J.M. Le Moine.

Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

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where they then resided still goes under the name of "Convent Cove."

"Monsieur Pierre Puiseaux, Sieur de l'habitation de Sainte Foye, after
whom was, called _Pointe-à-Pizeau_, at Sillery, seems to have been a
personage of no mean importance in his day. Having realized a large
fortune in the West Indies, he had followed Champlain to Canada, bent on
devoting his wealth to the conversion of the aboriginal tribes. His manor
stood, according to the Abbé Ferland, on that spot in St Michael's Cove on
which the St. Michael's Hotel [175] - long kept by Mr. W. Scott - was
subsequently built, to judge from the heavy foundation walls there. Such
was the magnificence of the structure that it was reckoned "the gem of
Canada' - "_Une maison regardée dans le temps comme le bijou du Canada_,"
says the old chronicler. Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve having arrived,
in 1641, with colonists for Montreal, the laird of Ste. Foye [176]
generously tendered him the use of his manor. Under the hospitable roof of
this venerable old gentleman, M. de Maisonneuve, Mlle. Mance, the founder
of the Hôtel Dieu Hospital at Montreal, and Mdme. de la Peltrie spent the
winter of 1641-2, whilst the intended colonists [177] for Ville-Marie were
located close by in the Sillery settlement. During the winter, dissensions
took place between the future Governor of Montreal, M. de Maisonneuve, and
the then present Governor of Quebec, Chevalier de Montmagny. It appears
that on a certain festival a small cannon and also fifteen musket shots
had been fired without authority; His Excellency Governor Montmagny, in
high dudgeon at such a breach of military discipline, ordered Jean Gorry,
the person who had fired the shots, to be put in irons; Mlle. Mance had
furnished the powder for this military display The future Governor of
Montreal, Monsieur de Maisonneuve, is said to have, on this occasion,
publicly exclaimed: "Jehan Gorry, you have been put in irons for my sake
and I affronted! I raise your wages of ten half crowns (dix écus), let us
only reach Montreal; no one there will prevent us from firing." [178]
Bravo! M. de Maisonneuve! Peace, however, was restored, and His Excellency
Governor Montmagny headed in person the expedition which, on the 8th May
following, sailed from St Michael's Cove, Sillery, to found at Montreal
the new colony. Monsieur Puiseaux accompanied M. de Maisonneuve, to take
part also in the auspicious event, but his age and infirmities compelled
Him soon after to return to France, where he died a few years
subsequently, and by his last will, executed at LaRochelle on the 21st
June, 1647, he bequeathed his Ste. Foye property to the support of the
future bishops of Quebec. "The walls of the Sillery Chapel," says the
historian of Canada previously quoted, "were still standing about thirty
years ago, and the foundations of this edifice, of the hospital and of the
missionary residency are still perceptible to the eye on the spot now
occupied by the offices and stores of Hy. LeMesurier, Esq., at the foot of
the hill, and opposite the residence of the Honourable Mr. Justice Caron."

"Amongst the French gentlemen of note who then owned lands at Sillery may
be mentioned. François de Chavigny, _sieur de Berchéreau qui_," adds
Abbé Ferland, "_occupait un rang élevé dans le colonie. En quelques
occasions, il fut chargé de remplacer le Gouverneur, lors que celui-ci
s'absentait de Québec_." Now, dear reader, let it be known to you that
you are to look with every species of respect on this worthy old denizen
of Sillery, he being, as the Abbé has elsewhere established beyond the
shadow of a doubt, not only the ancestor of several old families, such as
the Lagorgendières, the Rigaud de Vaudreuils and Tachereaus, but also one
of the ancestors of your humble servant the writer of these lines.

"The Sillery settlement contained during the winter of 1646-7, of Indians
only, about two hundred souls. Two roads led from Quebec to the
settlement, one the Grande Allée or St. Louis Road, the other the Cove
Road, skirting the beach. Two grist mills stood in the neighbourhood: one
on the St. Denis streamlet which crosses the Grande Allée road (from
Thornhill to Spencer Wood) - the dam seems to have been on the Spencer Wood
property. 'This mill, and the _fief_ on which it was built, belonged
to M. Juchereau,' one of the ancestors of the Duchesnays. 'Another mill
existed on the Bell Borne brook,' which crosses the main road, the
boundary between Spencer Grange and Woodfield. Any one visiting these two
streamlets during the August droughts will be struck with their
diminutiveness, compared to the time when they turned the two grist mills
two hundred years back: the clearing of the adjoining forests, whence they
take their source, may account for the metamorphosis."

