J.M. Le Moine.

Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

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Perceval, also serving in the Guards. When a girl in my teens, many
happy days did I spend in the Perceval family, who were as
passionately fond of music, as I then was. They had "at homes" every
Monday, one week for dancing, the next for music, (the latter I never
missed attending, to play on the harp,) they had also grand dinners
_de cérémonie_. Amongst the _habitués_ I can yet recall some names;
Hon. Mathew Bell and lady; (Mrs. B. was a Miss McKenzie, of Three
Rivers,) Miss Bell (Mrs. Walker,) Sir John Pownal, the Montizamberts,
Judge Kerr and Misses Kerr, Miss Uniacke, the Duchesnays, the
Vanfelsons, De Gaspés, Babys and others. (I may be wrong in quoting
some names after half a century.)

Mr. Perceval, was a member of the Legislative Council, as well as
Collector of Customs, an imperial appointment which yielded him £8000
in fees per annum. English and French society were equally welcome
under his hospitable roof. His beautiful and accomplished wife, was
the eldest daughter of Sir Charles Flower, Lord Mayor of London, in
1809 - had filled the position of Lady Mayoress, when 18 years of age,
her father being a widower; she brought her husband £40,000 and
subsequently inherited £100,000. She was eminently fitted to grace
Spencer Wood - her beauty, her refined and cordial manners made her
receptions eminently attractive. Her education was perfect, she was
mistress of four languages, English, French, Italian and Latin, which
studies she took great trouble in keeping up and which she herself
taught to her children, ten in number, besides teaching them the
piano, the harp and drawing. Instead of fancy work the young ladies
were taught to repair their clothes and do plain sewing; this did not
prevent them from making most brilliant matches. The family left
Spencer Wood in 1828, to spend a year in Italy, at Florence, intending
to return, but the Hon. M. H. Perceval, died at sea on the 12th Oct.,
1829, and the family never returned.

The daughters married as follows: the eldest, Eliza, was wedded to Sir
George Denys, Bart.; the second, Caroline, to Col. Alexander Houstoun,
of Clerkington; the third, Isabella, to a wealthy French nobleman,
Baron de Veauce; the fourth, Mary Jane, to Sir James Matheson, Bart.;
the fifth died at the age of 18. The eldest son [229] "Spencer" is a
General officer. There were several other sons; George Ramsay, who
entered the army, Michael Henry and Col. Charles Perceval.

I can recall the time also when Lady Dalhousie and Mrs. Sheppard, of
Woodfield, would come to Spencer Wood, in their botanizing excursions.
Spencer Wood, later on, was also a favorite resort of Lady Aylmer, in
1832, whilst at an earlier period, the Duke of Richmond's family, in
1818, used to come and ramble about the grounds, lunching there with
all the junior folks.

This charming and beloved lady, my old friend, Ann Perceval, died at
Lewes Castle, Stornaway. Scotland, the seat of her son in law, Sir
James Matheson, on the 23rd Nov., 1876, most deservedly regretted, at
the very advanced age of eighty-seven years." - 24 January, 1877.

Spencer Wood garden is described in London's _Encyclopedia of Gardening_,
page 341, and also in the _Gardener's Magazine_ for 1837, at page 467. Its
ornate style of culture, which made it a show-place for all strangers
visiting Quebec, was mainly due to the scientific and tasty arrangements
of an eminent landscape gardener, M. P. Lowe, [230] now in charge of the
Cataraqui conservatories.

