J.M. Le Moine.

Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

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garrison, whilst the stalwart Irish student, still undaunted and
meeting the foe, glass to glass - a veritable giant, fresher as he went

Old Sir John, a well seasoned diner-out, at last found himself
solitary at his end of the table, whilst his son adorned the other end

Looking round in dismay and fearing, if he continued the healths, to
be unequal to cope with such an intrepid Dublin student, he the last
gave up, flinging himself majestically back in his chair, exclaiming
"D - - n your Irish education!"


This estate, which formerly comprised two hundred acres of ground,
extending from the brow of the St. Foye heights to St Michael's Chapel on
the Samoa or St. Lewis road, possesses considerable interest for the
student of Canadian history, both under French and English rule. The
original dwelling, a long high-peaked French structure, stood on an
eminence closer to the St. Foye road than does the present house. It was
built about the year 1740, by a rich Lower Town merchant, Monsieur Jean
Taché [264] who resided there after his marriage in 1742 with Mademoiselle
Marie Anne Jolliet de Mingan, grand-daughter to the celebrated discoverer
of the Mississippi, Louis Jolliet. Monsieur Jean Taché was also _Syndic
des Marchands_, member of the Supreme Council of Quebec, and ancestor
to Sir. E. P. Taché. He at one time owned several vessels, but his
floating wealth having, during the war of the conquest, become the prize
of English cruisers, the St. Peter street Nabob of 1740, as it has since
happened to some of his successors in that _romantic_ neighbourhood,
- lost his money. Loss of fortune did not, however, imply loss of honour,
as old memoirs of that day describe him, "Homme intègre et d'esprit." He
had been selected, in the last year of French rule, to go and lay at the
foot of the French Throne the grievances of the Canadians. About this
time, the St. Foye road was becoming a fashionable resort, _Hawkin's
Picture of Quebec_ calls it "The favorite drive of the Canadian Belle
before the conquest." This is an interesting period in colonial life, but
imperfectly known, - nor will a passage from Jeffery, an old and valued
English writer, illustrative of men, manners and amusements in the Colony,
when it passed over to the English monarch, be out of place: -

"The number of inhabitants being considerably increased, they pass their
time very agreeably. The Governor General, with his household; several of
the _noblesse_ of exceeding good families; the officers of the army,
who in France are all gentlemen; the Intendant, with a Supreme Council,
and the inferior magistrates; the Commissary of the Marine; the Grand
Provost; the Grand Hunter; the Grand Master of the Woods and Forests, who
has the most extensive jurisdiction in the world; rich merchants, or such
as live as if they were so; the bishops and a numerous Seminary; two
colleges of Récollets, as many of Jesuits; with three Nunneries; amongst
all those yon are at no loss to find agreeable company and the most
entertaining conversation. Add to this the diversions of the place, such
as the assemblies at the Lady Governess's and Lady Intendant's; parties at
cards, or of pleasure, such as in the winter on the ice, in sledges, or in
skating; and in the summer in chaises or canoes; also hunting, which it is
impossible not to be fond of in a country abounding with plenty of game of
all kinds.

"It is remarked of the Canadians that their conversation is enlivened by
an air of freedom which is natural and peculiar to them, and that they
speak the French in the greatest purity and without the least false
accent. There are few rich people in that Colony, though they all live
well, are extremely generous and hospitable, keep very good tables, and
love to dress very finely.... The Canadians have carried the love of arms,
and glory, so natural to their mother country, along with them.... War is
not only welcome to them but coveted with extreme ardor." [265]

