Genealogy, Montreal, Quebec

The Decaries and the Prud’hommes

I have driven along Cote St Antoine thousands of times, through Westmount and NDG, without realizing my ancestors in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries also used the same route.

When researching one’s ancestors it is nice to find out where they lived, which city, town or area. In my case, the Decaries and the Prud’hommes can be located by the streets that bear their names. They farmed land in what is now the Notre Dames de Grace (NDG) section of Montreal. The Decaries have a boulevard and an expressway named after them. Prudhomme Ave is only four blocks long just west of Decarie and the street jigs and jags.

Jean Decarie dit Le Houx and Louis Prud’homme, two of my seven times great grandfathers, were some of the early settlers in Nouvelle France. They first obtained land in Ville-Marie as their names are on plots of a 1663 map.

Jean Decarie arrived from France before 1650. He was a stone mason and started quarries. He married Michelle Artus in 1654, after meeting her in Quebec City while there buying supplies. She had just arrived from France. By 1729 they are said to have had 82 descendants.

Louis Prud’homme was a brewer and a captain in the Montreal militia. He was another early inhabitant of Montreal as he married Roberte Gadois there in 1650. He was elected as one of the first wardens by the Sulpicians for the parish of Notre Dame.

The Decaries and Prud’hommes were two of 13 families granted land by the Sulpicians along Cote Saint-Antoine. Jean Decarie bought the first strip of land, concession 615 in 1675. These early roads allowed settlers to move away from the original walled city. The land grants were from the St Pierre River north to the mountain. The men began working the land while still living in Ville-Marie. They all had trades which allowed them to survive while they cleared the land, built houses and began farming. They were neighbours, friends and many intermarriages made them families.

For a time, the area was known as the “Haute Folie,” as those who lived there were fools to have left the safety of the walled city but these families continued to live in the same area for more than two centuries.

The land was on the south side on Mount Royal’s western summit (Westmount Mountain). It was good land for farming with many streams and wonderful views down to the St Lawrence River. They built their houses close to the roads and out of the wind,  not for the views.

The Decaries and the Prud’hommes became successful farmers whose land was passed from father to son and sometimes even to a daughter. In the 1731 survey, their farms were well developed and affluent with a house, barn and stable on all their properties. The Decaries were known for their melons. Musk or Mush melons, also known as Montreal melons, thrived in the perfect conditions of the area. There were also orchards covering much of the properties. Apple trees were common but also cherry, peach, plum and other tender fruit trees survived in the microclimate of the south facing ravines.

Intermarriages continued. My two-time great grandmother Sophie Marie Prud’homme (1812-1892) who married Barnabé Bruneau was the daughter of Jeramie Prud’homme (1766-1846) and Marie Louise Decarie (1769 -1855)

As the city grew, many of the farms were sub-divided and single family homes were built. Not all the owners were happy to sell their land. Although the Prud’hommes had earlier sold land to the church to build Église de Notre Dame de Toutes Grâces. Leon Prud’homme tried to fight expropriation of some of his lands by the Atlantic Railway. It was said to be “the most beautiful orchards in the country,” but the rail line was built. The first Decarie house was sold and demolished in 1912 by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company to build a roundhouse.

After more than 200 years the farms were gone.

My great uncle, Sydney Bruneau, used to walk with his children around eastern NDG and tell them that they were walking on their ancestors land, and they were!

 

For a story about Sophie Marie Prud’homme and her husband Barnabe Bruneau https://wordpress.com/post/genealogyensemble.com/1040

 

References:

The Settlement and Rural Domestic Architecture of Cote Saint-Antoine, 1675-1874. Masters thesis by Janet S. MacKinnon 2004. Faculty of Urban Planning, University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/80345357.pdf/

https://www.nosorigines.qc.ca/genealogie.aspx?lng=fr accessed Nov 9 2018.

Dictionary of Canadian Biography accessed Nov 9, 2018. http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/prud_homme_louis_1E.html

La Patrie, 6 October 1888, page 6.

Notes:

The 13 original settlers were Jean Decarie, Louis Prudhomme, Marin Hurtubise, Jean Leduc, Rene Bouchard dit Lavallee, Joseph Chevaudier dit Lepine, Jean Cousineau, Honore Dasny, Jean Deroches, Simon Guillory, Louis Langevin dit Lacroix, Pierre Verrier dit LaSolaye and Antoine Boudria.

Two Decarie houses remain today, one at 39 Cote St Antoine and the other the “Pink” house at 5138 Cote Sainte-Antoine. The Prud’homme’s house at 967 Girouard near Rue St Jacques is also still standing. It was the first farm along Upper Lachine Road. The other house we can see today is the Hurtubise house at 563 Cote St Antoine. Marie Hurtubise married Paul Decarie in 1686.

Another Prud’homme house stood until around 1900 though then it was known as the Saint-Germain house, originally ceded to Francois Prud’homme in 1708. In 1892 the property was subdivided into 68 lots on each side of Lansdowne Ave above Cote Saint-Antoine. There was another Decarie property that stood until 1912. It was on the property first purchased by Jean Decarie dit Lehoux in 1675 but likely built by his grandson Joseph.

My grandfather, William H Sutherland was looking for a solid stone house before he bought 28 Arlington Avenue in 1922. According to his daughter, “his first choice at that time was a detached stone house on Cote St. Antoine Road but it wasn’t available; it has since become a historical monument.” Was that the Hurtubise house?

I wondered what Janet MacKinnon was doing now after this very detailed thesis and found she had unfortunately died Feb 4, 2011, in Montreal, at 54 years of age. Thank you Janet for your informative thesis.