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.

Genealogy, Military, Quebec, Scotland, Writing

Heatwaves and Victory Gardens

 

socialnotespotato

On Sunday, October 1, 2017, some members of Genealogy Ensemble will be participating in the Culture Days event at the Verdun Farmer’s Market, in promotion of Beads in a Necklace, our  book of family stories to be published in November.   My talk will focus on WWI Victory Gardens and the rising cost of living during that period.

The newspaper clipping, above, is from the social notes column of the Richmond-Times Guardian, (Richmond, Quebec) circa 1905. The very silly item about a big potato is probably my husband’s great-grandfather’s way of poking fun at small town pretensions.  Or is it?

The Nicholson family’s vast vegetable garden behind their charming red-brick house in the Eastern Townships of Quebec was no joke to them, not even in an era when pre-prepared foods like Heinz Beans, Jello, and Quaker Oats, were fast becoming house-hold names.*(1)

In 1911, with their four children were grown up, the large backyard garden that produced corn, beets, sweet peas, etc., was critical to the diet of this frugal Scottish Canadian family.

The potato patch was a particular concern:

“I put the Paris Green on the potatoes twice. Mrs. Montgomery came over to tell me that the bugs were eating up my potatoes. I was waiting to get someone to do it for me, as that was one thing I never attempted.

“But when she interfered thought we would try it. So one dark night, Flora (daughter) got the lantern and we went out when the bugs were asleep and gave them their dose. We dressed ourselves in the shed. You ought to have seen us. When we got through left our clothes there. Went to bed and dreamed all night that the bugs were crawling over us.”

So writes Margaret Mcleod Nicholson, in a July, 9, 1911 to husband Norman, who was away in Northern Ontario working as a railway inspector.

You have to admire Margaret’s style. Although her letters were often penned in haste and full of household concerns, ‘the local news’  as in gossip, and much high anxiety over finances, she certainly could paint a word picture when she wanted to.*(2)

In the spring of 1911, it was 57 year old Margaret’s job to care for the garden because her two older girls, Edith and Marion, were away teaching in Montreal, and her youngest, Flora, was very busy studying for final exams. Margaret and Flora were living alone for most of the year.

Although her daughters returned to Richmond for the summer, they came and went as they pleased, often in motorcars owned by wealthier neighbours. *(3)

Norman, in his letters home,  warned his wife not to work too hard out in the backyard, especially in hot weather, and the summer  of 1911, as it happens, was very, very hot.*(4)

tighsnapcorn

An ‘old-fashioned’ carriage in front of Tighsolas, the Nicholson home, circa 1910. A hire. The Nicholsons couldn’t afford to keep a carriage, let alone buy an automobile, like so many of their neighbours.

The same  letter continues:

“We have had dreadful hot weather. Just fancy, one night we slept out on the veranda. Took our mattresses down. The Skinners (other neighbours) were sleeping in theirs so that we were not afraid and we had Flossie (the dalmatian) with us but yesterday afternoon it rained so last night was cool.

We all had a good sleep and today is fine. We feel like working. I hope you did not have this extreme heat. We had quite a cold wave about the 24th but no frost.”

This sounds like typical Quebec  weather, doesn’t it?  So up and down.  It’s not easy cultivating a garden in this province. It takes perseverance.

Six years later, in the spring of 1917, most everyone in the west end of the city of Montreal was out on the street digging their wartime Victory Gardens.*(5)

Marion Nicholson, now a mother and homemaker living on York Street in lower Westmount, describes the scene in a letter home to Mom:

“Every vacant lot around the city has been utilized for gardens and I think it is more common to see people out digging and planting in these gardens than in a small town like Richmond. Some I think are making their first attempt.”

Her small family is no exception.  “Hugh (husband) and Willie (cousin) are making a garden. What success they will have I do not know. One thing for sure, the beds are straight (her underline) and square. I myself would prefer more in them.”

Marion (who is six months pregnant) then describes how she has hardly slept all week while tending her very sick toddler. She begs her mom to send as many crates of eggs as she can on the next train.

It certainly was an era of high-anxiety about food, nutrition  – and so many other things.

butterbill1917

Margaret’s 1917 butter bill. Inflation. The price of butter goes up from 30 to 40 cents from September to October.* (6)

Still, Marion closes her letter to her Mom by praising her comfort food:  “So, now to get a taste of your home-made bread. When I eat it, I close my eyes and I feel as if I were home. Thank you for all the good things you sent.”

orchard[1]

Edith, young Margaret, and Marion, far right, in summer of 1918 in an orchard in Richmond, possibly behind the Nicholson home as they had apple trees. (The newborn is in other pics.) This was the year of the Spanish Flu. It was safer in the countryside. Marion stayed an entire month in Richmond, until her husband, Hugh, begged her to come home in a letter. “The ice in the icebox has melted all over the floor, there’s no food in the house, the windows are kept open and it’s hot as Hades in here. Please come home and take care of me!” He was in the care of his sisters-in-law, who had better things to do in wartime Montreal  than to baby their brother-in-law. Edith, a Sun Life employee, volunteered in Soldiers’ Aid for the YMCA and for the Navy League.

  • 1. Most of the famous food brands of the 20th century got their start in 1900-1910 by advertising in magazines like the Ladies’ Home Journal with happy-family lifestyle ads with bigger graphics and fewer printed promises. “Pure” was the adjective of the day.

It was understood, even back then, that the home was evolving from a center of production to a center of consumption. Margaret, born in 1853, made everything from scratch, on a woodstove, with recipes she kept firmly locked in her head; Marion Nicholson, born 1886, would cook on a gas stove relying on her Fanny Farmer Cookbook; her daughter, also Marion, born 1917,  living in middle class comfort in 1950’s suburbia, would feed her brood nothing but canned vegetables, even canned potatoes, which she warmed on an electric stove.

  • 2. Norman was tickled by an anecdote from a November, 1909 letter, where Margaret vividly describes a back-and-forth argument she has had with a male relation over woman suffrage. The relation invokes St. Paul as was the custom. She replies “St. Paul has been dead for a long time. I don’t live in those days, milking cows and making fires.” Norman, who is active in local politics, replies in support of his wife: “Too absurd to think that a woman cannot exercise her franchise with as much intelligence as some of the male sex. And when you have to drag some of these supposedly intelligent men to the polls as you would cattle.”
  • 3. Margaret disliked motor cars. From 1909. “Mr. Montgomery is selling his horse and buying a car. Don’t you think he is foolish?” But, she was happy to go on drives when invited.
  • 5.  http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/victory-gardens. Apparently, Victory Gardens weren’t only a way to add to the food supply; they were about improving morale on the home-front by making people feel useful.

 

  • 6. A Chicago Agency sent a very fancy direct mail advertisement out to Richmond homemakers in 1916 on behalf of a new product called Crisco Shortening asking, “Do you like the taste of fresh buns in the morning? Try Crisco.” A coupon was attached.