Lawrence to Berthierville and made their way overland from there.
Others continued on to Montreal before making their way to Rawdon
through l’Assomption and St-Jacques de Montcalm.
Survey by Surveyor Joseph Bouchette in 1824 shows a population
at Rawdon of under 200 souls with 556 acres in cultivation. (PAC
Microfilm C2502, page 13058). The Census of 1825 (PAC Microfilm
C718) names 103 heads of family with a total population of 484.
One may also consult (on microfilm) the censuses for 1831 and
1851 and every ten years thereafter up to 1901 for information
about Rawdon’s pioneer families.
Much of the
area was not ideal for farming because the soil was sandy in many
areas and it was hilly and rocky in others. Although most settlers
farmed, the economy was based on potash and forest products rather
than agriculture. There were potash plants to refine the ashes
as well as several mills in the area, for sawing wood and grinding
grain for flour and feed. The Copping
Diary has several references to their potash works which involved
the labour of the whole family. It mentions mills owned by Robinson
and Archambault. Two of the earliest mills were those of Philemon
Dugas and Manchester's owned by Roderick McKenzie with David Manchester
settlers had to find a market for their potash, slats, lumber
and forest products. A letter, dated June 10, 1826, from the schoolmaster,
James Walker to a friend, tells us that Mr. Philemon Dugas, a
leading citizen of Rawdon was in Quebec City. “He is about
the harbour somewhere with a few thousand plank and if you could
thus assist him to dispose of them, it will be assisting a worthy
person who in innumerable instances has assisted the distressed
settlers in this township”.
market, however, was Montreal, a four day journey via l’Assomption
to reach the St. Lawrence at the east end of the island. In winter,
they crossed the river on the ice to reach Old Montreal and in
open weather they hired a ferry to take their wagon or cart over
the river and then made their way across the island some fourteen
or more miles to the harbour area. It was not until late in the
19th century that a bridge was built to link the north shore with
the island of Montreal. The Copping family sent a barrel of potash
to Montreal this way once a month, year round!
In the earliest times, a short trip to St-Jacques took a whole
day on foot. There was no other means of transport as the “road”
was in reality a footpath. Even after twenty years, the road,
once you reached the Rawdon Township, left much to be desired.
This was partly due to the nature of the landscape. The elevation
started in Rawdon, steep hills, rocky terrain and clay soil caused
much grief to those wishing to establish passable roads. One Sunday,
George records that although he and his sons went to church “the
roads are so bad the girls could not go”. There are also
references to the help required to get the cart of potash destined
for Montreal out of the township. Father Cholette, a visiting
Catholic priest complained, “Among other things, I find
Rawdon very hilly and difficult of access”.
of the early settlers at Rawdon were English speaking, but Francophones
were a part of the mix from the outset and steadily increased
in number to become the dominant language group. Often, these
were sons of farmers from the seigneuries of the French Regime
who were looking for land of their own or to start a business
not too far from their family home. As early as 1845, the second
generation of English speaking families began moving in large
numbers to Montreal, Ontario and all parts of the United States.
This trend continued through subsequent generations with many
going to the Canadian west. Some continued as farmers, others
took employment in trade and industry.
Originally, the commercial development of Rawdon was centred on
the first ranges at what was later known as Montcalm Corners.
In the 1820’s there was an influx of British settlers and
‘the plateau on the 5th range” was considered to be
a better option. This area was developed as the commercial centre
and became known as the Village of Rawdon.
Diary refers to many individuals and their businesses some of
these were blacksmith shops operated by William Norrish in 1836-7,
Richard Lee in 1839 and Isaac Grigg in 1844. Robinson’s
was a general store, Archambault and Dugas had mills, and Hire
Batman, a tannery.
The 1851 census
identifies carpenters, cabinetmakers, millwrights, teachers, shoemakers,
merchants, traders and stonemasons. William Lord was a millwright
but also called himself an architect in 1851. John Horan served
the area as a public notary at this time.
In 1862 William
Walsh was a shoemaker and served as bailiff, as well. A Henry
Smith, who died in 1857, was Bailiff before this and had lived
at Rawdon from the 1820s. David Truesdell had a sawmill in 1868.
1882 Dr. James Kelly was the resident doctor and in 1891 Dr Joseph
Riberdy established a practice in Rawdon. The doctor at Rawdon
on the 1851 census was John McAdam. Curiously, he was named as
a cabinetmaker when his daughter was baptized in 1844.
In 1845, Rawdon
was set up with an elected council under a government act establishing
municipalities. William Holtby was the secretary-treasurer.
