Val-David: Some History

Claude Proulx (Société d’histoire et du patrimoine de Val-David)

larger_historique03.jpgCulture - Val-David Historical and Heritage Society

At the turn of a new century and before memory faded, some folk with a passion for the past took the time to look back and remember. Therefore, in 2000, an historic year in itself, the Société d’histoire et du patrimoine de Val-David (Val-David Historical and Heritage Society) was founded to promote the village historical partrimony and preserve the architecture, nature, local traditions and the quality of urban landscape patrimony.

The Charter of the foundation of the Société d'histoire was signed by some descendants of the first colonists : Gérald BEAULNE, André BÉLISLE, Jean-Paul BÉLISLE, Guy CHARBONNEAU, Annick DAOUST, Alfred DUFRESNE, Jacques DUFRESNE, Fernand DUFRESNE, Réal GASCON, Suzanne GUINDON, Armand LACHAÎNE, Jean-Philippe LACHAÎNE, Laurier LACHAÎNE, Cécile LAFLEUR-DUFRESNE, Paul LARUE, Jacques MÉNARD, Robert MÉNARD, Eugène MONETTE, Philippe MONETTE, Pierre-Paul PAQUIN, Réjean PAQUIN, Claude PARENT, Jacques PARENT, Noël PARENT, Suzanne PARENT, Louis PELLETIER, Claude PROULX, Florence SAINT-LOUIS-VÉZINA, Gilberte SAINT-LOUIS-LAVERDURE, Julien SAINT-LOUIS, Jean VENDETTE.

Here are some extracts from the very fine book by Claude Proulx : Val-David : son histoire et son patrimoine (Val-David: History and Heritage), tome I, published in French in 2001 and magnificently illustrated by Sonia Paquin.

The beginnings

The first colonists arrived in our area during the summer of 1849. Coming from Saint-Benoît, Olivier Ménard, his brother Narcisse and Jean-Baptiste Dufresne began clearing the land allotted to them in the northern part of Ste-Adèle Parish, an area known today as Lac Paquin.

In 1862, our area was merged with the Municipality of the Parish of Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts and, in 1873, our village began to be called Mont-Morin after a new post office of that name. Until 1880, most of the population was concentrated in the Lac Paquin sector.

The growth of the village was given a boost with the construction of a watermill on the Rivière du Nord. The mill was built by Louis Papineau in 1859 and served not only to run a sawmill, but also, from 1892 on, a flourmill and a mill for carding wool. In July of 1892, the Canadian Pacific Railway built a magnificent station and named it Belisle’s Mill Station, after the mill owned by Joseph Belisle. The villagers quickly adopted the name for their village, thereafter called Belisle’s Mill. People built a village centre there which attracted a thriving business community, and which is essentially the one we know today.

With the construction of a church in 1917, the St-Jean-Baptiste parish is born and the place becomes, in 1921, the Municipality of the Village of St-Jean-Baptiste-de-Bélisle. Léonidas Dufresne was elected its first mayor.

On June 30, 1944, our village received a new name, the Municipality of Val-David, in honour of the Honourable Athanase David, member of the Legislative Assembly (now the National Assembly) and Quebec Provincial Secretary.


With the establishment of the first inns, notably the Villa Mon Repos in 1931 and the Hotel Sapinière in 1936, as well as the construction of cottages on the shores of Golden Lake (Lac Doré), Val-David began to attract its first tourists. Little by little, cross-country ski trails were opened up by the likes of Jackrabbit Johannsen and the Gillespie brothers. In 1949, the first downhill ski slopes were in operation, with the opening of Mont Plante and its ski school. Around 1935, climbers began to visit the rock faces of Mounts Condor, Césaire and King more and more and, in 1965, the Quebec Mountain Federation established a training site in Val-David for enthusiasts of this outdoor sport. The challenges of our climbing routes still attract climbers to Val-David on a regular basis. Today, these climbing routes are recognized as the most important ones in eastern Canada.

In 1959, Gilles Mathieu opened La Butte à Mathieu, the first “Boîte” in Quebec outside Montreal. All the big names among French and Québécois singers gave performances there. The opening of La Butte à Mathieu also brought with it an influx of large numbers of artists and craftspersons, many of whom elected to stay on in Val-David and set up their ateliers. In parallel, community life blossomed, thanks mainly to the dedication and personal involvement of the local population.

Val-David today

Over the years, our artists and craftspersons have organized a variety of exhibitions and activities which have helped give Val-David a reputation as a village of artists and artistic endeavours. On the other hand, cross-country skiing on the numerous groomed trails, skiing and snowboarding at our downhill ski centres, climbing in the Dufresne Regional Park, canoeing and kayaking on the Rivière du Nord and the development of Le P’tit Train du Nord linear park, which passes through the village centre, as well as the many restaurants, inns and boutiques, also attract more and more outdoor sports enthusiasts.

And that is how Val-David has acquired its twin vocations as a village of both cultural and outdoor pursuits.

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