The Journal of François Baby, Gabriel Taschereau, and Jenkin Williams sets the tone for the contents of this database. It focuses on the American invasion of Canada in 1775- 1776
“Available for the first time in English, the 1776 journal of François Baby, Gabriel Taschereau, and Jenkin Williams provides an insight into the failure to incite rebellion in Québec by American revolutionaries. While other sources have shown how British soldiers and civilians and the French-Canadian gentry (the seigneurs) responded to the American invasion of 1775–1776.”
This journal focuses on French-Canadian peasants (les habitants) who made up most of the population; in other words, the journal helps explain why Québec did not become the “fourteenth colony.”
The authors presented in this database and other sources have shown how British soldiers and the French-Canadians responded to the American invasion of 1775–1776
This database consists of the writing of numerous authors who wrote diaries, journals, manuscripts, documents, and books on the subject. Many of these are complete and free online.
There is always a lot of talk in this province about who is a “real” Quebecer. Our current Premier Francois Legault, wants to limit services in English to “Historical Anglos”. While I can certainly claim this right, having been born and raised in Quebec, as were my parents, I also have “Pure Laine” ancestry. I descend from Pierre Gadois, the first person to be granted land on the Island of Montreal.
L’eglise Saint-Martin d’Igé in Orme, Basse-Normandie, in north west France has a plaque with the names of men who left for Canada and the saying, “Je me Souviens” (I remember). I don’t know when the plaque was installed in this ancient church but Pierre Gadois arrived in Nouvelle France (Canada) about 1636. He left in one of the earliest waves of immigrants from L’Igé. Nicolas Godé, his sister Francoise’s husband also has his name on the plaque. That family arrived in Ville Marie (Montreal) six years later.
Pierre, his wife Louise and two children sailed to New France as part of a settlement initiative by Robert Giffard de Moncel, the first Seigneur of the French Colony. They first settled near Quebec City on the Beauport Seigneury where Pierre farmed. Another child, Francois was born during this time and baptized in 1636. Pierre decided to move to the safety of Montreal after several Indian attacks. It was recorded that Hurons entered his house a number of times, beat him and robbed him of food.
While he arrived in Montreal after the founding ceremony in 1642, he was still a very early settler. In 1648 Paul de Chomedy de Maisonneuve the governor of the colony, awarded him the first land grant. Why was he given 40 arpents of land? Had he proven himself a good farmer? The answer was probably yes. The colony needed food to survive and as the majority of inhabitants were soldiers farmers would be important citizens. Pierre Gadois was well thought of as he was also elected the fourth warden of Notre Dame Church.
According to notarial records, Pierre farmed his land and later added to his acreage. It was François Dollier de Casson, the author of the Histoire du Montréal 1640- 1672 who referred to him as “Le Première Habitant” or first farmer of Ville Marie.
He built a small wooden house of 390 pi² (French square feet slightly larger than English ones) on some of his land. An out building of almost the same size was also erected. This land is now in what is called “Old Montreal” bordering on de La Commune on the south, rue St Pierre on the east and possibly McGill Street on the west.
Montreal was not safe from Indian attacks even with its protective palisades. Pierre continued to defend his land and his family. Even when he was well into his sixties, he fought bravely defending Charles Le Moyne and other colonists who had been attacked by the Iroquois.
I descend from Pierre’s daughter Roberte Gadois and her husband Louis Prud’homme. Roberte became the owner of a number of pieces of property, after her father’s death. The family continued farming as their profession continued to be recorded as production-aliment or food producers.
Montreal kept growing. When François Dollier de Casson laid out the first streets for Montreal, one, Rue Sainte-Pierre was named in memory of Pierre Gadois. A small monument in Place d’Youville, placed there in 1992 during Montreal’s 350thanniversary also honour’s The First Farmer.
Pierre Gadois (Gadoys) Born 1594 & died Oct 20, 1667 in Montreal age 73.Married Louise Mauger in 1627.She was born in 1598 and she died 18 March 1690 in Montreal at age 92!
Roberte Gadois was born Sept 15, 1628 in France & died Sept 14, 1716, Montreal, the day before her 88th birthday.
Pierre born Nov 17, 1631 died May 18 1714
Francois born Dec 2, 1636 No further information.
