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The area was first settled in the early 19th century. The town of Sainte-Thérèse was founded in 1876 by John O'Brien, who named it after his wife Thérèse. It became a parish municipality in 1912 and a city on April 1, 1957. Sainte-Thérèse is located at the eastern end of Lake Saint Francis (Lac St-François), which is part of the Saint Lawrence River drainage basin; this lake drains into Lac des Deux Montagnes via Rivière des Mille Îles and thence to Montreal Harbour on its way to the Atlantic Ocean via the St Lawrence Seaway system. The city's territory includes several islands within Lake Saint Francis: Île du Havre aux Maisons, L'Île de la Visitation (also known as "Island Park"), L'Île aux Tourtes ("Potato Island") and Petite île au lac Deschênes ("Little Island").