Pictured just below St. John the Baptish Church in River Bourgeois is Stella Maris School.

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

The Priests of River Bourgeois

Father Joseph Marinelli (September 23, 1965 to June 27, 1973) was from Glace Bay, near Sydney, and was of Italian heritage. Italians in the Sydney region formed a relatively important, homogeneous group. Generally they preserved their language and certain elements of their culture.

Father Marinelli spoke French fluently, which he undoubtedly learned during his stay at Grand-Étang, near Cheticamp, where the population is more exclusively French.

He left an excellent legacy in the parish.

After him, other priests of the parish were Father Thomas Morley June 27, 1973 to July 25, 1979; Father Hugh A. MacDonald July 25, 1979 to July 1, 1981; and Father John J. MacDonald July 1, 1981.

Schools of River Bourgeois

The first was the school at Fond-du-Bras. It was situated on property owned by Allain Touesnard (1904-1975) and located behind his house, a small building that for many years had served as a slaughter house. According to him this building was the first school at Fond-du-Bras. When this school existed, there was no real road there, just a small path.

One of the first teachers was Stephen McPherson who lived at Seaview, six or seven miles away and made it to school every day on horseback. His name is listed in Hutchinson’s Directory from 1864-1865 as a resident of River Bourgeois.

The second school was located in the barn of “Jimmie à Hanaré” Samson of Fond-du-Bras near “Russeau à Denys” or “Russeau de l’école.” This barn was destroyed by fire.

“Charlie à Louis” Boucher (1878-1972) attended this school around 1890. Its construction could have taken place some years before.

There was a third school but in a new location at the edge of “Russeau à Denys” between the Grand-Goulet road and the main road of the time that went towards Rivière-Tillard and Saint-Pierre. It was built a bit before 1900.

Two older people Victoire (Samson) Boucher, and Désiré Samson (born in 1890) have both stated that they attended this school around 1900-1905.

The fourth school, built on the site of its predecessor, had a floor below the ground floor. There were two classrooms on the ground floor and one above, plus a room that served from time to time as a meeting place, a rarity at that time.

It was Désiré Terriot from les Iles de la Madeleine, the same person who had built and enlarged the church during the time of Fr. Chouinard between 1904 and 1909. There is a strong possibility that the school was built at the same time. It was quite imposing considering that at that time, village schools were quite small and consisted of only one room. It was remarkable for its colour. As far as the author of these lines can remember, it was painted a bright yellow. He attended from 1920 to 1922.

It was abandoned in 1954 when Stella Maris School opened. It ended its existence in a bizarre manner as Allain Touesnard bought the school and transformed it into a chicken coop. It served in this way for many years before being demolished. Thus it was said “the chickens went to school!”