Lost villages-forgotten past

By Pam Andersson

No village is ever built with the intent of abandonment or loss due to development. For many of us, we may never even have heard of these villages because they have disappeared and have been forgotten with time.

Grand Metis village, formerly at the mouth of the Mitis River and Petit Metis Station, situated between the 3rd and 4th concessions, about three miles east and south from the village of St. Octave de Metis were real villages with thriving settlers some 80 year ago.

But little by little, these villages disappeared and sadly today there is no physical trace of these villages and so it is all too easy for people to forget. Some historical records remain, however, allowing us to understand the people who lived there, especially as some local historians have worked hard to try to piece together the history of these two forgotten settlements.


Petit Metis Station Village

Hidden away off the 3rd concession, there is a road going south called rue Petit Metis. As you pass fields, you come to a railway track and this is where the Petit Metis station once stood, part of the village.

The village began its life settled by French-Canadians and the village itself was small, with only a handful of residents living there. They worked in the summer in agriculture and in the winter in lumbering. There was one store and a train stationmaster. The village was sometimes referred to as the summit by the Metisans because of its elevated plateau and the view from the station was picturesque and beautiful.

With the completion of the Intercolonial Railway and the opening of a station at Petit Metis in 1876, the village became the train stop for both Grand Metis and Little Metis (later Metis Beach, and today Métis-sur-Mer). The hotel guests and summer residents were picked up in the very early years with horse and buggy and then later on with cars that the hotels owned and used as taxis.

With the construction of Chemin de Fer de Matane in 1909, and the Canadian National Railway Company (CN), corporation being created by the Canadian government in 1918 that nationalized many railroads including the Intercolonial Railway, while opening access to the Lower Saint Lawrence, were not enough. This was because new automobile roads, being built as car ownership became more affordable and as intermunicipal bus routes began, bypassed many villages. Also, after World War 11 there was commercial airplane service to the region. The village of Petit Metis station soon saw economic and rural decline as passenger rail traffic declined.

Then in 1978 Canadian National’s passenger services were taken over by VIA Rail Canada, a crown corporation set up to operate all Canadian passenger services. This further reduced passenger service and led to the closure of many rural train stations.


Did you know …? In 1958 you could still buy a train ticket to Petit Metis station.

* Interested in learning more on Petit Metis village? You can visit the Société historique et patrimonial, a museum in the Manse at St. Octave de Metis. You can contact Joycelne Fortin at
418-775-7980 to find out the time and days they are open.


Grand Metis Village

In 1812, there were approximately 18 families established on the MacNider Seigneury along the mouth of the Mitis River, and by 1818, some 40 (mostly Scottish) families had settled in the Seigneury. At that time there was a wharf (there are some traces of the wharf still visible today) and the MacNider Manor home was near the wharf. Seigneur MacNider also built and a dwelling-house for travelers as the location was an important maritime post at that time. There was one store that sold grocery articles, a flour mill at the mouth of the Mitis river and a saw mill along Brand Brook.

In 1820, Sieur Hyppolite-Michel Larrivée had a mill and, in 1829, Mr. Larrivée sold his sawmill to William Price & Sons. Mr. Price was a friend of Mr. McNider. In 1830, the Price sawmill was moved a mile up on the Mitis River and employed many of the local residents. In 1888, the Price sawmill was moved further up the Mitis River, to the parish of Saint-Remi-de-Metis. Today known as the village of Price, many of the residents who were employed at the mill also moved to Price.

John MacNider and his wife both died within months of each other in 1829, and they had no children. The Seigneury went to his nephew Adam Lymburner MacNider sons, William and John. They were minors at the time so Adam L. MacNider assumed the role as Seignior of Metis until his sons came of legal age.

With the construction of the Kempt Road in 1929, colonization grew south of the Mitis River Seigneury village, giving way to economic development to the village. Grand Metis which became known as the business end of the parish. By 1839, the community had grown and some 100 residents lived in and around Grand Metis. There were several merchants and craftsmen of all trades, many stores, a blacksmith shop, a hotel, a post and telegraph office, a notary, and navigators who were engaged in loading and shipment of timber to Quebec City.

In 1850, the MacNiders sold the Seigneury to Archibald and David Ferguson, merchants from Montreal. Archibald took over the western portion of the Seigneury, known as Great (Grand) Metis and David took the eastern portion, known as Little (Petit) Metis. Seigniorial tenure in Quebec formally ended in 1854. The brothers were joint proprietors, but soon after Archibald sold his interests to David who remained the sole Seignior until his death in 1870. His son and heir, John F. Ferguson continued in his father’s tradition, and was known as the working Seigneur.

Sir George Stephen bought 100 acres of property and fishing rights in 1886 in Grand Metis overlooking the bank of the Mitis River and the St. Lawrence River. The following year, in 1887, he had Estevan Lodge built for Lodge fishing. In 1888, Sir Stephens bought other lots, including the Metis Falls and land up to Point aux Ceneilles. He had the mill and some homes taken away from both sides of the Mitis River.

In 1918 Sir George Stephens gifted the Lodge to his niece Elsie Reford but it wasn’t until the summer of 1926 that Elsie Reford began converting Estevan Lodge fishing camp into a garden. It took her three decades, from 1926 to 1954, to transform the grounds into gardens and in 1955 she gave her property to her son Bruce Reford. In 1961 he sold the estate to the Government of Quebec which opened it to the public in 1962 as The Metis Gardens – a summer tourist attraction. Today the gardens are known as Les Jardins de Métis and the Estevan Lodge is all that is left of the Grand Metis village.

With the new highway Route 132 coming in the 1960s, and the construction of the present parking lot to serve the Metis Gardens, many houses belonging to the original families of Grand Metis village were moved, bought or demolished. Then in 1976 a major landslide swept away what was left of the village and the homes that were left were moved. The village of Grand Metis disappeared.