Jeanne born Jun 26,1638 died June 26, 1638
Joseph born Sept 28 1639 died Oct 1639
Jean-Baptiste born March 2, 1641 died April 15, 1728
Pierre’s father was Francois Jean Gadois and his mother Barnabe Gadois
He was the brother of Francois, Francoise and half brother of Valentine Gadois.
Dollier de Casson, Francois. Histoire du Montreal 1640-1672. pg 88
Adhemar – Fiche Biographique Centre of Canadian Architecture
From about 1596 onward, Protestants families from various regions of Normandie and a portion of Bretagne, the modern-day Département of Côtes-d’Armor first settled within the Channel Islands. Many of these families had resided along the coast of Normandie (Manche) were fishermen. They continued their trade on the Channel Islands. Around 1789 hundreds of families moved to Gaspesia and the Maritime Provinces, where many continued their seafaring activities in the new world.
Click on the attached PDF for a The Protestant Channel Islanders 50+page research guide. Researchers who have been looking for Protestant families who came to New France will find this guide helpful. It contains :
The Percheron Immigration recruiting of the mid 1600’s was designed specifically to establish a permanent colony in New France. Robert Giffard (1587- 1668) was the first colonizing seigneur and did so at the request of the French King Louis XIII.
There was a specific condition attached. Giffard became Seigneur of Beauport as he was to be granted a large tract of land, including the resources. This area became known as the Seigniory of Beauport located close to Quebec City. It was the beginning of the Seigneurial system of land holding in New France based on the feudal system in France.1. He was persuasive and able to recruit skilled craftsmen to join him in this new adventure.
Marin Boucher, my 9th great-grandfather was one of the skilled stonemasons who was up to the challenge of joining
Giffard. He joined the Percheron immigrants. Although he had already established his family, he, his second wife, Perrine and three of his children chose to embark on this great new adventure.2.
Marin Boucher was born on the 15th of April 1589 in the Parish of Saint Langis, Mortagne-au-Perche. His first marriage took place in 1611. He married Julienne Barry. Together they had seven children. She died in 1627. Several years later he married Perrine Mallet. This marriage also produced seven children.3.
In 1634 Marin was already 45 years old. Nevertheless, he made the decision to join the other recruited Percheron families. They made their way overland to Dieppe with family souvenirs, their tools, and high hopes. The ships were waiting for them. They boarded the ship Captain Pierre de Nesle, Le Petit Saint- Christophe in April. 4. They arrived in Quebec City June 4, 1634
Marin, with other skilled workers built Giffard’s home and 11 houses for the settlers. At that time, he also acquired a piece of land on the St. Charles River. He settled there with his family and worked as a stone mason and cultivated his land.
Eventually he sold that home. In 1641 he had staked out land for both he and his son and son-in-law in Beauport on the St. Lawrence River. In 1650 upon receiving the formal title to that property he settled in Beauport Seigneury on property that was 1150 feet wide along the river and 4 miles in length away from the river. 5
Map of the property of Marin Boucher, and those given to his son Jean-Galeran, and Jean Plante. his son-in-law..
Marin Boucher’s signature6.
In 1663 it was noted that Marin Boucher’s land was in Chateau Richer. Several of Robert Giffard’s disgruntled settlers had relocated after his death. His son, Joseph had revoked their land. They then moved to Chateau Richer. The parish grew and a new stone church was built. Bishop Francois de Laval confirmed 170 parishioners, including Marin and his wife Perrine along with their family members.6.
Marin’s decision to settle in New France proved to be a positive one. He is considered the first pioneer of New France. The 1667 census noted that Marin owned 8 head of cattle and 20 arpents of cultivated land. He and his family prospered. At that point he also owned enough land to provide for each of his children and their families.
At the age of 82, on the 28th of March 1671 Marin Boucher died.
Translation of the Burial record
“In the year of Our Lord Jesus Christ 1671, on the 29th of March died Marin Boucher after having lived as a good Christian and received the Holy sacraments of eucharist, penance and the last rights of extreme unction, was buried in the cemetery of Chateau-Richer by Monsieur Morel accompanied by the Reverend Father Nouvelle and by me doing priestly functions for them on the coast of Beaupre.” 7
(signed) F. Pillion, missionary priest
Marin Boucher is buried in La visitation-de-Notre-Dame Cemetery in Chateau Richer.
There are an estimated 350,000 descendants of Marin Boucher in North America. Are you also one of them?