During the fall of 1775, the old mansion sheltered Brigadier Richard
Montgomery, [266] the leader of the American forlorn hope, who fell on the
31st December of that year, at Près-de-Ville, Champlain street, fighting
against those same British whom it had previously been his pride to lead
to victory. About the year 1780, we find this residence tenanted by a
worthy British officer, who had been a great favourite with the hero of
the Plains of Abraham. Major Samuel Holland had fought bravely that day
under General Wolfe, and stood, it is said, after the battle, close by the
expiring warrior. His dwelling took the name of Holland House: he added to
it, a cupola, which served in lieu of a _prospect tower_, wherefrom
could be had a most extensive view of the surrounding country. [267] The
important appointment of Surveyor General of the Province, which was
bestowed on Major Holland, together with his social qualities, abilities
and education, soon gathered round him the _élite_ of the English
Society in Quebec at that time. Amongst the distinguished guests who
frequented Holland House in 1791, we find Edward, afterwards Duke of Kent.
The numerous letters still extant addressed by His Royal Highness from
Kensington Palace, as late as 1814, to the many warm friends he had left
on the banks of the St. Lawrence, contain pleasant reminiscences of his
sojourn amongst his royal father's Canadian lieges. Amongst other
frequenters of Holland House, may also be noted a handsome stranger, who
after attending - the gayest of the gay - the Quebec Château balls,
Regimental mess dinners, Barons' Club, tandem drives, as the male friend
of one of the young Hollands was, to the amazement of all, convicted at a
mess dinner of being a lady [268] in disguise. A _fracas_ of course
ensued. The lady-like guest soon vamosed to England, where _he_ became the
lawful spouse of the Hon. Mr. C - - , the brother to Lord F - - d. One
remnant of the Hollands long endured; the old fir tree on that portion of
the property purchased by James Creighton, farmer. Holland tree was still
sacred to the memory of the five slumberers, who have reposed for more
than a century beneath its hoary branches. Nor has the recollection of the
"fatal duel" faded away. Holland farm, for many years, belonged to Mr.
Wilson of the Customs Department, Quebec, in 1843 it passed by purchase to
Judge George Okill Stuart, of Québec; Mr. Stuart improved the place,
removed the old house and built a handsome new one on a rising ground in
rear, which he occupied for several summers. It again became renowned for
gaiety and festivity when subsequently owned by Robert Cassels, Esquire,
for many years Manager of the Bank of British North America at Quebec.
Genl. Danl. Lysons had leased it in 1862, for his residence, when the
unexpected vote of the House of Assembly on the Militia Bill broke through
his arrangements. Holland House is still the property of Mr. Cassels.



"Woodman spare that tree."

It has often been noticed that one of the chief glories of Quebec
consisted in being surrounded on all sides by smiling country seats,
which in the summer season, as it were, encircle the brow of the old
city like a chaplet of flowers; those who, on a sunny June morning,
have wandered through the shady groves of Spencer Wood, Woodfield,
Marchmont, Benmore, Kilmarnock, Kirk Ella, Hamwood, Beauvoir,
Clermont, and fifty other old places, rendered vocal by the voices of
birds, and with the sparkling waters of the great river or the winding
St. Charles at their feet, are not likely to gainsay this statement.

Amongst these beautiful rural retreats few are better known than
Holland Farm, in 1780 the family mansion of Surveyor-General Holland,
one of Wolfe's favourite engineer officers. During the fall of 1775 it
had been the headquarters of Brig. General Montgomery, who chose it as
his residence during the siege of Quebec, whilst his colleague, Col.
Benedict Arnold, was stationed with his New Englanders at the house
southeast of Scott's Bridge, on the Little River road, for many years
the homestead of Mr. Langlois. This fine property, running back as far
as Mount Hermon Cemetery, and extending from the St. Louis or Grand
Allée road, opposite Spencer Wood, down to the St. Foye road, which it
crosses, is bounded to the north by the _cime du cap_, or St. Foye
heights. For those who may be curious to know its original extent to
an eighth of an inch, I shall quote from Major Holland's title-deed,
wherein it is stated to comprise "in superficies, French measure, two
hundred and six arpents, one perch, seven feet eight inches, and _four
eighths of an inch_," from which description one would infer the Major
had surveyed his domain with great minuteness, or that he must have
been rather a stickler for territorial rights. What would his shades
now think could they be made cognizant of the fact that that very
château garden, [269] which he possessed and bequeathed to his sons in
the year 1800, which had been taken possession of for military
purposes by the Imperial authorities, is held by them to this day?
Major Samuel Holland had distinguished himself as an officer under
General Wolfe, on the Plains of Abraham, lived at Holland House [270]
many years, as was customary in those days, in affluence, and at last
paid the common debt to nature. He had been employed in Prince Edward
Island and Western Canada on public surveys.