In 1855, Louis-André Brien dit Durocher was elected the first
mayor under another new municipal act. Among the newly elected
councillors were John W Corcoran, Bryan McCurdy, John Robinson,
Peter Skelly, and John Smiley. It was another forty years before
a town hall was finally built.
plan of the Rawdon dated 1845 shows six parallel streets running
east and west, the first one being called Mill Street, the others
numbered consecutively 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Streets, and
the last street being called St. Patrick Street. This map was
certainly partly conjecture as 2nd Street was still a footpath
as late as 1945. Mill Street has disappeared. The others all continue
to use the same designations today. The cross streets running
north and south, between the Oureau and Red Rivers still use the
original names, with the exception of Oureau Street which has
The north and south streets are Queen Street, the main thoroughfare,
in honour of Queen Victoria and to the west, is Albert Street
named for her Consort. Metcalfe Street, to the east was named
for Charles Theophilus Metcalfe, Governor of Canada from 1843-61.
These three streets are linked by 4th Avenue. Church Street, a
very short one, between Queen and Metcalfe, running south from
4th Avenue was so named for the two churches that were on it at
has diminished in size over the years with parts of the first
three ranges being broken away to create the parishes of St-Ambroise,
Ste-Julienne and in 1853 St-Liguori. The north part of Rawdon
was raided still later with the formation of Chertsey and St-Alphonse
de Rodrigues. Families that seem to disappear from Rawdon can
sometimes be found by looking in these parishes. For a while,
there was a part of Rawdon that existed as the distinct area of
Wexford or Mount Loyal.
was present in Rawdon at the time of the Papineau Rebellion (1837)
in the form of a company of volunteers trained in readiness to
defend the government. George Copping first makes a reference
to his sons attending militia on June 29, 1836. At the height
of the hostilities George, himself, was a volunteer. He mentions
signing up and drawing his monthly pay. Several men had the title
“Captain of Militia” including Dean Burns, Firmin
(Philemon) Dugas and Samuel Smiley.
was on what is now Church Street, between 3rd and 4th Avenues.
Nurse Lucy Daly, in interviews about Rawdon’s early history,
says that it was a Presbyterian Church before being used by the
militia. George Copping in his Diary mentions attending a Presbyterian
service on November 12, 1837 at a time when the volunteers were
using the barracks In the absence of documentation, it is difficult
to decide if what is one of Rawdon’s oldest buildings was
first a church or a barracks. The latter is the most likely. The
Presbyterian congregation and Plymouth Brethren both worshipped
here at different times between 1837 and 1916 but neither congregation
exists today. The building has been converted to use as an extended
care facility and a few neglected tombstones remain in what was
church in Rawdon was the Anglican Mission, led by the Reverend
James Edmund Burton who had been sent out by the Society for the
Propagation of the Gospel in London to minister to the area. Mr
Burton had land grants totalling some 800 acres on lots 13, 14,
15 and 16 of the 1st range, now a part of Ste-Julienne. The first
Anglican Church was built on lot 22 of the 2nd range in what is
now St-Ligouri. Later, a frame church was built in the village
on Church Street. This was replaced by the present stone church
which has been in constant use since its construction 1857 –
1861. The building has been designated a historical site and is
undergoing restoration at the moment.
church was established in 1838 and eventually a fine brick church
was constructed in 1895. In 1927, Methodists, Presbyterian and
others formed the United Church of Canada. This congregation still
functions as the present day Mid-Laurentian United Church.
With increasing numbers of Irish and French Canadian Catholic
settlers, there was need for Catholic services in the area. In
the 1820s, Mass was celebrated by visiting priests, from the Parish
of St-Jacques, in the homes of the Roman Catholic settlers, in
particular, those of John Carroll and Thomas Green. They were
served by priests from St-Jacques de Montcalm, St-Paul de Joliette,
l’Assomption and even a visiting priest, Father Moore of
Montreal. In 1832 the Roman Catholic Bishop of Montreal agreed
that Rawdon should have a church of its own. Lot 17 on the 5th
range was the site chosen and a cross was erected and blessed
to indicate the spot. Finally the Church was built and on September
21, 1834 the pastor of St-Jacques celebrated the first mass in
the new church.
A little later a rectory was built to house the priests, although
there was not a resident priest until 1846. This first residence
was replaced in 1845 when a government survey relocated the church
land to Queen Street. A new building was constructed on Queen
at 5th Avenue. This building is still in existence in a new location
although it was replaced by the present rectory in 1886 when a
new stone church was erected as well. This latter church was replaced
in 1951, but the rectory remains in use today.
