In 1956 my mother, Norma Stanley, was asked to write a history of St. Lambert for the Centennial celebration the following year. My parents moved to St. Lambert in the early 1940's shortly, after they were married. They lived there until they passed away. I recently came across a copy in the archives of my attic.
– Ross Stanley C’65
The Prairie Called “Mouille-Pied”
By Norma Stanley
The hunter who came to this shore long ago, Chased foxes all through the day, but invariably said as homeward he sped “Ma foi! C‘est un vrai Mouille-Pied!
If, as it is said, tomorrow never comes, so it is true that our yesterdays are always with us, and, as in this year of 1957 our City of St. Lambert celebrates the one hundredth anniversary of its incorporation as a Municipality, we are keenly aware that our yesterdays go far beyond one hundred years. indeed, one might say that they start with the day in January 1535 when at the annual meeting of the Company of One Hundred Associates, its shrewd and astute president arranged that the Company give his son M. Francois de Lauzon the concession of more that 50 leagues of land on the South Shore, stretching from the St. Francis River on Lake St. Peter up to and above Sault St. Louis (Lachine Rapids). included in this vast concession, known as La Citi Eire, were the two localities of La Prairie de la Magdelaine and La Prairie de Saint-Lambert or, as the latter was sometime called, Mouille-Pied. A name whose translation is self-explanatory even today, although historians have on occasion deemed it necessary to record somewhat apologetically that the land was swampy and hunters in the vicinity frequently had wet feet. It was these two leagues of land which M. Lauzon donated to the Reverend Jesuit Fathers, on April 1, 1647, the section Mouille-Pied now being known as Saint-Lambert.
Because Canada itself is a young country, our history is closely woven with hers, and, even before our shores were cleared, a fierce and bloody battle took place on a spot which was to become a playground for our young people; a place for picnics and revelry, where the fires that burned were the fires of peace and friendship. It is hard to imagine as we look across the river toward Moffat’s island, almost completely hidden from sight by huge mounds of earth from the enormous Seaway Project, that this forlorn little isle was once the scene of a Massacre as savage as any recorded during this period of Holy Wars. Known at that time as Ile-la-Pierre because of its quarries from which the people of Ville Marie obtained stone to build their homes, it was also a bushy little island, and these were the very bushes which provided an ambush for the 35 Mohawks and Oneidas who in 1561 attacked M. Guillaume Vignal, a priest, and the 13 men and soldiers who accompanied him to the island to gather stone for the construction of a house for the Sisters of Mercy. It must have broken the hearts of the good Sisters to hear of the shocking lack of mercy in this attack, but hear it they did, for of the 6 victims carried away, one returned to tell a story of tortures and suffering beyond imagination.
Upon disembarking on our Saint-Lambert shore, the indians found that Father Vignal was too badly wounded to survive the trip to the country of the Five Nations, so on October 27, '1661, just a little more than two years after he had sailed to these shores on the same ill-fated ship on which Jeanne Mance had returned to Canada, he was put to death and his body was roasted on a stake.
For many years the site of this horrible deed was marked by a plaque across from the Waterworks Building, but recently has been temporarily dislodged by Seaway operations.
Five years after the Massacre at Ile-la-Pierre, that is, in 1666, having made peace of sorts, with the iroquois, the Jesuits decided to clear the shore they describe as having been sanctified by the blood of martyrs and in 1668 over 40 concessions were given while they were on an expedition to La Prairie. lt is assumed that Saint-Lambert concessions were given at the same time, and that the Jesuits kept in mind the advice of an anonymous sage of their day who declared,"it is important, in beginning a new colony, to sow good seed." As many of the colonists in New France had come from Normandy, Poitou, Brittany, Pays d'Aunis, Picardy and Paris, it is quite probable that our own early settlers were from some of these points, although the Parisians were not usually farmers. As many of the colonists in New France had come from Normandy, Poitou, Brittany, Pays d'Aunis, Picardy and Paris, it is quite probable that our own early settlers were from some of these points, although the Parisians were not usually farmers.
