New Book on Morin Heights History, by Don Stewart

Sandra Stock
New Book on Morin Heights History, by Don Stewart

--December 19, 2017.

larger_invite_launch_final_0.jpgThe History of Morin Heights and Surrounding Regions
by Don Stewart
published by Shoreline Press

The History of Morin Heights and Surrounding Regions, by Don Stewart, recently published by Shoreline Press of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, is an enormous and comprehensive in-depth study of not just one small municipality, but of the settlement and development of the entire Lower Laurentian region. At 518 pages, this is a hefty read. However, Don Stewart is an engaging and entertaining writer, and the work is divided into many short chapters with clearly delineated themes and sub-themes.

The book is also serious history – Stewart acknowledges this with the many, many sources and documents consulted in putting forth this compilation of materials. One of the realizations we have when reading the History of Morin Heights is that Morin Heights has always been interested in its own history. In comparison to many places, and some of them much larger and older, Morin Heights has accumulated a vast bank of written materials about itself. These sources vary from local newspaper features in both English and French – Rowena Blair and Germaine Page come to mind as correspondents from the 1950s onward, to publications by regular historical writers like Serge Laurin and Joseph Graham. As well, every notable birthday celebration of Morin (100, 125 and 150 years) has been marked by at least one important publication telling its history. The ongoing popularity of the Morin Heights Historical Association’s magazine The Porcupine-Le Porc-épic (ten editions since 1998) also attests to this remarkable interest in the past.

Morin Heights was first settled in the 1840s. It was officially established as a canton-township in 1855 by Norbert Augustin Morin, a government surveyor and important person of his period. The first settlers were mainly Irish, either direct emigrants or second-generation coming in from the already settled areas of Argenteuil County such as Gore and Mille Isles. After the social disruptions of the political unrest of the 1837 Rebellion, many French-speaking settlers also moved north from areas like St. Eustache and Ste. Scholastique to Morin.

The ongoing agreeable relationship between the linguistic groups is a major theme in Stewart’s history. The common challenges of isolation, harsh climate and terrain that was unsuitable for agriculture forged together all of the residents of this area. Language was never seen as an obstacle or even very important in these conditions. The people worked together in the lumber camps and, later on, infrastructure projects and construction. They served together on the town councils and preserved their common values of community and harmony and their cautious attitudes towards development.

The influences of larger surrounding centres, such as Lachute and St. Jérôme, are included in Stewart's History, and events in Quebec, Canada and the world are often alluded to. The author also provides a great deal of information about the cultural scene in Morin Heights, especially that of his own experience in the sixties and seventies. A personal touch can certainly add to the flavour of a work.

There are many photographs spanning over at least a century of Morin Heights' history, buildings and people. The outstanding natural beauty of the region perhaps could have been more emphasized with some larger, and possibly colour, illustrations. However, that might be a consideration for a second edition. This is a really good history and great achievement for Don Stewart.

To order a copy of this book, contact [email protected], or call 514-457-5733.