Well can we recall the time when this lordly demesne extended from
Wolfefield, adjoining Marchmont, to the meandering Belle-Borne brook,
which glides past the porter's lodge at Woodfield, due west, the historic
stream _Ruisseau Saint Denis_, up which clambered the British hero,
Wolfe, to conquer or die, intersecting it at Thornhill. It was then a
splendid old seat of more than one hundred acres, a fit residence for the
proudest nobleman England might send us as Viceroy - enclosed east and west
between two streamlets, hidden from the highway by a dense growth of oak,
maple, dark pines and firs - the forest primeval - letting in here and there
the light of heaven on its labyrinthine avenues; a most striking
landscape, blending the sombre verdure of its hoary trees with the soft
tints of its velvety sloping lawn, fit for a ducal palace. An elfish plot
of a flower garden, alas! how much dwarfed, then stood in rear of the
dwelling to the north, it once enjoyed the privilege of attracting many
eyes. It had also an extensive and well-kept fruit and vegetable garden,
enlivened with flower beds, the centre of which was adorned with the
loveliest possible circular fount in white marble, supplied with the
crystal element from the Belle-Borne rill by a hidden aqueduct;
conservatories, graperies, peach and forcing houses, pavilions
picturesquely hung over the yawning precipice on two headlands, one
looking towards Sillery, the other towards the Island of Orleans, the
scene of many a cosy tea-party; bowers, rustic chairs _perdues_ among
the groves, a superb bowling green and archery grounds. The mansion itself
contained an exquisite collection of paintings from old masters, a well-
selected library of rare and standard works, illuminated Roman missals,
rich portfolios with curious etchings, marble busts, quaint statuettes,
medals and medallions, _objets de vertu_ purchased by the millionaire
proprietor during a four years' residence in Italy, France and Germany.
Such we remember Spencer Wood in its palmiest days, when it was the ornate
home of a man of taste, the late Henry Atkinson, Esquire, the President of
the Horticultural Society of Quebec.

May I be pardoned, for lingering lovingly on this old spot, recalling
"childhood scenes" of one dear to me and mine!

The following, written by a valued old friend of Mr. Atkinson, is dated
Brighton, England:

On a sketch of Spencer Wood sent to the writer (Miss A.), with her
album, Oct. 18, 1848.

Dear Spencer Wood! What a group of pleasing remembrances are clustered
around me as I gaze upon this visible image and type of thee. Thy
classic lawn, with its antiquated oaks and solemn pines; thy wood-
crowned cliffs and promontories, with the sparkling sunlight reflected
on a thousand sheaves from the broad surface of Jacques Cartier's
river, hundreds of feet below. And then the quiet repose of thy ample
mansion, with its stores of art and models of taste within and
without; thy forest shades, thy gardens, thy flowers and thy fruit.
But most of all, thy gay and happy inmates, their glad and joyous
hearts beating with generous emotions, and their countenances
brightened with the welcome smile. Ah! how I seem to hear, as in time
past I have heard, their lively prattle, or their merry laugh echoing
across the lawn, or through the flower garden, or along the winding
paths down the steep slope to the pavilion.

And can it be that I shall never again realize these happy scenes! I
would fain hope otherwise; but life is a changeful drama, and time
fleeting; this world is _not_ our home.

Adieu, then, dear friends. May God's blessing ever rest upon you; and
should it be His providence that we meet not again here, may we all so
use His dealings with us in this disciplinary state that we may be
sure to meet.

Brighton, Dec. 20th. In memory of some pleasant moments.


In the beginning of the century Spencer Wood, as previously stated, was
known as Powell Place. His Excellency Sir James Henry Craig spent there
the summers of 1808-9-10. Even the healthy air of Powell Place failed to
cure him of gout and dropsy. A curious letter from Sir James to his
secretary and _chargé d'affaires_ in London, H. W. Ryland, Esquire, dated
"Powell Place, 6th August, 1810," has been, among others, preserved by the
historian Robert Christie. It alludes in rather unparliamentary language
to the _coup d'état_ which had on the 19th March, 1810, consigned to a
Quebec dungeon three of the most prominent members of the Legislature,
Messrs. Bédard, Taschereau and Blanchet, together with Mr. Lefrançois, the
printer of the _Canadien_ newspaper, for certain comments in that journal
on Sir James' colonial policy. Sir James had spent the greatest part of
his life in the army, actively battling against France; a Frenchman for
him was a traditional enemy. This unfortunate idea seems more than once to
have inspired his colonial policy with regard to the descendants of
Frenchmen whom he ruled.

Born at Gibraltar, of Scotch parents, James Henry Craig entered the
English service in 1763 at the age of 15, and on many occasions
distinguished himself by his courage. During the war of the American
revolution he served in Canada, and was present at the unfortunate affair
of Saratoga.


QUEBEC, Powell Place, 6th August, 1810.

