Hubert Prévost the entrepreneur: An urban generation

Second of an eight-part series describing the real and imagined life of Hubert Prévost of Maisonneuve.

The Prévost and Reeves families were probably well-acquainted as Hubert and Alvina were not the first Prévost-Reeves union to take place. Several years before Alvina (aka Zoe) married Hubert (fils), she appears as a witness (the first time we see her signature) to Hubert’s sister Lucie’s wedding to Olivier Reeves – likely a cousin.
Did their courtship begin at this wedding? Did Alvina catch the bride’s bouquet (assuming that custom was followed)? We’ll never know. Their marriage would still be some years ahead. On the other hand, Hubert (père), twice a widower, tied the knot a third time in 1856 with Julie Forest in a wedding that took place in St-Roch-de-l’Achigan.

As Hubert (fils) and Alvina reached adulthood, urbanization and technological innovations were changing the fabric of urban life. In Hubert’s line of work, duplexes started to make an appearance in Montreal. Now ubiquitous, these two-story buildings became the housing standard and were a solution to providing low-income tenants with affordable housing. Other construction and public utility innovations included: iron or steel structures, elevators, electricity, natural gas service, streetcars and traffic lights. All of these accelerated the growth of suburban areas as industries moved farther out of the core and supporting infrastructures improved, aided by grand civil engineering projects like railways, canals, municipal water works and the Victoria bridge which opened in 1860.

In the east end of Montreal, these changes were pronounced and rapid. Industrialists and politicians embraced and encouraged modernization projects. In 1867, on rue Notre-Dame est, Catelli opened the first pasta manufacturing facility in Canada. The east-end area became home to cotton mills, shoe manufacturing and other mechanized factories.

The 1861 census provides a bit more clarity into the Prévost and Reeves families, both living in Pointe-aux-Trembles. Hubert (fils) is still at the family home (he will be married in the following year). He, like his father and brothers, is listed as a carpenter/joiner. The family of seven is living in a single-story house of wood construction. The Reeves are living in a single-story stone two-family house. Charles Reeves is still farming, and the household includes Alvina’s grandfather, Louis, who is 84 and retired, as well as her aunt Christine Reeves and uncle Hyppolyte Reeves.

Much of Pointe-aux-Trembles is rural in1861. An atlas of the city and suburbs of Montreal clearly shows the extent of the land Charles had under cultivation, about 191 arpents bordering on the St-Lawrence River. Nearby is the 186 arpent farm of cousins Joseph and Olivier Reeves (the husband of Hubert’s sister Lucie in 1855).

Map of Pointe-aux-Trembles

Detail from 1878 Montreal atlas showing rural land partitions in Pointe-aux-Trembles

1862 kicked off with the wedding of Hubert’s sister Dorimene to Louis Lafranchise in Montreal. Not long after, on May 1, 1862 Hubert and Alvina prepare for their nuptials by signing their marriage contract at the home of her parents with some family members present. Hubert is working as an entrepreneur menuisier – a business he will grow over the coming years. The contract details the property and goods each will bring to the marriage, including some tools of Hubert’s trade. With some exceptions, they will enter into a community of property agreement. The contract also stipulates how property will be disposed of if one predeceases the other, with or without children. The future bride signed as Zoe Reeves.

On May 12, Hubert & Alvina were married at St-Enfant-Jesus church in Pointe-aux-Trembles. Both the bride and groom signed the register, along with the following witnesses: Olivier Reeves (relationship to Alvina not defined, husband of Hubert’s sister Lucie), Charles Reeves (Alvina’s father) and Charles Reeves (her brother) as well as Leandre Tessier, presumably a friend. Before long, their first child is born. Marie Alvina arrives on September 20, 1863. Her godparents were grandparents Charles Reeves (Alvina’s father) and Marie Julie Foret dite Marin (Hubert Sr.’s third wife). The children of Alvina and Hubert will be the first generation in this family line to grow up in an urban setting.

In May 1865, Alvina’s brother Charles Reeves marries Justine Lamoureux. Hubert and Alvina sign the register as witnesses. Sadly, barely three years later, Charles is a widower and returns to the alter, with Hubert as a witness, to marry Emma Laporte on January 14, 1868.

In the fall, Alvina and Hubert have a second child, Michel Hubert, who is born on September 30, 1865. This time the godparents are the other grandparents: Hubert Prévost (père) and Zoe Desautels, Alvina’s mother. On February 9, 1867, Eugenie Appoline Prévost was born. Her godparents were Hubert’s sister Lucie and her husband Olivier Reeves.

On March 14, 1868, Sem Alexandre Provost, Hubert and Alvina’s fourth child, was born. His godparents were his uncle and aunt, Charles Reeves (fils) and Emma Laporte, his second wife. Next, a daughter, Marie Ezilda Prévost, was born on August 11, 1869. Her godparents were her aunt and uncle Dorimene Prévost and Louis Lafranchise. Another daughter was born on November 2, 1870 – Alphonsine Hortense – only to die about nine months later on August 9, 1871. it appears that her grandfather witnessed her burial (usually the father is the witness) as the register notes that Hubert Prévost could not sign. Hubert (fils) was known to be literate.

By the time Alvina and Hubert’s last child, Marie Alphonsine, was born on March 10, 1873 , the Hochelaga district of Montreal was expanding rapidly and its population almost quadrupled. Over the next decade, road and tramway expansions, cotton mills, a tobacco factory, and other industries meant jobs for many workers – and they needed housing, creating opportunities for those in the construction trade. New roads were laid out – such as Pie-IX Boulevard and Jeanne-d’Arc street – and the growth of railways meant terminals and shops were set up in western Hochelaga. This rapid growth came with some challenges. Municipal finances were drained by the construction of infrastructures such as streets, sewers and an aqueduct, so the idea of facilitating urbanization by annexing Hochelaga to Montreal took hold.

The newly constituted Dominion of Canada’s first census was taken on April 2, 1871. In just 10 years, Hubert and Alvina’s household grew to include six children. Their three oldest children are attending school.


Sources

 

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