The Major, after having provided for his wife, Mary Josette Rolet,
bequeathed his property to Frederick Braham, John Frederick,
Charlotte, Susan and George Holland, [271] his children. In 1817,
Frederick Braham Holland, who at that time was an ordnance storekeeper
at Prince Edward Island, sold his share of the farm to the late
William Wilson, of the Customs. Ten years later, John Frederick and
Charlotte Holland also disposed of their interest in this land to Mr.
Wilson, who subsequently, having acquired the rights of another heir,
viz., in 1835, remained proprietor of Holland Farm until 1843, when
the property by purchase passed over to Judge Geo. Okill Stuart, of
this city. Mr. Stuart built on it a handsome mansion now known as
Holland House, which he subsequently sold to Rob. Cassells, Esq., of
Quebec, late manager of the Bank of British North America.

Holland Farm has been gradually dismembered: Coulonge Cottage, at the
outlet of the Gomin Road, [272] is built on Holland farm. A successful
gold digger by the name of Sinjohn purchased in the year 1862 a large
tract of the farm fronting the St. Louis road with Thornhill as its
north eastern and Mr. Stuart's new road as its south-western boundary.
His cottage is shaded by the Thornhill Grove, with a garden and lawn
and adjoins a level pasturage entirely denuded of shrubs and forest
trees. [273] To a person looking from the main gate, at Spencer Wood
in the direction of the south gable of Holland House, exactly in a
straight line, no object intervenes except a fir tree which detaches
itself on the horizon, conspicuous from afar over the plantation which
fronts the St. Foye road. That tree is the Holland Tree. Well! what
about the Holland Tree? What! you a Quebecer and not to know about the
Holland Tree? the duel and the slumberers who have reposed for so many
years under its shade!

Oh! but suppose I am not a Quebecer. Tell me about the Holland Tree.
Well, walk down from the St. Louis road along Mr. Stuart's new road
and we shall see first how the rest of the 'slumberers' has been
respected. Hear the words which filial affection dictated to Frederick
Braham, John Frederick and Charlotte Holland, when on the 14th July
1827, they executed a deed [274] in favor of Wm. Wilson conveying
their interest in their father's estate.

"Provided always and these presents as well as the foregoing deed of
sale and conveyance are so made and executed by the said Robert
Holland acting as aforesaid (as attorney of the heirs Holland) upon
and subject to the _express_ charge and _condition_ that is to say,
that the said William Wilson his heirs and assigns shall forever hold
sacred and inviolable the small circular space of ground on the said
tract or piece of land and premises enclosed with a stone wall and
wherein the remains of the late Samuel Holland, Esquire, father of the
said vendors and of his son the late Samuel Holland jr., Esq., are
interred, and shall and will allow tree ingress and egress at all
times to the relatives and friends of the family of the said Samuel
Holland for the purpose of viewing the state and condition of the said
space of ground and making or causing to be made such repairs to the
wall enclosing the same or otherwise providing for the protection of
the said remains as they shall see fit."

Not many years back the 'small circular space' which Mr. Wilson bound
himself to hold sacred and inviolable and which contained two neat
marble slabs with the names of Messrs. Holland, senior and junior, and
other members of the family engraved on them, was inclosed within a
substantial stone wall to which access was had through an iron gate,
the walls were covered with inscriptions and with the initials of
those who had visited a spot to which the fatal issue of a deadly
encounter lent all the interest of a romance. Nothing now is visible
except the foundation, which is still distinct: the monument stones
have disappeared, the wall has been razed to the ground, some modern
Vandal or a descendant of the Ostrogoths [275] (for amongst all
civilized nations, the repose of the dead is sacred) has laid violent
hands on them! When Mr. Wilson sold Holland farm in 1843 he made no
stipulation about the graves of the Hollands, he took no care that
what he had agreed to hold inviolable should continue to be so held.

The tragical occurrence connected with the Holland Tree is much out of
the ordinary run of events, it seems very like the plot of a sensation
novel - a dark tale redolent with love, jealousy and revenge. Two men
stood, some sixty years ago, in mortal combat, not under the Holland
Tree, as it has generally been believed but near Windmill Point, Point
St Charles, at Montreal, one of them Ensign Samuel Holland, of the
60th Regiment, the other was Capt Shoedde. The encounter, it was
expected would be a deadly one in those duelling days blood alone
could wipe out an insult. Old Major Holland, on bidding adieu to his
son is reported to have said, "Samuel, my boy, here are weapons which
my loved friend General Wolfe, presented me on the day of his death.
Use them, to keep the old family name without stain." Of this
memorable affair W. H. Henderson, Esq., of Hemison, has kindly
furnished me with the following details.

