Although the area that became Mallaig was first surveyed in
1906 by M.W. Hopkins, and opened to homesteaders the following
year, it did not take its name until 1928 when a railway station
was built in the area.
Though some ethnic diversity was reflected in the area's
first settlers, many were French. These settlers—factory
workers, labourers from overcrowded cities, recruits of the
colonizing priests, and American and Central European immigrants
– were often too poor to pay for a farm and settled closer to
Until the establishment of Mallaig, the residents of the area
(many of whom were originally from France) attended the parishes
of Sainte-Lina, Thérien or St. Vincent. There was a post office
southwest of the present-day townsite called "La Madeleine,"
named presumably to remember some of the homesteaders’ previous
residence in France. Many of the Frenchmen were still bachelors
when the First World War erupted and rejoined their regiments,
as obligated by Canadian and French law. Most of them never
returned to Canada; some were killed in action, while others
were seriously wounded or lost.
Good farmland made agriculture vital to the growing
community’s continued existence. According to law, homesteaders
had three years to break 30 acres of their land, fence their
quarter section, and build a house before they could make a
formal claim. This feat was accomplished through communal
cooperation—cattle were sometimes branded and kept in the nearby
Beaver Valley by ranchers, while expensive steam-driven
threshing machines were moved from one farm to the next
In 1928, the railroad reached the area. A new post office was
constructed and named after a Scottish railroad engineer’s
hometown of Mallaig. Immigration into the area increased
dramatically. A small town appeared virtually overnight; the
first stores, smiths, schools, and churches were built as a
complement to their grain elevators. Modern services such as
electricity and natural gas heating were gradually introduced.
Mallaig never grew to more than a hamlet but continues to
enjoy superb farmland and close proximity to St. Paul. Many of
the original family names still live on in Mallaig’s businesses
and government. Mallaig belongs to the parish of St. Jean-de-Brébeuf
which houses several churches, and the community also boasts the
Mallaig Haglund Museum, the Mallaig Community Library, the
Mallaig Unity Centre and Curling Rink, and the bilingual École
Mallaig Community School.
- Mallaig – Therien History Book Committee. Precious
Memories – Mémoires Précieuses: Mallaig – Therien 1906-1992.
Mallaig: Mallaig History Book Committee, 1993.