J.M. Le Moine.

Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

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Paris, Madame de Pompadour, have all fleeted to the land of shadows; and
tourists, high and low, still crowd to glance meditatively at those fast
fading traces of a guilty past. It was in October, 1879, the special
privilege of the writer to escort to these ruins one of our Sovereign's
gentle and accomplished daughters, H.R.H. the Princess Louise, accompanied
by H.E. Lord Lorne, as he had done the previous autumn with regard to the
learned Dean of Westminster, Revd. A. P. Stanley: proud he was to think
that though Quebec had no such attractions like antique, like classic
England, - turretted castles, moated granges, or even

"Old pheasant Lords,
"Partridge breeders of a thousand years,"

- its romantic past was not without pleasing or startling or interesting

We have just mentioned "_La Vacherie_", this consisted of the extensive
and moist pastures at the foot of _Coteau Sainte-Geneviève_, extending
towards the General Hospital, where the city cows were grazed; on this
site and gracing the handsome streets "Crown" "Craig" and "Desfossés," can
now be seen elegant dry-goods stores, vying with the largest in the Upper
Town. Had St. Peter street, in 1775, been provided with a regular way of
communication with St. Roch; had St. Paul street then existed, the sun of
progress would have shone there nearly a century earlier.

"For a considerable time past, several plans of amelioration of the City
of Quebec," says the Abbé Ferland, "were proposed to the Ministry by M. de
Meules. The absolute necessity of obtaining a desirable locality for the
residence of the Intendant, and for holding the sessions of the Council;
the Château St. Louis being hardly sufficient to afford suitable quarters
for the Governor and the persons who formed his household. M. de Meules
proposed purchasing a large stone building which M. Talon had caused to be
erected for the purpose of a brewery, and which, for several years, had
remained unoccupied. Placed in a very commodious position on the bank of
the river St. Charles, and not many steps from the Upper Town, this
edifice, with suitable repairs and additions, might furnish not alone a
desirable residence for the Intendant, but also halls and offices for the
Supreme Council and the Courts of Justice, as likewise vaults for the
archives and a prison for the criminals. Adjacent to the old brewery, M.
Talon owned an extent of land of about seventeen superficial acres, of
which no use was made in M. de Meules' plan; a certain portion of this
land could be reserved for the gardens and dependencies of the Intendant's
Palace, whilst the remainder might be portioned off into building lots
(_emplacements_), and thus convert it into a second lower town, and
which might some day be extended to the foot of the Cape. He believed that
if this plan were adopted, the new buildings of Quebec would extend in
that direction, and not on the heights almost exclusively occupied by the
Religious Communities. [129]

We perceive, according to Mr. Panet's Journal, that Saint Roch existed in
1759; that the women and children, residents of that quarter, were not
wholly indifferent to the fate of their distressed country. "The same day
(31st July, 1759)," says Panet, "we heard a great uproar in the St. Roch
quarter - the women and children were shouting, 'Long Live the King!'"
[130] "I ascended the height (on the _Coteau Ste. Geneviève_) and
there beheld the first frigate all in a blaze, very shortly afterwards a
black smoke issuing from the second, which blew up and afterwards took
fire." On the 4th August several bomb-shells of 80 lbs. fell on St. Roch.
We read, that on the 31st August, two soldiers were hanged at three
o'clock in the afternoon, for having stolen a cask of brandy from the
house of one Charland, in the St. Roch quarter. In those times the General
(or _the Recorder_) did not do things by halves. Who was, this Charland of
1759? Could he be the same who, sixteen years afterwards, fought so
stoutly with Lieut. Dambourgès at the Sault-au-Matelot engagement? Since
the inauguration of the English domination, St. Roch became peopled in a
most rapid manner, we now see there a net-work of streets, embracing in
extent several leagues.

The first steep hill past the Y. M. C. Association Hall - formerly Gallows
Hill, (where the luckless David McLane was disembowelled, in 1797, for
levying war against the King of Great Britain), and leading from St. John
street without to that not over-straight thoroughfare, named after the
second Bishop of Quebec - St. Vallier street - borrows its name from
Barthélémy Coton, who in days of yore closed his career in Quebec at the
advanced age of 92 years. Can anyone tell us the pedigree of Barthélémy
Coton? To the French portion of the inhabitants it is known as _Côte à
Coton_, whilst the English portion still continue to surround it,
unopportunely we think, with the unhallowed traditions of a lugubrious
past and call it Gallows Hill. Côte à Coton debouches into St. Vallier
street, which on your way takes you to Scott's Bridge, over the Little
River St Charles. Across St. Vallier street it opens on a rather
magnificent street as to extent - Baronne street, - commemorating the
_souvenir_ of an illustrious family in colonial History, represented
by Madame la Baronne de Longueuil, the widow of the third Baron, who had,
in 1770, married the Honorable. Wm. Grant, the Receiver-General of the
Province of Quebec, who lived at St. Rochs, and died there in 1805.

