J.M. Le Moine.

Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

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"I pray you, let us satisfy our eyes
With the memorials and the things of fame
That do renown this city." - (_Shakespeare_.)

What a field here for investigation? Has not each thoroughfare its
distinctive feature - its saintly, heathenish, courtly, national, heroic,
perhaps burlesque, name? Its peculiar origin? traceable sometimes to a
dim - a forgotten past; sometimes to the utilitarian present time. What
curious vistas are unfolded in the birth of its edifices - public and
private - alive with the memories of their clerical, bellicose,
agricultural or mercantile founders? How much mysterious glamour does not
relentless time shed over them in its unceasing march? How many
vicissitudes do they undergo before giving way to modern progress, the
exigencies of commerce, the wants or whims of new masters? The edifices,
did we say? Their origin, their progress, their decay, nay, their
demolition by the modern iconoclast - have they no teachings? How many
phases in the art of the builder and engineer, from the high-peaked Norman
cottage to the ponderous, drowsy Mansard roof - from Champlain's picket
fort to the modern citadel of Quebec - from our primitive legislative
meeting-house to our stately Parliament Buildings on the Grande Allée?

The streets and by-ways of famous old world cities have found chroniclers,
in some instances of rare ability: Timbs, Howitt, Augustus Sala,
Longfellow, &c. Why should not those of our own land obtain a passing

Is there on American soul a single city intersected by such quaint,
tortuous, legend-loving streets as old Quebec? Is there a town retaining
more unmistakable vestiges of its rude beginnings - of its pristine,
narrow, Indian-haunted, forest paths?

Our streets and lanes bear witness to our dual origin: Champlain,
Richelieu, Buade streets, by their names proclaim the veneration our
fathers had for the memory of men who had watched over the infancy of the
colony, whilst the mystic, saintly nomenclature of others exhibited the
attachment of the early dwellers in Quebec to the hallowed old Roman faith
which presided at their natal hour.

One also finds here and there, in the names of certain thoroughfares,
traces of the sojourn within our walls of popular Governors, famous
Viceroys, long since gathered to their fathers, some of whose ashes mingle
in our cemeteries with the dust of our forefathers - [8] Champlain,
Frontenac, Mesy, De Callières, De Vaudreuil, De la Jonquière, Ramsay,
Carleton, Hope, Dalhousie, Richmond and Aylmer.

A student of history, in the signboards affixed to street corners, loves
to light on the names of men whose memories are fragrant for deeds of
heroism, devotedness, patriotism or learning. Bréboeuf, Champlain,
Dollard, Ferland, Garneau, Christie, Turgeon, Plessis, and many others of
blameless and exemplary life - each has his street. We know of a worthy and
learned old antiquary whose lore and advice has been more than once placed
at our disposal in unravelling the tangled skein on which we are engaged,
who rejoices that his native city, unlike some of the proud capitals of
Europe, is free from vulgar names, such as "Tire-Boudin," "P - t - au
D - - le," in gay Paris, and "Crutched Friars," "Pall-Mall," and "Mary-le-
bone," in great London.

In fact, does not history meet you at every turn? Every nook, every lane,
every square, nay, even the stones and rocks, have a story to tell - a
record to unfold - a tale to whisper of savage or civilized warfare - a
memento to thrill the patriot - a legend of romance or of death - war,
famine, fires, earthquakes, land and snow-slides, riot?

Is it not to be apprehended that in time the inmates of such a city might
become saturated with the overpowering atmosphere of this romantic past -
fall a prey to an overweening love of old memories - become indifferent,
and deadened to the feelings and requirements of the present? This does
not necessarily follow. We are, nevertheless, inclined to believe that
outward objects may act powerfully on one's inner nature: that the haunts
and homes of men are not entirely foreign to the thoughts, pursuits and
impulses, good or bad, of their inmates.

Active, cultured, bustling, progressive citizens, we would fain connect
with streets and localities partaking of that character, just as we
associate cheerful abodes with sunshine, and repulsive dwellings with
dank, perennial shadows.

