le Lundi 5 Décembre 2022
le Mardi 2 février 2021 15:56 Hawkesbury

EAST HAWKESBURY: A SECRETIVE LITTLE TOWNSHIP (part 2)

In last week’s column, we took an overview of the East Hawkesbury township and heard about the legends attached to the village of Chute-à-Blondeau; this week’s edition will close up this three-village triangle with stories and facts about Ste. Anne-de-Prescott and St. Eugene.

Ste-Anne-De-Prescott And Its Devotion To Ste. Anne

Ste. Anne is the smallest of the three villages; it owes its existence to the French Catholic Church and its settlers; population stands at about 500.  Its heritage stone church, standing tall on a hillside in the centre of the village, is a true gem with its original artwork by Quebec artist T. X. Renaud and is a landmark and local pride; its Casavant organ has been used every Sunday since 1897 and is one of the few in working order in Eastern Ontario; it has been recognized by the Historical Society of USA as opus #85 on only 362.  A professional-quality illustrated book on the church was published in 2004: ‘Une église, un monument, une merveille’ and is available for 20$; funds generated are applied to the restoration account.

A very special annual event takes place every July on the Sunday preceding the 26: an annual pilgrimage and procession dedicated to Ste. Anne, Jesus’ grandmother; this event is co-celebrated by the Jelsi Italian community from Montreal, whose patron saint is also Ste. Anne; this intimate celebration, which has taken place locally for the last eighteen years, is not as publicized as the main celebration at Ste. Anne-de-Beaupré’s basilica near Quebec city; it is a tradition that dates from 1805, when the village of Jelsi in Italy was miraculously saved from a major earthquake that levelled all other villages in the vicinity; it all happened on a 26 of July. This happens to be a true-verified fact and not a legend.

St.Eugene: A World War II Contributor

The village is located a few kilometres north of Ste. Anne and holds a population of about 1100; the village/parish was established in 1855. The existing church was completed in 1867. It too possesses an authentic Casavant organ (opus 38) dating back to 1893; its renowned Way of the Cross made of fourteen haut-relief sculptures dates back to 1907.

During World War II, from 1940 to 1945, the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) built and operated a Flying Training School for Fleet Finch and Fairchild Cornell aircrafts: the airfield was located roughly one kilometre south of the village on the south road to Ste. Anne; the airfield was later used for motorsports in the 1950s but has since been abandoned and only faint outlines of overgrown runways are visible.

The village is the starting point of the Prescott-Russell Recreational Trail, where hikers, cyclists, ATV riders and  snowmobilers can hit the 72 kilometre trail west to reach Larose forest. East of the village is the Stokidakis goat farm; in 1975, Peter Stokidakis purchased the farm in pursuit of his dream to create and distribute his own version of Greek feta cheese; his original herd only comprised twenty goats, but his endeavour was promised to greater days: he introduced his cheese and yogurts to restaurants in the Montreal markets and the demand skyrocketed; his herd now holds  3000+ goats on 1500 acres of land with a 100,000 square feet production facility. The Canadian dream came true for the Stokidakis family in St. Eugene, Ontario!

I hope our virtual tour of this often undiscovered and intriguing township was enjoyable and that it may generate your interest and discovery in your post-Covid explorations. Enjoy touring!