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Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

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the foot of the cape, on your left, is the missionaries' house now
converted into a residence for the clerks of Messrs. E. R. Dobell & Co.
This building has been kept in repair, and is still in a good state of
preservation. In a line with it, and nearest the St. Lawrence, can be
discovered the foundation of the church. This edifice stood north-east and
south-west.

Near the wall closest to the river ran a spring of water, perfectly clear,
and, no doubt, used for the wants of the church and of the presbytery.
Several other streams of excellent water run down the hill and intersect
the grounds in all directions. No misconception can exist as to where the
chapel stood, as there are still (in 1855) living several persons who saw
the walls standing, and can point out the foundations which have since
been identified and enclosed by stone pillars and chains. To the right of
the small cape, and on a line with the chapel, stood the hospital, now
deserted for more than two centuries. Over its foundation an elm has
grown, - 'tis now a handsome and large tree; six feet from the ground its
circumference measures two fathoms (12 feet), which makes its diameter
about three and a half. Heriot thus describes the locality in 1806: -

"From hence to Cap Rouge the scenery, on account of its beauty and
variety, attracts the attention of the passenger. At Sillery, a league
from Quebec, on the north shore, are the ruins of an establishment which
was begun in 1637, intended as a religious institution for the conversion
and instruction of natives of the country; it was at one time inhabited by
twelve French families. The buildings are placed upon level ground,
sheltered by steep banks, and close by the borders of the river; they now
only consist of two old stone houses, fallen to decay, and of the remains
of a small chapel (the chapel has of late been repaired and fitted up for
a malt house, and some of the other buildings have been converted into a
brewery). [192] In this vicinity the Algonquins once had a village;
several of their tumuli, or burying places, are still discoverable in the
woods, and hieroglyphics cut on the trees remain, in some situations, yet
unaffected." [193]

On the 6th June, 1865, we determined to afford ourselves a long-promised
treat, and go and survey, with Abbé Ferland's _Notes on Sillery_ open
before us, and also the help of that eminently respected authority in
every parish, the "oldest inhabitant," the traces of the Sillery
settlement of 1637. Nor had we long to wait before obtaining ocular
demonstration of the minute exactitude with which our old friend, the
Abbé, had investigated and measured every stone, every crumbling remain of
brick and mortar. The first and most noticeable relic pointed out was the
veritable house of the missionaries, facing the St. Lawrence, on the north
side of the road, on Sillery Cove; it was the property of the late Henry
Le Mesurier, Esquire, of Beauvoir. Were it in the range of possible events
that the good fathers could revisit the scene of their past apostolical
labours and view their former earthly tenement, hard would be the task to
identify it. The heavy three-feet-thick wall is there yet, as perfect, as
massive, as defiant as ever; the pointed gable and steep roof, in spite of
alterations, still stands - the true index of an old French structure in
Canada. Our forefathers seemed as if they never could make the roof of a
dwelling steep enough, doubtless to prevent the accumulation of snow. But
here ends all analogy with the past; so jaunty, so cosy, so modern does
the front and interior of Sillery "Manor House" look - thus styled for many
years past. Paint, paper and furniture have made it quite a snug abode.
Nor was it without a certain peculiar feeling of reverence we, for the
first time, crossed that threshold, and entered beneath those fortress-
like walls, where for years had resounded the orisons of the Jesuit
Fathers, the men from whose ranks were largely recruited our heroic band
of early martyrs - some of whose dust, unburied, but not unhonoured, has
mingled for two centuries with its parent earth on the green banks of Lake
Simcoe, on the borders of the Ohio, in the environs of Kingston, Montreal,
Three Rivers, Quebec - a fruitful seed of christianity scattered
bountifully through the length and breadth of our land; others, whose
lifeless clay still rests in yon sunny hillock in the rear, to the west of
the "Manor House" - the little cemetery described by Abbé Ferland. Between
the "Manor House" and the river, about forty feet from the house,
inclining towards the south, are the remains of the foundation walls of
the Jesuit's church or chapel, dating back to 1640. On the 13th June,
1657, fire made dreadful havoc in the residence of the Jesuits
(_Relations_, for 1657, p. 26); they stand north-east and south-west,
and are at present flush with the greensward; a large portion of them were
still visible about thirty-five years ago, as, attested by many living
witnesses; they were converted into ballast for ships built at this spot,
and into materials for repairing the main road by some Vandal who will
remain nameless. From the Manor House you notice the little cape to the
south-west mentioned in Abbé Ferland's _Notes_, though growing smaller and
smaller every year from the quantities of soil and stone taken from it,
also to repair the road. The large elm pointed out by the Abbé as having
grown over the spot where the hospital stood is there yet, a majestic
tree. The selection of a site for the little cemetery is most judicious,
several little streams from the heights in the rear filter through the
ground, producing a moisture calculated to prevent decomposition and
explanatory of the singular appearance of the bodies disinterred there in
1855. Every visitor will be struck with the beauty, healthiness and
shelter which this sequestered nook at Sillery presents for a settlement,
and with its adaptability for the purposes for which it was chosen, being
quite protected against our two prevailing winds, the north-east and
south-west, with a warm southern exposure.