My Dear Ryland, - Till I took my pen in my hand I thought I had a great
deal to say to you, and now I am mostly at a loss for a subject. * * *
We have remained very quiet; whatever is going on is silently. I have
no reason to think, however, that any change has taken place in the
public mind; _that_ I believe remains in the same state. Bishop
Plessis, on the return from his tour, acknowledged to me that he had
reason to think that some of his _curés_ had not behaved quite as
they ought to have done; he is now finishing the remainder of his

Blanchette and Taschereau are both released on account of ill-health;
the former is gone to Kamouraska to bathe, the latter was only let out
a few days ago. He sent to the Chief Justice (Sewell) to ask if he
would allow him to call on him, who answered, by all means. The Chief
Justice is convinced he is perfectly converted. He assured him that he
felt it to be his duty to take any public occasion, by any act
whatever that he could point out, to show his contrition and the sense
he entertained of his former conduct.

He told the Chief Justice in conversation that Blanchette came and
consulted him on the subject of publishing the paper, "Prenez vous par
le bout du nez," and that having agreed that it would be very improper
that it should appear, they went to Bédard, between whom and
Blanchette there were very high words on the occasion. I know not what
Panet is about, I have never heard one word of or about him. In short,
I really have nothing to tell you, nor do I imagine that I shall have,
till I hear from you. You may suppose how anxious I shall be till that
takes place. We have fixed the time for about the 10th September; till
then I shall not come to any final resolution with respect to the
bringing the three delinquents to trial or not. I am, however,
inclined to avoid it, so is the B - - ; the C. J. is rather, I think,
inclined to the other side, though aware of the inconvenience that may
arise from it. Blanchette and Taschereau have both, in the most
unequivocal terms, acknowledged the criminality of their conduct, and
it will be hinted that if Bédard will do the same it may be all that
will be required of them; at present his language is that he has done
nothing wrong, and that he does not care how long he is kept in

We have begun upon the road to the townships (the Craig Road, through
the Eastern Townships) * * * We shall get money enough, especially as
we hope to finish it at a third of what it would have cost if we would
have employed the country people. (It was made by soldiers.)

The scoundrels of the Lower Town have begun their clamour already, and
I should scarcely be surprised if the House should ask, when they
meet, by what authority I have cut a road without their permission.
The road begins at St. Giles and will end at the township of Shipton.

Yours most faithfully,

(Signed,) J. H. CRAIG.

(History of Canada, Christie, vol. VI., p. 128.)

Very different, and we hope more correct, views are now promulgated on
colonial matters from Powell Place.

If Sir James, wincing under bodily pain, could write angry letters, there
were occasions on which the "rank and fashion" of the city received from
him the sweetest epistles imaginable. The 10th of August of each year (his
birthday, perhaps) as he informs us in another letter, was sacred to
rustic enjoyment, conviviality and the exchange of usual courtesies, which
none knew better how to dispense than the sturdy old soldier.

The English traveller, John Lambert, thus notices it in his interesting
narrative in 1808: - "Sir James Craig resided in summer at a country house
about four or five miles from Quebec, and went to town every morning to
transact business. This residence is called Powell Place, and is
delightfully situated in a neat plantation on the border of the bank which
overlooks the St. Lawrence, not far from the spot where General Wolfe
landed and ascended to the heights of Abraham. Sir James gave a splendid
breakfast _al fresco_ at this place in 1809 to all the principal
inhabitants of Quebec, and the following day he allowed his servants and
their acquaintances to partake of a similar entertainment at his
expense." - (Lambert's Travels, 1808, p. 310.)

Spencer Wood has ever been a favourite resort for our Governors - Sir James
Craig - Lord Elgin - Sir Edmund Walker Head - Lord Monk - Lord Lisgar, and
Lord Dufferin on his arrival in 1872, none prized it so highly, none
rendered it more attractive than the Earl of Elgin. Of his _fêtes
champêtres_, _recherchés_ dinners, _château_ balls, a pleasant remembrance
still lingers in the memory of many Quebecers and others. Several
circumstances added to the charms and comfort of Spencer Wood in his day.
On one side of St. Louis Road stood the gubernatorial residence, on the
opposite side at Thornhill, dwelt the Prime Minister, Sir Francis Hincks.
Over the vice-regal "walnuts and wine," how many knotty state questions
have been discussed, how many despatches settled, how many political
points adjusted in the stormy days which saw the abolition of the
Seignioral Tenure and Clergy Reserves. At one of his brilliant
postprandial speeches, - Lord Elgin was much happier at this style of
oratory than his successor, Sir Edmund Head, - the noble Earl is reported
to have said, alluding to Spencer Wood, "Not only would I spend here the
rest of my life, but after my death, I should like my bones to rest in
this beautiful spot;" and still China and India had other scenes, other
triumphs, and his Sovereign, other rewards for the successful statesman.

