Up the Saint Maurice River

Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
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Trip End Mar 15, 2007


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Flag of Canada  , Quebec,
Sunday, May 28, 2006

I went with Susan to the two parishes she is responsible for in Trois Rivieres and La Tuque. About an hour and a half to Trois Rivieres and about 2 and a half hours beyond that to La Tuque.

Trois Rivieres is a city of about 46,000 people and was second to be founded in New France, in 1634 by the Sieur de Laviolette, (after Quebec City, before Montreal) and played an important role in the colony. On June 8, 1776, it was the theatre of the Battle of Trois-Rivières (part of the Invasion of the province of Quebec by Americans, who came from the Boston area) during the American Revolutionary War. It has now relinquished some of its importance to the two major cities of Quebec, the metropolis of Montreal and capital of Quebec City but remains one of the principal medium-sized cities of Quebec, along with Saguenay, Sherbrooke and Gatineau. It is a port and an industrial center. The city took its name from the three channels through which the St. Maurice enters the St. Lawrence. It became a major French trading post and fortified port and was the starting point of many explorers and missionaries. In 1737 the first iron forges in Quebec were built in Trois Rivières. During the 19th century lumbering was the major industry, but with the utilization of water power after 1900 the pulp and paper industry became dominant. Textiles, foodstuffs, and electrical appliances are also manufactured.

Saint James Anglican Church is in Old Trois Rivières. It was originally a chapel erected by French Récollet monks in 1703. The chapel served as court and prison after Britain's occupation of the city in 1760. Anglicans acquired the church in 1823; it continues to serve a small but active English-speaking congregation. Across the street stands the Ursuline Convent, first built in the late 1600s. It was used as a hospital for American revolutionary soldiers under General Montgomery during his invasion of Canada in 1775-76. Dating to 1808, the old Anglican cemetery on the corner of St-Francois-Xavier and de Tonnancour streets is the city's oldest Protestant burial ground. The Old Prison (1808-1811), a prominent relic of the British regime, is a visitor attraction operated by the Musée québécois de culture populaire on the corner of Laviolette and Hart streets.

The earliest part of the church is about mid 1700's and I took a picture of the ceiling there. Also, there are a couple of chairs there who knows how old they are. While we were there, the congregation brought to Susan's attention a hole in the ground about 5 inches 'round and at least 3 feet down. It has apparently come to light recently. This could have been a falling in of an old drain, a grave or something else. From an old picture it looked as though the old street ran by it so it could have been a drain. In any event, it will be necessary to contact a historian or archivist about it and definitely do something about filling it in.

The Saint Maurice River covers a huge area. From its sources in the mountains of south-central Quebec, the river drains a 500-square-mile (1,300-square-kilometre) body of water southeastward into the St. Lawrence. It descends 1,300 feet (400 m) over its course of 350 miles (563 km). Its main stream is joined by many tributaries and is interrupted by falls at La Tuque, Grand-Mère, and Shawinigan. Discovered by the French navigator Jacques Cartier in 1535 and named after Maurice Poulin, who was granted a seigniory north of its mouth in 1668, the river first served as a fur-trading route. It eventually became a major logging river, serving large pulp and paper factories at La Tuque, Grand-Mère, Shawinigan, and Trois-Rivières, the main riparian centres. Since 1900 the Saint-Maurice has also become a major source of hydroelectric power; eight power plants, together generating more than 1,500,000 kilowatts, have attracted many new industries to the river's valley, including factories that manufacture aluminum, plastics, and chemicals.

We carried on up the Saint Maurice River and its amazing black rapids and smooth calms, through Shawinigan and Grande Mere to La Tuque. This is a community in north eastern Quebec of about 13,300. The stark beauty of the Laurentians and the hardy souls who inhabit this paper-mill town inspired Quebec troubadour Félix Leclerc to pen his famous coming-of-age novel, Pieds nus dans l'aube. The name, which dates to the eighteenth century, originates from a nearby rock formation which resembles the well-known French-Canadian hat known as the tuque.

In 1823-24, the explorer François Verreault described the location as "un Portage nommé Ushabatshuan (le courant trop fort pour le sauter). Les Voyageurs le nomment la Tuque, à cause d'une Montagne haute, dont le pic resemble à une Tuque. Ce portage est d'une lieue, avec des fortes côtes à monter." (a portage named Ushabatshuan (the rapids too strong to shoot). The voyageurs call it La Tuque, due to a tall mountain whose peak resembles a tuque. The portage is a league long, and climbs steep slopes.)

The local economy centres on pulp and paper; the city has a pulp-milling centre as well as a major hydroelectric station. The local scenery offers tourism opportunities as well; the city is known as the Queen of Haute-Mauricie. Begun as a colony of lumberjacks and trappers, the settlement of La Tuque swelled in 1908 after the Brown Corporation built a mill and hydro-power dam. A number of English-speaking managers and their families formed the nucleus of La Tuque's tiny English-speaking colony. A number of homes and buildings along Beckler Street and rue St. Maurice (formerly, rue des Anglais) recall this Anglophone heritage: St. Andrew's Anglican Church (1911), La Tuque High School and the Brown Community Club (1916), a company-built recreation centre declared an historic monument in 1988.

Apparently a year or so ago, there was a fire in the church hall which almost destroyed the church. In fact, the walls of the church are now held together by iron bolts and one of the walls of the church has a distinct bearing outwards.
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