Many years after the opening of the Algonquin and Montagnais school at
Sillery, the Huron Indians, after being relentlessly tracked by their
inveterate foes, the Five Nations, divided into five detachments; one of
these hid on the Great Manitoulin Island, others elsewhere; a portion came
down to Quebec on the 26th July, 1650, [194] under the direction of Father
Ragueneau, and, on the 28th July, 1650, settled first on the Jesuits land
at Beauport; in March, 1651, they went to _Ance du Fort_, on the lands of
Mademoiselle de Grandmaison, on the Island of Orleans. But the Iroquois
having scented their prey in their new abode, made a raid on the island,
butchered seventy-one of them, and carried away some prisoners. The
unfortunate redskins soon left the Island in dismay, and for protection,
encamped in the city of Quebec itself, under the cannon of the fort,
constructed by Governor d'Aillebout to receive them, near the Jesuits
College (at Cote de St. Michel); in 1667, they settled on the northerly
frontier of Sillery, [195] in Notre Dame de Foy [now St. Foye]; restless
and scared, they again shifted they quarters on the 29th December, 1693,
and pitched their erratic tents at Ancienne Lorette, which place they also
abandoned many years afterwards to go and settle at _Jeune_ or Indian
Lorette, where the remnants of this once warlike race [196] (the _nobles_
amongst Indian tribes) exist, now crossed with their Caucasian brethren,
and vegetate in obscurity - exotic trees transplanted far from their native
wilds.

Shall we venture to assert that Sillery equals in size some of the German
principalities, and that, important though it be, like European dynasties,
it has had its periods of splendor succeeded by eras of medieval
obscurity. From 1700 down to the time of the conquest, we appeal in vain
to the records of the past for any historical event connected with it;
everywhere reigns supreme a Cimmerian darkness. But if the page of history
is silent, the chronicles of the _ton_ furnish some tit-bits of drawing-
room chit-chat. Thus, as stated in Hawkins' celebrated _Historical Picture
of Quebec_, [197] the northern portion of the parish skirting the St. Foye
road "was the favorite drive of the Canadian belle." In these few words,
of Hawkins is involved an intricate question for the salons, a problem to
solve, more abstruse than the one which agitated the Grecian cities
respecting the birth of Homer. Who then was the Canadian Belle of former
days? The Nestors of the present generation still speak with admiration of
a fascinating stranger who, close to the end of the last century, used to
drive on the St. Foye road, when a royal duke lived in the city, in what
is now styled "The Kent House," on St. Louis street. The name of this
distinguished traveller, a lady of European birth, was Madame St. Laurent;
but, kind reader, have patience. The Canadian belle who thus enjoyed her
drives in the environs of Quebec was not Madame St. Laurent, as it is
distinctly stated at page 170 of Hawkins that this occurred before the
conquest, viz., 1759. Might it have been that vision of female loveliness,
that spotless and beautiful Mrs. De Léry, whose presentation at court,
with her handsome husband, shortly after the conquest, elicited from His
Majesty George III. the expression which history has preserved, "If such
are all my new Canadian subjects, I have indeed made a conquest;" or must
we picture to ourselves as the Canadian belle that peerless beauty, that
witty and aspiring Madame Hughes Pean, Intendant Bigot's fair charmer,
mysteriously hinted at, in all the old Quebec guide books, as "Mrs.
P - - ." Madame Hughes Pean, [198] whose husband was Town Major of Quebec,
owned a seigniory in the vicinity of the city - some say at St. Vallier,
where Mons Pean used to load with corn the vessels he dispatched
elsewhere; she also was one of the gay revellers at the romantic
Hermitage, Bigot's shooting lodge at Charlesbourg. Old memoirs seem to
favour this version. Be this as it may the St. Foy road was a favorite
drive even a century before the present day; so says Hawkins' historical
work on Quebec - no mean authority, considering that the materials thereof
were furnished by that accomplished scholar and eminent barrister, the
late Andrew Stuart, father of the present Judge Stuart, and compiled by
the late Dr. John Charlton Fisher, one of the able joint editors of the
New York _Albion_, and father of Mrs. Ed. Burstall, late of Sillery. Who
was the reigning belle in 1759, we confess that all our antiquarian lore
has failed to satisfactorily unravel. The battles of 1759 and 1760 have
rendered Sillery, St. Foye, and the Plains of Abraham classic ground. The
details of these events, having appeared elsewhere, [199] the reader is
referred to them.

