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J.M. Le Moine.

Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

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"Would you like to learn how they dress - how they marry - how they are
buried? First, you must know that several tribes go completely naked,
and wear but the fig-leaf. In Montreal, you meet many stately and
well-proportioned savages, walking about in this state of nudity, as
proud in their bearing, as if they wore good clothes. Some have on a
shirt only; others have a covering negligently thrown over one
shoulder. Christianized Indians are differently habited. The Iroquois
put their shirt over their wearing apparel, and over the shirt another
raiment, which encloses a portion of the head, which is always bare.
The men generally wear garments over their shirts; the latter, when
new, is generally very white, but is used until it gets perfectly dark
and disgustingly greasy. They sometimes shave a portion of their head,
or else they comb one half of their hair back, the other half front.
They occasionally tie up a tuft of hair very tight on the top of the
head, rising towards the skies. At other times some allow a long tress
of hair to fall over their face: it interferes with their eating, but
it has to be put up with. They smear their ears with a white
substance, or their face with blue, vermillion and black. They are
more elaborate in their war-toilette than a coquette would be in
dressing - in order to conceal the paleness which fear might engender.
They are profuse of gold and silver brocade, porcelain necklaces,
bracelets of beads - the women, especially in their youth. This is
their jewellery, their diamonds, the value whereof sometimes reaches
1,000 francs. The Abenaqis enclose their heads in a small cap
embroidered with beads or ornamented with brocade. They wrap their
legs in leggings with a fringe three or four inches long. Their shoes
consist of socks, with plaits round the toe, covering the foot. All
this has its charm in their eyes; they are as vain of dress as any
Frenchman. The pagan tribes, whenever love is felt, marry without any
ceremonial. The pair will discover whether they love one another in
silence, Indian-like. One of the caresses consists in throwing to the
loved one a small pebble, or grains of Indian corn, or else some other
object which cannot hurt. The swain, on throwing the pebble, is bound
to look in the opposite direction, to make believe he did not do it.
Should the adored one return it, matters look well, else, the game is
up.

"The Christianized Indians are married in face of the church, without
any contract of marriage and without stipulations, because an Indian
cannot own real estate and cannot bequeath to his children. The
wealthiest is the mightiest hunter. This favored individual, in his
village, passes for a grand match. Bravery and great warriors they
think much of - they constitute the latter their chiefs. Poverty is no
disgrace at the council board, and an orator in rags will speak out as
boldly, as successfully, as if he were decked out in gold cloth. They
come thus poorly habited in the presence of the Governor, indulge in
long harangues, and touch his hand fearlessly. When ladies are present
at these interviews, they honor them thus - seize their hand and shake
it in token of friendship. Before I became a nun I was present at some
of these ceremonies, and having won their good opinion, they would
extend to me a hand which was disgusting in the extreme, but which I
had cheerfully to accept for fear of offending them. They are
sometimes asked to dine at the Governor's table. Unlucky are their
neighbors, especially when they happen to be ladies, they are so
filthy in their persons. - 1730." - _Revue Canadienne_, page 108-9.

Such the Montreal Indians in 1730.

The Lorette Chapel dates back, as well as the _Old Mill_, to 1731. In
1862 the Chapel suffered much by fire. The tribe occupies land reserved by
Government, under the regulations of the Indian Bureau of Ottawa. "Indian
Lorette comprises from forty to fifty cottages, on the _plateau_ of
the falls - spread out, without design, over an area of about twenty square
acres. In the centre runs the kings highway, the outer half sloping down,
towards the St. Charles. The most prominent objects are the church, a
grist mill and Mr. Reid's paper mill; close by a wooden fence encloses
'God's acre,' in the centre of which a cross marks the tomb of Chief
Nicholas." [318] It is indeed, "a wild spot, covered with the primitive
forest and seamed by a deep and tortuous ravine, where the St. Charles
foams, white as a snow drift, over the black ledges, and where the
sunshine struggles through matted boughs of the pine and the fir, to bask
for brief moments on the mossy rocks, or flash on the hurrying waters....
Here, to this day, the tourist finds the remnants of a lost people,
harmless weavers of baskets and sewers of mocassins, the Huron blood fast
bleaching out of them."