On M. P. Cousin's plan of Quebec, published in 1875, parallel to St.
Vallier street to the south, and St. Fleurie street to the north, halfway
between, is laid down Baronne street. The most ancient highway of the
quarter (St. Roch) is probably St. Vallier street. "Desfossés" street most
likely derives its name from the ditches (_fossés_) which served to
drain the green pastures of _La Vacherie_. The old Bridge street dates
from the end of the last century (1789). "Dorchester" street recalls
the esteemed and popular administrator, Lord Dorchester, who, under the
name of Guy Carleton, led on to victory the militia of Quebec in 1775.

"Craig" street received its name from Sir John Craig, a gouty, testy, but
trusty old soldier, who administered the Government in 1807-9-10; it was
enlarged and widened ten feet, after the great fire of 1845. The site of
St. Paul's Market was acquired from the Royal Ordnance, on 31st July,

A former Quebecer writes: -

OTTAWA, 17th May, 1876.

"At the beginning of this century only eighty square-rigged vessels
entered the Port of Quebec. There were then in Quebec only nine
importers, and half a dozen master mechanics, one shipyard (John
Black's, where one ship was launched each year), one printing office
and one weekly paper.

"The tide then washed the rear walls of the houses on the north part
of Sault-au-Matelot street. The only deep water wharves were Dunières,
afterwards Brébaut's, Johnson & Purss', and the King's Wharf. There
were no dwelling houses beyond Dunières' Wharf, but a few huts were
built at the base of the cape. A black man was the solitary inhabitant
on the beach, and all the way to Sillery the woods extended to the
water's edge. A lease of this beach might then have been obtained for
£50 a year.

"In St. Roch's Suburbs there was no house beyond the Manor House near
the Intendant's Palace, save a few straggling ones in St. Vallier and
St. Roch's streets. The site of the present Parish of St. Roch was
mostly occupied by Grant's Mills, by meadows and farms.

"In St. John Suburbs there were only a few houses on St. John and St.
George's streets and St. Louis Suburbs which, in 1775, contributed but
three militia-men, viz - Jean Dobin, gardener, Jos. Proveau, carter,
and Jacques Dion, mason, could boast of only one house, and the
nearest one to it was Powell Place, Spencer Wood.

"On the St. Foy Road there was no house beyond the mineral well in St.
John Suburbs, until you came to the Haut Bijou - Mr. Stewart's. The
population of the city was then estimated at 12,000.

"I wonder if your friend Col. Strange is aware that his old friend
Sergt. Hugh McQuarters, of 1775 fame, was led captive to Hymen's altar
by the winning smiles and bright eyes of a _belle Canadienne_,
Mam'selle Victoire Fréchette. She died on the 12th October, 1812.

"Not having seen a copy of the address of Henri Taschereau, Esq., M.P.
before the Canadian Institute on the American Invasion of '75, I am
not aware if he alluded to the facet that Captain and Paymaster
Gabriel Elzéar Taschereau took part in the '_l'affaire du Sault-au-

"Thus, by degrees, you see some little odds and ends of Quebec history
are coming to light.

"I remain, "(Signed,) C. J. O'LEARY.

"J. M. LEMOINE, Esq."

In the present day the prolongation of the wharf has left no trace of it;
the Station of the North Shore Railway covers a portion of this area.

"Church" street (la rue de l'Église), doubtless owes its name to the
erection of the beautiful Saint Roch Church, towards 1812, the site of
which was given by the late Honorable John Mure, who died in Scotland in

Saint Roch, like the Upper Town, comprises several _Fiefs_, proceeding
from the _Fief_ of the Seminary and reaching as far as the Gas Wharf; the
beaches with the right of fishing belonged originally to the _Hôtel-Dieu_
by a concession dated the 31st March, 1648, but they have since been
conceded to others. The Crown possesses an important reserve towards the
west of this grant; then comes the grant made, in 1814 or 1815, to the
heirs of William Grant, now occupied by several ship-yards. Jacques
Cartier who, in 1535-6, wintered in the vicinity of Saint Roch, left his
name to an entire municipal division of this rich suburb, as well as to a
spacious market hall. (The Jacques Cartier Market Hall.) The first secular
priest, who landed in Quebec on the 8th August, 1634, and who closed his
days in the Hôtel-Dieu on the 29th November, 1668, Jean le Sueur de Saint
Sauveur, left his name to what now constitutes the populous municipality
of Saint Sauveur. (Casgrain, _Historie de l'Hôtel-Dieu_, p. 81.)