The perusal of the Rev. Mr. Ferland's work brings us to another
occurrence, which, although foreign to the object of this sketch, deserves
notice: -

"The first horse [179] seen in Canada was landed from a French vessel
about the 20th June, 1647, and presented as a gift to His Excellency
Governor Montmagny." Another incident deserving of mention occurs under
date of 20th August, 1653. The Iroquois [180] surprised at Cap Rouge Rev.
Father J. Antoine Poncet and a peasant named Mathurin Tranchelot, and
carried them off to their country. For three days the rev. missionary was
subjected to every kind of indignity from the Indian children and every
one else. A child cut off one of the captive's fingers. He was afterwards,
with his companion, tied up during two nights, half suspended in the air;
this made both suffer horribly; burning coals were applied to their flesh.
Finally, the missionary was handed over to an old squaw; he shortly after
became free, and returned to Quebec on the 5th of November, 1653, to the
joy of everybody.

His comrade, Tranchelot, after having had his fingers burnt, was finally
consumed by fire on the 8th September, 1653. Such were some of the
thrilling incidents of daily occurrence at Sillery two centuries ago.

What with breaches of military etiquette by M. de Maisonneuve's colonists,
the ferocity of skulking Iroquois, and the scrapes their own neophytes
occasionally got into, the reverend fathers in charge of the Sillery
mission must now and again have had lively times, and needed, we would
imagine, the patience of Job, with the devotion of martyrs, to carry out
their benevolent views.

We read in history [181] how, on one Sunday morning in 1652, the Sillery
Indians being all at mass, a beaver skin was stolen from one of the wig-
wams, on which a council of the chiefs being called, it was decided that
the robbery had been committed by a Frenchman, [182] enough to justify the
young men to rush out and seize two Frenchmen then accidentally passing
by, and in no wise connected - as the Indians even admitted - with the
theft. The Indian youths were for instantly stripping the prisoners, in
order to compel the Governor of the colony to repair the injury suffered
by the loss of the peltry. One of them, more thoughtful than the rest,
suggested to refer the matter to the missionary father, informing him at
the same time that in cases of robbery it was the Indian custom to lay
hold of the first individual they met belonging to the family or nation of
the suspected robber, strip him of his property, and retain it until the
family or nation repaired the wrong. The father succeeded, by appealing to
them as Christians, to release the prisoners. Fortunately, the real thief,
who was not a Frenchman, became alarmed, and had the beaver skin restored.

Old writers of that day occasionally let us into quaint glimpses of a
churchman's tribulations in those primitive times. The historian Faillon
tells some strange things about Bishop Laval and Governor D'Argenson:
their squabble about holy bread. (_Histoire de la Colonie Française en
Canada_, vol. ii., p. 467.) At page 470, is an account of a country
girl, ordered to be brought to town by Bishop Laval and shut up in the
Hôtel-Dieu, she being considered under a spell, cast on her by a miller
whom she had rejected when he popped the question: the diabolical suitor
was jailed as a punishment. Champlain relates how a pugnacious parson was
dealt with by a pugnacious clergyman of a different persuasion respecting
some knotty controversial points. The arguments, however irresistible they
may have been, Champlain observes, were not edifying either to the savages
or to the French: "J'ay veu le ministre et nostre curé s'entre battre è
coup de poing sur le différend de la religion. Je ne scay pas qui estait
le plus vaillant et qui donnait le meilleur coup; mais je scay tres bien
que le ministre se plaignoit quelque fois au Sieur de Mons (Calviniste,
directeur de la compagnie) d'avoir ésté battu et vuoidoient en ceste
faccon les poincts de controverse. Je vois laisse à penser si cela éstait
beau à voir; les sauvages éstoient tantôt d'un côté, tantôt de l'autre, et
les François meslez selon leur diverse croyance, disaient pis que pendre
de l'une et de l'autre religion." The fighting parson had evidently caught
a tartar. However, this controversial sparring did _not_ take place at