A policeman’s lot is not a happy one. When constabulary duty’s to be done, to be done, a policeman’s lot is not a happy one, happy one. 
Francis Bulford (Front row, 2nd from the left) With Newquay, Cornwall Division 1929/30
(I can’t help but notice their enormous feet!)
My Grampy, Francis Bulford, was born in Devonport, Devon, England on 28th October 1884.
In 1905, he was a 20-year-old seaman in the Royal Navy when he decided to join the Cornwall Constabulary, and on the 1st November 1906, he was appointed to the force as Police Constable number 106. He retired in 1936 with 29 years of service.
After reading various newspaper clippings about the doings of my Grampy, I thought of the above verses by Gilbert and Sullivan as his duties were usually routine, but sometimes they were unusual, or even frightening.
His first posting was to Porthleven, a small fishing port not far from Helston. His ‘beat’ included the village streets, as well as the surrounding meadows, beaches and cliffs.
During Grampy’s time on the police force, he and his family lived at a three-bedroom rented property in a street known then as “Little Gue” at either number 14 or 15. My cousin Diane tells me her Mum (one of Grampy’s daughters) identified the building some 35 years ago. It was their home as well as the Police Station and the two small windows at street level were then barred.
This was where the cells were. The property is still standing, and the photo shows the modern window frames.
The house in Little Gue Street
Diane also told me about a time early on in his career when he was tied to a rope around his waist and was lowered down the cliffs to bring up a dead body at a place called Hell’s Mouth, on the north cliffs of Cornwall. Even the name sounds frightening.
It was Monday evening, January 1916 and Constable Bulford was doing his ’rounds’ at 10:30 pm when he happened upon a dead body, washed ashore on the rocks at Breageside, Porthleven.
When PC Bulford was interviewed by the local newspaper, The Cornishman, a month later, he described the bodies as follows: 
The first body found was a big body, about 6′ 6″ stoutly built, badly cut upon the rocks with no clothing and decomposed, and headless. PC Bulford sent for a stretcher and the local doctor, Dr Spaight.
The next day, Tuesday, at about 9:30 a.m., a second body was found by PC Bulford on the Sithney side of Porthleven. This body was about 5 feet in height, slightly built, with no identifying marks except cuts from the rocks, decomposed, nude and again headless.
The local doctor examined the bodies, but there was no possibility of identifying them or finding the cause of death.
The newspaper suggested that these were two of the crew of the SS Heidrun, a Norwegian collier ship that had departed from Swansea, Wales with coal for Rouen, France. It was wrecked on December 27th, 1915, four miles off of Mullion, with the loss of all 16 hands.
The crew members whose bodies were found are buried at Church Cove, The Lizard Landewednack, Helston, Cornwall. The church overlooks the English Channel, so it seems this was a fitting resting place for these sailors.
It is a town, civil parish and fishing port near Helston in Cornwall and was originally developed as a harbour of refuge when this part of the Cornish coastline was recognised as a black spot for wrecks in the days of sail.
Porthleven has exploited its location and exposure to powerful swells to become one of the best-known and highly regarded surfing spots in Britain and has been described as “Cornwall’s best reef break”. Waves often exceeding 6.6 feet (2.0 m), break on the shallow reef that was shaped by blasting the harbour. Kayaking is also popular. RNLI lifeguards patrol the beach during the holiday season. The beach is separated from the harbour by a granite pier, which stands in front of the Porthleven institute and clock tower. When the tide is out it is possible to walk east along Porthleven beach for approximately three miles.
Read more about this wonderful part of Cornwall, England here:
Elizabeth Fulcher emigrated to Montreal, Quebec, from England in 1961 at age 23, to fulfill a teaching contract at a private girls’ school. Little did she know that within two years time she would marry my father, a widower 20 years her senior, and become step-mother to his four children aged six to 14.
Does the movie “The Sound of Music” come to mind? Perhaps…but we couldn’t sing and, thankfully, our father didn’t blow a whistle to discipline us!
July 1938 was a busy time at Friston Hall1, the village between Saxmundham and Aldeburgh, north of the river Alde in Suffolk on the East Coast of England. Elizabeth and her twin sister, Diana, were born and their sister Margaret (Maggie) was only 11 months old. They were often mistaken for triplets much to Maggie’s dismay.
Some six years later, during Hitler’s last offensive air attack during WWII, the empty family home was doodlebugged1 in August 1944. Luckily, all three girls were at their cousin’s birthday party.
