Genealogy, Quebec

Irish Catholic Churches in Lanaudière and Yamaska

Berthier, Champlain, Joliette, Maskinongé, Montcalm, Nicolet, St-Maurice, Terrebonne, Yamaska Counties

In May, 2014, Genealogy Ensemble posted my research guide to Irish Catholic churches in Quebec. At almost 120 pages, the PDF document is a bit unwieldy, so recently I decided to update the guide and break it into more manageable chunks.

The PDF following this introduction is the first in a series of seven research guides regarding Catholic churches across rural Quebec, Montreal and Quebec City that served the province’s large Irish population.

Irish roots go deep in Quebec. At the end of the 1600s, an estimated five percent of the 2,500 families in New France were Irish. Between 1816 and 1860, a massive number of new immigrants arrived in Canada, and 60 percent of them were Irish. Most of those who were Protestant settled in to Upper Canada or the United States, but most of those who were Catholic remained in Montreal or Quebec City, while others moved into rural areas of Quebec.

The inclusion of a church in this guide does not imply that its parishioners were mostly of Irish descent; rather, it means that, at one point in time, a minimum of 10 percent of the acts of baptism, marriage and death addressed Irish immigrants or their descendants.

This guide focuses on the area that is known today as the Lanaudière, northeast of Montreal on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, as well as the Nicolet-Yamaska region, between the St. Lawrence and the American border. These are the rural counties of Berthier, Champlain, Joliette, Maskinongé, Montcalm, Nicolet, St-Maurice, Terrebonne and Yamaska, There are several small cities in the area including Trois-Rivières, Joliette and Shawinigan, as well as Saint-Jérôme.

At least one prominent individual who helped to develop this vast area had links with the Irish community. He was businessman Edouard Scallon (1813-1864), whose father immigrated to the Yamaska region from Ireland in 1810.

Scallon moved to L’Industrie (now Joliette) as a young man and went into partnership with the local seigneur, or landowner. He worked primarily as a lumber merchant. He was also involved in a plan to build a railroad, he built a sawmill and a flour mill, and he was a land speculator and money lender.

He died suddenly at age 51, leaving much of his fortune to fund the construction of a trade school, and to the Sisters of Providence for the expansion of the hospital built on land he had already given them.

In 18th century, James Cuthbert (c.1719-1798), a Scottish-born army officer, merchant, justice of the peace, and legislative councilor, touched the lives of many Irish settlers and others.

He first came to Quebec as an officer in the British Army, and remained after the French were defeated and Quebec became a British colony. He left the army in 1765, bought the seigneury of Berthier and had a manor-house built there.

Over the next 25 years, Cuthbert acquired several other seigneuries. Eventually, his land stretched about 50 miles along the St Lawrence River. Irish, Acadian, British, American, French Canadian and a few Germanic families were censitaires, or tenant farmers, on the seigneuries belonging to him.

Cuthbert became a very wealthy man, however, he was often difficult to get along with and had many disagreements with government officials. Because of this, he had little political influence.

Around 1787, Cuthbert, a Presbyterian, built one of the first Protestant churches in the colony, St Andrew’s Church at Berthier. His censitaires were nearly all Catholic, so in 1766, he donated land in the parish of Saint-Cuthbert for a Catholic church there. Several years later, he also supplied stone for the church building, a painting of his patron saint and two bells. In the 1780s he donated land and materials for the construction of the Catholic church of Sainte-Geneviève.

Link to PDF document: Irish Catholic Churches Lanaudiere and Yamaska

For a map of the area, see Google maps, Lanaudière

For more information, see the Dictionary of Canadian Biography online,

Edouard Scallon http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/scallon_edouard_9F.html  

James Cuthbert   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/cuthbert_james_4F.html

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