Local historian unlocking House of Refuge secrets

Local historian Sara Lauzon is writing a book on the history of the House of Refuge. (Cornwall Newswatch/Randi Belec)
Local historian Sara Lauzon is writing a book on the history of the House of Refuge. (Cornwall Newswatch/Randi Belec)

CORNWALL – Local history can be a key to unlocking many secrets and mysteries, as well as a way to bring the local community closer together. Local historian Sara Lauzon has begun working on a book she hopes will do just that.

Lauzon’s love of dedication to local history sparked at 16-years-old, during a co-op placement with high school, where she worked with Heritage Cornwall. At the age of 24, Lauzon has graduated with a BA in History from the University of Ottawa, and as having attended St. Lawrence College, Cornwall, for general arts and science.

It was during her time at Heritage Cornwall she learned about Cornwall’s House of Refuge, and truly accepted her passion for local history. After extensive research into the historical background of the building, and learning of all of the unmarked graves on the premises she decided to create a monument for the deceased inmates of the house.

The inspiration for writing a book, rather than just creating a monument, came one afternoon from a stranger while researching the facility at Library and Archives Canada.

“I told her the story and she goes ‘you basically owe it to them to write a book” says Lauzon. “It comes naturally to tell their stories, but it was because of her I had the idea.”

Her plan for the book is to bring the stories and the lives of all 906 inmates of the house into one collection. She has been working hard to put together the stories and information she has gathered, even interviewing people in Florida to find information to put into the book.

Community involvement has greatly helped Lauzon bring her book and research along, as she is always finding new people, and new stories to add to her collection. She appreciated even small one line bits of information, as they can shed a whole new light to different aspects of the history.

As for completion Lauzon holds a very relaxed view “I told myself just write, and when it’s done, you’ll know it’s done.”

With the completion of the book being so dependent on information gathered from local people and stories passed down through families, she is confident with how well it has come together so far. Always looking for more information, photos or stories, Lauzon maintains a website where she posts much of the information she has gathered, as well as her forms of contact, should anyone else have information to share.

Lauzon is still saving, and accepting donations to fund the monument and grave markers for the inmates, and hopes that at the end of this journey, she will have created their memorial as well. Her website is saraloveshistory.com

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