Those of the present day desirous to ascertain the exact spot in the
environs of Quebec where past events have taken place, ought to be careful
not to be misled by subsequent territorial divisions for municipal or
canonical purposes. Many may not be aware that our forefathers included
under the denomination of Abraham's Heights that plateau of comparatively
level ground extending in a south-easterly direction from the _Coteau
Ste. Geneviève_ towards the lofty banks which line the River St.
Lawrence, covering the greatest part of the land on which subsequently
have been built the St. Lewis and St. John's suburbs, the hilly portion
towards the city and river, where stands the Asile Champêtre; thence
south-east, being then called Buttes à Nepveu; the land close by, between
the Plains and Pointe à Puiseaux, as Côte St. Michael; the ascent from the
valley of the St. Charles towards this plateau was through the hill known
as Côte d'Abraham. The locality afterwards known as Woodfield and Spencer
Wood, in the fief of St. Michael, was designated as the wood of Sames,
thus called after a celebrated French ecclesiastic of Quebec, Bishop
Dosquet, who owned there a country seat in 1753 - then known as Sames -
later on, as Woodfield. To the west lay the Gomin Wood - which had taken
its name from a French botanist, Dr. Gomin, who had located himself on
land on which it is said, Coulonge Cottage was subsequently built in order
to study the Flora of Sillery, which is very varied and rich.

The old Sillery settlement, which lay within the limits of the parish of
Ste. Foye, was, in 1855, placed under the distinguished tutelage of a
Saint, dear to those who hail from the Emerald Isle, and called St.
Columba of Sillery. Thus the realms heretofore sacred to the Archangel,
St. Michael and to St. Joseph, have peaceably passed under the gentle sway
of St. Columba, despite the law of prescription. The British residents of
Sillery - and this ought to console sticklers for English precedents and
the sacredness of vested rights - did not permit the glory of the Archangel
to depart, and soon after the erection of St. Columbia into a parish, the
handsome temple of worship called St. Michael's church, came into
existence. [200]


_OUR COUNTRY SEATS._

In the preceding paper a general sketch has been attempted of that portion
of the St. Lawrence highlands adjoining Quebec to the west - a locality
remarkable for the numerous residences it contains of "the nobility of
commerce," as a contemporary facetiously styles our merchants. We shall,
in the following go over a great portion of the same ground, delineating,
first the land area west of Quebec proper, where was fought the battle of
the 13th Sept., 1759, _the Plains or Abraham_, and next detail,
specifically, the most attractive of these country residences, enlarging
our canvass, however, so as to comprise also descriptions of rural homes
beyond the limits of Sillery. Many other abodes we would also desire to
take in these pages, but space precludes it. It is hoped we won't be
misunderstood in our literary project: far is it from our intention to
write a panegyric of individuals or a paean to success, although sketches
of men or domestic recollections may frequently find their place in the
description of their abodes. No other desire prompted us but that of
attempting to place prominently before the public the spots with which
history or nature has more specially enriched Quebec. Quebecers ought to
be proud of their scenery and of the historical ivy which clings to the
old walls of Stadacona. Neighbouring cities may grow vast with brick and
mortar; their commerce may advance with the stride of a young giant; their
citizens may sit in high places among the sons of men, but can they ever
compare with our own fortress for historical memories or beautiful
scenery? We shall assign the first place to the mansion which still crowns
the Montmorenci Falls, once the abode of the father of our Sovereign; we
shall then view the residences on the St. Lewis road in succession, then
those along the St. Foy road, and finally close this paper with the
description of other remarkable spots in the neighborhood of Quebec. -
Lorette, Château Bigot, Montmorency Falls, Chaudière Falls.


