The following article first appeared in The Echo of Cantley Volume 29 no 9, April 2018. This article is made available for the enjoyment of others with the express permission of the Echo of Cantley.
The faith that spread from the Mediterranean countries through Europe to France, was brought to New France in the 1600s. It is the same faith that continued its growth from France to Ireland and was brought to the New World in later waves of Irish immigration. It is reflected in the congregation of St. Elizabeth’s Parish. Today a bilingual parish, St. Elizabeth serves both Anglophone and Francophone congregations. The two parish priests, Fr. Lévi Martel and Fr. Dan Kelly, each serve three parishes in the Archdiocese of Gatineau, sharing the care of St. Elizabeth’s parishioners.
It was the Irish and the Scottish who first moved into the tall timbers of the Cantley area from 1829 onwards and began to carve out this community on the east side of the Gatineau River. There was a large wave of Irish Catholics in the 1840s, many desperate for a better life away from their English tormentors. With the growth of the population came the need for stores, post offices, mills and, of course, churches and schools.
St. Elizabeth was established in 1868, first having been a mission of St. Stephen’s in Chelsea (founded in 1845). Getting to Chelsea necessitated travelling by foot or by horse to a crossing point (Kirk’s Ferry being the most wellestablished crossing), crossing the Gatineau River by scow or ice-bridge, and then travelling on to the church in Chelsea. A difficult journey even for the most determined! Within a few years, enough families had settled in and they petitioned the Archbishop of the Diocese of Bytown (later Ottawa). They received permission and eventually gathered the means to build a chapel and open a cemetery on land donated by Michael Shields on top of one of Cantley’s many beautiful hills. They could then receive visits from the priest at St. Stephen’s to say Mass and to administer the sacraments. By 1868, the population of the territory from Cantley to Poltimore was of such a size that the establishment of a new parish was warranted.
Fr. Patrick McGoey was assigned to be the first resident priest of the new parish which entailed setting up the new parish and its registers and organizing the building of a new church (the present one). He was also responsible for the missions of St. Pierre de Wakefield and of Poltimore which eventually became separate parishes. When Fr. McGoey came to Cantley, he had a house built for his residence, the one presently at 694 Montee de la Source, sometimes referred to as the “McGoey-Milks House”. In a November 1926 article in The Evening Citizen, Ottawa, Fr. McGoey is described by Mr. Robert Davis “as having been a stout man of jovial disposition and of true Celtic generosity. When he was on his pastoral visits in the sparsely settled part of the district, he called on Protestants as well as Catholics. His home was virtually an open house. On stormy nights or when travelling was bad, he invited travelers to stay overnight and always refused to take a cent from them. He had an orchard and a garden and kept pigs.”
This is the first of a two part article. Mary Holmes is a member of the Board of Directors of Cantley 1889, a non-profit organization set up in 2010 to discover, catalogue, protect and promote Cantley’s history. See Part Two