La Petite Nation Seignory in Western Quebec, Canada
Including Montebello and The Weskarini Algonquin First Nation
History and Genealogy
August 25, 2013:
The Petite Nation Seigneury was founded during the French Regime in 1674 but white settlement did not begin
until the early 1800's. Before this time, the territory was used exclusively by the Algonquin Nation and during the
fur trade, French voyageurs and natives used the rivers as transportation corridors.
The Algonquin band along the Petite Nation River was called the Weskarini. When Samuel de Champlain made his first
voyage up the Ottawa River in 1613, the chief of the Weskarini was named Iroquet. (Source: Peter Hessel, The Algonkin Nation).
In 1624, the Recollet missionary, Gabriel Sagard, visited the Weskarini on his way downriver from Huronia. Here are his comments
about the Weskarini First Nation:
September 21, 2013:
Source for text below is Sagard's Long Journey to the Country of the Hurons, page 263.
An archaeological site exists at where the Petite Nation River joins the Ottawa River near the village of Plaisance, Quebec.
The family of Louis Joseph Papineau acquired the entire Petite Nation Seigneury in 1801 and constructed their manor at Montebello in 1849.
European settlement began immediately and the western timber rights were rented to Thomas Mears from Hawkesbury.
Louis Joseph Papineau was exiled to France for eight years for his role in the Lower Canada Rebellion of 1837.
In later years, heavy emigration from Petite Nation sent hundreds of French families across the Ottawa River to
settle in Ontario Townships along the north shore of the Ottawa River. See for example Plantagenet Townships.
Several French speaking families from Petite Nation came to Bytown in the late 1820's to work at construction of the
Rideau Canal and also in the lumbering industry and later to farm there.
My Irish Burns family are related to the Potvins who lived at Dow's Lake in the 1830's.
Both of these families became neighbours in Osgoode Township in the 1840's.
Many of these families, mostly French, are recorded in the registers of Notre Dame Cathedral in downtown
Ottawa. Here is an example:
1 July 1846
After two publications of banns, marriage of Edouard Brule of Bytown, adult son of Alexis Brule and Genevieve Thomas
of the Petite Nation, to Zepherine Brunet, minor daughter of Janvier Brunet and Narcisse Pilon of Bytown.
Witnesses: Thomas Brule, brother of the groom, & Janvier Brunet, father of the bride
Source: Drouin records at www.ancestry.ca.
August 26, 2013:
There is much confusion regarding the names and territories occupied by the Algonquin and Iroquois nations at different times
in the history of Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec. Sometimes there are Iroquois in the area of the St. Lawrence River downriver
from Montreal (at the time of Jacques Cartier). Then they disappear completely and re-appear in the Georgian Bay area of Ontario,
but they are called Hurons by then (in Champlain's time). Their main base later becomes Upper New York State, USA, in the Finger Lakes
area south of Lake Ontario.
The earliest references appear in the Jesuit Relations in the 1600's. Some of these entries are unclear and have been refuted by later
contemporary explorers as well as by twentieth century scholars.
What we do know is that we think that the Weskarini, Algonquins, of the Petite Nation (the Montebello area) were there in
the earliest days.
But here's the question: What relationship (if any) did they have with the aboriginal people who lived along the south side of the Ottawa River,
in, for example, Plantagenet and Alfred Townships. Were these folks Algonquins or were they Iroquois who had spread north along the Scotch River and
the Nation River. (See Indian Lands on our page at Glengarry Township . There is an archaeological dig near the village
of Pendleton . This site is called the Lamoureux Site (BiFs-2).
Are these remains Algonquin or Iroquois? This is prime farmland, perfect for the Iroquois agricultural way of life. As you can see
in the photograph above, the Petite Nation Seignory was more suited to a hunting and fishing society of the Algonquins.
I'll have more questions on this subject over the next while. All of the tributaries of the Ottawa River supported aboriginal bands.
For example, west of the city of Ottawa, the Matouescarini inhabited the lands along the Madawaska River
in Upper Canada at Arnprior.
1. The Roman Catholic Church called "Notre Dame de Bon Secours" is located at Petite Nation. Very early Catholic records exist
for this church which was originally a mission church out of Montreal. This church sent missionaries to places as far west as
Fort Coulonge before the arrival of Philomen Wright at Hull in 1800.
2. Lac Simon (probably named for the Algonquin family named Simon (married into the Algonquin family named Bernard).
The Lievre River drains into the Ottawa River at Buckingham, Quebec.
3. Why did the Hurons (supposedly Iroquois) join with Samuel de Champlain and the Algonquins to fight the Iroquois in up-state New York?
4. The following picture is of Lawrence Burns, my grandfather's brother. Where was he trapping in the 1920's to acquire the two fox pelts?
The Burns had a long history of going to the lumber shanties on the Lievre River.