There seems to be no definite proof as to the origin of the name of Saint-Lambert, but the most frequently offered suggestion is that it was named for Lambert Closse, a Clerk of the Court in Ville Marie, and a Major in the garrison of that town, who in '1651, with 16 men, fought off an attack by 200 indians on the Hotel Dieu, was later killed in a skirmish on Saint Lambert Hill (1651), and who when he wasn't hunting indians, apparently hunted other game on our shores. However, a member of the clergy discards this theory and states most emphatically that Lambert Closse may have been an indian fighter, as was indeed every man who carried a gun, but he definitely was no saint, quite the contrary! Be this as it may, he was nevertheless a brave man, who expressed the desire only to die in the service of God, and his statue in Place d'Armes beside that of Maissonneuve and another remarkable hunter of indians, the dog Pilote, pays tribute to his courage. So, you may accept or reject him, as you will. ln any event, it is as Cote Saint-Lambert that we next hear of our settlement. its 14 inhabitants who, because there was still danger of attack from the indians, had built their houses close together, and. in 1588, surrounded them with a palisade of logs. Thus, becoming Fort Saint-Lambert. It is here too, that we hear of the first church in Saint-Lambert, built to serve those good people who in going to worship in the Parish of La Prairie de la Magdelaine, soon found they were inviting attack by the Iroquois. Both the church, whose roof was of straw, and the land on which it was built, were donated by Pierre and Denise Perras of La Prairie de la Magdelaine in '1675, and although not at first within the walls of the Palisade, records show that in 1591 it was taken apart and transported within the Fort by one Hyerome Charpentier, payment for his services being 50 francs and some salt. If we are to believe ancient superstition, it is probable that M. Charpentier spilled some of his salt, for although in 1583 the combined population of La Prairie and Saint-Lambert had reached 210, and we hear of a confirmation in 1692, and a wedding between Clement Leriger and Marie Roy in 1700, it is sad indeed that by 1705 the little chapel had fallen into ruins. Its linen, ornaments, and furniture were placed in the care of the La Prairie-priest, to be returned to the Saint-Lambert chapel upon its reconstruction.
Some years later a cross was blessed and placed on the site where the little chapel had been. Various reports place it on Riverside Drive east of Victoria Bridge, but it may be that there was some confusion in the translation of west and east, for a photostatic copy of the original contract for the transfer of property would definitely indicate that the cross was, and still is, between Saint-Lambert and La Prairie on the road which was then Saint-Lambert Road hence, Cote Saint-Lambert.
Unfortunately there is nothing around the cross to state the reason for its being there, and it does seem a shame, for neither the chapel nor its donors should be forgotten.
Pierre Perras was born in La Rochelle, France, in 1636, married Denise Lemaistre in Montreal in 1660, and died and was buried in La Prairie, leaving three sons and his widow. He signed his name with an X.
Denise also signed her name with an X, and in fact the only signature on the above mentioned contract was that of the notary M. Tissot. Meeting Denise was like meeting an old friend , for she too was on the same uncomfortable voyage as Jeanne Mance, Marguerite Bourgeoys, and the missionary who met such an unfortunate end on our shore, Guillaume Vignal. Upon being widowed, she later remarried. was widowed again, and in 1691 was scalped by the Iroquois, the very people whose savagery had prompted the donation of the land and chapel.
Their three sons continued to thrive, and the many families of Perras in Saint-Lambert and La Prairie are in some way related to Pierre and Denise. ln fact, the owner of the copy of the contract is ninth generation!
The story of Fort Saint-Lambert becomes more than the history of a shadowy past, and indeed becomes infinitely closer to us when we realize that among the original 14 inhabitants were Mr. Antoine Marsil and Andre Achim whose houses were built as part of their farm buildings during the period 1679-1685 and are still standing on Riverside Drive as solid as the fortresses they were also intended to be. Yesterday becomes today, when we see the descendants of these pioneers still listed in our directory." !t becomes today without our experiencing any of the hardships endured by these early settlers, who even after they finally had a few acres under cultivation, supplemented their food supply by hunting and fishing for the generous supply of eels which abounded in the St. Lawrence. This was, of course, always with a wary eye toward the indians who by 1691 were again making life difficult, for among their many mischiefs we read that they prowled property prowled the deserted farms on the shores of the St. Lawrence, while the inhabitants remained pent in their stockade forts, with misery in the present and starvation in the future. (Francis Parkman) In 1722 the King of France decreed that: 45 arpents from the Seigneurie de La Prairie, which is the section Mouille-Pied, be united to the Parish of Longueuil. Mouille-Pied being Saint-Lambert, this must have been wonderful news for our settlers , for it meant that they could now attend church in Longueuil, a journey which while still an arduous one in winter, would not be quite so long as the one to La Prairie. While history records no outstanding events taking place in Saint Lambert during the next hundred years, so much was going on immediately around her, (and surely through her by way of the Lapiniere Trail) which was to affect the whole course of her future, that at least some mention of this period must be made. To skip the intervening years would be to