Hilaire Béliveau: Urban Realities – Work/Life

Fifth of a seven-part series describing the real and imagined life of Hilaire Béliveau of Montreal.

Hilaire continues to advertise his business – now named Canadian House of Hardware. Not far away is his uncle Louis Joseph’s hardware store at 297-299 rue St-Paul. 

Advertisements for both appear on the same page in the 1868 edition of Lovell’s business directory. Hilare’s business listing also appears in Hutchison’s New Brunswick Directory along with the business of his uncle Louis Joseph. They also appear in McAlpine’s Nova Scotia Directory for 1869 under the headings Hardware & Cutlery and House Furnishings.

In Winslow, Hilaire’s brother William married Edmire Hébert on January 7, 1868 (she is possibly a relation of his first wife, Julie). It was also Edmire’s second marriage. There is no indication in the register of Hilaire being in attendance.

On June 2, 1868 Hilaire and Célina had another daughter, Amanda, join their family. Baptized the following day, her godparents were Célina’s brother Joseph and Elizabeth Lenoir.

1869 was heartbreaking for the Béliveau family. Three of their children died within days of each other. First Amanda on January 6, only six months old. Then Gustave died the following day at 5-1/2 and finally Arthur Ernest on the 10th at 5 years old. All three were buried the same day on January 10, 1869.

There is no record of the cause of their deaths. However the newspapers reported an outbreak of smallpox at that time and the public health authorities in Montréal started a campaign requiring all children to be vaccinated.

This was not the only incidence of smallpox to afflict Montréal. In March 1885 an infected traveler from Chicago arrived by train in Montréal with smallpox – it wasn’t long before the disease spread with a fury. Thousands of Montréalers died that summer, most of them French Canadians who were generally suspicious of the vaccine (amid misinformation that it was a plot by the English to eliminate their children). Protests against mandatory vaccination erupted in September of that year. The military was called out to protect the health authorities and vaccinators – it wasn’t long before Montréal became a pariah among cities – a place to be avoided because of its poor record of containing epidemics.

newspaper clipping
Franco Canadien 26 dec 1868

Checking in on the Beaudry family during the same period, we see that Aglaë Beaudry’s brother Camille married Rose de Lima Brien in Varennes on August 12, 1867. Aglaë is one of several witnesses who signed the register. Next her sister Marie Odile married Thomas Houle in Muskegon Michigan in 1870 just as the lumber industry in the area was peaking. Lumbering in the mid-nineteenth century brought many settlers to Michigan, especially people from Germany, Ireland, and Canada.

In 1871, Camille, a butcher, is the head of the Beaudry family. Living with him and his wife are his widowed mother, his sister Aglaë and brother Zotique. They are still living in Pointe-aux-Trembles.

The 1871 census also reveals that in 1871, Hilaire’s family are now living at 270 LaGauchetière Street, an upscale neighbourhood at the time. His three daughters are attending school. Célina is probably expecting their 8th child (Marie Louise Corinne) who will be born the following year.

Their next-door neighbour is Alexandre Lacoste, a prominent lawyer. In 1882 Lacoste would become appointed by John A. Macdonald to the Legislative Council of Québec. During his career he would be called to the Senate of Canada, appointed Speaker of the Senate, Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Québec and made a Knight Bachelor.

Célina’s parents are living not far away at 62 Bonsecours Street. Living there are her widowed sister, Adelaide, and siblings Pierre (a clerk), Alfred (Placide?) and Napoleon (attending school). There are nine other unrelated people living at the same address, including a John Cadotte, a carpenter 36 years old. Hilaire’s brother Louis Pierre married Sara Marceau on April 13, 1874 in Stratford Centre. The groom is described as a farmer and his father and brother William were witnesses. There is no indication of whether Hilaire was also in attendance.

Another brother, Ephrain, married Celanire Jacques in Stratford on April 5, 1875. He’s described as a mechanic and the widow of Angelique Bourque. There is no indication that any of his relatives were present at the wedding.
On November 18, 1874, Célina’s mother, Adelaide Bedard died in Montréal. She was buried on the 20th in Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery (her grave is located at Section J3-00142).

Why was the cemetery so far from the parish church of Notre Dame? In 1853 the City Council of Montréal adopted a by-law prohibiting burials within the limits of the city. In addition, the previous Saint-Antoine Cemetery (near present-day Dorchester Square) had become too small to serve Montréal’s rapidly increasing population. So, in 1854, the Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal purchased some land on Mount Royal from Dr. Pierre Beaubien in Côte-des-Neiges and commissioned a design by landscape architect Henri-Maurice Perreault.

