I really like ghost towns. I like walking through them, and imagining what life there used to be like. I feel like the silence in ghost towns is always heavier, a reminder of everything that once has been, but doesn’t exist anymore. Lemieux is no exception.
I remember seeing images of the Lemieux landslide on television when I was young. Since my family was living close by, my parents talked a lot about the disappearance of the village. I grew up with a fascination and a curiosity about Lemieux, that village that used to be but wasn’t anymore. As soon as I got my driver’s licence, I jumped in my car and drove to Lemieux. I wanted to see the ghost town with my own eyes.
Lemieux used to be a small French Ontarian village, of which the major economy was agriculture. It was located on the bank of the South Nation River, near Larose Forest, right in the middle of the triangle formed by the villages of Casselman, St. Isidore and Bourget. After soil testing, it was discovered that Lemieux was built on unstable Leda clay and was exposed to landslide risks. To prevent a catastrophe, the Government of Ontario ordered the relocation of the residences, which was completed in 1991. The last standing building in Lemieux, the church village, was demolished the same year. In 1991, Lemieux no longer existed.
The government’s decision was almost prophetic. Less than two years later, heavy rains fell on the area, causing a huge landslide near where Lemieux used to be. Within an hour, a crater more than 380 metres wide was created, destroying several acres of farmland and a portion of Lemieux former main street.
Today, where Lemieux once stood, the only thing still standing is the old cemetery of the village and a historical plaque. When you are walking in the clearing in front of the cemetery, it’s hard to imagine that there once was a village there.
A little bit farther on Route 16, there is a small trail that leads to the crater. This area is not clearly indicated and is little known, but it is worth seeing. It is impressive to look at the huge crater and it helps to better understand the magnitude of the landslide. Besides, the area is also a nice place to take a stroll in the forest.