ignore the ninth day of May in 1760, when our settlers, [ike the Frenchmen lining the shore opposite them, watched anxiously while the Frigate Lowestoffe sailed slowly up the St. Lawrence, and after an extremely tense moment, unfurled the glorious white ensign with the Union Jack of England and Scotland in its corner. The Seven Years War had ended; and our spectators who had gone to the river banks as the loyal subjects of France, returned to their homes, the apprehensive subjects of King George III of England! The Treaty of Paris in 1753 fulfilled their fears. For at first the British took away the Jesuits South Shore property and there was much general unrest, "among both the new English settlers and the French' The Quebec Act of 1774 rectified things considerably, but one cannot believe that our Saint-Lambert farmers lived happily ever after, for circumstances being as they were, this was well nigh impossible. The Americans were definitely unhappy, and their repeated attempts to occupy Montreal by way of St. Johns, Chambly, and La Prairie, and their eventual success, must surely have affected our settlers. It is with America winning her independence in1783, and the consequent influx of Loyalists, which in turn brought about the Constitutional Act in 1791, that we leave the outside world to its own devices, while we again join our little farming community which is now designated as being in (Lower Canada). The story of Fort Saint-Lambert has been so widely accepted that a somewhat revolutionary concept formed in 1815, the year of the cannon of Waterloo, has come down through the years to arrive in the midst of our story with the bewildering force of today's H bomb. As told in an early column of Edgar Andrew Collard, it seems that J.H. Dorwin while on his way to Montreal one night in June, 1815, stayed overnight on our side of the river, in a tavern kept by a man named Papineau. His account mentions Solomon's Tobacco Factory on the river bank, and an ordinary country road, with here and there a farm house along its sides, running down from La Prairie, but he says that there was no Saint-Lambert then, and that in fact, he didn’t know that the country around had any particular name. He goes on to state that in 1819 it was called Richmond by a man named Hartley who bought a farm there) that 20 years later it became Brewsterville, and sometime after that, Saint-Lambert. (And that), says Mr. Dorwin, (was all of it). While this is certainty contrary to the accepted version, we know that must cast aside the suspicion that our visitor had been sampling too freely of M. Papineaus wares, while staying perhaps in another community, for there was a tobacco factory in the present Knights of Columbus building (which edifice had also been occupied by a smuggling ring); there was a tavern; and the ordinary country road to which Mr. Dorwin refers was indeed our Riverside Drive. The next morning he was ferried across the river in a pine log canoe, landed in the mud at the foot of Jacques Cartier Square, and we hear no more of his impressions of Saint-Lambert.
However, the river bank on one side of the ordinary country road comes to the fore again when the first English family of which we have record, settled in Saint-Lambert. ln 1832, William Smith purchased a farm on the land next to the present Country Club, and when the adjoining farm also came into the possession of the Smiths the whole section between Bolton and Alexandra became known as Smithers Point. This was the official postal address of that area. Like their French compatriots, their name is still listed in the directory, there having been born five generations of Smiths since William, four in Saint Lambert. It was the decision (in 1850) of the Montreal and Champlain Railway Company to extend its terminal from La Prairie to Cote Saint-Lambert which brought about the first major change in the lovely farming community. As this was the first railroad in Canada, there was much preliminary work to be done, and the building of large shops, stations, etc. brought many workers and new residents to the area. When finished, the wooden tracks with bands of steel ran along a great pier which cut across Victoria Park, between First and Second Streets to where St. Barnabas Church now stands, across to the gulley between Victoria and Argyle, thence across to Ile-a-la-Pierre, and even 1050 feet beyond that, where it was met by the steamboats iron Duke and Prince Albert.
This new service made an enormous difference to the residents, who, although the day of the commuter was yet to come, still had occasional business in Montreal, which city they had to reach by their own small boats or, in the winter, by the river roads. A little of these people, and their day, reached out to us recently when Seaway engineers unearthed some of the massive beams which had constructed this pier and had lain obscured by time and the mighty St. Lawrence which flowed over them.
Saint-Lambert was at this time a charming and beautiful countryside community, and the improved transportation facilities brought a continuous flow of new settlers. In 1854, the Grand Trunk Railway began work on the Victoria Bridge, a tubular construction which was to be hailed as one of the seven wonders of the world, but, before its completion and official inauguration by the Prince of Wales in 1860, the people of our little settlement, keeping pace with the rapid steps of those around her towards progress and prosperity, addressed, and were granted by the Legislature, a request for incorporation. Thus, the little farming community which had once consisted of fourteen people and a church, became from and after the first day of July, 1957, the municipality of Saint Lambert in the County of Chambly. It was still mainly a farming community, and the boundaries as designated in the Charter were very much as they are now, except for a few farms which were later annexed to the Parish of Longueuil.
