Up in Smoke: The Vanished Village of Pascalis, Quebec
Guest blogger Alain Bernier has provided us with more history in his area of expertise in Northern Quebec, this time with a mining village that was known as Pascalis, which was sadly almost entirely destroyed in a 1944 forest fire. Hope you enjoy today's blog as always!
Pascalis QC : A village gone up in smoke © Alain Bernier 2021
The discovery of gold in the 1910’s along the Cadillac mineralized fault in the Abitibi region of the province of Quebec, Canada, drew thousands of people to the then unpopulated area straddling the Cadillac mineralized fault. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, settlements, hamlets, and villages were popping up all along the mineralized fault wherever gold was found.
The Pascalis township was such a place. The area was rich in gold deposits and soon 4 mines were in operation: Beaufor, Vicour, Cournor and Perron-Pascalis. A village of squatters named Perron developed and housed the miners.
|The Beaufor Mine near Pascalis, 1927|
|The Vicour Mine near Pascalis, 1942|
|The Cournor Mine near Pasclias, 1933|
|The Pascalis-Perron Mine, 1938-39|
In 1938, as part of an initiative to curb the uncontrolled growth of mining settlements, the Government of Quebec subdivided a section of the Pascalis township to establish a village. The new village was located half a mile from the Perron settlement and efforts were made to have the squatters move to the new village. Many of the squatters refused. In 1939, the plans of the village were finalized and it was named Pascalis after the township it was located in.
Pascalis was located at an important crossroad linking Obaska QC and Val-d’Or QC. Before long, the village main street was home to a lawyer’s office, hotels, a bakery, a service station, restaurants, a movie theatre, and shops. The village had access to electricity in 1939 and plans were made for the water supply and sewer networks. In 1942, 1,600 people were residing in Pascalis and the Perron squatter settlement. The future was looking bright.
The Main Street in Pascalis, c. 1940. Source: Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec
|A few buildings and a stretch of railway in Pascalis, c. 1940. (Pascalis was served by the CN Val-d’Or subdivision connecting Senneterre QC to Val-d’Or and Rouyn-Noranda QC) – Photo Right Holder: Jean-Pierre Langelier|
Mother Nature had other plans… On July 7, 1944 a forest fire developed near Pascalis and soon spread out of control. Residents made desperate attempts to save their home and the village. The news of the fire soon reached the town of Val-d’Or where volunteers gathered to come to the rescue of the villagers, but they were stopped at the hamlet of Colombière, 8 miles to the south, by the very thick smoke of the forest fire. Soon and despite the efforts of the locals and the attempts from volunteers to come to their rescue, the whole village was on fire.
A villager attempts to save his house as the fire approaches Pascalis, 1944 Source: Société d’histoire de Val-d’Or, Collection Herby Goyette
Volunteers gathered in Val-d’Or getting ready to leave for Pascalis, 1944 Source: Société d’histoire de Val-d’Or
The house of Adrien and Marie-Anna Boulay was the only one to survive the fire Source: Société d’histoire de Val-d’Or, Collection Lorenzo Gauthier
|Views of Pascalis after the fire, July 1944 . Source: Société d’histoire de Val-d’Or, Collection Herby Goyette|
The projection room was all that was left of the fireproof movie theater after the fire, 1944 Source: Société d’histoire de Val-d’Or, Collection R. Robitaille
The Imperial Oil service station after the fire, 1944. (Note the sign pointing the direction to the Fire Ranger Station) Source: Société d’histoire de Val-d’Or, Collection Émile-Armand Corbeil
The Shell service station after the fire, 1944. Source: Société d’histoire de Val-d’Or, Collection Émile-Armand Corbeil
The pumping house nowadays. Source: Société d’histoire de Val-d’Or, Collection Jean Robitaille