Copyright
J.M. Le Moine.

Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

. (page 19 of 59)
Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 19 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the buildings. Denonville, on the 20th August, 1685, wrote to Paris,
asking His Most Christian Majesty to contribute 200 crowns worth of
leather fire-buckets, and in 1691 the historical Dutch pump was imported
to throw water on fires. At a later period, 1688, "Notre Dame de la
Victoire" Church was begun on part of the ruins. Let us open the second
volume of the "_Cours d'Histoire du Canada_," by the Abbé Ferland, and let
us read: "Other ruins existed in 1684, in the commercial centre of the
Lower Town; these ruins consisted of blackened and dilapidated walls.
Champlain's old warehouse, which, from the hands of the Company
(_Compagnie de la Nouvelle France_), had passed into those of the
King (Louis XIV.), had remained in the same state as when left after the
great fire which, some years previously, had devastated the Lower Town."

In 1684 Monseigneur de Laval obtained this site or _emplacement_ from
M. de la Barre for the purpose of erecting a supplementary chapel for the
use of the inhabitants in the Lower Town. This gift, however, was ratified
only later, in favor of M. de St. Valier, in the month of September, 1685.
Messieurs de Denonville and de Meules caused a clear and plain title or
patent of this locality to be issued for the purpose of erecting a church
which, in the course of time, was built by the worthy Bishop and named
"Notre Dame de la Victoire." The landing for small craft, in the vicinity
of the old market (now the Finlay [94] Market), was called "La Place du
Débarquement," or simply "La Place."

It is in this vicinity, a little to the west, under the silent shade of a
wood near the garden which Champlain had laid out, that the historical
interview, in 1608, which saved the colony, took place. The secret was of
the greatest importance; it is not to be wondered at if Champlain's trusty
pilot, Captain Testu, deemed it proper to draw the founder of Quebec aside
into the neighbouring wood and make known to him the villanous plot which
one of the accomplices, Antoine Natel, lock-smith, had first disclosed to
him under the greatest secrecy. The chief of the conspiracy was one Jean
du Val, who had come to the country with Champlain.

In rear of and parallel to St. Peter street, a new and wide street, called
after one of the Governors of Canada - Dalhousie street - was opened
recently, and promises to be before long the leading commercial artery.
Several extensive warehouses have been erected on Dalhousie street since
it was opened to the public, in 1877, by the city Corporation purchasing
from St. James street to St. Andrew's wharf a strip of land, of 60 feet in
breadth, from the landed proprietors of this neighbourhood. At the south-
western extremity a noble dry goods store has just been erected by Mr.
George Alford; it is four stories high, 155 feet long and 72 feet wide,
and faces on Dalhousie, Laporte, Union Lane and Finlay Market. It is
occupied by a wealthy and ancient dry goods firm, founded in Montreal
about 1810, with a branch in Quebec, in 1825. The original founders were
Messrs. Robertson, Masson & Larocque; this firm was subsequently changed
to Robertson, Masson, Strang & Co., to Masson, Bruyère, Thibaudeau & Co.,
to Langevin, Thibaudeau, Bruyère & Co., to Thibaudeau, Thomas & Co., to
Thibaudeau, Généreux & Co., and finally to Thibaudeau Frères & Co., at
Quebec; Thibaudeau Bros. & Co., Montreal; Thibaudeau Bros. & Co., London,
Manchester and Manitoba.

In the early days of the colony, the diminutive market space, facing the
front of Notre Dame Church, Lower Town, as well as the Upper Town Market,
was used for the infliction of corporal punishment, or the pillory, or the
execution of culprits.

On the area facing the Lower Town Church on Notre Dame street, the plan of
the city, drawn by the engineer, Jean François or Jehan Bourdon, in 1641,
shows a bust of Louis XIII., long since removed; this market, which dates
from the earliest times of the colony, as well as the vacant area (until
recently the Upper Town market, facing the Basilica), was used as a place
for corporal punishment, and for the exhibition in the pillory of public
malefactors.

