Lemieux’s origins can be traced back to the mid 1850s when it
started as a service centre for the local lumber industry and then
as a farming hamlet. On the surface, the new town was a thriving area,
but beneath lay what would eventually be its downfall.
The newly minted town was built on sensitive marine silts and clays,
called Leda clay, laid down during the Champlain Sea around 10,000
years ago. On May 4, 1971, the unique soil gave way in nearby St. Jean
Vianny, and a deadly landslide took 31 lives and 40 homes. After the
catastrophe, the Geological Survey of Canada tested the soil in the
region along the South Nation River and determined the small town of
Lemieux, comprised of 28 homes and a local Parish, was in danger of
experiencing the same type of slide.
In 1989, the South Nation Conservation Authority strongly
recommended that Lemieux be relocated. Heeding the warning, the government
relocated the residents – many who’d been there for generations – and
bulldozed the buildings. The last building to be dismantled was the
local church, the Parish of St. Joseph de Lemieux.
On June 20, 1993, two years after the town was officially abandoned,
a low-angle slope failure occurred due to excessive rain. This resulted
in a massive retrogressive landslide covering 17 hectares that swallowed
the town’s former main street, creating a new bay on the South
Nation River and dumping around 2.8 million cubic metres of debris
into the Valley.
|Photo: Natural Resources Canada
Since then the landscape of the scar has changed considerably, owing
to the unstable erosion of the soil. In memorial, government officials
erected a plaque at the location of Lemieux’s main street, now
standing guard where a town used to be.