On the spot on which the General Hospital Convent was erected, in 1691,
the four first Franciscan Friars, Pères Jamay, D'Olbeau, LeCaron and Frère
Pacifique Du Plessis, who had landed at Quebec on the 2nd June, 1615, soon
set to work to erect the first Church, the first Convent and the first
Seminary in New France, and on the 3rd June, 1620, Father d'Olbeau, in the
absence of Father Jamay, the Superior of the Mission, placed the first
stone of the church, under the name of _Notre Dame des Anges_, on the
25th May, 1625. This was on the bank of the river which Jacques Cartier
had called the River Ste. Croix, because he had landed there on the 14th
September, 1535, the day of the exaltation of the Holy Cross: the Friars
changed the name to that of St. Charles, in honor of "Monsieur Charles de
Boues, Grand Vicaire _de Pontoise_," one of the most distinguished
benefactors of their Order.

St. Vallier street, leading to ancient and Indian Lorette, over the Little
River Road, at present so well built up and echoing to the shrill whistle
of the Q. M. O. & O. Railway, until a few years back was a lone
thoroughfare, beyond the toll-bar, lined with bare, open meadows. Here,
also, has been felt the march of progress.

In the genial summer months passers-by are admonished by a pungent, not
unhealthy, odor of tannin, an effluvia of tamarac bark, that tanners and
curriers have selected their head-quarters in St. Vallier street. History
also lends its attractions to the venerable thoroughfare.

Our forefathers would tell of many cosy little dinners, closed, of course,
with whist or loo - of many _recherché_ pic-nics in days of yore, kept
up until the "sma' hours" at two renowned hostelries, only recently
removed - the BLUE HOUSE and the RED HOUSE, - chiefly at that festive and
crowning season of the year, when

"The snow, the beautiful snow,"

called forth the City Driving Club and its silvery, tinkling sleigh bells.

A steward - once famous as a caterer - on closing his term of service at the
_Château_, with a departing Governor, more than a century back, was
the Boniface at the Blue House: Alexandre Menut. A veritable Soyer was
_Monsieur_ Menut. During the American invasion, in the autumn of 1775,
Monsieur Menut, owing to a _vis major_, was forced to entertain a rather
boisterous and wilful class of customers: Richard Montgomery and his
warlike Continentals. More than once a well-aimed ball or shell from
General Carleton's batteries in the city must have disturbed the good
cheer of the New York and New England riflemen lounging about Menut's, a
great rebel rendezvous in 1775-6, we are told, visible from afar, [131]
"with its white flag flying on the house.

Arnold's head-quarters being close to the St. Charles, where Scott's
Bridge was since built, the intervening space between the city and the
General Hospital was daily swept by Carleton's artillery. The Page Diaries
abound with details of the casualties or narrow escapes of the invading
host. A few quotations will suffice:

"8th December, 1775. Mr. (Brigadier-General) Montgomery visited
Menut's to-day; a few minutes after he got out of the cariole, a
cannon ball from the city walls killed his horse.

"18th December. Some shells were thrown in to-day, and we threw some
into St. Roch's: very few of the enemy seen anywhere to-day. A man was
shot through the head from St. Roch; would it were destroyed; it
serves as a secure cover to the rebels.

"26th January, 1776. Eighty loaded sleighs passing towards Menut's.
Two field-pieces placed at the door; people passing and repassing
between that house and the General Hospital; some of our shots went
through Menut's house; we fired a long time at that object; at last we
perceived a man coming towards the town in a cariole, carrying the old
signal; he passed their guard-house and waved with his handkerchief;
we took no notice of him, but fired away at Menut's, he turned about
and went back. ... Perhaps, they find Menut's too hot for them. -
(_from Journal of an officer of the Quebec Garrison_, 1775-6,
quoted in Smith's History of Canada, Vol. II.)

"21st February, 1776. Fired at their guard-house and at Menut's.

"23rd February. About four this morning we heard the enemy's drum at
Menut's, St. Foix. Sentries saw rockets in the night."