With incorporation an accomplished fact, the residents set about the very important business of electing a council. A public meeting of electors was held in the station waiting room on July 11, 1857, the station at that time being located behind what is now Barber Cartage, and elected to our first council were: John Dodsworth, Robert Cross, Peter Morris, Louis David, Noel Marcille, Pierre Betournay and Louis Betournay. Some of these names appeared in our very early history, and are still before us today.
The first meeting of the new Council was held on July 13, 1857, again in the station waiting room, and all councillors were present. Adelard J. Boucher was elected as Secretary Treasurer, and the first Mayor of Saint-Lambert was Louis Betournay.
Through the years our Council has followed the same format of six aldermen and a mayor, although various amendments have lengthened their tenures of office until now all are elected for three years, but so arranged that there are never six new councillors in office at the same time. The powers of Council have differed according to the needs of the times, and it is interesting to note that the very first Act of incorporation decreed that: all the municipal Councillors will also be School Commissioners, having and exercising all the powers and authority of School Commissioners in virtue of the School Laws in force in Lower Canada, and some years later that the Council had power to regulate the maintenance of the winter roads on the ice in the river of St. Lawrence, and to prohibit or regulate the cutting of ice in the river. While on the negative side: No liquor licence can be granted by the Council, a licence can only be granted by the electors in the annual election. To this day, the electors have not seen fit to grant such a licence.
An interesting sidelight on one of our first Councillors, Robert Cross, is told by a long-time resident. lt seems that Mr. Cross was employed in the construction of the Victoria bridge, and held up proceedings somewhat by refusing to work on Sundays. Probably more serious from the Bridge people's standpoint however, was the fact that he also refused to let his horse work on Sundays. One can’t help but admire the strong spirit of Mr. Cross, although the bridge did manage to get built in spite of it and has undergone many changes since it’s opening in 1860.
A sulky destiny, meanwhile biding her time, now hints that the latest proposed addition to the bridge, a spur that will jut out into the river then cut across our shore taking several Saint Lambert homes with it, should first of all, reach out like the long arm of retribution to seep from its path a beautiful old stone house on the river front, the house that was once the home of Robert Cross. While somehow we feel that this strong willed member of our first council would object strenuously, we may at least rest assured that neither the house nor the objections would be raised on a Sunday.
There were others too, who felt that Sunday must be observed as the Lord's Day and with municipal affairs fairly well in hand, they set out establishing churches, building schools, and making improvements where possible. The Catholics were attending services in Longueuil and felt no pressing need for a church here, but the Protestant population, which had been holding services in a building near the subway on Victoria, had now grown to such an extent that a church became a matter of prime importance.
It is here that was formed the nucleus of the great number of energetic church workers in our town. William Brown donated the land, and he and W.H. Rosevear and several others directed their wholehearted efforts towards raising subscriptions for the building of a church. We are told too that the aforementioned Smith family, who by that time had established a brickyard on their farm at the top of the present luxurious Montrose Avenue, donated both the bricks to build the fine gothic style church, and the horses to drag the pews across the ice. In 1866, at a cost of $4,000 and with accommodation for 150 people, it was opened the Wesleyan Methodist Church, the first Protestant house of worship in Saint-Lambert.
The following year the warm July breezes played across the farms on Notre-Dame Street and through the windows of the little church, gently caressing the faces of these good people as though to say "Let us give thanks together, for it is 1857 and this the Dominion of Canada!"
The story of the Methodists continues to be a happy one for they are now the United Church of Canada, but on the other hand the story of the little church itself leaves a touch of sadness. Happy beginnings do not always have happy ending and it must be recorded that the congregation eventually outgrew their church and moved to larger quarters. It stood forgotten, until, prompted by the acute housing shortage during the second World War, someone moved in and used it as a dwelling place. This was its last Christian function, for it soon yielded to the strong hand of demolition workers to make room for a new and ultra modern supermarket you all know as the Atlantic and Pacific on Victoria avenue.
As mentioned previously, the Catholics were attending services in Longueuil, having failed in an earlier attempt to organize a church. They did, however, instigate a move which resulted in the amendment of the decree whereby the Council formed the School commission, and the consequent appointment of a separate Roman Catholic School Commission with Pierre Betournay, Pierre Mailloux, and Noel Marcille named Trustees, with Mr. Betournay also being named Chairman of the Commission for the year. This was in 1878.
