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Interprovincial Autumn Excursion In Pointe-Fortune

Autumn is said to be the irreversible decline of the seasonal year, moving us toward cold and dark winter days and nights, yet it is far from miserable: unexpected warm days and blue skies, magnificent splashes of colors in nature, new scents in the air carried by flowers, bushes and trees reaching the end of their cycle, night and day playing tricks on our sleeping patterns and appetite with time-change… Although when surveyed, Canadians chose SUMMER hands-down as their favorite season (57%), they also state they love the fact that we live in a four-season environment and that each one has something special to offer…if, naturally, you are open to such offers as snow, raking leaves, icy sidewalks and snow tires…

On one of those typical autumn afternoon, let’s head east and (re-)discover Pointe-Fortune, Quebec, or is it Pointe-Fortune, Ontario??? In fact, as you will exit Highway 417 and get on the side-road leading to destination, you will realize that you are now on La Grande Montée Interprovinciale Road (its name is an obvious clue) which is the divide between Ontario’s Prescott-Russell Counties and Quebec’s Vaudreuil-Soulanges Counties; as you reach the end of the road and the Ottawa River, you will now be reaching Pointe-Fortune by Chemin des Outaouais Road; turn left and you will be entering Ontario, turn right and you are in Quebec. Maps consulted show that the land and inhabitants on the Ontario side constitute the ‘hamlet’ of Pointe-Fortune and fall under the East Hawkesbury/Chute-à-Blondeau postal address, while those on the Quebec side constitute the ‘municipality-village’ of Pointe-Fortune which has its own postal address. A stone border marker still stands on the property/land of the Macdonell-Williamson House indicating historically the separation between Upper Canada (modern-day Ontario) and Lower Canada (modern-day Quebec). Now that this is settled and that you know where you are, let’s discover and enjoy what it has to offer!

If you thought that Pointe-Fortune’s first explorers and inhabitants came here looking to get rich and build a fortune as the ambitious miners in gold-rush frenzy in Alaska and the Yukon did, you will be disappointed with the very simple source of the ‘fortune’ in its name: William FORTUNE and his son Joseph were the local surveyors who contributed  to survey La Seigneurie de Rigaud’s 1st and 2nd concession and divide it into the lots which have then become what is now Pointe-Fortune; it first wore the names of Petites Écores and then Petit Carillon; in 1880, it gained its independence from Rigaud and became ‘La municipalité du village de Pointe-Fortune’.

Historically, before the construction of the Carillon power dam in the 1960s and the floodings that reconfigured its geography, the Trans-Canada highway ran through the village and it was an important trading post and transportation hub for Indian tribes, ‘coureurs des bois’ (itinerant fur traders),  ‘draveurs’ (log drivers) and vacationers. Its ferry across the river to Carillon started servicing as far back as 1833 and is part of the village’s heritage; built in 1904, its catholic church, St-François-Xavier, was closed permanently in 2014. Starting in 1892, passenger trains servicing the Montreal to Ottawa line branched off from Rigaud to Pointe-Fortune and ran for almost fifty years; but as World War II dragged on and the need for steel for ammunition increasing, the service was cancelled, tracks were recuperated and its steel re-used for war needs.

Pointe-Fortune’s population stands at 580 (2016 Canada Census) which share 285 housing units; average age of population is above 44 of which seniors are the majority; 90% declared French as their first language. The village’s main tourist attractions are the Carillon power dam which is run by Hydro-Quebec although it is built in Ontario waters and land, and the heritage Macdonell-Williamson House, built by fur trader John Macdonell as a general store and port of call for steamboats traveling the Ottawa River from Lachine, QC to Ottawa; the house was later sold to and remained with the Williamson family until the 1960s when the Ontario Heritage Trust acquired it to save it from demolition; extensive architectural and archeological investigations are still taking place on the property.

A final point of interest, especially for French-Canadian boomers: a famous French-Canadian stand-up comic and TV personality from the 1960s, OLIVIER GUIMOND, had roots in the village as his father, Olivier père, owned a summer cottage in the village and would spend the summer season in town with his family; if you don’t know Olivier from the TV show he starred in, CRÉ BASILE, you certainly will recognize him from the 1965 advertising campaign by LABATT Brewery for its ‘50’ brand in  which he came up with the unforgettable expression ‘Lui, y connait ça!’ along with the ‘thumb-up’ sign. 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of his death; the local park’s name along with a commemorative plaque honor his memory to residents and visitors.  Too bad that ZOOL’S, the local resto-bar offering renowned wood-oven pizzas, is now closed: you’ll have to bring a snack or picnic and lounge in the zen décor at the foot of the dam. Enjoy!

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