Prince Edward street, St. Roch, and "Donnacona" street, near the
Ursulines, the latter thus named about 1840 by the late Rev. Messire
Maguire, then Almoner of the Ursuline Convent, bring up the memory of two
important personages of the past, Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent, an
English Prince, and Donnacona, a swarthy chief of primitive Canada, who
welcomed Jacques Cartier.

The vanquisher of Montcalm, General Wolfe, is honoured not only by a
statue, at the corner of Palace and St. John's streets, but again by the
street which bears his name, Wolfe street. In like manner, his illustrious
rival Montcalm claims an entire section of the city, "Montcalm Ward." Can
it be that the susceptible young Captain of the _Albemarle_, Horatio
Nelson, carried on his flirtation with the captivating Miss Mary Simpson,
in 1782, in the street which now rejoices in his name?


"C'est l'amour qui fait le tour de la ronde." - OLD SONG.

"Though the "Ancient Capital," ever since 1764, rejoiced in an organ
of public opinion - a chronicle of daily events, fashions, city gossip,
the _Quebec Gazette_, - one would look in vain, in the barren columns
of that journal, for any intelligence of an incident, in 1782, which,
from the celebrity in after-life of the chief actor, and the local
repute of the reigning belle of the day, must have caused a flutter
among the F. F. Q. of the period. We mean the tender attachment of
Horatio (Lord) Nelson, commanding H. M. frigate _Albemarle_, 28 guns
then in port, - his romantic admiration for Miss Mary Simpson, the
youthful and accomplished daughter of Saunders Simpson (not "James,"
as Dr. Miles asserts), the cousin of James Thompson, Sr., one of
Wolfe's veterans. Traditions, venerable by their antiquity, told of
the charms divine, of the conquests of a marvellously handsome Quebec
beauty in the latter part of the last century: the _Catullus_ of 1783
thus begins his inspired lay in the _Quebec Gazette_ of that year:

'Sure you will rather listen to my call,
Since beauty and Quebec's fair nymphs I sing.
Henceforth Diana in Miss S - ps - n see,
As noble and majestic is her air;
Nor can fair Venus, W - lc - s, vie with thee,
Nor all thy heavenly charms with thee compare.'

"It was our fate first to attempt to unravel the tangles of this
attractive web. In the course of our readings, in 1865, our attention
had been drawn to a passage in the life of Nelson by the Laureate of
England, Robert Southey, [132] and enlarged on by Lamartine in the
pleasant sketch he gave of the naval hero. Our investigations were
aided by the happy memory of an old friend, now deceased: the late
Lt.-Col. John Sewell, who had served in the 49th under General Brock,
and whose birth was nearly contemporary with the visit of Nelson to
our port in September, 1782. It was evident the chief biographers of
the gifted sea captain ignored the details of his youthful attachment
on our shores.

"'At Quebec,' says Southey, 'Nelson became acquainted with Alexander
Davison, by whose interference he was prevented from making what would
have been called an imprudent marriage. The _Albemarle_ was about
to leave the station, her Captain had taken leave of his friends, and
was gone down the river to the place of anchorage; when the next
morning, as Davison was walking on the beach, to his surprise he saw
Nelson coming back in his boat. Upon inquiring the cause of his re-
appearance, Nelson took his arm to walk towards the town, and told him
he found it utterly impossible to leave Quebec without again seeing
the woman whose society contributed so much to his happiness, and then
and there offering her his hand.' 'If you do,' said his friend, 'your
utter ruin must inevitably follow.' 'Then, let it follow,' cried
Nelson; 'for I am resolved to do it.' 'And I,' replied Davison, 'am
resolved you shall not.' Nelson, however, on this occasion was less
resolved than his friend, and suffered himself to be led back to the

"This led us to prepare a short 'Novelette' on the subject in the
_Revue Canadienne_, in 1867, subsequently incorporated in the _Maple
Leaves_: amended and corrected as new light dawned upon us in the
_Tourists' Note Book_, issued in 1876, and _Chronicles of the St.
Lawrence_, published in 1878.

