Monteith / Val Gagné

I suspect that Monteith Correction Facility used to be a source of ..."interesting" comments on this page before I upgraded the comment system.

Given the number of crazy posts I had on the old Monteith page, I suspect that Monteith Correction Facility used to be a source of …”interesting” comments before I upgraded the comment system.

Monteith is about 20 kilometres northwest of Matheson (on Highway 11), and 11 kilometres south of Iroquois Falls. Most people see places like Monteith as dots-on-the-map, but if you look behind the map you’ll find that places like these often have some pretty neat histories.

Monteith was founded in 1916 as Driftwood City (the ‘city’ part obviously debatable to some ) but was destroyed by fire soon after.  The town (‘town’ less debateable) was then rebuilt as the home of a demonstration farm.  I’ve been told that the town was named Monteith after a former Provincial Minister of Agriculture.Val Gagné is a largely francophone hamlet of about 50 houses 30 minutes south of Iroquois Falls.

Monteith's church.

Monteith’s church.

The demonstration farm was eventually converted into a military training centre, which was then used as a boarding school, which was then turned into an abandoned boarding school, which then turned into a jail, which then turned into a World War II Prisoner-of-War camp, which then turned back into a jail.

Today Monteith is known for being the home of Monteith Correctional Centre, a medium security prison that bears an eerie resemblance to my old high school.  The facility is pictured here (Monteith, not my old highschool.)

Paul emailed in to tell me that during the summer of ’64 or ’65 there was an iron ore discovery north of Timmins. This was quite a rich find, and was followed by a huge smelter being built just outside of Timmins. The find of iron ore sparked speculators and claim staking in an area of approx. 40 – 50 miles all around Timmins. There were literally hundreds and hundreds of claims staked.

Apparently, a Toronto Star reporter with a vivid imagination described the exploration boom with the following headline: “Startled guards at the Monteith Correctional Centre discovered miners tunnelling underneath the jail in search of iron ore”.

  Of course it wasn’t true. Apparently somebody must have fed that reporter quite a line, but it was good for a few laughs. (I guess they didn’t check sources in those days).

I’ve only been to Monteith once, so I haven’t done a tonne of exploring. I counted maybe 20 houses (there are probably more, I always seem to under-count and get emails later) there is the Mary Magdalene Church (pictured), an old playground, a pop machine, and oddly enough a totally random garden centre. There;s probably more I just didn’t get to see it that day.

Val Gagné

Val Gagne isn’t directly on Highway 11 – it’s about a 10 minute drive east of the main highway.  Val Gagné is one of many tiny little farming communities that typifies northern Temiskaming.

National Tavern, Val Gagné, Ontario

The National, Val Gagné’s watering hole

In town, Sunshine Café and Variety on rue Principale serves cold beer and also has an LCBO outlet.  Last time I was there the store was for sale (I know a lot of people who would love to own their own liquor store, just maybe not in Val Gagné.)  There are a few other businesses, including Guay’s Garage, a caisse, a foodmart, and of course, a church.

I took a photo of the old National Tavern as a tribute to the town’s past.  I thought it was shut down and boarded up, but in fact I’ve been told that it’s still open.

Val Gagné apparently has one of the nicest baseball fields in all of Ontario and hosts an annual baseball tournament on the August long weekend named Val Gagné Days.  There is also an annual corn roast that attracts 10 000 people from across the north.  If you explore the cemetery there is a statue to be found commemorating the people who died in the Great Fire of 1916.

A former Val Gagné resident emailed me regarding the website and alerted me to the fact that I’m making their hometown (and many others) seem like a “ramshackle collection of abandoned huts”. While that’s definitely not the case, nor the intent (at least not on purpose) there may be more to the town than met my eye that rainy afternoon in August.

(Photo are “pour” to incessant rain.)

