History of St. Elizabeth parish
by Richard Dompierre

The first settlers came to Cantley around 1830 and at that time the whole area was served by the parish in Chelsea. Consequently for many years these people had to ferry across the Gatineau River from the end of what is now known as Prud'homme Road to Kirk's Ferry and then proceed by road to the church in Chelsea. In the winter time they used the ice bridge

on the river but in the Spring and Fall this was quite a perilous crossing. So around 1850, the heads of the fifty-three Irish families residing in the Cantley area petitioned the bishop in Ottawa requesting that a small chapel be built on their side of the river, that a priest could visit on occasion. 

Bishop Guigues agreed to their request on three conditions: 1) that they agree on a site; 2) that they provide a 12 acre lot for the chapel and a cemetery; 3) that they contribute the necessary funds for the construction of the chapel. 

Things got organised slowly. A generous parishioner, Mr Micheal Shields gave four acres of land on a beautiful hill, less than a mile from most houses. The remaining land will be given or purchased subsequently. On June 16 1857, Bishop Guigues authorized Rev. James Hugues, the priest from Chelsea, to create a cemetery for his parishioners living to the East of the Gatineau River. 

The following year (1858) a little chapel was built beside the cemetery, at a cost of 107 louis (421$). The Cantley mission was born and was also serving a small number of families in Pélissier (now St-Pierre-de-Wakefield) and Portland (now Poltimore). The chapel was blessed in the summer of 1861 during the Bishop's pastoral visit. Bishop Guigues indicated that at the time there were sixty-three families in the parish « all of them hard-working Irishmen who I willingly support. »  


Our parish was officially established in 1868 under the protection of St-Elizabeth of Hungary. The then pastor of Chelsea, Rev. Patrick McGoey became the priest assigned to Cantley. The first entry in the parish's registry was for Stephen Kherney, son of John Kherney and Bridjet Maloney, who was baptized on December 26th 1868.


Father McGoey established himself in Cantley not in a rectory but rather in his own house on the main road (now known as the Milks' house, across from Blackburn Rd.) He started immediately in 1869 to plan the construction of a new church to replace the little chapel.


Thanks to the financial contribution and labour of the parishioners as well as generous donations from Mr E.B. Eddy and Mr Alonzo Wright, our present church was built and equipped with its basic necessities. The Bishop blessed the bell and the new church in August 1872. At that time, the parish consisted of sixty-five families but it also provided service to the families in St-Pierre-de-Wakefield until 1898.  


Here are some of the « firsts » in the parish. The first marriage was for Patrick Holmes and Mary McAndrew on June 2nd 1869 and there were no funeral until March 14th 1873 when a service was held for Philip Sullivan. The first church wardens were John Fleming, John Morris and Maurice Foley. 

In 1917, a fire caused by lightning destroyed the rectory which had been built 17 years before. Subsequently a new rectory was built the one which exists today. In September 1922, Father O'Toole signed an important document by which the Fabrique of St-Elizabeth became owner of what is now called the picnic grounds. And on January 12th 1957, the parish sold a parcel of land for the construction of St-Élisabeth school.

Mostly Irish at first, although in 1882 Rev. Corkery was requesting help to serve his French parishioners, St-Elizabeth Parish offers bilingual services since almost forty years now, for the dozens of Irish families and close to one thousand French speaking families in its jurisdiction. 

The church, the parish hall and the rectory have been for many years the focal point of the spiritual and social life of Cantley residents. Even today, many municipal activities such as the carnival, the St-Jean still take place on the picnic grounds and our beautiful church is regularly attended on Saturday night for the English mass and on Sundays for the French celebration.