Mr. N. Legendre, in a small work intituled "_Les Échos de Quebec_," has
graphically delineated the leading features of several of our
thoroughfares: -

"In a large city each street has its peculiar feature. Such a street
is sacred to commerce - a private residence in it would appear out of
place. Such another is devoted to unpretending dwellings: the modest
grocery shop of the corner looks conscious of being there on
sufferance only. Here resides the well-to-do - the successful merchant;
further, much further on, dwell the lowly - the poor. Between both
points there exists a kind of neutral territory, uniting the
habitations of both classes. Some of the inmates, when calling, wear
kid gloves, whilst others go visiting in their shirt sleeves. The same
individual will even indulge in a cigar or light an ordinary clay
pipe, according as his course is east or west. All this is so marked,
so apparent, that it suffices to settle in your mind the street or
ward to which an individual belongs. The ways of each street vary.
Here, in front of a well-polished door, stands a showy, emblazoned
carriage, drawn by thoroughbreds; mark how subdued the tints of the
livery are. There is, however, something _distingué_ about it, and
people hurrying past assume a respectful bearing.

"In the next street, the carriage standing at the door is just as
rich, but its panelling is more gaudy - more striking in colour are the
horses - more glitter - more profusion about the silver harness
mountings. Though the livery has more _éclat_, there seems to be
less distance between the social status of the groom and that of his

"Walk on further - the private carriage has merged into the public
conveyance; still further, and you find but the plain _calèche_.

"Finally, every kind of vehicle having disappeared, the house-doors
are left ajar; the inmates like to fraternise in the street. On fine
evenings the footpath gets strewed with chairs and benches, occupied
by men smoking - women chatting _al fresco_ unreservedly - laughing
that loud laugh which says, "I don't care who hears me." Passers-by
exchange a remark, children play at foot-ball, while the house-dog,
exulting in the enjoyment of sweet liberty, gambols in the very midst
of the happy crowd. These are good streets. One travels over them
cheerfully and gaily. An atmosphere of rowdyism, theft, wantonness,
hovers over some thoroughfares. Dread and disgust accompany him who
saunters over them. Their gates and doorways seem dark - full of pit-
falls. Iron shutters, thick doors with deep gashes, indicate the
turbulent nature of their inhabitants. Rude men on the sidepaths stare
you out of countenance, or make strange signs - a kind of occult
telegraphy, which makes your flesh creep. To guard against an unseen
foe, you take to the centre of the street - nasty and muddy though it
should be, - for there you fancy yourself safe from the blow of a
skull-cracker, hurled by an unseen hand on watch under a gateway. The
police make themselves conspicuous here by their absence; 'tis a fit
spot for midnight murder and robbery - unprovoked, unpunished. Honest
tradesmen may reside here, but not from choice; they are bound to
ignore street rows; lending a helping hand to a victim would cause
them to receive, on the morrow, a notice to quit.

"Be on your guard, if necessity brings you, after nightfall, to this
unhallowed ground. Danger hovers over, under, round your footsteps. If
an urchin plays a trick on you at a street corner, heed him not. Try
and catch him, he will disappear to return with a reinforcement of
roughs, prepared to avenge his pretended wrongs by violence to your
person and injury to your purse.

"Should a drunken man hustle you as he passes, do not mind him: it may
end in a scuffle, out of which you will emerge bruised and with rifled

"We dare not tell you to yield to fear, but be prudent. Though
prudence may be akin to fear, you never more required all your wits
about you. It is very unlikely you will ever select this road again,
though it should be a short cut. Such are some of the dangerous
streets in their main features. There are thoroughfares, on the other
hand, to which fancy lends imaginary charms; the street in which you
live, for instance. You think it better, more agreeable. Each object
it contains becomes familiar, nay cherished by you - the houses, their
doors, their gables. The very air seems more genial. A fellowship
springs up between you and your threshold - your land. You get to
believe they know you as you know them - softening influences - sweet
emanations of 'Home.'" - _Translation._


The Upper Town in 1608, with its grand oaks, its walnut trees, its
majestic elms, when it formed part of the primeval forest, must have been
a locality abounding in game. If Champlain, his brother-in-law, Boullé, as
well as his other friends of the Lower Town, [9] had been less eager in
hunting other inhabitants of the forest infinitely more dreaded (the
Iroquois), instead of simply making mention of the foxes which prowled
about the residency (_l'abitation_), they would have noted down some
of the hunting raids which were probably made on the wooded declivities of
Cape Diamond and in the thickets of the Coteau Sainte Geneviève, more
especially when scurvy or the dearth of provisions rendered indispensable
the use of fresh meats. We should have heard of grouse, woodcock, hares,
beavers, foxes, caribou, bears, &c., at that period, as the probable
denizens of the mounts and valleys of ancient Stadacona.