With the exception
of the Presbyterian Church, the registers of baptism, marriage
and burial for these churches can be consulted at the National
Archives of Quebec, Viger Street, Montreal or through the Anglican
and United Church Archives in Montreal. Contrary to the mislabelled
LDS microfilms in the Archive National and what is written in
some sources, there was no Baptist church in Rawdon in 1820 or
at any time subsequent to that. Likewise, the Episcopal Church
is not a separate institution but is the Anglican Church or as
it was called in 1822, the Church of England and Ireland. A transcript
of the Roman Catholic Church records can be found at the Société
de Généalogie de Lanaudière in Joliette.
The first known school opened, in the summer of 1825, in temporary
quarters, under the governance of the Royal Institution for the
Advancement of Learning. A schoolhouse was built soon after at
the Forks on the Second Range and was used for Anglican Church
services as well. English, French, Protestant and Catholic all
attended the school but the language of instruction was English.
Gradually schools were built in various locations throughout the
township including the village proper probably on Queen Street.
It was replaced by a model school built in 1884 across from the
Anglican Church on 3rd Avenue. In 1909 a two-story white clapboard
school was built on the 4th Avenue at the corner of Metcalfe.
This was replaced in 1950 by a larger red brick school which was
required when the closure of the last rural schools forced pupils
to come to the village school. It was soon enlarged to accommodate
a continuously growing student body. The population continued
to grow and temporary additions were made but could not keep up
with the demand. Finally, in 2000, a new school was built on Queen
and 19th Avenue to house the students and with this the school
has come full circle, back to Queen Street.
It was not
until 1863 that the first Catholic School Commission was formed.
Several earlier attempts to install a Catholic School in the area
had failed. Until that time, and in some cases afterwards, the
Catholic children attended the Protestant Schools.
was opened in 1863 with instruction in French and had 55 students.
In 1867 a second school, for girls was opened on Albert Street
and the Brothers of St. Viateur took charge of St-Louis as a boys’
school. The next year it was closed and remained so for the next
18 years re-opening in 1896.
In 1927, the
old school was sold and the boys attended classes in various houses
throughout the village. A new red brick school was built and in
1934 the boys moved into a modern two-storey building with six
classrooms. This school was destroyed by fire in 1954 and once
again temporary classrooms were found for the boys while a new
school was readied. January 1955 found the boys re-united in a
new, larger more modern school. In 1959 the Brothers of St. Viateur
withdrew their services and lay teachers were hired to staff the
On Lake Morgan
Road, behind the convent, another new school, St. Anne’s,
was built to educate English Catholic children in grades 1 to
7. Prior to this, they either went to the Protestant school or
to a private school if they wished to have English language instruction.
In 1973 an agreement between the Protestant and Catholic Boards
saw the English Catholic children attending the Protestant School
and Ste Anne’s housed the French children in the secondary
grades while St-Louis was used as an elementary school for both
sexes. In 1977, the Polyvalante des Chutes made St. Anne’s
high school obsolete so the elementary classes were moved there
was established by two of the Sisters of Ste. Anne on October
25, 1865 in a house purchased from John Corcoran. This was short-lived
as the building burned to the ground on December 22 of the same
year. Alexander Daly had an unused log house nearby on 6th Avenue
and offered it to the nuns for their use until a new residence
could be found or built. Unfortunately, this building was in very
poor condition and when the Bishop visited he was so upset by
the living conditions he sent the Sisters and their fifteen female
students to the convent in St-Jacques to await the construction
of a new convent. This was soon built and on February 4, 1867
the Sisters and their girls returned to Rawdon. In 1878 a new
wing was added and twelve years later another storey was built.
In 1902, a third storey as well as an annex were added to house
the ten nuns and their 125 students. In 1921 another and final
addition was made to the convent and the exterior was covered
in red brick replacing the original clapboard siding.
St. Anne Convent
had an excellent reputation for graduating bilingual students
with the highest quality of education. In 1938, the Sisters offered
a commercial course, as well. Girls were drawn from all parts
of the world, and included the daughters of ambassadors of South
American countries and of well-known European families. Daughters
of former Rawdonites now living abroad as well as local girls
of Protestant as well as Catholic families all attended “the
With the new
education system and changing times student enrolment at the convent
gradually decreased. In 1982 there were 185 students and in 1985-86
school year there were only 33 enrolled. A decision was taken
to close at the end of the same year and the convent became a
residence for seniors, many of whom had attended class there years
1904 James Corcoran donated the first $1000 towards the building
of an English Catholic college in Rawdon. For the next six years
the Irish population with the support of the resident priest and
Judge Firmin Dugas waged a campaign to have the dream of a college
in their town realized. Finally, the cornerstone was laid on July
21, 1910 and the school was ready for the 1911-12 school year.