"Among the incidents," says Mr. T. P. Bédard, "which claimed the privilege
of exciting the curiosity of the good folks of Quebec (then 1680,
inhabited by 1,345 souls,) was reckoned the case of Jean Rathier, charged
with murdering a girl of eighteen - Jeanne Couc. The case had been tried at
Three Rivers, and Rathier sentenced to have his legs broken [95] with an
iron bar, and afterwards to be hung. Judgment had been confirmed. An
unforseen hitch arose: the official hangman was dead; how then was Rathier
to be hung? The officers of justice cut the Gordian knot, by tendering to
Rathier, in lieu of the halter, the position, little envied, of hangman.
He accepted. Some years after, the wife and the daughter of Rathier were
accused and found guilty as accomplices in a robbery; the daughter, as the
receiver of the stolen goods, was sentenced to be whipped, but in secret,
at the General Hospital by the nun appointed Provost Marshal (_Maitress
de Discipline_), and the mother was also adjudged to be whipped, but
publicly in the streets of the city. This incident furnished the singular
and ludicrous spectacle of a husband publicly whipping his wife with
impunity to himself, as he was acting under the authority of justice." -
(_Première Administration de Frontenac_, _p._ 39.)

The whip and pillory did not go out with the old _régime_. The _Quebec
Gazette_ of 19th June, 1766, mentions the whipping, on the Upper and Lower
Town markets, of Catherine Berthrand and Jeanotte Blaize, by the hand of
the executioneer, for having "borrowed" (a pretty way of describing petty
larceny), a silver spoon from a gentleman of the town, without leave or
without intention of returning it.

For male reprobates, such as Jean May and Louis Bruseau, whose punishment
for petty larceny is noted in the Gazette of 11th August, 1766, the
whipping was supplemented with a walk - tied at the cart's tail - from the
Court House door to St. Roch and back to the Court House. May had to whip
Bruseau and Bruseau had to whip May the day following, at ten in the
morning.

Let us revert to Captain Testu's doings. The plot was to strangle
Champlain, pillage the warehouse, and afterwards betake themselves to the
Spanish and Basque vessels, laying at Tadousac. As, at that period, no
Court of Appeals existed in "_la Nouvelle France_" - far less was a
"Supreme Court" thought of - the trial of the chief of the conspiracy was
soon dispatched says Champlain, and the Sieur Jean du Val was "_presto_
well and duly hanged and strangled at Quebec aforesaid, and his head
affixed to the top of a pike-staff planted on the highest eminence of the
Fort." The ghastly head of this traitor, on the end of a pike-staff, near
Notre Dame street, must certainly have had a sinister effect at twilight.

But the brave Captain Testu, the saviour of Champlain and of Quebec - what
became of him? Champlain has done him the honour of naming him; here the
matter ended. Neither monument, nor poem, nor page of history in his
honour; nothing was done in the way of commemorating his devotion. As in
the instance of the illustrious man, whose life he had saved, his grave is
unknown. According to the Abbé Tanguay, none of his posterity exist at
this day.

During the siege of 1759, we notice in _Panet's Journal_, "that the Lower
Town was a complete mass of smoking ruins; on the 8th August, it was
a burning heap (_braisier_). Wolfe and Saunders' bombshells had found
their way even to the under-ground vaults. This epoch became disastrous to
many Quebecers." The English threw bombs (_pots à feu_) on the Lower
Town, of which, says Mr. Panet, "one fell on my house, one on the houses
in the Market place, and the last in Champlain street. The fire burst out
simultaneously, in three different directions; it was in vain to attempt
to cut off or extinguish the fire at my residence; a gale was blowing from
the north-east, and the Lower Town was soon nothing less than a blazing
mass. Beginning at my house, that of M. Desery, that of M. Maillou, Sault-
au-Matelot street, the whole of the Lower Town and all the quarter _Cul-
de-Sac_ up to the property of Sieur Voyer, which was spared, and in
short up to the house of the said Voyer, the whole was devastated by fire.
Seven vaults [96] had been rent to pieces or burned: that of M. Perrault
the younger, that of M. Taché, of M. Benjamin de la Mordic, of Jehaune, of
Maranda. You may judge of the consternation which reigned; 167 houses had
been burnt."

One hundred and sixty-seven burnt houses would create many gaps. We know
the locality on which stood the warehouse of M. Perrault, junior, also
that of M. Taché (the _Chronicle Bureau_), but who can point out to
us where stood the houses of Desery, Maillou, Voyer, de Voisy, and the
vaults of Messieurs Benjamin de la Mordic, Jehaune, Maranda?

