Baie-des-Sables began long after a grant of land to Jean-Baptiste de Péiras in 1675. The undeveloped seigneury was bought in the early 1800s by Matthew MacNider, and soon after acquired by a relative, John MacNider. In 1818, John brought 40 Scottish, English, and Irish families by ship to this isolated spot on the Saint Lawrence River to settle. The first settlers named the area and later village ‘Sandy Bay’, not surprisingly because the village is located on a pretty and sandy coastal harbour.
MacNider Township, named for MacNider, was formally established in 1842. A Catholic mission quickly followed in 1850, and the parish of l’Assomption-de-Notre-Dame-de-Baie-des-Sables was formalized in 1869. The Assumption, or taking up into Heaven of Jesus’s mother Mary at the end of her earthly life, is observed as a major feast day each year on August 15. Monsignor Augustin Magloire-Blanchet, in his annual report on the MacNider mission for the year 1857, suggested the Archbishop at the time name the mission for the Assumption because the Archbishop had been ordained on August 15, 1852.
“If my mission cannot bear this name,” he adds, “I want it to be called Notre-Dame-des-Anges and that the 15th should be a holiday. My main intention is to change these English and Scottish names into ones more reminiscent of the Catholic religion.”
In 1932, at the request of the all or mostly French-Canadian parishioners, the Canadian Post Office changed the name of Sandy Bay to Baie-des-Sables.
Baie-des-Sables’ coat of arms tells us all about the village’s history: a star denotes the parish name; a thistle symbolizes the purchase by the Scottish McNiders of the seigneury where Baie-des-Sables is located, and an anchor and sheaf of wheat represent the importance of fishing and agriculture to its heritage.
With fishing and agriculture as mainstays of the local economy for many years, enjoy reminders of both – including the more modern wind farm – on your walk or ride around Baie-des-Sables and its environs.