By the time Hazel Stearns graduated from high school, she knew she wanted to be a teacher. While teaching in a one-room school in the Pontiac, she met another female teacher who offered her a job at Barriere Lake, an Algonquin reserve north of Maniwaki. Hazel agreed, and the two women, Hazel still a teenager, set out on an extraordinary commute.
In early May, they took a train from Hull to Maniwaki, the end of the line. There, they were met by a teamster with his horses and wagon, and they began a three-day journey to Bark Lake Depot, a stopover on the shores of Barriere Lake. They rode in the wagon when they could, but they often had to walk because the spring terrain was too rough, with mud reaching the wheel axles. When they finally reached Barriere Lake they boarded canoes with outboard motors and were taken 50 miles up the lake to a small cottage, their home for the summer. They taught English to the Algonquin community who had pitched their summer tents near the Catholic Church and Hudson’s Bay Store. In September, with the first frost, they went home. They returned to the lake the following summer, this time, thanks to a friend’s connections with the Quebec Forest Fires Association, in a sea plane. Hazel eventually graduated from Macdonald College with a teaching degree and taught at Lascelles School and Wakefield School. She married Carl Gibson, a native of Rupert, and lived in the Gatineau Hills until the death of her husband.
Video: Hazel reminisces about there younger days as a young school teacher and the trip to reach Barrier Lake.To view video of Hazel’s life click HERE. [PHOTO:COURTESY OF WILMA CHARLEBOIS]