Their father, Henry Fulcher (1906-1985), moved the family to one of the farm cottages while their mother, Tweedie Mann (1908-1952), retrieved whatever could be salvaged from the bombed main house. During their nine month stay in the farm cottage, they endured outside plumbing and indulged in weekly baths in a tub by the fireplace.
When Elizabeth and her family eventually moved back to the main house, they all slept together in the dining room, as the upstairs remained in shambles and the chickens occupied the lounge.
As the war raged on, families all over Britain managed their food frugally with coupons. The farm labourers “enjoyed” extra rations twice a year but they only lasted a week.
“There was always enough food because we lived on the farm. At one point for breakfast, we each had a third of an egg on toast with a third of a rasher of bacon which was rationed. We would have cereal before this, so we weren’t hungry”.
Elizabeth’s father ran a small dairy farm in Friston as well as his father’s dairy and prize winning barley farm in Aldeburgh. He sold his father’s farm in 1948 to buy another in Iken five miles away across the river Alde. “Poplar Farm” consisted of 13 separate properties – three farmhouses and ten cottages – and 800 acres of land. The local milk truck collected the milk produced by the 60 Friesians1(dairy cows) daily which supplemented the farm’s income from wheat, barley and sugar beet.
Around this time, the three young girls were sent away to St. Felix Boarding School2, some 30 miles away from the farm. Elizabeth, only ten at the time, remembers: “I didn’t like it there, as I was afraid of the teachers. I would cry every time someone spoke to me. I couldn’t remember the poems we needed to recite, and I couldn’t spell well either”.
Two years later, in 1950 when the twins were 12 years old, the birth of their brother Roger surprised the family. And just two years after his birth, while the girls were still away at boarding school, their mother died suddenly from polio.
“Auntie Marion4 looked after Roger and Henry when Tweedie first died in July and stayed with us for the summer. We went back to school in September. We were worried about Roger, he was only three years old. Auntie Ophie came to look after Roger, but she had a bad temper, and our Father wasn’t very involved. No one said Roger had down syndrome, they just said he was slow.”
The whole class came to Poplar Farm for a picnic and a swim at Iken Cliff to celebrate the twins’ graduation from boarding school. One of their school friends, Judith, came as well and it was her mother Eileen who eventually married the twins’ father Henry in 1957.
Eileen stepped into multiple roles as Henry’s wife, farm accounts manager, step-mother (especially to Roger) and encouraged a more social lifestyle. As an example, she hosted a catered party for 120 guests for Elizabeth and Diana’s 21st Birthday.
Elizabeth, being more athletic than academic, excelled at sports. “The only people we knew growing up were farmers or teachers and we didn’t want to stay on the farm so we became teachers”. She pursued a degree in Physical Education at a teacher’s college in Aberdeen, Scotland while her twin attended teacher’s college in London.
After teaching for a couple of years in Aberdeen, Elizabeth wanted something more and accepted a job with the Trafalgar School for Girls in Montreal, emigrating to Canada in 1961.
Good wages. Employment guaranteed. These words echoed over and over again in Mary McHugh’s head. And only some domestic experience required. Mary thought that she had quite enough domestic experience, thank you, as she was the only daughter still at home.
It was 1910 and Mary had turned 20 in February.1 Old enough to be married. No prospects in sight. She had been working at the jute factory since she finished school at 14.2 Like her older brother, Thomas McHugh, she immediately got a job in the jute factory as soon as she could. Mary’s mother, Sarah McLaughlin, was happy that Mary was working as Sarah was a widow and still had three children at home. Her husband, Michael McHugh, had died of tuberculosis when Mary’s brother, Francis, was just three months old.3 It had been a struggle for Sarah to make ends meet. Even though Sarah had managed to get a job as a charwoman,4 it was not easy. Sarah was exhausted when she got home, too, and it was up to Mary to help with the housework and cooking for her younger brothers. Mary’s older brother, Thomas, was already married with six children. He helped when he could but he had his own worries.
Mary thought ruefully about her job. She was a jute spinner at the flax mill.5 The mill was noisy and crowded. Mary worked twelve hours a day and it was back-breaking work. The women worked hard in the mills but made less wages than the men. The machines were dangerous. Accidents happened often.6 And then there was mill fever or brown lung. Most people who worked in the mill had a dry cough and sometimes even a fever.7
Photograph from the BBC8
Mary liked the idea of being a domestic. The hours would be long and she would be on her feet all day but the air would be clean and it would be quiet. But Canada? So far away? All by herself? Could she do it?