There were 75 boys registered that first year. Named, St. Anselme
Academy, it was staffed by the Brothers of St-Viateur who provided
an excellent opportunity for young boys to excel in their studies.
The commercial course was recognized as among the best available
at the time. Boys from as far away as Massachusetts came to study
at St. Anselme’s College in Rawdon.
Despite the excellent reputation and continued enrolment, a decision
to teach in French was taken in 1948 as the local French population
greatly outnumbered the English and there were no local facilities
to offer the boys who wished to study in French. In 1958 the courses
became classical under the jurisdiction of the Faculty of Arts
of l’Université de Montréal but taught by the Brothers of
St-Viateur. The College was renamed College Champagneur at about
this same time and has since then undergone renovations and additions
and become co-ed.
Court of Montcalm was established in 1857, with headquarters in
Ste-Julienne and a County and Superior Court was set up at Industry
Village or St-Paul de l’Industrie (as Joliette was originally
known}. After 1870, the Circuit Court, too, was relocated to Industry.
Before these courts were established, justice was seen to by local
agreement or cases were taken to the Courts in Montreal. George
Copping makes a reference in his Diary to a courthouse in Rawdon.
He refers several times to ‘settling Accounts’ or
‘consultations’ in the years 1836 – 1838 but
some of these legal matters were attended to in Montreal.
in Lower Canada was instituted very early in the English regime.
In 1807, George Heriot had been Deputy Postmaster General of British
North America for 20 years. In the correspondence of the Royal
Institution from 1825 – 1830 there was no post office at
Rawdon and people walked to L’Assumption to post and pick
up letters. The first official evidence of a post office in Rawdon
was the resignation of Robert Green as postmaster and his replacement
by Thomas Griffith, agent for the crown, on April 5, 1832. No
records remain from either man. A map drawn up by William
Holtby, secretary-treasurer, in the 1840s indicates a post office
located at Lot 5 of the First Range in what is now Ste-Julienne.
The next known postmaster was Luke Daly. Although records show
him first appointed in 1853, he was known to hold the position
as early as 1846. The post office, as in all small rural communities
was a gathering place to exchange greetings and news. The first
official post office versus being in a private house is said to
have been on Queen Street just below 4th Avenue. This was replaced
when a new town hall was built early in the last century and the
post office was housed in the same building as the City Hall still
located on Queen Street, but about midway between 4th and 5th
train to came to Rawdon in 1910. Previous to this, Rawdon was
served by the train that came to Montcalm Station some few miles
from the town. The story of the railroads that served Rawdon for
a very short period of time can be found on the
Railways of Rawdon website.
two lakes, both man made. Lake Pontbriand resulted from the construction
of a dam on the Ouareau River by the Laurentian Electric Company
in 1912 to provide electricity to the village. Rawdon Lake was
created in 1914 by damming the Red River at Third Avenue, just
above the Mason Mill and Mason Falls.
streetlights were installed in 1921. In 1925 the first fire pump
was purchased by the village. A privately owned water system water
system was installed in the early forties to supply water to the
village residents and bought over by the Village in 1950. In 1951,
the first sewer system was constructed.
In 1919, a
group of villagers pressed to have the municipality divided into
separate corporations of village and township. The villagers felt
they were being unfairly taxed as there was more roads to maintain
in the country and less tax monies to be collected. In 1920, the
area was divided into the Village of Rawdon and The Township of
Rawdon. In 1970, the Village realized their error. The township
had evolved from a farm community and had become first a summer
haven and later a place of permanent residence.
It now had
a greater population, more industry, more place to expand than
the village whose growth was limited because the township surrounded
it. Finally, in 1998, the two municipalities were fused by government
late nineteen thirties a few German immigrants settled in Rawdon
which still had an English majority. After World War II, Czechoslovakian,
Polish, Hungarian and Russian immigrants flocked to Rawdon. Today,
with a population of almost 10,000, there is a French majority,
some Anglos and a large multi-ethnic population. There are presently
seven churches and two school systems in the community.
residents commute daily to their jobs in Montreal; others are
retired and choose to live in Rawdon because of its facilities
and proximity to the metropolitan area.