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 next day, the whole village had gone up in smoke. By some miracle, the house of Adrien and  Marie-Anna Boulay was still standing. 

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

The Boulay house was the only structure in the village to have survived the blaze along with the  concrete projection room of the vanished movie theatre. The movie theatre was said to be fireproof, at least its projection room was. 

A short distance from the village, the concrete pumping house was also still standing. It was of no use to the villagers on the day of the fire  except for one, a Polish lady who sheltered in the concrete structure and survived the fire.  

Views of Pascalis after the fire, July 1944 . Source: Société d’histoire de Val-d’Or, Collection Herby Goyette

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 decision was made not to rebuild the devastated village. Most residents moved to the  nearby towns of Senneterre and Val-d’Or and a few to the Perron settlement. Today, all that remains of Pascalis are the pumping house, the concrete structure of the movie theatre and some ruins scattered through the forest. 

In 1966, the Perron settlement, with only 175 inhabitants, was amalgamated to the municipality of Val-Senneville QC. 

The pumping house nowadays. Source: Société d’histoire de Val-d’Or, Collection Jean Robitaille


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