History of the Outaouais, by Chad Gaffield, Institut quebecois de recherche sur la culture,
Published by Institut quebecois de recherche sur la culture, 1997, ISBN 9782892242713. This is a terrific book!
"Of Poverty and Helplessness in Petite Nation", in Canadian Historical Review 52, 1971.
The Algonkin Tribe: The Algonkins of the Ottawa Valley, An Historical Outline, by Peter Hessel, Kichesippi Books, Arnprior,
"Aux Origines de l'industrie forestière en Outaouais: l'exemple des travailleurs embauchés par Robert Fletcher en 1809 pour travailler
dans la Petite-Nation", article in Construire une capitale - OTTAWA - Making a Capital, edited by Jeff Keshen and Nicole St-Onge,
University of Ottawa Press, 2001, (article written by Isabelle Charron and Nicole St-Onge), pages 39-58.
Robert Fletcher was one of the very early lumberers in the Ottawa Valley. He came from Vermont, USA, and aquired timber rights to the
western part of La Petite Nation. By 1809 he was hiring men to work in the bush and on the rafts.
The Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society Library contains the early church records from Notre Dame de Bons Secours but
some of their records are also recorded at Notre Dame Cathedral in Ottawa. See the publication "Mariages de L'Outouais (Vol. I and Vol. II),
Montebello(1815); St-Andre-Avellin(1851); Papineauville(1853); Angers(1864); Thurso(1864); Perkins(1883); Masson(1887);
St-Sixte(1891); Val-des-Bois(1891). See the OBOGS Library Catalogue.
July 14, 2014:
In 1961 David Bairstow produced a beautiful film called "Morning on the Lievre".
There is some spectacular photography by Grant Crabtree and Archibald Lampman's poem is narrated by George Whalley. The musical
accompaniment is by Eldon Rathburn. This film gives a vivid portrayal of the Pre-Cambrian Shield near the City of Ottawa.
May 11, 2015:
This summer I'll be trying to learn about (and documenting) the migration from the townships and seigneuries
along the north shore of the Ottawa River between Montreal in the east and Pontiac County in the West.
In particular, I'll be trying to describe the origin in Lower Canada of many of the French Canadian workers
who came to build the Rideau Canalbetween 1826 and 1832, many of whom remained in Bytown or the Outaouais area
and settled here about seven or eight generations ago.
Here are two sources to begin with:
1. History of the Outaouais, by professor Chad Gaffield from the University of Ottawa, and,
2. "Poverty and Helplessness in Petite-Nation" by Professor Cole Harris from the University of British Columbia,
an article which appeared in the Canadian Historical Review in 1952. This is a terrific article.
May 16, 2015:
Here is an interesting map from the above article by Cole Harris, page 25. It shows the place of birth
of adults who were living in a parish in Petite Nation at the time of the 1861 census. Many of those people
who migrated to la Petite Nation had already migrated there and, in turn, many of their children had moved
to Bytown / Ottawa / Hull or to Prescott County across the Ottawa River into Upper Canada.
December 6, 2015:
18 May 1819
(From the Records at OKA)
After the publication of three banns, marriage of Antoine Blo dit Rossignol, farmer of the Petite Nation, minor son
of Etienne Blo (Bleau ?) dit Rossignol and a Saulteux Indian woman whose name is unknown, and Anastasie Sabourin, also living
in the Petite Nation, adult daughter of Jean Baptiste Sabourin, habitant of Ste. Magdeleine de Rigaud, and Marie
Present: Jean Baptiste Sabourin, father of the bride, Dominique Charlebois, her uncle, Susanne and Scholastique Sabourin.
January 23, 2016:
December 16, 2016:
The above photograph is from the book Michael Power: The Struggle To Build The Catholic Church On The Canadian Frontier, by Mark McGowan,
McGill Queen's University Press, 2005, ISBN 0773529144. Michael Power was the Bishop of Toronto Diocese during the great famine of Black '47.
He died of Typhus in 1847 after contracting the disease while ministering to patients in the famine sheds along the waterfront in Toronto.
Professor McGowan's book contains a lot of good information about the relationship of the Catholic Church, Notre Dame de Bonsecours, at Montebello and the
religious workings between a typical seigneury in Lower Canada and the Catholic church heirarchy.
Source for text below is The Ottawa, by William E. Greening, McClelland and Stewart, page 66.
April 4, 2019: (post retirement)
Here is another very good article which explains the decline in the rural economy in Lower Canada after c. 1800:
"The Rural Economic Crisis in Lower Canada", by Fernand Ouellet, in Pre-Industrial Canada, 1760-1849, Volume 2, edited by Michael S. Cross and
Gregory S. Kealey, pages 40-58, McClelland and Stewart Limited, ISBN 0-7710-2461-4, 1991.
E-mail Mark Cullen and Allan Lewis
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