Sir Edmund Head's sojourn at Spencer Wood was marked by a grievous family
bereavement; his only son, a promising youth of nineteen summers, was, in
1858, accidentally drowned in the St. Maurice, at Three Rivers, while
bathing. This domestic affliction threw a pall over the remainder of the
existence of His Excellency, already darkened by bodily disease. Seclusion
and quiet were desirable to him.

A small private gate still exists at Spencer Grange, which at the request
of the sorrowful father was opened through the adjoining property with the
permission of the proprietor. Each week His Excellency, with his amiable
lady, stealing a few moments from the burthen of affairs of State, would
thus walk through unobserved to drop a silent tear on the green grave at
Mount Hermon, in which were entombed all the hopes of a noble house. On
the 12th March, 1860, on a wintry evening, whilst the castle was a blaze
of light and powdered footmen hurried through its sounding corridors, to
relieve of their fur coats and mufflers His Excellency's guests asked at a
state dinner that night - Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir Geo. E. Cartier, Mr.
Pennefather and others - the alarm of fire was sounded, and in a couple of
hours, of the magnificent pile a few charred ruins only remained. There
was no State dinner that night.

One of the last acts of the Ministry in retiring in 1861, was the signing
of the contract to rebuild Spencer Wood. The appropriation was a very
niggardly one, in view of the size of the structure required as a vice-
regal residence. All meretricious ornaments in the design were of course
left out. A square building, two hundred feet by fifty, was erected with
the main entrance, in rear, on the site of the former lovely flower
garden. The location of the entrance and consequent sacrifice of the
flower garden for a court, left the river front of the dwelling for the
private use of the inmates of the _Château_ by excluding the public.
Lord Monk, the new Governor-General, took possession of the new mansion
and had a plantation of fir and other trees added to conceal the east end
from public gaze. Many happy days were spent at Spencer Wood by His
Lordship and family, whose private secretary, Denis Godley, Esq., occupied
the picturesque cottage "Bagatelle," facing the Holland Road, on the
Spencer Grange property. If illustrious names on the Spencer Wood
Visitor's Register could enhance the interest the place may possess,
foremost, one might point to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, visiting in 1860
the site probably more than once surveyed and admired, in 1791-4, by his
grand-father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, in his drives round Quebec,
with the fascinating Baroness de St. Laurent. Conspicuous among all those
familiar with the portals of Spencer Wood, may be mentioned other Royal
Princes - the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Arthur, Princess Louise, Prince
Leopold; with Dukes and Earls - the Duke of Newcastle, Manchester,
Buckingham, Argyll, Athol. Sutherland, Prince Napoleon, Generals Grant,
Sherman, &c.

Since Confederation, Spencer Wood has been successively tenanted by Sir.
N. F. Belleau, Lieutenant-Governor Caron, Lieutenant-Governor Letellier de
St. Just, and Lieutenant-Governor Robitaille, the present occupant of the

To the late Lieut.-Governor Letellier is due the initiation of the
_soirées littéraires_, which united under his hospitable roof the literary
talent of the Ancient Capital, and his successor, Lieut.-Governor
Robitaille, not only followed this enlightened course, but also added
_soirées musicales_ and _artistiques_.

Spencer Wood was not included in the schedule and division of property
handed over by the Dominion Government to the Province of Quebec - it was,
however, about that time presented as a gift to our province, solely as a
gubernatorial residence - as such to be held, and consequently cannot be
sold by the Government of the Province of Quebec.

