The location of Les Escoumins is on the north bank of the St. Lawrence River, about 30 kilometres upriver from Tadoussac and the mouth of the Saguenay. Shortly after the foundation of St. Alexis at Saguenay in 1844, the Oblates who also had the mission to the Indians on the North Shore, regularly visited this outpost. From 1846, Frs. André-Marie Garin and Flavien Durocher spent several days a year there, even though a diocesan priest, Fr. Jean Lazare Marceau lived there from 1846 -1849 and built a chapel dedicated to St. Marcellin. From 1850, the Oblates were in charge of the mission. Fr. Charles Arnaud lived there in the winter of 1851, and Fr. Durocher in 1852.
In 1853, the Oblates left St. Alexis in Saguenay to settle in the city of Quebec. The Escoumins mission formally became a residence. Fr. Durocher built a rectory; from there every summer, Oblates would visit the many stations for both white people and Amerindians, all along the St. Lawrence up to Labrador. Fr. Louis Babel was the director of the residence until 1862. According to the letter of Fr. Arnaud to Bishop de Mazenod on February 4, 1859, at Les Escoumins there were 50 Canadian families, and some 300 others, scattered along the shore. The village had existed for about 15 years. The Canadians had come there as loggers and farmers, after the Têtu and Boucher Co. had begun logging, and had opened a sawmill. In winter, Frs. Babel and Arnaud stayed there. In summer, they traveled about 1,000 kilometres on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, preaching missions to the Canadians and Indians in 14 chapels.
At the beginning of 1862, Fr. Célestin Frain replaced Fr. Babel, but stayed only a few months at Escoumins. In the fall of 1862, the Oblates left, to open a residence at Betsiamites, an Amerindian reserve about 100 kilometres east, and the main mission to the Montagnais.
Yvon Beaudoin, O.M.I.
Sources and Bibliography
Ortolan, Théophile, o.m.i., Les Oblats de M.I. durant le premier siècle de leur existence…, Vol. II, Paris, 1915, pp. 134-139.
Carrière, Gaston, o.m.i., Histoire documentaire de la Congrégation des Missionnaires Oblats de M.I…, Vol. III, Ottawa, 1961, pp. 9-26; Vol. VIII, Ottawa, 1969, pp. 226-231.