It is on record that Champlain, after his return to Quebec, in 1633, "had
taken care to refit a battery which he had planted on a level with the
river near the warehouse, the guns of which commanded the passage between
Quebec and the opposite shore." [97] Now, in 1683, "this cannon battery,
erected in the Lower Town, almost surrounded on all sides by houses, stood
at some distance from the edge of the river, and caused some inconvenience
to the public; the then Governor, Lefebvre de la Barre [98] having sought
out a much more advantageous locality towards the Point of Rocks (_Pointe
des Roches_) west of the _Cul-de-Sac_, [99] and on the margin of the said
river at high-water mark, which would more efficiently command and sweep
the harbour, and which would cause far less inconvenience to the houses in
the said Lower Town," considered it fit to remove the said battery, and
the Reverend Jesuit Fathers having proposed to contribute towards the
expenses which would be incurred in so doing, he made them a grant "of a
portion of the lot of ground (_emplacement_) situated in front of the site
on which is now planted the said cannon battery, * * * * between the
street or high road for wheeled vehicles coming from the harbour [100] and
the so-called St. Peter street."

Here then we have the origin of the Napoleon wharf and a very distinct
mention of St. Peter street. The building erected near this site was sold
on the 22nd October, 1763, to William Grant, Esquire, who, on the 19th
December, 1763, also purchased the remainder of the ground down to low-
water mark, from Thomas Mills, Esquire, Town Major, who had shortly before
obtained a grant or patent of it, the 7th December, 1763, from Governor
Murray, in recognition, as is stated in the preamble of the patent, of his
military services. This property which, at a later period, belonged to the
late William Burns, was by him conveyed, the 16th October, 1806, to the
late J. M. Woolsey. The Napoleon wharf, purchased in 1842 by the late
Julien Chouinard from the late Frs. Buteau, forms at present part of the
Estate Chouinard; in reality, it is composed of two wharves joined into
one; the western portion is named "The Queen's Wharf," and was Mr.
Woolsey's property.

The highway which leads from the Cape towards this wharf is named "Sous-
le-Fort" street, which sufficiently denotes its position; this street, the
oldest, probably dates from the year 1620, when the foundations of Fort
St. Louis were laid; we may presume that, in 1663, the street terminated
at "la Pointe des Roches." In the last century "Sous-le-Fort" street was
graced by the residences, among others, of Fleury de la Jannière, brother
of Fleury de la Gorgendière, brother-in-law of the Governor de Vaudreuil.

In this street also stood the house of M. George Allsop, [101] the head of
the opposition in Governor Cramahé's Council. His neighbour was M.
d'Amours des Plaines, Councillor of the Superior Council; further on,
stood the residence of M. Cuvillier, the father of the Honorable Austin
Cuvillier, in 1844 Speaker of the House of Assembly. In this street also
existed the warehouse of M. Cugnet, the lessee of the Domaine of Labrador.

We must not confound the Napoleon wharf, sold by J. O. Brunet to Francois
Buteau, with the Queen's wharf, the property of the late J. W. Woolsey. On
the Queen's wharf, in a dwelling, since converted into a tavern, in 1846
one of the wittiest members of the Quebec Bar, Auguste Soulard, Esq.,
opened a law office for the especial convenience of his numerous country
clients. After office hours it was the rendezvous of many young
barristers, who have since made their mark: Messieurs T. Fournier, Justice
of the Supreme Court; A. Plamondon, Judge of the Superior Court; N.
Casault, Judge of the Superior Court; Jean Taché, Frederick Braun, L.
Fiset, J. M. Hudon and others. From the king's wharf to the king's forges
(the ruins of which were discovered at the beginning of the century, a
little further up than the king's store), there are but a few steps.

François Bellet, M.P. for the county of Buckingham from 1815 to 1820,
resided on the property of the late Julien Chouinard, at the corner of St.
Peter and Sous-le-Fort streets. He combined parliamentary duties, it
seems, with a sea-faring life, being styled "Capitaine de Bâtiment" in a
power of attorney before Martin A. Dumas, N.P., at Quebec, dated 9th
September, 1796, in which as attorney and agent for Revd. "Messire Louis
Payet, prêtre, curé de la paroisse de St. Antoine, au Nord de la Rivière
Richelieu," he sells to Monsieur Thomas Lee, later on an M.P.P., his negro
slave, named Rose, for the sum of "500 livres et vingt sols," - about $100
of our currency. The traffic in human flesh became extinct in Canada in
1803 by legislative enactment. The bluest blood of our Southern neighbours
was shed to keep it up in the model Republic sixty years subsequently.
[102] In the space between the Queen's wharf and the jetty on the west,
belonging to the Imperial authorities and called the king's wharf, there
existed a bay or landing place, much prized by our ancestors, which
afforded a harbour for the coasting vessels and small river crafts, called
the "_Cul-de-Sac_." There, also, the ships which were overtaken by an
early winter lingered until the sunny days of April released them from
their icy fetters. There the ships were put into winter quarters, and
securely bedded on a foundation or bed of clay; wrecked vessels also came
hither to undergo repairs. The _Cul-de-Sac_, with its uses and marine
traditions, had, in by-gone days, an important function in our
incomparable sea-port. In this vicinity, Vaudreuil, in 1759, planted a
battery.