These thoughts were the beginning of Mary’s plan to emigrate to Canada. Mary McHugh was my great aunt and she arrived on the S.S. Grampion that sailed from Glasgow and arrived in Quebec City in July 1911.9
In the early 1900s the demand for domestic servants in Canada exceeded the number of young Canadian women willing to do this type of work. Governments, employers, and women’s organizations made a special effort to encourage the immigration of household workers.8 More specifically, British immigrants were considered as desirable immigrants to Canada. As of 1888, steamship agents received a bonus for selling the passage of a female immigrant whose intent was to work as a domestic servant in Canada. This was called the British Bonus and it came into effect by an Order-in-Council on September 27, 1890. Its purpose was to offer an incentive to desirable British immigrants. Often the Canadian employer would pay the fare of the immigrant to the steamship company.10 The emigrating domestic would then have to pay it back out to her employer out of her wages. This meant that the young immigrant woman was already indebted to her employer even before she started working. If she was unhappy with her employment, it made it difficult for her to find a better employment as long as she owed money.11
It is probable that Mary’s fare to Canada was paid by her employer. Beside Mary McHugh’s name on the passenger manifest of the Grampion there is a stamp British Bonus Allowed.
Hopefully Mary enjoyed her employment. She was the first member of the McHugh family to arrive in Montreal in 1911. She was probably delighted when her mother, Sarah, and three brothers, Thomas, Edward and Francis, followed her to Montreal in May 1912. And Thomas’ wife, Elsie Orrock, and their seven children, Ann, Elsie, Sarah, Francis, Mary, Adam, and Thomas arrived in October 1912. Mary married John Mervin Porter in June 1913 and her family would have been there to celebrate with her.
Notes and sources:
This poster from the Canadian Museum of History is from a 1926 pamphlet entitled Housework in Canada: duties, wages, conditions and opportunities for household workers but there would have been similar pamphlets advertising for immigrants that may have given Mary the idea. This pamphlet says that “Canada welcomes men and women of the right type who come to seek their fortune in this broad new land … (people) of good moral character, and in good health, mentally and physically.” You can see this on the Canadian Museum of History web site in the section Advertising in Britain in the 1920s, https://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/advertis/ads7-06e.html
Scotland’s People, Register of Births, Mary Ann McHugh, born February 4, 1890, accessed November 18, 2017.
Scotland’s People, Registers of Death, Michael McHugh, died May 16, 1895, accessed November 27, 2017 and Scotland’s People, Registers of Births, Francis McHugh, born February 21, 1895, accessed November 27, 2017.
Scotland’s People, 1911 Census, Sarah McHugh, 1 Tait Lane, Dundee, Scotland, accessed February 15, 2018.
Scotland’s People, 1911 Census, Mary McHugh, 1 Tait Lane, Dundee, Scotland, accessed February 15, 2018.
Do you have a photo of Phineas? I am writing a family history book, and would love to include his picture, but I’ve never come across one. If you can help, please contact me at email@example.com.
Farmer Phineas Rixon and his wife Barbara had been out doing errands in town. After they returned home, he was getting ready to do chores when he was stricken by a heart attack. The doctor came, but Phineas never regained consciousness. He died two days later, age 78, on Friday, September 9, 1938, on the farm he had operated for almost 40 years.
The local newspaper, The Colborne Express, reported, “the large number floral tributes and friends present [at the funeral] showed the high esteem in which he was held.”1
These few facts about his last days are the most detail I found about my great-great uncle’s long life. Phineas seldom moved far from his birthplace in rural Northumberland County, Ontario, a few miles from the shores of Lake Ontario. However, considering that his first two wives and his daughter predeceased him, and that he married a third time at age 76, his home life must have had its ups and downs.
Phineas (also spelled Phinehas, Phenas, and other variations) was born on May 8, 1859,2 the son of Martha Rixon and probably of her cousin Thomas Rixon.3 His unmarried mother moved to the United States when he was about nine, leaving him and his sister Samantha (my great-grandmother) to be brought up by their grandparents, Thomas and Betsey Rixon, on their farm in Cramahe Township.
