Our museum is located in the heart of Grand Isle in the former St. Gerard Rectory. This handsome brick building still has its original slate roof and an underground tunnel connecting into the church. The tunnel was dug to allow the priest to enter the church without braving the howling winter weather in years past. We have countless artifacts and records, including a large collection of funeral cards, and we host many events in our museum in addition to being open to the public in warm months.
Work is currently underway to complete a pole barn behind the rectory to house some of our larger outdoor artifacts including The Acadian Queen ferry we built and a runner sleigh built by Valier Dumais. We look forward to completing the project this Spring, 2018.
Our HOURS are:
12 noon - 4:00 pm FRIDAY - SUNDAY
And BY APPOINTMENT
MAY - OCTOBER
Give us a call and come visit any time!
The St. Gerard Rectory and Church under construction in 1930.
In 1846, construction began on the first church in the Greater Grand Isle area. Located at the foot of Mont Carmel, it was named after the hill above it. That original chapel was never finished, due to the intense debates about the siting of the community's church.
Some thought the Mont Carmel site was too close to St. David, which already had a church, and too far away from Lille and the back settlements. Some thought it was the right place for the people from the far reaches of St. David to commune with the people of Grand Isle.
Work continued in fits and starts as the debate raged, and though the scaffolding remained up, the church was never finished. Eventually the parish was settled in Lille, where the magnificent Notre Dame du Mont Carmel Church was built and still stands today as a Museum.
The small cemetery that once sat there was dug up and relocated in 1951 when Route 1 was expanded around the curve of Mont Carmel, and the original parish site became a State-run rest area.
Today the site is faithfully maintained by the Greater Grand Isle Historical Society, where there are picnic tables and a port-a-potty, a small log chapel, a cross commemorating the site of the cemetery, and a grotto dedicated to the Virgin Mary built as an act of devotion by a community member.
It is a peaceful place, belying its contentious past and former nickname of 'Notre Dame de la Chicane' (Our Lady of Squabbling). We invite all to rest and relax there.
Grand Isle was founded in 1869, at a time when the Valley was busy with Acadian families opening up farmland and establishing themselves at their home places. At its peak Grand Isle boasted a population of 2,500, and lumber mills, railroad roundhouses, grain mills, equipment stores, lunchrooms, race tracks and ball fields, and thriving general stores.
Today Grand Isle is much smaller than that, with a population of ~470 and a collection of small businesses. It is still predominantly Acadian, and Valley French is still widely spoken.
But in the heart of our little town, something interesting is happening. As we engage with our history and culture more and more, we are seeing the sparks of community and culture kindle, with new ideas and enthusiasm being prompted by the celebration of our history and heritage.
If you look closely, there's always something going on!