The official Dominion Census for the time was about 330, although their figures have been much lower than ours all the way down the line. We hear of two schools, one on Victoria across from todays Bar-B-Q, and the other on Riverside Drive. While we are not absolutely certain of their denomination, we do know that one of our Catholic residents attended school on Riverside, a few years later.
The little villages on the south shore had at one time been described as worlds of worlds in themselves, self- centered and independent of the city (Montreal Hunt), but this was no longer so, and as the population continued to grow, commutation with Montreal became more and more an issue. Nor was the situation eased when the Grand Trunk officially opened its Victoria Bridge, for in spite of the great fanfare, illuminations, and parades in full regalia by the Indians to whom the river was offered no problems, the people of Saint-Lambert were informed that they would not be provided with train service. This left them dependent upon the steamboats which ran from Moffat's Island to Montreal, and which although hailed with enthusiasm some twenty-eight years previously, had proven to be an unreliable, and unprofitable operation. ln 1879, the steamship Saint-Lambert dropped her anchor for the last time, leaving her aspiring travelers, high, if not always dry Mouille-Pied on the shore from which she had taken her name.
Fortunately at this time, the Grand Trunk became aware of the increasing number of settlers on the south shore, and put on a suburban train to supplement the less frequent service of its regular one. Thus with its life line to Montreal assured, the little municipality could do nothing but go forward.
We have now reached a point in our story when it is no longer necessary to depend solely upon the written word , for there are residents among us who paint a vivid picture of the charming little country community which was the Saint Lambert of the late nineteenth century. A community which still retained the natural beauty which had attracted the Jesuits in the first place and whose many little homes set among the massive trees were surrounded by orchards and flower gardens.
During the 1880s, the only street running the full breadth of Saint Lambert was Front Street, now Riverside Drive, and the old stone houses which are on it now, were of course, on it then, as well as a few more which have since been demolished. There were of course the homes of the original old farms some of which were still farms for it was not until after 1900 that the Marcille property for instance was split into building lots. Also on Front street was the Boating Club, the center of much activity, and at first located across the street from our late lamented swimming beach but later moved to the present location of the Bowling Green, where the steps may still be seen leading down to the water. Reminiscent residents of the time speak of Tarte the Blacksmith, whose shop was situated on Front street at the corner of Saint-Denis, although the latter did not go through and of the Irving Hotel, also on Front street, a finely appointed establishment, and a popular place for entertainment. A former school teacher who tells of boarding here was not at all entertained by the terrifying sight of the ice as it crashed down river in the Spring. It must be explained that this building was not taken over by the Knights of Columbus until 1921, thus our reference in no way infers the age of our informant but merely indicates the ever present danger from the river.
The only streets running up from Front street were Lorne, Argyle, and Victoria; and crossing them were Aberdeen, Elm (then Grant Trunk) and Prince Arthur. Most of the houses were located on Victoria although there were a few at the foot of Lorne and a few on Prince Arthur. Argyle was an open street until the year 1886 at which time a few houses were built on it, one of whose owners also built the first lawn tennis court in Saint-Lambert. It is said to have belonged to two ladies who, being no different from ladies of any other century, hoped to arrange a ((love)) match. Whether they did or not, is their own affair, but, young gentlemen don't change much either, and as it has been reported that they were not above sampling the fruit from the lovely orchards around, it is highly probable that the young ladies met with some rather strong competition from the produce in the adjoining garden belonging to the palatial home which is now a funeral parlour.
For practical purposes, let us assume that the pangs of hunger were stronger than the pangs of love, and having yielded to temptation after scaling the six foot fence which surrounded the beautiful garden, the young man being fleet of foot, has sprinted along Argyle. Unfortunately the bridge which crossed the gulley to connect with Victoria, was dismantled in'1883, so not wishing to risk more trouble by crossing the private one now there, our young culprit hurries along to the bridge which crosses the creek in Gordon Park. He knows the time is 4.30 P.M. for his progress is marked with a friendly wave from Captain Davies as he prepared to lock the door of his store and Post Office before sorting the mail, and as he approaches the vicinity of Aberdeen and Victoria the pungent air of Mr. Trudeau's barn and stables fills his nostrils. The twinge of conscience he experiences as he passes the Methodist Church, would, we fear, quickly change to one of excitement, could he foresee that in 1890, the bell in the little steeple would be used to summon the hand pump and newly formed Volunteer Fire Brigade consisting of George Beatty, Joseph Trudeau, John Beatty Jr. and Fred Trudeau.