Of "free and independent electors" none here exist, the little Lorette
world goes on smoothly without them. "No Huron on the Reserve can vote. No
white man is allowed to settle within the sacred precincts of the Huron
kingdom, composed, 1st, of the lofty _Plateau_ of the village of
Indian Lorette, which the tribe occupy. 2nd. Of the forty square acres,
about a mile and a half to the north-west of the village. 3rd. Of the
Rocmont settlement, in the adjoining County of Portneuf, in the very heart
of the Laurentine Mountains, ceded to the Hurons by Government, as a
compensation for the Seigniory of St. Gabriel, of which Government took
possession, and to which the Hurons set up a claim.

"In all that which pertains to the occupation, the possession and the
administration of these fragments of its ancient extensive territory, the
usages and customs of the tribe have force of law. The village is governed
by a Council of Sachems; in cases of misunderstandings an appeal lies to
the Ottawa Bureau, under the control of the Minister of the Interior (our
"Downing street" wisely abstaining from interference except on very urgent
occasions). Lands descend by right of inheritance; the Huron Council alone
being authorized to issue location tickets; none are granted but to Huron
boys, strangers being excluded. Of course, these disabilities affect the
denizens of the reserve only; a Huron (and there are some,
_Tahourenche_, Vincent and others) owning lands in his own right
elsewhere, and paying taxes and tithes, enjoys the rights and immunities
of any other British subject."

From the date of the Lorette Indian settlement in 1697, down to the year
of the capitulation of Quebec - 1759 - the annals of the tribe afford but
few stirring incidents: an annual bear, beaver, or cariboo hunt; the
return of a war party, with its scalps - English, probably - as the tribe
had a wholesome terror of the Iroquois; an occasional _pow wow_ as to
how many warriors could be spared to assist their trusted and brave
allies, the French of Quebec, against the heretical soldiers of Old or New
England.

We are in possession of no facts to show that these Christianised Hurons
differed much from other Christianised Indians; church services, war
councils, feasting, smoking, dancing, scalping, fishing and hunting,
filling in, agreeably, socially, or usefully, the daily routine of their
existence. Civilization, as understood by christianised or by pagan
savages, has never inspired us with unqualified admiration. The various
siege narratives we have perused, whilst they bring in the Indian allies,
at the close of the battle, to "finish off" the wounded at Montmorency, in
July, 1759; at the plains of Abraham, in September 1759; at St. Foye, in
April, 1760, generally mention the Abenaquis for this delicate office of
_friseurs_. The terror, nay, the horror, which the use of the tomahawk and
scalping knife inspired to the British soldiery, was often greater than
their fear of the French sabres and French musquetoons.

British rule, in 1759, if it did bring the Hurons less of campaigning and
fewer scalps, was the harbinger of domestic peace and stable homes, with
very remunerative contracts each fall for several thousands of pairs of
snow-shoes, cariboo mocassins and mittens for the English regiments
tenanting the Citadel of Quebec, whose wealthy officers every winter
scoured the Laurentine range, north of the city, in quest of deer, bear
and cariboo, under the experienced guidance of Gros Louis, Sioui, Vincent,
and other famous Huron Nimrods.

The chronicles of the settlement proclaim the valour and wisdom of some of
their early chiefs, conspicuous appears the renowned Ahatsistari, surnamed
the Huron Saul, from his early hostility to missionaries; death closed his
career, on the verdant banks of Lake Huron, in 1642, a convert to
missionary teachings.

At the departure of the French, in 1759, a new allegiance was forced on
the sons of the forest, St. George and his dragon for them took the place
of St. Louis and his lilies. The _Deer_, the _Bear_, the _Tortoise_ and
the _Wolf_ tribe, however, have managed to live on most friendly terms
with the _Dragon_. In 1776, Lorette sent its contingent of painted and
plumed warriors to fight General Burgoyne's inglorious campaigns. The
services rendered to England by her swarthy allies in the war of 1812-14
were marked, for years a distribution of presents took place from the
Quebec Commissariat and Indian Department. Proudly did the Hurons, as well
as the Abenaquis, Montagnais, Micmac and Malicite Indians bear the snow-
white blankets, scarlet cloth and hunting-knives awarded them by George
the King, and by the victors of Waterloo. Each year, at midsummer, the
Indians in their canoes, with their live freight of hunters, their copper-
coloured squaws and black-eyed papooses, rushed from Labrador, Gaspé,
Restigouche, Baie des Chaleurs, and pitched their tents on a strip of land
at Lévi, hence called Indian Cove, the city itself being closed to the
grim monarchs of the woods, reputed ugly customers when in their cups. A
special envoy, however, was sent to the Lorette Indians on similar
occasions. The Indians settled on Canadian soil were distinguished for
their loyalty to England, who has ever treated them more mercifully than
did "Uncle Sam."

