In the Foreword to Joseph Graham’s Naming the Laurentians Graeme Decarie recalls that when he was teaching in China his students asked him where in Canada he lived. He replied, “UpNorth”. “They were profoundly impressed and wanted to see a picture of my igloo. I had forgotten that UpNorth is a place that exists only in the vocabulary of Montrealers.”
Originally from Montreal, Joseph Graham has lived most of his 57 years “up north.” His mother, Pat Paré, was a champion skier in the ‘30s and ‘40s. She later became a well-known real-estate agent in the Laurentians, a calling her son took up in the 1980s.
Joe travelled the length and breadth of the Laurentians, becoming familiar with the natural landmarks and picturesque villages of these ancient hills. Names – The Devil’s River…Sir John’s Lake…the Doncaster Reserve… Christieville…St. Adolphe d’Howard – piqued his curiosity. What were the stories behind these colourful labels? “Laurentians,” so natural a name for the mountain ranges – where did it come from?
As his knowledge deepened, he found that the history of the Laurentians shaped his and his wife’s approach to selling properties. “In order to promote them,” their website states, “we have studied where their users come from and what values they espouse. This has led us to the discovery of the long history of recreational and complementary uses of our area, and the nature of the many small associations and communities that surround the different lakes and mountains that make up the geography of the region. We have also discovered a rich and varied past…we have found that many of our residents identify more strongly with their communities in this region than they do with any other place…. Our goal is the promotion of our shared history.”
Eventually Joseph Graham’s passion for the Laurentians found expression in writing. First came a newsletter, the Doncaster Ballyhoo, followed by a website , a column in the Lachute newspaper Main Street and articles in the magazine Quebec Heritage News. Last year Main Street Press published Naming the Laurentians: A History of Place Names “Up North,” his 250-page book crammed with maps and photographs and linking the mountains to interesting people and events around the world.
To take one example, Abercrombie Township (which includes Prevost and Shawbridge) honours General James Abercromby (his spelling), one of the most incompetent officers in the history of the British army. Nicknamed “Mrs. Nambie-Crombie” by his men, Abercromby suffered a disastrous loss at the hands of the Marquis de Montcalm at Fort Carillon/Ticonderoga during the Seven Years War.
Joseph Graham has enthralled numerous historical societies, community groups and CBC Radio audiences. His book includes references to many names familiar to Hudson residents – in fact, his chapter on the Ottawa River, an early gateway to the Laurentians, features four photographs of Hudson!
This summer the Hudson Historical Society headed west on a successful field trip to historic villages in Ontario. At our October meeting Joseph Graham will take us – in words and images – on a virtual trip up the other side of the Ottawa River to equally interesting places. You are cordially invited to join us Thanksgiving Monday evening.
Date/time: Monday October 9 (Thanksgiving Monday) at 7:30 p.m.
Place: St. James Church Hall, 642 Main Road, Hudson.
Everyone Welcome! (A $5 drop-in fee is requested of non-members.)
Information: Kevin O’Donnell (450) 458-5948, email