_THE PLAINS OF ABRAHAM._

"Aux plaines d'Abraham, rendez-vous des batailles, revenez voir ces
lieux, oh! revenez encore, officiers du _Grand Roi_, revenez tous
aussi, La Barre, Frontenac, Denonville, Tracy! alignez vous, soldats,
Carignan et Guienne, appuyez, Languedoc et Béarn et la Reine." -
_Alp. de Puibusque_.

"Among modern Battle-fields," says Col. (now Lt. General) Beatson,
"none surpass in romantic interest the Plains or Heights of Abraham."

No Quebecer would have the hardihood to challenge the assertion of this
able engineer officer, stationed here from 1849 to 1854, and who spared
neither time nor pains, with the assistance of our historians and
antiquarians, Ferland, Faribault and McGuire, to collect authentic
information on this subject. Col. Beatson compiled a volume of historical
notes, which he published in 1858, when stationed at Gibraltar. [201]

The Plains of Abraham will ever be famous, as having witnessed, more than
one century back, the deadly encounter of the then two leading nations of
Europe - England and France - to decide the fate of Canada - one might say
(by the series of events it led to) the destinies of North America.

Of this mighty duel, which crimsoned with human gore these fields one
murky September morning, in 1759 - Smollett, Carlyle, Bancroft, Hawkins,
Smith, Garneau, Ferland, Miles and other historians have vied with one
another to furnish a graphic account. Of the origin of the name, none
until lately could tell.

"Notwithstanding," adds Col. Beatson, "the world-like celebrity of
these Plains, it was not until very recently that the derivation of
their name was discovered; and as it is comparatively unknown, even in
Canada, the following explanation of its origin will doubtless possess
attractions for such as are fond of tracing to their sources the names
of celebrated localities, and who may be surprised to learn that
upwards of a century previous to the final conquest of Canada by the
British arms, the scene of the decisive struggle for national
supremacy in the northern division of the New World had derived its
name from one who, if not a Scotchman by birth, would seem to have
been of Scottish lineage. This apparently improbable fact will,
however, appear less extraordinary when it is known that he was a sea-
faring man; and when it is considered how close was the alliance and
how frequent the intercourse which, for centuries before that period,
had subsisted between France and Scotland.

"This individual, whose name was Abraham Martin, is described in a
legal document, dated the 15th August, 1646, and preserved among the
archives of the Bishop's Palace, at Quebec, as (the King's) Pilot of
the St. Lawrence; an appointment which probably conferred on its
possessor considerable official rank; for we find that Jacques
Quartier, or Cartier, the enterprising discoverer and explorer of the
St. Lawrence, when about to proceed in 1540, on his third voyage to
Canada, was appointed by Francis I, Captain General and Master Pilot
of the expedition which consisted of four vessels.

"That Martin was a person of considerable importance in the then
infant colony of New France may also be inferred from the fact that,
in the journal of the Jesuits and in the parish register of Quebec, he
is usually designated by his Christian name only, Maître Abraham; as
well as from the circumstance of Champlain, the distinguished founder
of Quebec and father of New France, having been god-father to one of
Abraham's daughters (Hélène) and of Charles de St. Etienne, Sieur de
la Tour, of Acadian celebrity, having stood in the same relation to
Martin's youngest son, Charles Amador.

"The earliest mention of Martin's name occurs in the first entry of
the parish register of Quebec, viz., on, the 24th of October, 1621;
when his son Eustache, who died shortly afterwards, was baptized by
father Denis, a Franciscan Friar. The second baptism therein recorded
is that of his daughter Marguerite, which took place in 1624; and it
is stated in the register that these children were born of the
legitimate marriage of Abraham Martin surnamed or usually known as
_the Scot_ ("dict l'Ecossois.") Their family was numerous; besides
Anne and other children previously to the opening of the register in
1621, the baptism of the following are therein recorded: -

Eustache,................ \ / 1621.
Marguerite,.............. | | 1624.
Marie,................... | | 1627.
Adrien,.................. | Born in | 1635.
Madelaine,............... | | 1640.
Barbe (Barbara),......... | | 1643.
Charles Amador,.......... / \ 1648.

who was the second Canadian raised to the priesthood, and became a
canon at the erection of the chapter of Quebec."