The war between England and the United States in 1812 brought the Lorette
braves again to the front, and the future hero of Châteauguay, Col. De
Salaberry, was sent to enlist them. Col. De Salaberry attended in person
on the tribe, at Indian Lorette. A grand pow-wow had been convoked. The
sons of the forest eagerly sent in their names and got in readiness when
the Colonel returned a few days later to inform them that the Government
had decided to retain them as a reserve in the event of Quebec being
attacked from the Kennebec.

Notwithstanding this announcement, six Hurons (among whom were Joseph and
Stanislas Vincent) claimed with loud cries the right to accompany the
Canadian _Voltigeurs_, commanded by the Colonel.

At Châteauguay, where 300 Canadians so gloriously repelled 7,000 invaders,
the brothers Vincent swam across the river to capture and make prisoners,
the flying Yankees.

These swarthy warriors had but a faint idea of what military discipline
meant, and thinking that, the battle being over, they could return to
Lorette, left accordingly. This was a flagrant case of desertion. Nothing
short of the brave Colonel's earnest entreaties, sufficed to procure a
pardon for the redskins. A letter was written to Col. De Salaberry by his
father, late M.P. for the county, on this subject; it has been preserved.

The Hurons attended at Beauport at the unveiling of the monument of De
Salaberry on the 27th of June, 1880, and subscribed bountifully to the
building fund.

What with war medals, clothing, ammunition, fertile lands specially
reserved at Lorette, on the Restigouche, at Nouvelle, Isle Verte,
Caughnawaga, St. Regis, &c., the "untutored savage," shielded by a
beneficent legislation, watched over by zealous missionaries, was at times
an object of envy to his white brethren. Age or infirmity, seldom war,
tore him away from this vale of sorrow, to join the great Indian
"majority" in those happy hunting grounds promised to him by his Sachems.

The Hurons were ever ready to parade their paint, feathers, and tomahawks,
at the arrival of every new Governor at Quebec, and to assure Ononthio,
[319] of their undying attachment and unswerving loyalty to their great
father or august mother "who dwells on the other side of the Great Lake."
These traditions have descended even to the time when _Ononthio_ was
merely a Lieutenant-Governor under Confederation. We recollect meeting, in
31st March, 1873, a stately deputation, composed of twenty-three Hurons
from Lorette, returning from Clermont, the country seat of Lieutenant-
Governor Caron, where they had danced the war-dance for the ladies, and
harangued, as follows, the respected Laird of Clermont, just then
appointed Lieutenant-Governor: -

ONONTHIO: -

Aisten tiothi non8a [320] tisohon dekha hiatanonstati deson8a8en-dio
daskemion tesontamai denon8a ation datito8anens tesanonron-h8a nionde,
aon8a deson8a8endio de8a desakatade; a8eti desanon-ronk8anion datito8anens
chia ta skenrale the kiolaoutou8ison tothi chia hiaha a8eti dechienha
totinahiontati desten de sendete ataki atichiai a8eti alatonthara
deskemion ichionthe desten tiodeti aisten orachichiai.

Rev. Prosper _Sa8atonen_. The Memory Man. (Rev. Mr. Vincent, a chief's
son, then _Vicaire_ at Sillery.)
Paul _Tahourenché_, 1st Chief. The Dawn of Day.
Maurice _Agnolin_, 2nd Chief. The Bear.
Francis _Sassennio_. The Victor of Fire.
Gaspard _Ondiaralethe_. The Canoe Bearer.
Philippe _Theon8atlasta_. He stands upright.
Joseph Gonzague _Odt'o rohann_. He who does not forget.
Paul Jr. _Theianontakhen_. Two United Mountains.
Honoré _Telanontouohe_. The Sentry.
A. N. Montpetit _Ahatsistari_. The Fearless Man. - And others, in
all 23 warriors.

[_Translation._]

"The chiefs, the warriors, the women and children of our tribe, greet you.
The man of the woods also likes to render homage to merit: he loves to see
in his chiefs those precious qualities which constitute the statesman.

"All these gifts of the Great Spirit, wisdom in council, prudence in
execution, and that sagacity we exact in the Captains of our nation, you
possess them all in an eminent degree.