HENRY WATSON POWELL was commissioned a Lieutenant in the 46th Foot,
March 10th, 1753. He was promoted to a captaincy in the 2nd Battalion
of the 11th Foot, September 2nd, 1756, but upon that battalion's being
detached from the 11th and renumbered in 1758, his regimental number
became the 64th. He served in the expedition against the French West
India Islands in 1759, and went with his regiment to America in 1768.
June 2nd, 1770, he became Major of the 38th Foot, and July 23rd, 1771,
Lieutenant-Colonel of the 53rd Foot, which was then stationed at
Minorca. He accompanied his corps to Canada in the spring of 1776, and
on June 10th of that year, a few days after his arrival, Sir Guy
Carleton appointed him a Brigadier General and assigned him to the 2nd
Brigade, which consisted of the 34th, 53rd and 20th Regiments. When
Gen. Gordon's brigade was broken up on the death of that officer,
August 1st, 1776, the 62nd was added to Powell's brigade, and in
November of that year, upon General Nesbit's death, Gen. Powell was
transferred to the command of the 1st Brigade, consisting of the 9th,
47th, 31st and 21st Regiments, save that the 53rd was substituted for
the 21st. Gen. Powell served under Gen. Carleton in 1776, and the next
year accompanied Burgoyne. In organizing the troops for Burgoyne's
expedition in 1777, Gen. Powell was assigned to the 2nd Brigade,
consisting of the 20th, 21st and 62nd Regiments. The 62nd was left at
Ticonderoga, however with Prince Frederick's (German) Regiment and a
portion of Captain Borthwick's company of the Royal Artillery July 5th
when the Americans evacuated that fort, and August 10th Gen. Powell
was sent back to assume command of that post, his regiment, the 53rd,
being also ordered to relieve the 62nd. Though he successfully
repelled the American Col. Brown's attack on Ticonderoga and for four
days maintained a gallant defence, the enemy retreating September
22nd, yet inasmuch as a considerable part of four companies of the
53rd were surprised in the old French lines and at the outposts by the
American advance, and a number of American Prisoners were recaptured,
the affair was not one of unmixed satisfaction to either side.

When the toils of adversity began to tighten round Burgoyne in October
Gen. Powell was sorely puzzled as to his duty for though he was out of
Sir Guy Carleton's military jurisdiction yet that officer was
accessible while Burgoyne, his own proper commander was not. The
following letter, there fore, written by Sir Guy to Gen. Powell, after
Burgoyne's surrender, though in ignorance of that event, throws some
light upon the awkwardness of Powell's situation. The letter reads as
follows: -

QUEBEC, the 20th October, 1777.

SIR, - I have this moment received your letter of the 19th instant,
wherein you demand orders from me for your guidance in your present
emergency. It is impossible that I should give orders to you, not
alone because the post you are in has been taken out of my command,
but the distance is too great for my being able to judge of the
situation of Gen Burgoyne or of the exigencies of the place you are at
which must depend upon the other, as if you were subject to my
commands ignorant as I am of the strength or weakness of your post, I
should under all the other circumstances think it best for His
Majesty's service to suffer you to act by your own judgment, so you
will there fore easily see the greater necessity there is as matters
are for my leaving you to pursue such steps, as shall be suggested to
you by your own prudence and reason. I can only recommend to you not
to balance between two opposite measures, whereby you may be disabled
from following the one or the other with advantage but that either you
prepare, with vigour to put to place in such a situation as to be able
to make the longest and most resolute defence or that you prepare in
time to abandon it with all the stores while your retreat may be
certain. Your own sense will tell you that this latter would be a most
pernicious measure if there be still hopes of General Burgoyne coming
to your post.

I am, sir, &c.

Though Sir Guy did not feel at liberty to issue orders to Gen. Powell
yet he immediately despatched Gen. Maclean with the 31st regiment, the
Royal Highland Emigrants and a detachment of artillery with four guns
to take post and entrench at Chimney Point, near Crown Point, in order
to keep up communication with Ticonderoga. Two or three weeks later
Gen. Powell abandoned Ticonderoga and withdrew to Canada. After a
short tarry at St. John's he was posted at Montreal, where he
commanded during the winter of 1777-8. Then he was stationed at St
John's and in the autumn of 1780, after Lieut.-Colonel Bolton's
unfortunate loss on Lake Ontario, we find him in command of the upper
posts with his headquarters at Niagara. By Gen. Haldimand's order of
October 21st, 1782, Brig.-Gen. Maclean was assigned to the command of
the upper posts, and Gen. Powell was appointed commandant of Quebec.
How long he remained at Quebec has not been ascertained, but in 1780
he bought a fine estate on the St. Lewis Road, about two and a half
miles from Quebec to which he gave the name of Powell Place and which
he did not dispose of until 1796, when he sold it to Francis
Lehoullier. This place was subsequently known as Spencer Wood, but it
has since been divided, the larger portion being still known as
Spencer Wood, and serving as the residence of the Lieutenant-Governor,

Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 32 of 59)