As the reader will observe there is nothing to connect the Plains with
that of the patriarch of Genesis. Nay, though our Scotch friend owned a
family patriarchal in extent, on referring to The Jesuits' Journal we
find, we regret to way, at page 120 an Entry, according to which the
"Ancient Mariner" seems to have been very summarily dealt with; in fact
committed to prison for a delinquency involving the grossest immorality.
The appellation of Plains of Abraham was formerly given by our historians
to that extensive plateau stretching from the city walls to the Sillery
Wood, bounded to the north by the heights of land overhanging the valley
of the St. Charles, and to the south by the _coin du cap_ overlooking
the St. Lawrence, whose many indentures form coves or timber berths, for
storing square timber, &c., studded with deep water wharves.

The hill in St. John suburbs or ascent leading up from the valley of the
St. Charles, where St. Roch has since been built to the table-land above,
was from time immemorial known as COTE D'ABRAHAM, Abraham's Hill. Why did
it bear that name?

On referring to the Parish Register of Quebec, from 1621 to 1700, one
individual seems to have borne the name of Abraham, and that person is
Abraham Martin, to whom under the appellation of _Maître_ Abraham,
repeated reference is made both in the Register and the Jesuits' Journal.

Abraham Martin, according to the documents quoted by Col. Beatson, owned
in two separate lots - one of twenty and the other of twelve
_arpents_ - thirty-two _arpents_ of land, covering, as appears by the
subjoined Plan or Diagram copied from his work, a great portion of the
site on which St. John and St. Louis Suburbs have since been erected.
Abraham's property occupied, it would seem, a portion of the area - the
northern section - which, for a long period, also went under the name of
Abraham's Plains. It adjoined other land of the Ursuline Ladies then owned
on _Côteau St. Louis_, closer to the city, when 1667, [202] it was
purchased by them; at that time, the whole tract, according to Col.
Beatson, went under the general name of Plains of Abraham. Such appear to
be the results of recent researches on this once very obscure question.


_THE BATTLE FIELD._

Two highways, lined with country seats, forest trees or cornfields run
parallel, at a distance varying from one to half a mile, leading into
Quebec: the _Grande Allée_, or St. Louis and the Ste. Foye road. They
intersect from east to west the expanse, nine miles in length, from _Cap
Rouge_ to the city. These well known chief arteries of travel were solidly
macadamized in 1841. At the western point, looms out the oak and pine clad
cliffs of a lofty cape - _Cap Rouge_ or _Redclyffe_. Here wintered, in
1541-2, the discoverer of Canada, Cartier and his followers, here, in
1543-4, his celebrated follower, Roberval, seems also to have sojourned
during the dreary months of winter.

A small stream, at the foot of the cape, meanders in a north westerly
direction through St. Augustin and neighbouring parishes, forming a deep
valley all around the cape. The conformation of the land has led
geologists to infer that, at some remote period, the plateau, extending to
Quebec, must have been surrounded on all sides by water, the _Cap Rouge_
stream and St. Charles being the outlets on the west, north and east. This
area increases in altitude until it reaches the lofty summit of Cape
Diamond, its eastern boundary. Nature itself seems to have placed these
rugged heights as an insurmountable barrier to invasion from the St.
Lawrence. With the walls, bastion and heavy city guns; with artillery in
position on the _Cap Rouge_ promontory; cavalry patrolling the Sillery
heights; a numerous army on the only accessible portion of the coast -
Beauport, Quebec, if succoured in time, was tolerably safe; so thought
some of the French engineers, though not Montcalm.

"The two engagements," says Chauveau, "that of the 15th September,
1759, and that of the 28th of April, 1760, occupied nearly all the
plateau hereinbefore described. The first, however, it would seem, was
fought chiefly on the St. Louis road, whilst the second took place on
the Ste. Foye road. Each locality has its monument, one erected in the
honour of Wolfe, on the identical spot where he fell; the other in
1855, to commemorate the glorious fate of the combatants of 1760,
where the carnage was the thickest, viz: on the site where stood



Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 28 of 59)