The old Custom House (now the Department of Marine), was built on this
site in 1833. In 1815 the Custom House was on McCallum's wharf. The
_Cul-de-Sac_ recalls "the first chapel which served as a Parish
Church at Quebec," that which Champlain caused to be built in the Lower
Town in 1615, where the name of Champlain is identified with the street
which was bounded by this chapel. The Revd. Fathers Récollets there
performed their clerical functions up to the period of the taking of
Quebec by the brothers Kertk, that is from 1615 to 1629, (Laverdière.)

Nothing less than the urgent necessity of providing the public with a
convenient market-place, and the small coasting steamers with suitable
wharves, could move the municipal authorities to construct the wharves now
existing, and there, in 1856, to erect out of the materials of the old
Parliament House, the spacious Champlain Hall, so conspicuous at present.
The king's wharf and the king's stores, two hundred and fifty feet in
length, with a guard house, built on the same site in 1821, possess also
their marine and military traditions. The "Queen's Own" volunteers, Capt.
Rayside, were quartered there during the stirring times of 1837-38, when
"Bob Symes" dreamed each night of a new conspiracy against the British
crown, and M. Aubin perpetuated, in his famous journal "_Le Fantasque_"
the memory of this loyal magistrate.

How many saucy frigates, how many proud English Admirals, have made fast
their boats at the steps of this wharf! Jacques Cartier, Champlain,
Nelson, Bourgainville, Cook, Vauclain, Montgomery, Boxer, Sir Rodney
Mundy, poor Captain Burgoyne, of the ill-fated iron-clad _Captain_,
Sir Leopold McClintock, [103] have, one after the other, trodden over this
picturesque landing place, commanded as it is by the guns of Cape Diamond.
Since about a century, the street which bears the venerated name of the
founder of Quebec, Champlain street, unmindful of its ancient Gallic
traditions, is almost exclusively the headquarters of our Hibernian
population. An ominous-looking black-board, affixed to one of the
projecting rocks of the Cape, indicates the spot below where one of their
countrymen, Brigadier-General Richard Montgomery, with his two _aides-
de-camp_, Cheeseman and McPherson, received their death wounds during a
violent snow storm about five o'clock in the morning, the 31st December,
1775. On this disastrous morning the post was guarded by Canadian
militiamen, Messieurs Chabot and Picard. Captain Barnesfare, an English
mariner, had pointed the cannon; Coffin and Sergeant Hugh McQuarters
applied the match. At the eastern extremity, under the stairs, now styled
"Breakneck Steps," according to Messrs. Casgrain and Laverdière, was
discovered Champlain's tomb, though a rival antiquary, M. S. Drapeau, says
that he is not certain of this. [104]

A little to the west is Cap Blanc, inhabited by a small knot of French-
Canadians and some Irish; near by, was launched in October, 1750, the
_Orignal_, a King's ship, built at Quebec; at that period the lily flag of
France floated over the bastions of Cape Diamond; the _Orignal_, in being
launched, broke her back and sank. Among the notabilities of Cap Blanc,
one is bound to recall the athletic stevedore and pugilist, Jacques
Etienne Blais. Should the fearless man's record not reach remote
posterity, pointing him out as the Tom Sayers of Cap Blanc, it cannot fail
to be handed down as the benefactor of the handsome new church of Notre
Dame de la Garde, erected on the shore in 1878, the site of which was
munificently given by him on the 17th June, 1877. Jacques Blais, now
(1881) very aged, though still vigorous, in his best days by his prowess
re-called that prince of Quebec raftsmen so graphically delineated by Chas
Lanman.

Champlain street stretches nearly to Cap Rouge, a distance of six miles.
During the winter the fall of an avalanche from the brow of the Cape on
the houses beneath is a not unfrequent occurrence. In former years, in the
good time of ship-building, the laying the keel of a large vessel in the
ship-yards often brought joy to the hearts of the poor ship-carpenters;
many of whose white, snug cottages are grouped along the river near by.

Except during the summer months, when the crews of the ships, taking in
cargo alongside the booms, sing, fight and dance in the adjacent
"shebeens," the year glides on peacefully. On grand, on gala days, in
election times, some of the sons of St. Patrick used to perambulate the
historical street, flourishing treenails, or _shillaleghs_ - in order
to _preserve the peace!!!_ of course. To sum up all, Champlain street
has an aspect altogether _sui generis_.