The sight of a little frame school in the park between Victoria and Elm brings a gasp of relief from our tired fugitive for he knows that on the Elm street side, near Lorne, is the village pump, whose cup hanging on a chain, is used by him and everyone else in the Municipality. Not only was this a convenience for -the school children, but also for the electors and politicians who met with no protest from the pupils when they took over the school for two days while conducting their other items noted that work on the Victoria Bridge was being watched with great interest, for the tubular structure was being dismantled and replaced with a double track; and waterworks and drainage were the issues of the day.
Rumours of a raise in the price of transportation, and a complaint by that there were too many dogs in Saint-Lambert, were in the St. Lambert News, just as they have been in the subsequent, South Shore News, Home Town News (a Legion publication for the boys overseas during the second World War), the Suburban News, and the present South Shore Echo, and more recent Argus. Several changes were made during these years. ln '1894, the pupils moved out of the little building they had been sharing with the City Hall on Victoria, and took up their new quarters on Green street. The building and the land had cost $11,000, and three additions to the original five classrooms and banquet hall have since been made; a Water and Drainage system was installed; and the Catholics, who had at last succeeded in having St. Lambert declared a separate Parish, had built a wooden church on Riverside where the convent is, and later, but still during this same period of time, moved to Lorne avenue. Better water conditions brought about the purchase of newer, more modern horse-drawn fire fighting equipment, and the Fire Department moved into the City Hall building. One can imagine their chagrin when this building burned down some years later, taking the city records with it.
Thus equipped with the nucleus of a fine city, and a surplus of $550, the Town of Saint-Lambert continued to grow, while meeting the ensuing needs for municipal improvements, including the installation of electricity in 1909, and the paving of the first sidewalks when the wooden ones on Victoria and Lorne were taken up in 1911 . Much to the delight of those who had subscribed to a Booster Train so that they might attend the occasional late theatre in town without having to take the Longueuil Ferry home, a bracket was built on the Victoria Bridge in 1909, and the official inauguration of the Southern Counties Electric Railway took place in the following year.
By 1921 Saint-Lambert had fulfilled its early promise, for on March 19 of that year she was incorporated as a City, and continued to push on towards greater things.
Until now, we have mentioned only the material progress of our city, and in so doing have given the impression that our people had no time for the lighter things in life. This is not so, for they have been a fun loving people right from the early days. ln fact we wouldn't be surprised if it was the starting of the Fall Whist Clubs which warned the leaves that it was time to be on their way.
As mentioned previously, the Boating Club was the main center of activity. Dances and Annual Regattas were eagerly awaited, not only by the Saint-Lambert group but also by other Boating Clubs along the river and Lakeshore area; and a reminiscent sparkle comes into the eyes of those who tell of the Mandolin Club and Minstrel Shows held here. This club was formed in 1887 and was still holding regattas more than twenty years later.
The present day Horticultural Society was also formed around this time and the Tuesday Musical Club (1905). The Literary Society is not listed any more, nor are the Saint-Lambert Choral Society, Knickerbocker Players, Debating Club, and the Twelve O'clock Club. The Senior Choral Society has become our Saint-Lambert Operatic Society whose fame is nation wide, and the Canadian Christmas Tree League formed in 1913 by Mrs. Benjamin Burland is still carrying on its good works. Mrs. Burland was also the founder of the Tuesday Musical Club and the Saint-Lambert branch of the l.O.D.E. Vandermeerschen's Band Concerts in Gordon Park were great favourites just as later groups in the theatrical field also became favourites. The two most outstanding of the latter being the Arcadian Operatic Society and the Saint Lambert Thespians.
All the national and international service clubs are represented in our city, as well as the l(nights of Columbus, and other orders such as the Masons, Easter Star, etc.
Sports have played an important part in our district right from the time our pioneers combined pleasure with necessity when they had to hunt to live. We know too that Lambert Closse and his dogs hunted here in the'l7th century, and later the Club de Chasse and the Montreal Hunt Club both had their kennels on the South Shore, the latter's being in Saint-Lambert. The wily fox no longer abounds in our area, but it is interesting to note that until Seaway digging began these shores were a nesting place for migratory birds, and had been designated a bird sanctuary. Strictly for the birds, so to speak, and none were more aware of this than the birds themselves.
Later sports have included paddling, hockey, football, and baseball, with Championship titles being held in some of these fields. Skating rinks have always been numerous, and from time to time there have been Toboggan slides in the gulley where our old Champlain and St. Lawrence Railway ran, and a Toboggan Club at the top of Notre-Dame street. until the beach was appropriated by the Seaway, swimming was very popular, and the properly supervised classes turned out some very fine swimmers. Being deprived, temporarily at least, of swimming facilities, increasing numbers of young people may be found on our Municipal Golf Course, and there is every indication that some of them wilt be championship golfers.