30 thoughts on “Monteith / Val Gagné

  1. My Father George was born and grew up in Monteith. Friends were Critvhleys and Lupien and Michaud from my recollections. At 15 he helped a friend and friends electrician father wire up the Sherman POW camp. My grandfather was a federal lands claim agent. I remember his story of walking the railroad back to Val Gagne on his 12th birthday and buying his first rifle. A dead shot bolt action short .22. With his mischievous friends they found and set off blasting caps on railway they found. He carried pieces in his arm rest of life. For those the might know the Nick, Dick and Gus group of friends that earned nicknames. My sister and I just returned to Monteith in October go revisit and rekindle old and treasured legacy memories. We will be back in 2023.

  2. Hello – My parents Raoul and Marie Anne Perron lived in Val Gagne i the 30,s
    There was a priest by the name of Pierre Morin – I remember visiting him in the 40,s when I was about 11 or 12. His housekeeper was Ernestine Beauvais. I have tried to do some research on Pierre Morin but I am having difficulty. I would be very grateful if you could help me out. Thank you.
    Take care
    Margaret Desanti – St. Catharines Ont.

  3. My Great Grandmother Gignac was one of the first and few women to run a hotel up north—in Val Gagne but she always referred to it’s pre-fire name of Nushka. We still have a real nice painting she did in the area.

  4. My Grandpa grew up in Val Gagné

    On a farm, his grandmother owned the national for a time . Then moved to timmins where he worked at a bank and met my grandma

    Aumont and Shields

  5. Just wondering if anyone remembers the large corn roast that was hosted by a local farmer? If so, does anyone know which farm or field it was held in. Met my wife of 20+ years there and would like to visit.
    Thank you

  6. was in val gagne last year .visited the boisvert farm on plummer road . friendly folks and nice town.will be back next year

  7. Starting this year we are having a Winter Carnival starting on 23 march to 25 march 2012.THe old co-op is torn down now.We had many changes since I moved here as a little girl.Moved away when I was 18yrs for 12yrs,then I came back to my beautiful village.

    • My father was born here and he would be going on 79 yrs old this winter.He took over the family business of farming,but sadly he passed away in 1997 at the young age of 62.There is no more Co-op,corn roast and the school just shut down about 2 weeks ago.New people from the south are coming to live here now while others are moving for new jobs,warm weather.We still have Val-Gagne Days in August,a carnival in February.

  8. my father roger boucher,son of albert boucher was born in val gagne. many many many memories of beautiful family gatherings filled with beautiful music and lots of mom florence lefevre was born in iroquois falls , so we still have lots of family there and love to visit.

  9. anyone who knows raymond michaud,or daughter,,,could u please let them know im looking for them ,,,his dad owned michaud trucking,and he lived in val gagne all hs life,,he was married to my sister penny mahon,,,have lost touch with him,and would really like to hear from him,,,thanks anyone who can help me,,,

    • Re: Raymond Michaud. He livs in Matheson. His brother Paul on the 11 between Matheson and Monteith. Try Michaud Trucking in Monteith. His daughter is also near Matheson.

  10. I returned to Val Gagne for a visit last summer and there has been a lot of changes…my gosh…there is hardly anything left that I remember. We went to the cemetary and drove around. Noticed that there was no more stores also….wow…where do you guys shop?

    Being raised there,memories include Lacombe store, the bowling alley, dances at the hall and the school. Most of all, growing up on a farm. Small communities are good to live in but require a lot of travelling for most things.

  11. i come from val gagne it as changed a lot from back then,
    when there was families in every conssesions and schools in conssesions and if i may say so lots of big families everyone knew everyone it was really nice my dad was welless bellemare and alice lacoursiere we were a family of 11 and 5 of them being blind and are known as the bellemare brothers musicians i recall lots of good time back on the farm that is now own by mr. Lahaie he raise horses we had lots of family living there back then my grandfather Edouard LacoursiereAND GRANDMOTHER MARIE JEANNE LAVALLEE LACOURSIERE we love to go to school there and we had lots of family and friends missed our little place back then was like living on the set of(little house on the prairie) poeple were poor but they had love,,,,,,,,,,,,,nicky

  12. I have been located here, from the south, by my husband retiring, at first I thought???. I have been here 18 months now and love it. first thing I found was the welcoming friendly people who really do care, …

  13. I recently spent 2 evenings in Val Gagne, and although I am from a “Big City” in the US, I was well impressed with the people from the area. Being from the South, I felt right at home with very hospitable people, and a beautiful part of the country.

