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Goals for 2019, researching Cornwall’s House of Refuge

Sara Lauzon ~ Wayback Playback
Goals for 2019, researching Cornwall’s House of Refuge
Photo provided.

Last year, I took a lengthy hiatus. I had time to regroup, and while I took time to myself, I made plans for the future about things I wanted to accomplish. With that being said, I wanted to express and share my goals for 2019 with you.

Since October 2012, I have been researching Cornwall’s House of Refuge. (If you are not familiar with this facility, it operated between 1913 and 1952, at what is now known as Heartwood Nursing home on Eleventh Street. The current nursing home once operated as a local poor house.) Having taken such a lengthy break, I want to take my research a few steps further.

Researching the lives of 906 people is a lengthy task. I have hundreds of names left to investigate, and throughout my research, it is not uncommon to find names that were not included in the original House of Refuge register. In the future, I would like to write a book that will commemorate all of Cornwall’s House of Refuge residents, as well as pay tribute to the facility’s history. I was granted special access from the Archives of Ontario to review restricted records pertaining to some of Cornwall’s House of Refuge residents. I am excited to plan my trip to Toronto to access them!

In 2017, I petitioned the Canadian government into creating “Poor House Commemoration Day.” The objective of Poor House Commemoration Day is to recognize and celebrate the lives of Canadian and Immigrant citizens that lived and died in: Asylums, Houses of Refuge (these facilities were only in Ontario), and Poor Houses. Unfortunately, on January 28, 2018, I was informed of the governments response: “The Government of Canada does not have any current plans to officially designate the aforementioned date [as Poor House Commemoration Day in Canada.]” If you know me, you know I am extremely persistent. I can promise you without hesitation, that these people will get their deserved day of remembrance.

This year, I hope to visit groups and classrooms in the hopes that they will be willing to learn about House of Refuge facilities. This is part of Canadian history that is rarely spoken about, and it is a history that deserves our attention and recognition.

Some of my other goals for 2019 include: writing columns, hosting haunted walks and historic walking tours, and promoting Cornwall’s history the best that I can!

For more information about Cornwall’s House of Refuge, please visit my website:, and if you have any information about Cornwall’s House of Refuge residents (maybe someone you are related to stay there!), please do not hesitate to contact me by email:

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Jenni MacDonald, Dominion Lending, Cornwall, Ontario