The winter of 1666 was marked by a novel incident in the annals of the
settlement. On the 9th of January, [183] 1666, the Governor of the colony,
M. de Courcelles, with M. du Gas as second in command, and M. de Salampar,
a volunteer, together with two hundred colonists who had volunteered, and
three hundred soldiers of the dashing regiment of Carignan, [184] which
the viceroy, the proud Marquis de Tracy, had brought over from Europe,
after their return from their campaign in Hungary, sallied forth from the
capital on snow-shoes. A century and a half later one might have met, with
his gaudy state carriage and outriders, on that same road, another
viceroy - this time an English one, as proud, as fond of display, as the
Marquis de Tracy - with the Queen's Household Troops, the British
Grenadiers, and Coldstream Guards - the Earl of Durham, one of our ablest,
if not one of the most popular of our administrators. Let us now follow
the French Governor of 1666, heading his light-hearted soldiers along the
St. Louis road, all on snow-shoes, each man, His Excellency included,
carrying on his back from 25 to 30 lbs. of biscuit, &c. The little army is
bound towards the frontiers of New Holland (the State of New York) on a
900 miles' tramp (no railroads in those days), in the severest season of
the year, to chastise some hostile Indian tribes, after incorporating in
its ranks, during its march, the Three Rivers and Montreal reinforcements.
History tells of the intense suffering [185] experienced during the
expedition by these brave men, some of them more accustomed to Paris
_salons_ than to Canadian forest warfare on snow-shoes, with spruce
boughs and snow-drifts for beds. But let us not anticipate. We must be
content to accompany them on that day to the Sillery settlement, a march
quite sufficient for us degenerate Canadians of the nineteenth century.

Picture to yourself, our worthy friend, the hurry and scurry at the
Missionary residence on that day - with what zest the chilled warriors
crowd round the fires of the Indian wigwams, the number of pipes of peace
they smoked with the chiefs, the fierce love the gallant Frenchmen swore
to the blackeyed Montagnais and Algonquin houris of Sillery, whilst
probably His Excellency and staff were seated in the residency close by,
resorting to cordials and all those creature comforts to be found in
monasteries, not forgetting _Grande Chartreuse_, to restore circulation
through their benumbed frames! - How the reverend fathers showered down the
blessings of St. Michael, the patron saint of the parish, on the youth and
chivalry of France! - How the Sillery duennas, the _Capitainesses_, closely
watched the gallant sons of Mars lest some of them [186] should attempt to
induce their guileless neophytes to seek again the forest wilds, and roam
at large - the willing wives of white men!

We shall clip a page from Father Barthélémy Vimont's _Journal of the
Sillery Mission_, (Relations des Jesuits, 1643, pp. 12, 13, 14) an
authentic record, illustrative of the mode of living there; it will, we
are sure, gladden the heart even of an anchorite: -

"In 1643, the St. Joseph or Sillery settlement was composed of between
thirty-five and forty Indian families, who lived there the whole year
round except during the hunting season; other nomadic savages occasionally
tarried at the settlement to procure food, or to receive religious
instruction. That year there were yet but four houses built in the
European fashion; the Algonquins were located in that part of the village
close to the French residences; the Montagnais, on the opposite side; the
houses accommodate chiefs only, their followers reside in bark huts until
we can furnish proper dwellings for them all. In this manner was spent the
winter season of 1642-3, the French ships left the St Lawrence for France
on the 7th October, 1642; a period of profound quiet followed. Our Indians
continued to catch eels, (this catch begins in September) - a providential
means of subsistence during winter. The French settlers salt their eels,
the Indians smoke theirs to preserve them. The fishing having ended about
the beginning of November, they removed their provisions to their houses,
when thirteen canoes of Atichamegues Indians arrived, the crews requesting
permission to winter there and be instructed in the Christian religion.
They camped in the neighborhood of the Montagnais, near to Jean Baptiste,
the chief or captain of these savages, and placed themselves under the
charge of Father Buteux, who undertook to christianize both, whilst Father
Dequen superintended the religious welfare of the Algonquins. Each day all
the Indians attended regularly to mass, prayers, and religious
instruction. Catechism is taught to the children, and the smartest amongst
them receive slight presents to encourage them, such as knives, bread,
beads, hats, sometimes a hatchet for the biggest boys. Every evening
Father Dequen calls at every hut and summons the inmates to evening
prayers at the chapel. The _Hospitalières_ nuns also perform their
part in the pious work; Father Buteux discharged similar duties amongst
the Montagnais and Atichamegues neophytes. The Atichamegues have located
themselves on a small height back of Sillery. 'When the Reverend Father
visits them each evening, during the prevalence of snow storms, he picks
his way in the forest, lantern in hand, but sometimes losing his footing,
he rolls down the hill.' Thus passed for the Sillery Indians, the early
portion of the winter. In the middle of January they all came and located
themselves about a quarter of a league from Quebec, to make tobogins and
began the first hunt, which lasted about three weeks. Each day they
travelled a quarter of a league to Quebec to attend mass, generally at the
chapel of the Ursuline Convent, where Father Buteux and also the nuns
instructed them. In February they sought the deep woods to hunt the
moose." "On my return to Sillery," adds Father Vimont, "twelve or thirteen
infirm old Indians, women and children, who had been left behind, followed
me to the Hospital, where we had to provide for them until the return, at
Easter, of the hunting party."

