History of River Bourgeois

Pictured is the former school and current St. John the Baptist Church in River Bourgeois.

Ephrem Boudreau wrote Riviere Bourgeois from which this history is taken and translated.

Flavien Samson (1900-1965) served as priest in River Bourgeois from January 18, 1950 until September 1, 1965. During this time, Fr. Samson set out to build a new presbytery.

What would be the means for obtaining the necessary funds to cover expenses? Fr. Samson thought about this and once again found a solution: bingo. But to hold bingos, a room was needed, a place that would serve both as a meeting room and a parish hall. The project was soon realized in the center of the parish on the new road.

And so began the era of bingos, but the bingos returned only tiny profits relatively speaking, because, after all, River Bourgeois was merely a small rural community where there was neither industry nor commerce. But from all corners of the parish people came to “play bingo,” from everywhere, even surrounding parishes they came to “try their luck.”

Money started to come in; considerable sums were collected and Fr. Samson brought all his projects to a successful conclusion without procuring loans. With this money he was able to build the presbytery and the parish hall, and repair the church bell. Finally, two years before his death, in 1963, he had the interior of the church renovated.

Fr. Samson died on August 31, 1965. On that day, the sisters were at the church waiting for Mass. Because he was late, which was unusual, they sought the neighbours, James Richard and Whitney McPhee and the priest from L’Ardoise, Fr. Rodgers. They knocked in vain on the door. They had to use force. The three men found him dead, sitting in his armchair in the living room. He died during the night.

Such a funeral would have taken place the following Friday; a gathering so large, the church would not be able to hold all those who would come to pay their final respects to a man who had been their spiritual advisor for 15 years.

The service was presided over by the Bishop of Antigonish, Monsignor William Power, assisted by Father Arsenault of Saint-Joseph-du-Moine, and Father Mombourquette of Petit de Grat as deacon and sub-deacon. More than 100 priests and 50 religious orders were present, as well as a large number of parishioners. Among the clergy in attendance were the following: Mgr Georges Landry, former pastor at Louisdale and later bishop at Hearst, Ontario, at this time retired (died in 1977); Father MacNeil, diocesan chancellor; Father Alexandre Poirier, priest at Arichat; Father MacNeil, priest at Saint-Pierre; Father Doucet, priest at West Arichat; Mgr Gallivan, vicar general of the diocese. The choir director was Father Joseph Marinelli. The Pall Bearers were: John Landry (passed away since); Joe McPhee; Victor Bourque; Basil Samson; James Richard; and Hillary Morrison (passed away since).

Father Conrad Girroir, curate at Louisdale and close friend of the deceased, delivered the sermon. He expressed these fond memories of his friend: “Father Samson was gentle and humble, large in his gentleness and great in his humility. He was a fine example of what a proper priest of God should be. His joviality was exceeded only by his holiness. He was a lover of nature: the murmuring stream, the salmon jumping from the water, the agile and graceful deer, lobster snuggled at the sea bottom, silvery smelts.

“He loved all living things as he loved his parishioner’s souls.”