Notary Peter Lukin Sr. helped the people of the Upper Richelieu River Valley and Eastern Townships of Quebec sort out land ownership issues between 1790 and 1814. Among his clients were Loyalists and other American-born settlers who had moved north of the border in search of farmland, as well as British, Scottish and Irish-born families.
Although New France was ceded to Britain in 1763 and became the Lower Canada colony, the old seigneurial land-ownership system of New France persisted until 1854. The seigneurial system began in the 1600s as a tool to control the settlement of New France. The king granted large areas of land to influential people including military officers and members of the aristocracy. The seigneurs then rented out farm lots to the habitants, or tenants. The habitants paid rent in cash or grain in exchange for land management assistance and various rights from the seigneurs. This system determined the way rural society in New France developed. When the British abolished the system in 1854, the colonial government had to introduce a means for the tenants to buy their farms.
One area in which the seigneurial system existed was in the Upper Richelieu Valley, an area with very fertile soil that attracted many settlers. The valley stretches next to the Richelieu River, which flows north out of Lake Champlain in northern Vermont and empties into the St. Lawrence River near the town of Sorel. Lieutenant-Colonel Gabriel Christie acquired five seigneuries in this region following the fall of New France. The Christie Seigneuries remained in his family’s possession long after the seigneurial system was officially abolished.
In her book The Christie Seigneuries; Estate Management and Settlement in the Upper Richelieu Valley 1760-1854 (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1992), historian Françoise Noël wrote that seigneurial property rights were used to control access to land, timber mills and other resources in the area for many years.
On May 8, 1790, Peter Lukin Sr., a notary and Justice of the Peace in the Judicial District of Montreal, was appointed as one of several notaries assigned to legalize the allotment of lands in the Eastern Townships and the Richelieu River Valley, including the Christie Seigneuries.
The seigneurial system was never implemented in the Eastern Townships, which was settled in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
The notarial acts of Peter Lukin Sr., 1790-1814, Cote # CN601, S269, can be found on microfilm at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) in Montreal. The BAnQ Montréal is located at 535 avenue Viger Est, Montréal, QC, H2L 2P3; Tel: 514-873-1100 plus option 4, plus option 1; Toll Free: 1-800-363-9028 plus option 4 plus 1; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A database of the Christie Seigneuries, “The Upper Richelieu Valley Database by Seigneury,” prepared by Françoise Noël can be found at http://faculty.nipissingu.ca/noel/files/2013/01/Christie_Seigneuries_by_Seigneury.pdf
Noël also identified three other early notaries who served in the region of the Christie Seigneuries within the Upper Richelieu River Valley:
Pierre de Mérut Panet – Notary, Judicial District of Montréal 1755-1778
Pierre Lanctot – Notary, Judicial District of Montréal 1809-1850
Pierre Besse – Notary – Judicial District of Richelieu 1811-1813
The Notarial Acts of Pierre de Mérut Panet likely address the British officers who were granted lands in the Upper Richelieu River Valley and perhaps also in the Lower Richelieu River Valley (the Sorel area) who fought with military leaders James Wolfe, Jeffery Amherst, James Murray, Charles Saunders, Thomas Gage, George Townshend and Robert Monckton at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759 and at the Conquest of Montreal in 1760.