Canadian Regions: A Geography of Canada

By Donald F. Putnam | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Human Geography of Quebec The Spread of Settlement

1. The French Period

THE French explorers of the 16th century, amongst whom Jacques Cartier is the best known for his written account, established no permanent settlements. The real founder of New France was Samuel de Champlain, sent out by De Monts in 1608, who laid the foundation of the first permanent establishment at Quebec, "where the water narrows". Besides the extensive explorations that led him from the Atlantic coast ( Acadia to New York) inland to Lake Huron, Champlain's main objective was to bring settlers from France and to induce them to cultivate the land. It was not an easy task. Nine years passed before he could bring out the first "colon canadien", Louis Hébert. He granted him a piece of land, near his "Abitation" (a fortified house), built on the present site of Quebec upper city. The crop of the ensuing year ( 1618) was admired by Champlain, who wrote that those "labourages" (tillage) yielded wheat and vegetable as nice as those of France. Other fields were opened at the foot of Cape Diamond, and another settler, Abraham Martin, gave his first name to the battle field (The Plains of Abraham) where the armies of Montcalm and Wolfe met in 1759.

The fur trade was more attractive than pioneer farming and moreover the Rouen Company (successor to De Mont's) did not fulfill its obligations to send colonists to Quebec. "They (the company officials) fear" wrote Champlain, "that, if the country were colonized, they would get furs only through the settlers and would finally be driven out of New France". At the founder's suggestion, Richelieu set up a new venture in 1627 known as "la Compagnie des Cent Associés". In that year seven ships and 200 emigrants were sent out but, war having broken out, the fleet was captured by the English before it reached Quebec. Quebec, itself, was taken by Kirke and was restored to French hands four years later.

Champlain returned with a few more colonists in 1632 and resumed the task with those that remained. When he died at Quebec on Christmas Day 1635, there were 85 adults living in the colony, 23 settlers, 20 fur trappers, 14 company clerks, 11 interpreters, 10 priests and 7 traders. It was a poor result for a quarter century of effort. However, foundations had been laid for Quebec and Beauport had permanent residents and Three Rivers, founded by La Violette in 1634, was an outpost upstream. Near Quebec the Jesuit Fathers and the Ursuline and Hospitaller nuns had received large grants of land. Robert Giffard's seigniory extended from Beauport, founded in 1634, to the Montmorency River. The Seigniory of Beaupré, granted to Cheffaut de la Regnardière, extended from Giffard's property to Baie St. Paul. Six

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