Community Sports Association activities as well as those of their French counterpart L'Oeuvre des Terrains de Jeux keep our children occupied all through the year and both groups welcome all youngsters. Three times during the building of both the community and its youth, it has been necessary for the men of Saint-Lambert to defend their right to do so. The four men who enlisted in the South African War, plus five others in whom were held a proprietary interest made the proportion of fighting men larger than that of any other place its size in the Dominion. (pop. 1,500). Upon their return a dinner was held in honour of the four men whose names were: Smith, Horsefall, Mackenzie, and Cameron, and some of our residents still have souvenir programs of this event.
One hundred and twenty-seven Saint-Lambert men lost their lives in the two succeeding World Wars. Those who returned from the first were presented with Testimonials painted by the popular school teacher and artist Frances Kydd, while all who went to the second World War were presented with rings before their departure. When writing histories, it is customary, we are told, to do a special section on transportation, but this commodity, or lack of it, has had such a vital influence upon our progress that the story of Saint-Lambert could not have been told without at the same time mentioning the accompanying changes in transportation. So we find that we have already spoken of the river roads which were built across the ice and marked along the sides with small trees. (One of these ran from the foot of McGill to the foot of Lorne, and even after the coming of the train, our residents found it quicker to take the river road than to wait at Bonaventure station for the train.) We have mentioned too, the horse-drawn ferry, and the steamboats which ran from Moffat's Island.
Undoubtedly, the most important factor in our development has been the Victoria Bridge. Since its official inauguration as a Tubular ridge in 1860, it has undergone several changes which have enabled it to meet the demands of progress. In 1901, it became the Victoria Jubilee Bridge with a double track, a footpath, and a narrow road; in 1909 a bracket was added and the service of the Southern Counties Railway was inaugurated (but not officially until 1910); and in 1927 the narrow roadway was widened to accommodate two lanes of traffic. Each additional improvement has led to the continuation of the existant toll charge, and since the extensive renovations of 1956, a line of several ticket booths must be passed before entering, or leaving the four lane Victoria Bridge of today. The one which leads to Saint-Lambert '1957. Time has been good to our city, has treated it gently as she would a fine violin, and like a violin Saint-Lambert has matured and has become a thing of beauty. The lovely old trees seem to cherish and enfold the neat little homes and gardens beneath them, which now extend almost to the city limits and are the homes of the 13,615 citizens who make up our population. (This is the official Saint-Lambert census figure and not the considerably lower one of the Dominion Bureau.) These citizens are still represented in Council by six Aldermen and a Mayor with our present Mayor Townshend being the thirtieth since 1857. The City hall is now on Aberdeen, and also houses the Police and Fire Departments. The latter is still a Volunteer Department headed by a Chief and his assistant, who are supplied with the latest in modern fire fighting equipment. Also looking after the interests of the populace are the Citizens Association and the Civil Defense Unit. Most of our people agree with our old friend Mr. Robert Cross, and do not work on Sundays. Instead they attend any one of our four Protestant churches, the Presbyterians and Baptists having been added to the original number; or if they are not of this faith, they attend either the French or newly formed English Catholic Church. Much activity centers around the associations affiliated with the churches, for they all offer diversified programs and each group attends the other's events.
Saint-Lambert is the home of the Chambly County High School, and has as well, three Protestant Elementary Schools; two Catholic schools; and the Convent on Riverside Drive. This is an internationally known institution run by Les Soeurs des Saints-Noms de Jesus et Marie and pupils come from far and near to obtain the benefits of its excellent training. A new house of learning in our community is the Eulalie Durocher Normal School whose beautiful buildings on Riverside Drive stand where one of our pioneers once built his home. All schools receive the strong support of Home and School or Famille Ecole groups. While Saint-Lambert is basically a residential city, served by the well equipped stores in her little business area, of late years several manufacturing concerns have moved into the district, the first being Waterman's who came in 1902 and who have grown along with us. A special zoning law prevents any depreciation in the value of our homes, which themselves must maintain a standard of 21,000 cu.ft., although the modern clean lines and attractive landscaping of these new factories are a credit to any community.
There are at present, no hotels in the area, although there have been some from time to time. The lrving Hotel has been mentioned before, but there were also the Chateau Beauclaire on Mercille and the Perras Hotel across from the old railway station. The former burned down, and the building of the Perras Hotel is still there although it no longer provides accommodation for railway men. For the most part, we are a separate entity. The fact that we have no hospital, is perhaps negligible, for the numerous doctors in the area are affiliated with leading institutions in Montreal, and with today's transportation facilities these may be reached in fifteen or twenty-five minutes, depending upon how long you want to stay.