In 1617 the chase had doubtless to give way to tillage of the soil, when
the first resident of the Upper Town, the apothecary Louis Hébert,
established his hearth and home there.

"He presently," (1617) says Abbé Ferland, "commenced to grub up and
clear the ground on the site on which the Roman Catholic cathedral and
the Seminary adjoining now stand, and that portion of the upper town
which extends from St. Famille Street up to the Hôtel-Dieu. He
constructed a house and a mill near that part of St. Joseph Street
where it received St. François and St. Xavier Streets. These edifices
appear to have been the first which were erected in the locality now
occupied by the upper town."

At that period there could have existed none other than narrow paths,
irregular avenues following the sinuosities of the forest. In the course
of time these narrow paths were levelled and widened. Champlain and Sir
David Kirtk bothered themselves very little with improving highways.
Overseers of roads and _Grand-Voyers_ were not then dreamed of in _La
Nouvelle France_: those blessed institutions, macadamized [10] roads, date
for us from 1841.

One of the first projects of Governor de Montmagny, after having fortified
the place, was to prepare a plan for a city, to lay out, widen and
straighten the streets, assuredly not without need. Had he further
extended this useful reform, our Municipal Council to-day would have been
spared a great amount of vexation, and the public in general much
annoyance. On the 17th November, 1623, a roadway or ascent leading to the
upper town had been effected, less dangerous than that which had
previously existed.

"As late as 1682, as appears by an authentic record (_procès-verbal_)
of the conflagration, this steep road was but fourteen feet wide. It
was built of branches, covered with earth. Having been rendered
unserviceable by the fire, the inhabitants had it widened six feet, as
they had to travel three miles, after the conflagration, to enter the
upper town by another hill." - (T. B. Bédard.)

In the summer season, our forefathers journeyed by water, generally in
birch-bark canoes. In winter they had recourse to snow-shoes.

To what year can we fix the advent of wheeled vehicles? We have been
unable to discover.

The first horse presented by the inhabitants to the Governor of the colony
arrived from France on the 25th June, 1647. [11] Did His Excellency use
him as a saddle horse only? or, on the occasion of a New Year's day, when
he went to pay his respects to the Jesuit Fathers, and to the good ladies
of the Ursulines, to present, with the compliments of the season, the
usual New Year's gifts, was he driven in a _cariole_, and in the summer
season in a _calèche_? Here, again, is a nut to crack for commentators.

Although there were horned cattle at Quebec in 1623, oxen for the purpose
of ploughing the land were first used on the 27th April, 1628.

"Some animals - cows, sheep, swine, &c. - had been imported as early as
1608. In 1623, it is recorded that two thousand bundles of fodder were
brought from the pasture grounds at _Cap Tourmente_ to Quebec for
winter use." - (Miles.)

On the 16th of July, 1665, [13] a French ship brought twelve horses. These
were doubtless the "mounts" of the brilliant staff of the Marquis de
Tracy, Viceroy. These dashing military followers of Colonel de Salières,
this _jeunesse dorée_ of the Marquis de Tracy, mounted on these twelve
French chargers, which the aborigines named "the moose-deer (_orignaux_)
of Europe," doubtless cut a great figure at Quebec. Did there exist
_Tandems_, driving clubs, in 1665? _Quien sabe?_ A garrison life in 1665-7
and its amusements must have been much what it was one century later, when
the "divine" Emily Montague [14] was corresponding with her dear "Colonel
Rivers," from her Sillery abode in 1766; she then, amongst the vehicles in
use, mentions, _calèches_. [15]

They were not all saints such as Paul Dupuy, [16] the patriarchal seigneur
of _Ile-aux-Oies_, these military swells of Colonel de Salières! Major
Lafradière, for instance, might have vied with the most outrageous rake in
the _Guards_ of Queen Victoria who served in the colony two centuries

If there were at Quebec twelve horses for the use of gentlemen, they were
doubtless not suffered to remain idle in their stables. The rugged paths
of the upper town were levelled and widened; the public highway ceased to
be reserved for pedestrians only. This is what we wanted to arrive at.