Whilst the savage hordes were being thus reclaimed from barbarism at
Sillery, a civilized community a few hundred miles to the east of it were
descending to the level of savages. We read in Hutchinson's _History of
Massachusetts Bay_, of our Puritan brethren of Boston, occasionally
roasting defenceless women for witchcraft; thus perished, in 1645,
Margaret Jones; and a few years after, in 1656, Mrs. Ann Hibbens, the lady
of a respectable Boston merchant. Christians cutting one another's throats
for the love of God. O, civilization, where is thy boast!

During the winter of 1656-7, Sillery contained, of Indians alone, about
two hundred souls.

Let us now sum up the characteristics of the Sillery of ancient days in a
few happy words, borrowed from the _Notes_ [187] published in 1855 on
that locality, by the learned Abbé Ferland.

"A map of Quebec by Champlain exhibits, about a league above the youthful
city, a point jutting out into the St. Lawrence, and which is covered with
Indian wigwams. Later on this point received the name of Puiseaux, from
the first owner of the Fief St. Michael, bounded by it to the southwest.
[188] On this very point at present stands the handsome St. Columba
church, surrounded by a village." [189]

"Opposite to it is the Lauzon shore, with its river _Bruyante_ [190]
(the 'Etchemin'), its shipyards, its numerous shipping, the terminus of
the Grand Trunk Railway; the villages and churches of Notre Dame de Lévis,
St. Jean Chrysostôme and Saint Romuald. To your right and to your left the
St. Lawrence is visible for some twelve or fifteen miles, covered with
inward and outward bound ships. Towards the east the landscape is closed
by Cap Tourment, twelve leagues distant, and by the cultivated heights of
the _Petite Montagne_ of St. Féréol, exhibiting in succession the
_Côte de Beaupré_, (Beauport), (L'Ange Gardien, &c.) the green slopes
of the Island of Orleans, Cape Diamond, crowned with its citadel, and
having at its feet a forest of masts, Abraham's Plains, the Coves and
their humming, busy noises, St. Michael's Coves forming a graceful curve
from Wolfe's cove to Pointe à Puiseaux. Within this area thrilling events
once took place, and round these diverse objects historical souvenirs
cluster, recalling some of the most important occurrences in North
America; the contest of two powerful nations for the sovereignty of the
New World; an important episode of the revolution which gave birth to the
adjoining Republic. Such were some of the events of which these localities
were the theatre. Each square inch of land, in fact, was measured by the
footsteps of some of the most remarkable men in the history of America:
Jacques Cartier, Champlain, Frontenac, Laval, Phipps, d'Iberville, Wolfe,
Montcalm, Arnold, Montgomery, have each of them, at some time or other,
trod over this expanse.

"Close by, in St. Michael's Cove, M. de Maisonneuve and Mademoiselle Mance
passed their first Canadian winter, with the colonists intended to found
Montreal. Turn your eyes towards the west, and although the panorama is
less extensive, still it awakens some glorious memories. At Cap Rouge,
Jacques Cartier established his quarters, close to the river's edge, the
second winter he spent in Canada, and was succeeded in that spot by
Roberval, at the head of his ephemeral colony. Near the entrance of the
Chaudière river stood the tents of the Abnoquiois, the Etchemins and the
Souriquois Indians, when they came from the shores of New England to smoke
the calumet of peace with their brethren the French; the river Chaudière
in those days was the highway which connected their country with Canada.
Closer to Pointe à Puiseaux is Sillery Cove where the Jesuit Fathers were
wont to assemble and instruct the Algonquin and Montagnais Indians, who
were desirous of becoming Christians. It was from that spot that the
neophytes used to carry the faith to the depths of the forest; it was here
that those early apostles of Christianity congregated before starting with
the joyous message for the country of the Hurons, for the shores of the
Mississippi, or for the frozen regions of Hudson's Bay. From thence went
Father P. Druilletes, the bearer of words of peace on behalf of the
Christians of Sillery, to the Abnoquiois of Kennebeki, and to the puritans
of Boston. Near this same mission of Sillery, Friar Liégeois was massacred
by the Iroquois, whilst Father Poncet was carried away a captive by these
barbarous tribes.