It is not clear where Samantha and Phineas lived after their grandparent’s deaths; by then they were teenagers, and they likely stayed with relatives.
In 1878, Phineas joined the militia and was listed as a private in the 40th Regiment Northumberland. He next appeared in the 1880 U.S. Census (as “Fenis Rickson,”) working as a labourer in Michigan. He must have stayed in the United States for at least a year as he was not counted in the 1881 Census of Canada.
At age 24, he married 18-year-old Almeda Warner, daughter of John Warner and Harriet Morden. Phineas’s and Almeda’s daughter, Samantha Almeda Rixon (usually known as Mattie or Medie,) was born in June, 1884. Almeda died of typhoid fever in December, 1897, aged 32, leaving Phineas with a 13-year-old to raise and a farm to run on his own.
Within four years, Phineas had remarried. The 1901 census showed Phineas, 41, married to Mary Leslie, 34. With them were his daughter, Mattie, 16, and Mary’s mother and her two sisters, both in their twenties. He had also moved from Cramahe Township to lot 6, Concession 4, Haldimand Township.4 An advertisement for an estate auction held soon after Phineas’s death said the auction would be held on the John Leslie Homestead, about a mile east of the village of Vernonville, so Phineas and Mary must have lived on what had been her parents’ farm.
Phineas and Mary were married for about 30 years. After she died in January, 1931, he remained single for the next five years. In May, 1936, he remarried. His third wife was a widow, Barbara Jemima (Haynes) Cowey.5
Phineas was buried in Castleton Cemetery, Cramahe, Northumberland County, with his first wife and his daughter. Medie, who was married in 1906 to farmer Claude Tweed and had six children, died in 1915. Barbara, died in 1939, age 73.
Photos: courtesy Gabrielle Blaschuk
1. The Colborne Express, Thursday Sept. 15, 1938, p. 1.
2. Year: 1901; Census Place: Haldimand, Northumberland (West/Ouest), Ontario; Page: 3; Family No: 26. Ancestry.ca, 1901 Census of Canada (database on-line, entry for Phineas Rixon, accessed Aug. 9, 2020,) citing Library and Archives Canada. Census of Canada, 1901. Ottawa, Ontario, 2004, Series RG31-C-1, Statistics Canada Fonds, Microfilm reels: T-6428 to T-6556.
3. This complex story is recounted in the following two posts:
4. Reference Number: RG 31; Folder Number: 74; Census Place: 74, Northumberland, Ontario; Page Number: 7, Ancestry.com. 1921 Census of Canada (database on-line, entry for Phineas Rixon, accessed Aug. 9, 2020,) citing Library and Archives Canada. Sixth Census of Canada, 1921. Library and Archives Canada, 2013, Ottawa, Ontario. Series RG31. Statistics Canada Fonds.
5. Archives of Ontario; Registration of Marriages 1936; Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1826-1938, online database, Ancestry.ca and Genealogical Research Library (http://ancestry.ca, accessed Aug. 4, 2020,) entry for Barbara Cowey, citing Ontario, Canada, Select Marriages, Archives of Ontario, Toronto.
A singular memory of my childhood is the summer I spent with my Angus grandparents in Quebec City. I was nine years old.
My family had moved to La Tuque several months before my sister’s birth. The move, a difficult pregnancy, and a three-day labour left my mother exhausted. Caring for a new- born and two school age children set free for the summer was overwhelming. In an effort to help out, my grandmother invited me to come to Quebec.
My grandparents lived in a third-floor walk-up apartment on St. Cyrille Blvd. (now Rene Levesque) at the corner of Maple Ave. During the Depression, they moved from an elegant home on Fraser Avenue while my grandfather fought to save his book store. The store eventually failed but my grandparents remained in the apartment until my grandfather’s death.
A large porch extended the full length of the apartment overlooking the street below. The sun shone down on it all morning so Grandpa planted petunias in boxes that grew into a beautiful profusion of pinks, lavenders and burgundies. My job that summer was to water and deadhead, a responsibility I took very seriously. “A new blossom will not grow until the dead one is removed”, Grandpa explained. “We want lots and lots of blooms.”