In reality, the streets of Quebec grew rapidly into importance in 1665.
Improvements effected during the administration of the Chevalier de
Montmagny had been highly appreciated. The early French had their _Saint
Louis (Grande Allée), Saint Anne, Richelieu, D'Aiguillon, Saint John,
streets_, to do honour to their Master, Louis XIII.; his Queen the
beautiful Anne of Austria; his astute Premier the Cardinal of Richelieu;
his pious niece la Duchesse D'Aiguillon; his land surveyor and engineer
Jehan or Jean Bourdon. This last functionary had landed at Quebec on the
8th August, 1634, with a Norman priest, the Abbé Jean LeSueur de Saint-
Sauveur, who left his surname (St. Sauveur) to the populous municipality
adjoining St. Roch suburbs. [17]

In the last and in the present century, St. Louis Street was inhabited by
many eminent persons. Chief Justice Sewell resided in the stately old
mansion, up to June 1881 occupied as the Lieutenant-Governor's offices;
this eminent jurist died in 1839. "One bright, frosty evening of January
1832," says Mr. Chauveau, "at the close of a numerously attended public
meeting held at the Ottawa Hotel, to protest against the arrest of Messrs.
Tracy, editor of the _Vindicator_, and Duvernay, editor of the _Minerve_,
the good citizens of Quebec, usually so pacific, rushed in a noisy
procession, led by a dozen students wearing tri-coloured ribbons in their
button-holes, and sang the _Marseillaise_ and the _Parisienne_ under the
windows of the Chief Justice, whose ear was little accustomed to such a
concert." The ermined sage, 'tis said, was so startled, that he made sure
a revolution was breaking out.

"Among the fiery, youthful leaders, the loudest in their patriotic
outburst, there was one who would then have been much surprised had any
one predicted that after being President of the Legislative Council, Prime
Minister of the Canadas, and knighted by H. R. H. the Prince of Wales in
person, he would one day, as Lieutenant-Governor, enter in state this same
former residence of Chief Justice Sewell, whilst the cannon of Britain
would roar a welcome, the flag of England stream over his head, and a
British regiment present arms to him." Such, however, has been the fate of
Sir Narcissus Fortunatus Belleau.

The mansion of M. de Lotbinière, in St. Louis street, was the residence of
Madame Pean, the _chère amie_ of M. Bigot the Intendant. The late
Judge Elmsley resided there about the year 1813; Government subsequently
purchased it to serve as an officers' barracks. Nearly opposite the old
Court-House (burned in 1872), stands the "Kent House," in which His Royal
Highness the late Duke of Kent resided in summer, 1791-3. [18] No. 42 St.
Louis Street is the house [19] which belonged to the cooper, François
Gobert; it now has become historical. In it were deposited the remains of
General Montgomery on the 31st December, 1775. This summer it is leased by
Louis Gonzague Baillargé, Esq., the proprietor, to Widow Pigott, whose
late husband was in the "B" Battery.

In the street sacred to Louis XIII., St. Louis street, Messrs. Brown [20]
& Gilmor established, in 1764, [21] their printing office for the _Quebec
Gazette_, "two doors higher up than the Secretary's Office," wherever this
latter may have stood. The _Gazette_ office was subsequently removed to
Parloir Street, and eventually settled down for many a long year at the
corner of Mountain Hill, half-way up, facing _Break-Neck_ steps, - the
house was, with many others, removed in 1850 to widen Mountain Street.
According to a tradition published in the _Gazette_ of the 2nd May, 1848,
the prospectus of this paper had, it would appear, been printed in the
printing office of Benjamin Franklin.

