A History of St. Gabriel-de-Valcartier Catholic Church


By D. Clark McIntosh





        The Roman Catholic Church of Valcartier had its beginnings in 1833.  Father Hugh Paisley, the priest from the nearby community of St-Catherine travelled to Valcartier to perform services in a small chapel built by the Irish settlers.  The first resident priest was Father Michael Griffiths, born in May 1793 in Donegal, Ireland and died on the 27th of October in 1849.  Father Griffiths is buried in the cemetery attached to this Church.   He was ordained a priest in 1831 and was educated in France, as at that time there were no Catholic seminaries in Ireland.  He made all his entries into the Valcartier parish registers in French.  The Catholic Church, built in 1853, was rebuilt in 1891 after being destroyed by fire.  Mrs. John Neilson (Marie Ursula Hebert) is believed to have been buried under the present church and their is a plaque commemorating her memory inside the church.  The last resident priest left in 1958 and the church is now serviced by a French priest from outside the community. 


        In the years 1838-9, a small wooden chapel was erected at the font of the present church, next to the cemetery.  Andrew Stuart, a lawyer, donated the land so that the people could build the chapel.  The construction of the first Catholic Church was in the year 1852.  It was built from red granite, which was purchased from Mr. Edward Maher's stone pit, located a few kilometres north in Riviere aux Pins.  The Neilson family donated the lot for the church under the condition that a yearly mass was celebrated in honour of Mrs. John Neilson.  This yearly mass was to take place every August until her death.  (Note:  Marie Ursula Hebert Neilson was Catholic, her husband Presbyterian).


        In 1895, Margaret Neilson, daughter of John and Marie Ursula, donated additional property valued at four hundred dollars.  The land was donated on the condition that a "messe basse" would take place each year in honour of herself and her family, for a period of fifty years.  Father Jean Gravel agreed to this obligation in the year 1915.  The construction of the second church began on April 13, 1911 and was completed in 1912.  The vestry was constructed with the wood taken from the chapel of 1838.  The alter tht is presently in the church is the same one that was in the chapel.  It is said to be the oldest altar in the diocese of Quebec.


        In 1924, when the population of Valcartier was 312 people, a large majority - 216 - were Catholic. 


        In January, 1983, the documents of the church were stolen, but luckily recovered.   Each yer the Catholic Women's League put on a potluck supper and a breakfast.  The funds are donated to the church.


        The parish is named after the patron saint St. Gabriel and the name Valcartier means Valley of the Jacques Cartier River.