A QUEBEC PORTRAIT

(From the ATLANTIC MONTHLY.)

"Physical size and grand proportions are looked upon by the French-
Canadians with great respect. In all the cases of popular
_émeutes_ that have from time to time broken out in Lower Canada,
the fighting leaders of the people were exceptional men, standing head
and shoulders over their confiding followers. Where gangs of raftsmen
congregate, their 'captains' may be known by superior stature. The
doings of their 'big men' are treasured by the French-Canadians in
traditionary lore. One famous fellow of this governing class is known
by his deeds and words to every lumberer and stevedore and timber-
tower about Montreal and Quebec. This man, whose name was Joe
Monfaron, was the bully of the Ottawa raftsmen. He was about six feet
six inches high, and proportionally broad and deep; and I remember how
people would turn round to look after him, as he came pounding along
Notre Dame street, in Montreal, in his red shirt and tan-colored
_shupac_ boots, all dripping wet, after mooring an acre or two of
raft, and now bent for his ashore haunts in the Ste. Marie suburb, to
indemnify himself with bacchanalian and other consolations for long-
endured hardship. Among other feats of strength attributed to him, I
remember the following, which has an old, familiar taste, but was
related to me as a fact:

"There was a fighting stevedore or timber-tower, I forget which, at
Quebec, who had never seen Joe Monfaron, as the latter seldom came
farther down the river than Montreal. This fighting character,
however, made a custom of laughing to scorn all the rumors that came
down on rafts, every now and then, about terrible chastisements
inflicted by Joe upon several hostile persons at once. He, the
fighting timber-tower, hadn't found his match yet about the lumber
coves at Quebec, and he only wanted to see Joe Monfaron once, when he
would settle the question as to the championship of rafts, on sight.
One day a giant in a red shirt stood suddenly before him, saying -

"'You're Dick Dempsey, eh?'

"'That's me.' replied the timber-tower, 'and who are you?'

"'Joe Monfaron. I heard you wanted me - here I am,' was the Caesarean
answer of the great captain of rafts.

"'Ah! you're Joe Monfaron!" said the bully, a little staggered at the
sort of customer he saw before him. 'I said I'd like to see you, for
sure, but how am I to know you're the right man?'

"'Shake hands first,' replied Joe, 'and then you will find out, may
be.'

"They shook hands - rather warmly, perhaps, for the timber-tower, whose
features wore an uncertain expression during the operation, and who at
last broke out into a yell of pain, as Joe cast him off with a defiant
laugh. Nor did the bully wait for any further explanations, for,
whether the man who had just brought the blood spouting out at the
tops of his fingers was Joe Monfaron or not, he was clearly an ugly
customer, and had better be left alone.

The St. Lawrence, its rafts of timber, raftsmen, _voyageurs_ and
their songs, are pleasantly alluded to by a sympathetic French writer of
note, X. Marmier, [105] who visited Canada some thirty years ago:

"On the St. Lawrence, traversed by steamboats, by vessels heavily
laden, and by light bark canoes, we may see early in the season
immense rafts of timber that are brought down from the dense northern
forests, hewn where they are felled, drawn to the rivers upon the
snow, and made up into rafts. The Canadian crews erect masts and
spread their sails, and by the aid of wind and current, and sometimes
by rowing, they boldly guide these acres of fir down the rapids to
Quebec, while they animate their labours with the melody of their
popular songs. A part would intone the Canadian song

"A la Claire Fontaine,"

while the others, repeating the last two lines, would at the same time
let drop their oars as those of the former arose.

"There is probably no river on earth that has heard so many vows of
love as the St. Lawrence; for there is not a Canadian boatman that has
ever passed up or down the river without repeating, as the blade of
his oar dropped into the stream, and as it arose, the national
refrain.

"Il y a longtemps que je t'aime,
Jamais je ne t'oublierai!"

"Long time have I loved thee,
Never will I forget thee!"

"And I will here say that there is a harmonious sweetness in these
simple words, that well accords with the simple yet imposing character
of the scenery of this charming region.

"Upon our coquettish rivers in Europe they may whisper of loves along
their flowery banks and under the vine-clad terraces that overhang
them, like the curtains of a saloon; but here, in this grand severity
of nature, upon these immense, half desert plains, in the silence of
these gloomy forests, on the banks of this majestic river that is ever
speeding onward to the eternal ocean, we may feel emotions that are
truly sublime. If, in this quiet solitude, should we open the soul to



Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 19 of 59)