'The duel originated from some, it was considered, unjustifiable
suspicions on the part of Capt. Shoedde of his (Holland's) intimacy
with Mrs. Shoedde so palpably unfounded that young Holland applied to
his father as to whether in honour he was bound to take notice of the
matter. The Major replied by forwarding by post his pistols. Ensign
Holland was mortally wounded at the first shot, but in his agony rose
on his knees and levelled his pistol, aiming for Capt. Shoedde's
heart, who received the ball in his arm laid over his breast.'

Mr. Holland was conveyed to the Merchants Coffee House, in the small
lane, near the river side, called Capital street, where he expired in
great pain. The battalion in which this gentleman served was at that
time, commanded by Major Patrick Murray, a relative of the British
General of Quebec fame, with whom I became very intimate in the years
1808 and 1809. Major Murray's account of the duel agreed with the
general report prevalent in 1799 in Montreal. Murray thought that the
challenge had been given by young Holland and not by Shoedde. Murray
subsequently married sold his commission, and purchased the seignory
of Argenteuil. At that time Sir George Prevost was also a Major In the
60th Regiment of 1790, whilst Murray's commission dated of 1784. Sir
George gave Murray in 1812 a colonel's commission in the militia, who
raised the corps of lawyers in Montreal known, as styled by the
humorous old man, "as The Devil s Own."


One of the young Hollands had also been a party to a _scandalum
magnum_, which created much gossip amongst our grandfathers, about
the time H.R.H the Duke of Kent was at Quebec.

At a regimental mess dinner a handsome young fellow, having, in these
days of hard swearing and hard drinking, exceeded in wine, was
convicted of being a lady in disguise, attending as the guest of young
Holland, and whose sex was unknown to young Holland.

This lady, whom all Quebec knew as Mr. Nesbitt, turned out to be a
Miss Neville, left for England, and was eventually married to Sir J.
C - -, brother of Lord F - - , a British nobleman.

One of the Nestors of the present generation, Col. J. Sewell, has
related to me the circumstances as he heard them in his youth from the
lips of a man of veracity and honour - Hon. W. Smith, son of Chief
Justice Smith.

Here are his own words: - "Hon. Mr. Smith told me that Mr. Nesbitt,
_alias_ Miss Neville, was dining at a mess dinner of the 24th
Grenadiers at the Jesuits' Barracks, upper Town market place - Having
sacrificed too freely to the rosy god, an officer of the 24th, Mr.
Broadstreet, I think, helped him to the balcony ... when having to
lean on his supporter, Mr. Broadstreet became confident Nesbitt was a
girl in disguise. Nesbitt drove out after dinner to Holland House and
Broadstreet told the joke all round. Nesbitt hearing of it, sent him,
next day, a challenge for originating such a report.

Mr. Broadstreet, not knowing how to act, applied to one of his
superior officers - Capt. Doyle (subsequently Genl. Doyle, who married
at Quebec, a Miss Smith), for advice, saying: "How can I fight a
girl?" to which Capt. Doyle rejoined, "I will act as your second. If
Nesbitt is a girl, you shall not fight him, and I engage to prove this
fact." He then drove out to Holland House, and found the gay Lothario
Nesbitt flirting with the young ladies. He observed him attentively,
and having tried an experiment, calculated to throw light on the
mysterious foreigner, he went to complain direct to the Governor and
Commander in Chief; Lord Dorchester, who, on hearing the perplexity
caused by Mr. Nesbitt, sent for Dr. Longmore, the military physician,
and ordered him to investigate of what sex Nesbitt might be.

Mr. Nesbitt stormed - refused to submit - vowed he would go direct to
England and make a formal complaint of the indignity with which he was

Hon. Jonathan Sewell, - later on Chief Justice, by persuasion,
succeeded in pouring oil on the troubled waters. Nesbitt confessed,
and Quebec was minus of a very handsome but beardless youngster, and
the English Court journals soon made mention of a fashionable marriage
in high life.


How sweet it is, when mother Fancy rocks
The wayward brain, to saunter through a wood
An old place, full of many a lovely brood,
Tall trees, green arbours, and ground-flowers in flocks
And wild rose tiptoe upon hawthorn stocks,
- _Wordsworth_.