"Whether it was Alexander Davison, his tried friend in afterlife, as
Southey suggests, or another Quebecer of note, in 1782, Matthew
Lymburner, as Lt.-Col. John Sewell, on the faith of Hon. William
Smith, the Historian of Canada, had stated to us, is of minor
importance: one thing is certain, some thoughtful friend, in 1782,
seems to have extricated the impulsive Horatio from the 'tangles of
Neaera's hair' in the port of Quebec: the hand of fate had marked the
future Captain of the _Victory_, not as the Romeo of a Canadian
Juliet, but as the paramour of Lady Emma Hamilton. Alas! for his fair
fame! It seems certain that the Commander of the _Albemarle_,
during his repeated visits to our port, in July, September and
October, 1782, became acquainted, possibly at some entertainment at
Freemason's Hall, - the 'Windsor' of the period - with 'sweet sixteen'
(he himself was but twenty-four) in the person of Miss Mary Simpson,
the blooming daughter of an old Highlandman, Sandy Simpson, a cousin
to Mr. James Thompson, then overseer of works, and father of the late
Judge John Gwalor Thompson, of Gaspé, and of late Com.-General James
Thompson, of Quebec. Sandy Simpson was an _habitué_ of this historical
and, for the period, vast old stone mansion where Captain Miles
Prentice, [133] as he had been styled in 1775, hung out, with good
cheer, the olive branch of Freemasonry and of loyalty to his
Sovereign. The _bonne société_ of Quebec, in 1782, was limited
indeed: and it was not probable the arrival from sea of one of H.M.'s
ships of war, the _Albemarle_, could escape the notice of the leading
men in Quebec.

"If the _Quebec Gazette_ of 1782 and _Quebec Herald_, published in
1789-90, contain no mention of this incident, several passages in the
correspondence [134] exchanged by the Thompson family with the early
love of Nelson, when she had become a stately London matron, as spouse
of Colonel Matthews, Governor of the Chelsea Hospital, throw light on
his previous career in Quebec.

"The question as to whether Nelson's charmer was Miss Prentice or her
cousin, Mary Simpson, which we submitted in the Tourists' Note Book in
1876 (see pages 26 and 36), we had considered as settled, in 1878, in
favour of Miss Simpson, as the following passage in the _Chronicles
of the St. Lawrence_ shows:

"Here anchored (Island of Orleans), it would seem, Nelson's sloop of
war, the _Albemarle_, in 1782, when the love-sick Horatio returned to
Quebec, for a last farewell from the blooming Miss Simpson, a daughter
of Sandy Simpson, one of Wolfe's Provost Marshals. Miss Simpson
afterwards married Colonel Matthews, Governor of the Chelsea
Pensioners, and died speaking tenderly of her first love, the hero of
Trafalgar.' (_Chronicles of the St. Lawrence_, p. 198.)

"This _éclaircissement_, as to dates, is not out of place, inasmuch as
one of our respected historians, Dr. Hy. Miles, in a scholarly
article, published March, 1879, three years after our mentioning Miss
Simpson, labours under the idea he was the first to give her name in
connection with Lord Nelson. Several inaccuracies occur in his
interesting essay. Miss Simpson is styled the daughter of 'James'
Simpson, whereas she was the daughter of Saunders Simpson, a cousin of
James Thompson, who had married a niece of Miles Prentice. In a foot
note appended to his essay the Doctor states that 'just before the
departure of our late popular Governor-General (Lord Dufferin), at a
breakfast at the Citadel, where His Excellency entertained the
Captains of the British war vessels _Bellerophon_ and _Sirius_ (he
means the _Argus_ and the _Sirius_), then in port, at which we were
present, the conversation having turned on former visits of commanders
of ships-of-war, when, Nelson's name being brought up, the Earl
remarked that Mr. LeMoine (then present) was able to afford some
information about him.' 'Mr. LeMoine,' adds Dr. Miles, 'at His
Excellency's request, related what he had previously written, much to
the satisfaction of his hearers.' Mr. LeMoine's account of the affair,
however, as it is based on the now exploded doctrine that the heroine
was one of the nieces of Mrs. Miles Prentice, was not, as has been
shown in the foregoing article, the correct one, however gratifying to
the distinguished listeners to its recital on that occasion.'

"As the correctness of the information we were asked to impart on this
occasion is impugned by the learned historian, we will, we hope, be
pardoned for setting this point at rest. Dr. Miles has committed some
egregious, though no doubt unintentional, error. The publication in
our _Tourist's Note Book_, in 1876, of the name of Miss Simpson,
in connection with Captain Nelson, three years before the appearance
of Dr. Miles' essay, which was published in March, 1879, and its
repetition, as previously shown, in the _Chronicles of the St.
Lawrence_, issued in the beginning of the year 1878, can leave no
doubt as to our knowledge of this incident, and disposes of the
Doctor's statement. The name furnished by us was that of Miss Simpson,
and no other. The breakfast in question took place on the 18th

Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 22 of 59)