The various rooms of the apartment were strung out along a narrow hallway stretching from the front door to the back bedroom: an elegant parlour with life size china dogs standing sentinel on either side of an artificial fireplace; a very large dining room with several china cabinets and a table for twelve; and a sitting room with three walls lined with books salvaged from the store that were the core of my grandmother’s lending library. There was a bathroom and two bedrooms, the largest of which looked out on the city stables. How I loved to watch the caliche horses going and coming each morning and evening. I imagined them to be my very own and gave each one a name.
Then there was the kitchen tucked into the middle of the flat. It was a very tiny room, only big enough for a stove, a fridge, an ironing board that dropped from the wall, and the food prep table where my grandmother sat to work her daily cross word puzzle. The sink was folded into a back corner beneath a set of cupboards. The dark, cramped room had but one window in the door leading to the back porch and another in the walk-in pantry. How different from my Willett grandparents’ large, sunny farm kitchen in the Gaspe that housed not one but two stoves and a pair of day beds.
Yet it was in this tiny kitchen that my grandmother cooked daily meals for two (three that summer) as well as large family meals for various holiday occasions: Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. She carried dishes of food through the swinging door into the dining room in what I now recognise as priceless Spode and Limoges bowls and platters. Nothing was served onto plates in the kitchen and brought to the table. Glasses and desert dishes were cut crystal. I even ate my morning boiled egg from a silver cup. Such a little princess.
Lazy summer afternoons were spent in the park. A friend and I would meet there, walking by ourselves from our homes, carrying our dolls and their accessories along with several umbrellas. The umbrellas served to demarcate the various rooms of our “doll house”. Who today would allow two young girls to spend an afternoon alone in a park? The caliche drivers came to know us and would wave, pointing us out to their tourist passengers as a quaint part of the old city.
I walked a lot that summer – my grandparents didn’t own a car. I walked with my grandmother to buy groceries on Cartier Avenue or dolls’ clothes at Woolworths on St. John’s Street. I walked with grandpa to Earl Grey Terrace to watch ships sailing the St. Lawrence to and from exotic ports. On Sundays I walked to church with both of them. The Sundays that babies were baptised were the best. As a church elder, Grampa would walk the family to the font and stand, straight and proud, while the minister performed the ceremony.
Evenings were spent reading, doing puzzles, or completing paint-by-number kits. My grandparents didn’t have a television – televisions were still too new and expensive. Sometimes on our walks Grampa and I would stop and watch the news on a TV in a store window. I don’t think Grampa would ever stoop to that if he were alone. I was the excuse for him to take a peek.
I learned to cook that summer in the tiny kitchen. My grandmother must have had the patience of Job. How much faster and easier it would have been to do it herself. Apple Brown Betty became my speciality. Eventually I could peel and slice the apples myself, measure and mix the flour, oats and brown sugar, and work in the butter with my fingers. The final touch was the nutmeg grated by hand over the top before the desert went into the oven. So delicious served with a slice of ice cream! Remember, Ice cream was purchased in a brick-shape wrapped in cardboard.
The days passed slowly with a pleasant and predictable sameness. I was loved and indulged. Before I knew it, it was time for me to return home.
I would be sixteen when next I lived with my grandparents for my final year of high school. Although I loved being back with them, life was never again as simple as the summer when I was nine.
What made my ancestor think of using a black cross to mark homes of temperance?
Edouard Quertier (Cartier) launched Quebec’s first official temperance society in 1842 by placing a giant black cross on the top of the escarpment in Saint-Denis-de-Kamouraska. So began an organization that would encompass 400,000 of 900,000 Canadian Catholics eight years later.(1)
The symbol created a tradition that continues in Quebec to this day. If you ever go into a home with a bare black cross hanging in the middle of the living room wall, you’ll know you’re in the house of people who do not drink alcohol.
But what gave him the idea?
1842 Arrival in St Denis
Quertier certainly wasn’t feeling inspired when he first arrived in the tiny hamlet or between 10 and 15 families at the edge of a cliff on the Saint Lawrence’s south shore.
How did I accept this arid rock?,” he wrote. “When I arrived [in October], there was not even a piece of board on which to place a bed or a table. I had to go down the slope and rent a small house, or rather a cabin. No matter! I waited there, until my lodging was acceptable.”(2)
Still, Quertier was no youngster when he arrived in Saint-Denis-de-Kamouraska. At 43 years old, he had had four previous jobs before his priesthood and 12 years of experience serving communities.
Both of his previous roles as parish priest were stressful.