How many vicissitudes in the destinies of places, men, families, nations!
See yonder mansion, its verdant leaves, with the leafy honours of nascent
spring encircling it like a garland, exhaling the aroma of countless buds
and blossoms, embellished by conservatory, grapery, avenues of fruit and
floral trees. Does not every object bespeak comfort, rural felicity,
commercial success!

When you enter that snug billiard-room, luxuriously fitted up with fire
place, ottomans, &c., or when, on a balmy summer evening, you are seated
on the ample verandah, next to the kind host, do you not my legal friend,
feel inclined to repeat to yourself "Commerce, commerce is the turnpike to
health, to affluence, the path to consideration." But was the scene always
so smiling, and redolent of rustic enjoyment.

If so, what means yon stately column, [276] surmounted by its fat,
helmetted Bellona, mysteriously looking round as if pregnant with a mighty
unfathomable future. Ask history? Open Capt. Knox's _Journal of the
Siege of Quebec_, and read therein how, in front of that very spot
where you now stand, along that identical road, over which you emerged
from the city, war once threw her sorrows, ask this brave British officer
to retrace one of those winter scenes he witnessed here more than one
hundred years ago: the howling blast of the north sighing through the few
remaining gnarled pines and oaks spared by Albion's warriors; add to it
tired teams of English troops, laboriously drawing, yoked eight by eight,
long sledges of firewood for Murray's depressed, harassed garrison, and
you have something like John Knox's _tableau_ of St. Foye Road on the
7th December, 1759. -

"Our garrison, now undergo incredible fatigue, not only within but also
without the walls, being obliged to load and sleigh home firewood from the
forest of St. Foy, which is near four miles distant, and through snow of a
surpassing depth, eight men are allowed to each sleigh, who are yoked to
it in couples by a set of regular harness, besides one man who guides it
behind with a long stout pole, to keep it clear of ruts and other
obstructions. We are told that M. de Lévis is making great preparations
for the long-meditated assault on this place (Quebec) with which we are
menaced. Christmas is said to be the time fixed for this enterprise, and
_Monsieur_ says, 'if he succeed he shall be promoted to be _Maréchal de
France_, and if he fail, Canada will be lost, for he will give it up.'"

Do not, dear reader, however fear for the old rock, it is tolerably secure
so long as Fraser's Highlanders and British Grenadiers garrison it.

We have here endeavored to contrast the smiling present with the dreary
past; peace, progress, wealth, as we find it to-day in this important
appendage of the British Crown, ready to expand into an empire, with the
dismal appearance of things when it was scantily settled, and in those
dark days when war stalked through our land. Hamwood takes its name from
that of the paternal estate of the Hamiltons, county of Meath, Ireland,
and without pretending to architectural excellence, it is one of the
loveliest spots on the St. Foye road. It belongs to Robert Hamilton, Esq.,
a leading merchant of Quebec.


And I have heard the whispers of the trees,
And the low laughter of the wandering wind,
Mixed with the hum of golden-belted bees,
And far away, dim echoes, undefined, -
That yet had power to thrill my listening ear,
Like footsteps of the spring that is so near.
- (_Wood Voices_, KATE S. McL.)

Shall we confess that we ever had a fancy for historical contrasts? It is
our weakness, perhaps our besetting sin; and when, on a balmy June day, at
the hour when the king of day it sipping the dew-drops from the flowers,
we ride past this unadorned but charming little Canadian home, next to
Westfield, on the St. Foye heights, as it were sunning itself amidst
emerald fields, fanned by the breath of the fragrant morn, enlivened by
the gambols of merry childhood; memory, in spite of us, brings back the
ghastly sights, the sickening Indian horrors, witnessed here on the 28th
April, 1760. There can be no doubt on this point; the mute, but eloquent
witnesses of the past are dug up every day: shot, shell, bullets, old
bayonets, decayed military buttons, all in the greatest profusion.

"The savages," says Garneau, "who were nearly all in the woods behind
during the fight, spread over the battle-field when the French were
pursuing the enemy, and killed many of the wounded British, whose scalps
were afterwards found upon neighboring bushes. As soon as De Lévis was

Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 40 of 59)