"We warmly applaud your appointment to the exalted post of Lieutenant-
Governor of the Province of Quebec, and feel happy in taking advantage of
the occasion to present our congratulations.

"May we also be allowed to renew the assurance of our devotion towards our
august Mother, who dwells on the other side of the Great Lake, as well as
to the land of our forefathers.

"Accept for you, for Mrs. Caron and your family, our best wishes."


_CHÂTEAU BIGOT._

ITS HISTORY AND ROMANCE.

"Ensconced 'mid trees this château stood—
'Mid flowers each aisle and porch;
At eve soft music charmed the ear—
High blazed the festive torch.

But, ah! a sad and mournful tale
Was hers who so enjoyed
The transient bliss of these fair shades—
By youth and love decoyed,

Her lord was true - yet he was false,
False - false - as sin and hell—
To former plights and vows he gave
To one that loved him well."
_The Hermitage._

From time immemorial an antique and crumbling ruin, standing in solitary
loneliness, in the centre of a clearing at the foot of the Charlesbourg
mountain, some five miles from Quebec, has been visited by the young and
the curious. It was once a two story stone building, with ponderous walls.
In length it is fifty-five feet by thirty-five feet broad - pierced for six
windows in each story, with a well-proportioned door, in the centre. In
1843, at the date of my first visit, the floor of the second story was yet
tolerably strong: I ascended to it by a rickety, old staircase. The ruin
was sketched in 1858, by Col. Benj. Lossing, and reproduced in _Harper's
Magazine_ for January, 1859. The lofty mountain to the north-west of it
is called _La Montagne des Ormes_; for more than a century, the
Charlesbourg peasantry designate the ruin as _La Maison de la Montagne_.
The English have christened it the _Hermitage_, whilst to the French
portion of the population, it is known as Château-Bigot, or Beaumanoir;
and truly, were it not on account of the associations which surround the
time-worn pile, few would take the trouble to go and look at the dreary
object.

The land on which it stands was formerly included in the _Fief de la
Trinité_ granted between 1640 and 1650 to Monsieur Denis, a gentleman
from La Rochelle, in France, the ancestor of the numerous clans of Denis,
Denis de la Ronde, Denis de Vitré, &c. The seigniory was subsequently sold
to Monseigneur de Laval, a descendant of the Montmorency's, who founded in
1663 the Seminary of Quebec, and one of the most illustrious prelates in
New France, the portion towards the Mountain was dismembered. When the
Intendant Talon formed his Baronie Des Islets [321] he annexed to it
certain lands of the _Fief de la Trinité_, amongst others that part
on which now stands the remains of the old château, of which he seems to
have been the builder, but which he subsequently sold. Bigot having
acquired it long after, enlarged and improved it very much. He was a
luxurious French gentleman, who, more than one hundred years ago, held the
exalted post of Intendant or Administrator under the French Crown, in
Canada. [322] In those days the forests which skirted the city were
abundantly stocked with game: deer, of several varieties, bears, foxes,
perhaps even that noble and lordly animal, now extinct in eastern Canada,
the Canadian stag, or Wapiti, roamed in herds over the Laurentian chain of
mountains, and were shot within a few miles of the Château St. Louis. This
may have been one of the chief reasons why the French Lucullus erected the
little _château_, which to this day bears his name - a resting place for
himself and friends after the chase. The profound seclusion of the spot,
combined with its beautiful scenery, would have rendered it attractive
during the summer months, even without the sweet repose it had in store
for a tired hunter. Tradition ascribes to it other purposes, and
amusements less permissible than those of the chase. A tragical occurrence
enshrines the old building with a tinge of mystery which the pen of the
novelist has woven into a thrilling romance.

François Bigot, thirteenth and last Intendant of the Kings of France in
Canada, was born in the Province of Guienne, and descended of a family
distinguished by professional eminence at the French bar. His commission
bears date "10th June, 1747." The Intendant had the charge of four
departments: Justice, Police, Finance and Marine. He had previously filled
the post of Intendant in Louisiana, and also at Louisburg. The
disaffection and revolt caused by his rapacity in that city, were mainly
instrumental in producing its downfall and surrender to the English
commander, Pepperell, in 1745. Living at a time when tainted morals and
official corruption ruled at court, he seems to have taken his standard of
morality from the mother country; his malversations in office, his
extensive frauds on the treasury, more than £400,000; his colossal
speculations in provisions and commissariat supplies furnished by the
French government to the colonists during a famine; his dissolute conduct
and final downfall, are fruitful themes wherefrom the historian can draw
wholesome lessons for all generations. Whether his Charlesbourg (then
called Bourg Royal) castle was used as the receptacle of some of his most
valuable booty, or whether it was merely a kind of Lilliputian _Parc au
Cerfs_, such as his royal master had, tradition does not say. It would
appear, however, that it was kept up by the plunder wrung from sorrowing
colonists, and that the large profits he made by paring from the scanty
pittance the French government allowed the starving residents, were here
lavished in gambling, riot and luxury.