  14. I visited & lived in val G for during the 90’s also worked at monteith. Kids ahd fun at the local school they ahd fun at the playground skating rink dog sled races swim in the local water hole just outta town, walk in the woods old fields toboggan behind the house hill skidoo in the fields walk tothe post office or co op food store it was nice now lots closed up 🙁 the families are smaller not 15 kids and less work to keep people in these small towns sad in many ways………….

    • Hiya, I’m really glad I’ve found this iafmrontion. Nowadays bloggers publish only about gossips and internet and this is actually irritating. A good website with interesting content, that is what I need. Thanks for keeping this site, I will be visiting it. Do you do newsletters? Cant find it.

  15. I currently live in Val Gagne and all though it may be a small community, it is the perfect place to raise a family, the small classrooms creat one on one learning and everyone knows everyone. Its nice to know the people of your community, its warm and welcomming atmosphere is what makes val gagne days such a sucess. With a campground, bank, country Inn bar & grill, 5 bees variety, ball field, and 2 bars, this community sticks with you for ever. The quiet neighborhood makes it a wonderfull place for children of all ages to play, and the open fields make it fun for sleds and fourwheelers to make their way around. Living here has been amazing and full of exitement, with the descriptipon given above this may sound like a shit hole but it really isnt you just have more room to live and have fun with the ones you love and care for

  16. My mom and dad both grew up in val gagne and I have many relatives that still live there.Most of the people buried there are related to me. I have good memories of val gagne.

    • My grandparents were Alma and Lawrence Lupien who lived in Val Gagne all their lives. They had 10 or 11 children, 8 who survived. They were Henry, Violet , Beatice, Irene, Maurice, Florence, Rose and Lawrence. There is a road on the way to their old farm called Lupien Road.
      My mother Rose bought the farm from her father around 1965 and owned it until her death in 2012 when it came to me, my sister and brother who insisted it be sold. 🙁 Two against one and majority ruled. I have so many wonderful memories of summers at the farm when you could hear a car coming for 10 minutes before it crested the hill and we would all be so excited to see who was coming. My Grandparents never had electricity or running water but it didn’t matter and we didn’t really miss it considering we were ‘city folks from Toronto’ or the ‘south’ So happy to see this site and read some of the stories from Val Gagne.

      • Hi
        I’m your uncle Larry’s daughter Brenda. Don’t know if you remember me. I have a lot of the same memory. Please try to contact me.

        • HI I’m Gordon Lupien ‘s daughter , I’ve been working on family tree ,and if anyone can help it would be great , and maybe relatives we don’t know or haven’t seen in a long time . I remember Uncle Lawrence and were he lived . Thanks

          • Hi Mary. My name is Marie & I’m a Cousin your step-mother, Isabelle Nichols. I’ve been working on a Family History of my own as well: & would love to hear from you.

  17. i live in V-G its awsome i love the baseball especially at V-G days something else to look forward to in the winter is the new sponge puck tournaments!!

  18. I live in Val Gagne and i have to say i love it here. The Country bar and inn has great food and great service. 🙂 and everyone here is so nice we have been made feel very welcome here and we just love it.

  19. Neat site. I’ve been up and down old hwy 11 more times then I care to count as my bf is from Cochrane and I’m in North Bay. What I find interesting about the small towns are the histories. Val Gagne was the site of quite the fire many, many years ago and was even featured on Disasters of the Century on History Channel. Here is a link to it’s story:
    pretty cool, it used to be named Nushka

  20. I lived in Val Gagne for 7 years and it was the best time in my life. The baseball tournements were great. I had some great friends. Cecile Aumont Cicile Giguere Carol Coutz. Gilles Theriault The Lessards were very good to me as well. I have returned a time or two always to see my very good friend Linda Gold

  21. I’m originaly from Val Gagn√à and still have relatives living in the community. FYI – some of the information is outdated.

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