As curate and then parish priest of Saint-Antoine in Montmagmy, he argued frequently with his patron, Father Charles Francois Painchaud.
His bishop got him out of that situation by appointing him parish priest of Sainte-Georges of Cacouna. There, a new church and presbytery were required, but building them was difficult due to arguments between residents who wanted religious leadership and those who believed in the strong separation of Church and State. Despite the conflict, Quertier was able to build a new church and presbytery within the village. He oversaw the presbytery stonemasons and carpenters and got the church walls well underway before resigning the post. His departure halted the building of the church for a time, but it resumed in 1845 and opened for worship in 1848. The belfry didn’t get added until 1892 and full consecration delayed until 1897, but that’s another story.(3)
The experience simply makes clear that Quertier knew he had to do something important quickly to make an impact on his new neighbourhood.
He decided to promote temperance as a movement.
Temperance in Quebec
The issue already had some momentum in Quebec. Popular people like Bishop Charles-August-Marie-Joseph de Forbin-Janson and Charels-Paschal-Télesphore Chiniquy had been telling stories about the evils of alcoholism in weekly masses since 1839. Community residents saw that frequent imbibing often led to fighting, lethargy, poverty, spousal abuse, theft and neighbourhood violence.
Unlike his predecessors, however, Quertier decided to formalize the movement with an official association he called “The Society of the Black Cross.” He created statutes, oaths for members and procedures for joining the society, including the requirement that each member display a plain black cross on the wall of the family living room.
For the next 15 years, Quertier’s campaign for temperance spread. So many French Canadian families displayed the black cross, it became a decor tradition. The Quebecois de Souche society includes a photo that shows the once prevalent look.(4)
Growth and Departure as Leader
In the meantime, Quertier continued building his parish. The wooden chapel that originally opened on December 24, 1841 got replaced by a stone gothic church in 1850.
Seven years after that, Quertier retired. By then, the Society of the Black Cross included believers in almost every parish in Quebec and Quertier’s own parish had grown to encompass 100 families containing “625 souls.”(5)
Temperance continued to be a key issue, not only in Quebec but across Canada. In Quebec, however, the secularism movement also had great strength in many communities. To avoid angering these groups, the Province of Canada passed the Canada Temperance Act that allowed any county or city to hold referendums to consider whether or not to forbid the sale of liquor. This would ensure that communities who wanted to stay dry could do so without forcing prohibition on the entire country.
Life after Death
Quertier spent the rest of his life in Saint-Denis-de-Kamouraska, which became Saint-Denis-de-la Bouteillerie in 2013. After his death in 1879 at 73 years old, the church entombed his body under the crypt of the church. A tombstone says in French:
Here lies lord Edouard Quertier, first parish priest of St. Denis, one of the first apostles of temperance. Died July 17, 1873, aged 73 years, 10 months, 12 days. For 15 years, he lived for you. Pray for him.”(6)
Quertier’s remains continued to draw enough visitors that the church got entirely rebuilt after a fire damaged it on March 9, 1886. Initially, they built a belfry to hold a 2027-pound bell that cost $425,000 the following spring, and new walls on those of the former church by October. Later, they’d add two more bells to the tower.
Quertiers’ campaign for temperance didn’t end when he died. Members of his Black Cross Society were among 20% of Quebec’s population that supported a federal referendum on prohibition in 1898.
The movement grew substantially during World War I.
Temperance, not Prohibition
The Quebec Government declared prohibition in 1919. Then it made several exceptions by legalizing the sale of light beer, cider, and wine in hotels, taverns, cafes, clubs and corner stores.
The prohibition law got repealed entirely to enable liquor sales through a government-run commission in 1921.
In many ways, by choosing control over strict adherence to abstinence, the government duplicated the practicality Quertier included within the original functioning of the Society of the Black Cross.
Any household that became a member of the temperance organization could get a special dispensation to serve alcohol during celebrations, such as baptisms, birthdays and weddings. If the parish priest agreed that a special occasion merited an exception, he would temporarily replace the plain black cross in a home with a white one. The white cross hung on the wall during the celebration. After the celebration ended, the priest would visit to exchange the white cross with a black one and return the home to a liquor-free location.(7)
This kind of flexibility enabled temperance to continue growing within Catholic communities in Quebec even after 1921. Some of its proponents resurrected Quertier in the form of a statue in front of his former church in 1925. The statue remains in place today.