This venerable sheet, which had existed one hundred and ten years, when it
was merged, in 1874, by purchase of the copyright, into the _Morning
Chronicle_, in its early days, was nearly the sole exponent of the wants -
of the gossip (in prose and in verse) - and of the daily events of Quebec.
As such, though, from the standard of to-day, it may seem quaint and puny,
still it does not appear an untruthful mirror of social life in the
ancient capital. Its centenary number of June, 1864, with the fyles of
the _Gazette_ for 1783, have furnished the scholarly author of the
"Prophecy of Merlin," John S. Reade, with material for an excellent sketch
of this pioneer of Canadian journalism, of which our space will permit us
to give but some short extracts: -

"The first number of the _Quebec Gazette_, judged by the _fac-simile_
before me, was a very unpretending production. It consists of four
folio pages, two columns to each page, with the exception of the
'Printer's Address to the Public,' which takes up the full width of
the page, and is written in French and English, the matter in both
languages being the same, with the exception of a Masonic
advertisement, which is in English only. In the address, accuracy,
freedom and impartiality are promised in the conduct of the paper. The
design of the publishers includes 'a view of foreign affairs and
political transactions from which a judgment may be formed of the
interests and connections of the several powers of Europe'; and care
is to be taken 'to collect the transactions and occurrences of our
mother-country, and to introduce every remarkable event, uncommon
debates, extraordinary performance and interesting turn of affairs
that shall be thought to merit the notice of the reader as matter of
entertainment, or that can be of service to the publick as inhabitants
of an English colony.' Attention is also to be given to the affairs of
the American colonies and West India Islands; and, in the absence of
foreign intelligence, the reader is to be presented with 'such
originals, in prose and verse, as will please the fancy and instruct
the judgment. And,' the address continues, 'here we beg leave to
observe that we shall have nothing so much at heart as the support of
virtue and morality and the noble cause of liberty. The refined
amusements of literature and the pleasing veins of well-pointed wit
shall also be considered as necessary to the collection; interspersed
with other chosen pieces and curious essays extracted from the most
celebrated authors; so that, blending philosophy with politicks,
history, &c., the youth of both sexes will be improved, and persons of
all ranks agreeably and usefully entertained.'

"As an inducement to advertisers, it is held out that the circulation
of the _Gazette_ will extend, not only through the British colonies,
but also through the West India Islands and the trading ports of Great
Britain and Ireland. The address very sensibly concludes with the
following remarks, which, however, cast a shade over the rather
tedious prolegomena: 'Our intention to please the whole, without
offence to any individual, will be better evinced by our practice than
by writing volumes on this subject. This one thing we beg may be
believed, that party prejudice or private scandal will never find a
place in this paper.'

"With this large promise began the first Canadian newspaper on the
21st of June, 1764.

"The news in the first number is all foreign. There are despatches
from Riga, St. Petersburg, Rome, Hermanstadt, Dantzic, Vienna,
Florence and Utrecht, the dates ranging from the 8th of March to the
11th of April. There are also items of news from New York, bearing
date the 3rd, and from Philadelphia the 7th of May. News-collecting
was then a slow process, by land as well as by sea.

"Of the despatches, the following is of historical importance:
'London, March 10th. It is said that a scheme of taxation of our
American colonies has for some time been in agitation, that it had
been previously debated in the Parliament whether they had power to
lay a tax on colonies which had no representative in Parliament and
determined in the affirmative,' etc. The occasional insertion of a
dash instead of a name, or the wary mention of a 'certain great
leader' or 'a certain great personage' tell a simple tale of the
jealousy with which the press was then regarded both in England and on
the continent. The prosecution of Smollett, Cave, Wilkes and others
were still fresh in the minds of printers and writers.

"Another despatch informs the readers of the _Gazette_ of an _arrêt_
lately issued for the banishment of the Jesuits from France, and
another of a deputation of journeymen silk weavers who waited on the
King at St. James with a petition setting forth their grievances from
the clandestine importation of French silk, to which His Majesty
graciously replied, promising to have the matter properly laid before

"An extract from a letter from Virginia gives an account of some
Indian outrages, and there is some other intelligence of a similar
nature. The other news is of a like temporary interest.

"I have already mentioned a masonic advertisement. I now give it in


That on _Sunday_, the 24th, being the Festival of _St. Jhon_ (sic),
such strange BRETHREN who may have a desire of joining the Merchants
Lodge, No. 1, _Quebec_, may obtain Liberty, by applying to _Miles
Prenties_, at the Sun, in _St. John Street_, who has Tickets, Price
_Five Shillings_, for that Day.

"One thing is evident, that a printing establishment of 1764 had to be
supplied with abundance of italics and capitals to meet the exigencies

Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 3 of 59)