Simply known today as Saint-Jacques, Saint-Jacques-de-l’Achigan was also called Saint-Jacques-de-la-Nouvelle-Acadie by the first settlers, Acadians who arrived in 1770 from Boston. The first parish register dates back to 1774.
Located in Montcalm County, it is about a 50-minute drive from Montréal. I briefly visited Saint-Jacques last year while I was there for a book launch at the Maison de la Nouvelle-Acadie. Besides, this interpretation centre is open during the summer and is worth a visit.
The first church was built at the outset of the 19th century. On October 5, 1914, it was destroyed by a fire that started in a shed just across the street. At the time, the church was much closer to the road than the present church, which was built from 1916 to 1918.*
The first cemetery was located between the convent and the church. After the fire, it was relocated on a portion of a piece of land owned by the Sisters of Sainte-Anne. A few years ago, some excavation work led to the discovery of bones from the first cemetery. They were relocated to the present cemetery.*
I was quite moved when I strolled in the cemetery even if I didn’t see any of my ancestors’ tombstones. Behind the church, on the road leading to the cemetery, I also remember the park—parc des Cultures—dedicated to the memory of Acadian people. All benches feature Acadian surnames—Richard, Thériault, Gaudet, Leblanc!
* I wish to extend my warmest thanks to Mr. Réjean Parent for the historical information about Saint-Jacques-de-l’Achigan.