In May, 1757, the population of Quebec was reduced to subsist on four
ounces of bread per diem, one lb. of beef, HORSE-FLESH or CODFISH; and in
April of the following year, the miserable allowance was reduced to one
half. "At this time," remarks our historian, Garneau, "famished men were
seen sinking to the earth in the street from exhaustion."

Such were the times during which Louis XV.'s minion would retire to his
Sardanapalian retreat, to gorge himself at leisure on the life blood of
the Canadian people, whose welfare he had sworn to watch over! Such, the
doings in the colony in the days of La Pompadour. The results of this
misrule were soon apparent: _the British lion placed his paw on the
coveted morsel_. The loss of Canada was viewed, if not by the nation,
at least by the French Court, with indifference, to use the terms of one
of Her Britannic Majesty's ministers, when its fate and possible loss were
canvassed one century later in the British Parliament, "without
apprehension or regret." Voltaire gave his friends a banquet at Ferney, in
commemoration of the event; the court favourite congratulated His Majesty,
that since he had got rid of these "fifteen hundred leagues of frozen
country," he had now a chance of sleeping in peace; the minister Choiseul
urged Louis XV. to sign the final treaty of 1763, saying that Canada would
be _un embarras_ to the English, and that if they were wise they
would have nothing to do with it. In the meantime the red cross of St.
George was waving over the battlements on which the lily-spangled banner
of the Bourbons had proudly sat with but one interruption for one hundred
and fifty years, the infamous Bigot was provisionally consigned to a
dungeon in the Bastille - subsequently tried and exiled to Bordeaux; his
property was confiscated, whilst his confederates and abettors, such as
Varin, Bréard, Maurin, Corpron, Martel, Estèbe and others, were also tried
and punished by fine, imprisonment and confiscation: one Penisseault, a
government clerk (a butcher's son by birth), who had married in the
colony, but whose pretty wife accompanied the Chevalier de Lévis on his
return to France, seems to have fared better than the rest.

But to revert to the château walls as I saw them on the 4th of June, 1863.

During a ramble with an English friend through the woods, which gave us an
opportunity of providing ourselves with wild flowers to strew over the
tomb of its fair "Rosamond," [323] such as the marsh marigold, clintonia,
uvularia, the star flower, veronica, kalmia, trillium, and Canadian
violets, we unexpectedly struck on the old ruin. One of the first things
that attracted our notice was the singularly corroding effect the easterly
wind has on stone and mortar in Canada; the east gable being indented and
much more eaten away than that exposed to the western blast. Of the
original structure nothing is left now standing but the two gables and the
division walls; they are all three of great thickness; certainly no modern
house is built in the manner this seems to have been. It had two stories,
with rooms in the attic, and deep cellars; a communication existed from
one cellar to the other through the division wall. There is also visible a
very small door cut through the cellar wall of the west gable; it leads to
a vaulted apartment of some eight feet square; the small mound of masonry
which covered it might originally have been effectually hidden from view
by a plantation of trees over it. What could this have been built for,
asked my romantic friend? Was it intended to secure some of the
Intendant's plate or other portion of his ill-gotten treasure? Or else as
the Abbé Ferland suggests: [324] "Was it to store the fruity old Port and
sparkling Moselle of the club of the Barons, who held their jovial
meetings there about the beginning of this century?" Was it his
mistresses' secret _boudoir_ when the Intendant's lady visited the
château, like the Woodstock tower to which Royal Henry picked his way
through "Love's Ladder?" _Quien sabe?_ Who can unravel the mystery?
It may have served for the foundation of the tower which existed when Mr.
Papineau visited and described the place fifty years ago. The heavy cedar
rafters, more than one hundred years old, are to this day sound: one has
been broken by the fall, probably of some heavy stones. There are several



Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 45 of 59)