There was, at one time, the Home Hospital, a private institution owned by Nurse Trench and quite popular with Saint-Lambert residents. It was on Victoria Avenue and operated from the years 1928-1945.
Whether our citizens be going to school, going to business, or just going, they all get thirsty, and an up-to-date Filtration Plant constructed in 1929 at a cost of $121,000 supplies them with drinking water of the purest quality. Extra curricular affairs still take up much of their time, and one wonders if there is a busier community anywhere. As they hurriedly make their way around the city, they probably didn't see, or maybe didn't know of the many evidences of earlier days in Saint-Lambert. The old stone houses on the river front are of course a perpetual reminder of our pioneer settlers, but there are other signs too.
Victoria avenue, as mentioned before, is continuation of Devonshire Road and the indian trail which was later built up with logs by our British Army engineers who recognized it as a direct route to the Richelieu river. A drive along this street and Devonshire Road, which it becomes, then across the highway to the country lane on the other side, will reveal that there it retains its old name of Lapiniere Road, and continues on for some distance until all of a sudden it ends. And yet it doesn't end, for it becomes a wide trail running through the bush. Then again, there is the property which nobody owns. It runs between the houses on Lorne and Saint-Denis, and was apparently a cow path which ran right from Chambly to the St. Lawrence. The opening to the river may still be seen, and for some reason or other the right of way has been retained and the path leading t6 it a no man's land, appearing on no property deeds.
Another reminder of the good old days is the mound running along the rear of the property on Dulwich, and while Dulwich residents won't care to have us investigate, it is still interesting to know that this is part of the old road bed for the railroad which ran to the Ferry Wharf at Longueuil. If you would rather have it in writing however, there are several monuments throughout the city: The Massacre at Ile-la-Pierre and its horrible aftermath, on Riverside across from the Waterworks; the Champlain and St. Lawrence Railway, on Riverside at the foot of Victoria; the one which lists all the Mayors right down the line from Louis Betournay, on Riverside near Lorne; and of course, the War Memorial in the park on Green street, in front of the Post Office.
Undoubtedly, the memorial of which we are most proud is our Library, a beautiful little building and a living tribute to those who gave their lives in the two World Wars. Although the Library was built with public funds, the whole credit for raising these funds must go to Mrs. Louis Cormier and the dedicated group of followers whose dogged determination and courage resulted in the realization cf a dream, just five years after they had formed their Library Association. The formal opening of the St. Lambert Memorial Library is to be one of the highlights of the Centennial year. Once again we have arrived at a landmark in our story. n point which is not only the beginning of a new century in our history, but, also because of the Seaway, the beginning of a whole new way of living. Truly, the mighty St. Lawrence River has been the controlling influence all through our history. Periodically our shores have been inundated by the swollen spring flow, forcing riverside residents to man their boats. They speak of the big flood of 1886, and tell of the water going as far as the Catholic Church on Lorne. And of lesser floods, which while serious enough, fortunately didn't drown a sense of humour. Like the one, for instance, which caused a young organist who was to play for a wedding to be taxied in a canoe along Riverside, where he stopped at the subway while his nicely pressed trousers were lowered by the much loved late Mr. Moscovitch. It was the river which brought our first colonists in their sailboats; it was the river which carried the lndians in their canoes to massacre them; it was the river which later brought the steamboats and massive liners which now dock in Montreal Harbour.
From their front row seats, our people have watched Man in his continual fight to conquer the river. They applauded loudly when he built the Victoria Bridge, for it was to mean so much to the development of the new Municipality. Indeed, so loudly did they cheer than man took an encore, and surely the vast Seaway must be the decisive battle in this struggle for supremacy, for in opening a channel through which ships from all over the world may penetrate the very depths of Canada and the United States, he is performing a miracle in engineering, which when completed will go down in the history of the World. It goes down in our today, because he has pushed the river back from its shores, our shores.
No doubt we will call a friendly greeting to the men on the giant ships which will pass our doorstep, just as years ago, our predecessors waved to the farmers who having shot the rapids, sailed their fine wood rafts down these same lanes. Let us think sometimes of these and even earlier settlers, for while we stand on the threshold of a great future, and it is exciting to look ahead, it is also inspiring to look back to those whose hard work, foresight, and perseverance, built a city.
This we have done, from the Saint-Lambert of today to the foxes and the hunters and the Prairie called Mouitte-Pied.
And that, is all of it.
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