"Monsieur de Sillery devoted large sums to erect the necessary edifices
for the mission, such as a chapel, a missionary residence, an hospital, a
fort, houses for the new converts, together with the habitations for the
French. The D'Auteuil family had their country seat on the hill back of
Pointe à Puiseaux; and the venerable Madame de Monceau, the mother-in-law
of the Attorney-General Ruette D'Auteuil, was in the habit of residing
there from time to time, in a house she had constructed near the chapel."

In 1643, Father Bressani having been taken prisoner by the Iroquois, and
having heard them discuss a plan to seize on the white maidens of Sillery
(such were the names the Nuns went by); wrote it on some bark, which a
Huron Indian having found, took it to Governor Montmagny. The Governor
then organized a guard of six soldiers, who each day relieved one another
at Sillery, to watch over the village - the incursions of the savages
increasing, the soldiers refused to remain any longer, and Governor
Montmagny gave the Hospitalières the use of a small house on the beach of
the river in the lower town. (Hist. de l'Hôtel-Dieu, p. 50.)

Francis Parkman furnishes interesting details of the arrival of Piesharit,
a famous Indian chief, at Sillery in 1645, and of a grand council held by
deMontmagny, in the Jesuits House, which exists to this day, probably the
oldest structure of the kind in Canada, dating from 1637.

"As the successful warriors approached the little mission settlement of
Sillery, immediately above Quebec, they raised their song of triumph and
beat time with their paddles on the edges of their canoes; while, from
eleven poles raised aloft, eleven fresh scalps fluttered in the wind. The
Father Jesuit and all his flock were gathered on the strand to welcome
them. The Indians fired three guns, and screeched in jubilation; one Jean
Baptiste, a Christian chief of Sillery, made a speech from the shore;
Pisharet repeated, standing upright in his canoe, and to crown the
occasion, a squad of soldiers, marching in haste from Quebec, fired a
salute of musketry, to the boundless delight of the Indians. Much to the
surprise of the two captives, there was no running of the gauntlet, no
gnawing off of finger-nails or cutting off of fingers; but the scalps were
hung, like little flags, over the entrance of the lodges, and all Sillery
betook itself to feasting and rejoicing. One old woman, indeed, came to
the Jesuit with a pathetic appeal. "Oh, my father! let me caress these
prisoners a little: they have killed, burned, and eaten my father, my
husband and my children." But the missionary answered with a lecture on
the duty of forgiveness.

On the next day, Montmagny came to Sillery and there was a grand council
in the house of the Jesuits. Pisharet, in a solemn harangue, delivered his
captives to the Governor, who replied with a speech of compliment and an
ample gift. The two Iroquois, were present, seated with a seeming
imperturbability, but great anxiety of heart; and when at length they
comprehended that their lives were safe, one of them, a man of great size
and symmetry, rose and addressed Montmagny." [191]

It would be indeed a pleasant and easy task to recall all the remarkable
events which occurred in this neighborhood. One thing is certain, the cool
retreats studding the shores of the St. Lawrence were equally sought for
by the wealthy in those days as they have been since by all those who wish
to breathe pure air and enjoy the scenery.

The Sillery settlement commenced to be deserted about the beginning of the
last century. After the cession of Canada the care of the buildings was
neglected, and they soon fell to ruins; but the residence of the
missionary fathers was preserved, and the ruins of the other structures
remained standing long enough to be susceptible of identification with
certainty. Several of the old inhabitants recollect having seen the church
walls demolished, and they were of great solidity. Abbé Ferland himself,
twenty years ago, saw a portion of those walls standing above ground. The
ruins of the hospital and the convent were razed about fifty years ago,
and in demolishing them several objects were discovered, some of which
must have belonged to the good ladies, the _Hospitalières_ nuns.

For the benefit of those who might feel inclined to explore the remaining
vestiges of M. Sillery's foundation, I shall furnish some details on the
locality. About the centre of Sillery Cove can be seen a cape, not very
high, but with its sides perpendicular. The position of surrounding
objects point it out as the spot on which stood the fort intended to
protect the village; there also, in a dry soil, stood the cemetery, from
which several bodies were exhumed in the course of last summer (1854) At

Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 27 of 59)