Hilaire rents out his storefront on rue St-Paul for a 1-year term starting in May 1876. The rent is $600/annum payable quarterly. At the end of the lease, the renter must remove all furnishings and fixtures. Around this time there are no longer any hardware business listings in Lovell’s.

On April 22, 1879 Célina Cadotte died at the age of 42, leaving her husband Hilaire with four children. She was buried on the 26th at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery also in Section J3-00142.

That same year, Hilaire’s brother, Narcisse Camille, married a cousin, Anna Béliveau in St-Celestin on August 18, 1879. Because they had a blood relationship, their marriage could not take place until a dispensation was obtained from the diocese.

It seems there were more changes for Hilaire and his family. In the 1881 census, they are in Pointe-aux-Trembles. Hilaire is still listed as a merchant, but he is also an enumerator for this census. Coincidentally, he was the enumerator for the household of Hubert Provost (whose son Michel would marry his daughter Ernestine) and the household of Jacques Beaudry (whose daughter Aglaë would become his second wife).

Hilaire’s parents are still in Winslow farming. Their household includes three adult children: Théodule and Jean, both farmers, and daughter Artemise. Of Hilaire’s other siblings: Ephraim is in Winslow with his wife and two children, farming. Louis Pierre is also farming in Winslow next door to his parents. His family includes his wife and three children. William, also a farmer, is with his wife and six children in Winslow.

Aglaë (Adelaide) Beaudry is living with her brother Camille’s family in Pointe-aux-Trembles where Camille worked as a butcher. Her mother is also part of that household. As mentioned previously, Hilaire is the enumerator for this record. Could it be the first time Hilaire and Aglaë met? Whatever the circumstances of their meeting, they would be married the following year.

Célina’s father Benjamin is still a merchant in Montréal’s East Ward and is living with his widowed daughter Adelaide and youngest daughter Emilie.
On September 9, 1882 Hilaire marries Aglaë Beaudry in Pointe-aux-Trembles. Was it a marriage for love or convenience, or both? Aglaë recently lost her father with whom she and her youngest sister were living and Hilaire, recently widowed, still had four children at home. Marriages for these reasons were not uncommon. Both Hilaire and Aglaë signed the register as did witnesses Camille Beaudry (her brother) and Dominique Contant.

Not long after the wedding, in November 1882, Hilaire saw to the settlement of Célina’s estate. Because they drew up a marriage contract that protected her property rights, an inventory of her property was needed before her estate could be distributed to her heirs.

The inventory included some household items:

  • Bedroom furniture ($62)
  • Silverware ($33)
  • Home decor items including an oil painting, vases ($35)
  • Clothing, including a fur coat ($7)
  • She had debts owing of about $219

She had other real property as follows:

  • Sale by Jean Paul Chantrand to Dame Cadote 1878 01 19 (before notary Begnier) part of 3 undivided lots in Pointe-aux-Trembles village.
  • Lot #126 in Point aux Trembles purchased 1885 01 23 (before notary Frechette)
  • Release of mortgage from Marie Anne Archambault (before notary Frechette) dated 1886 03 04

Her funeral service cost $25 and the notary fee for the inventory was $18.


Hilaire Béliveau: Urban Realities – Upward Mobility

Third of a seven-part series describing the real and imagined life of Hilaire Béliveau of Montreal.

The 1851 census is the first census where we see the Béliveau family enumerated. Hilaire père is a farmer and his family live in a single-story wood house.in St-Grégoire. With him in the household are his wife Eléonore Bernard, their children: Hilaire fils (18), William (16), Anna (14), Ephraim (12), Camil (10), Théodule (8), Ulduric (6), Louis (4), Jean (2), Artemise (a newborn). Sadly, Hilaire’s little sister Anna died in October of 1852. Her cause of death is unknown. She was 14 years old.

Living nearby is Hilaire’s mother Marguerite Bourque with the oldest son, Eusebe, a farmer and widower with two children and a servant. They also live in a single-story wood house.

In 1854, Hilaire’s uncle, Louis Joseph, owned a hardware store on rue St-Paul in Montréal. It’s likely that Hilaire decided to join his uncle’s business and by 1861 it appears he then set up his own hardware store in Montréal.

On September 13, 1859 Hilaire and Célina Cadotte sign a marriage contract stipulating their separate property rights . The contract established her irrevocable right to manage and administrate her assets and debts; if she survives her husband, the estate will pay her a pension for the rest of her life. To guarantee his financial obligations, Hilaire takes out a mortgage on his assets. Present at the signing of the contract were: Hilaire’s uncle Louis Joseph; Célina’s parents; and Charles L’Ecuyer, friend. The document was executed at the residence of Célina’s parents at 4 rue St-Denis at 8:30 p.m.

The wedding took place in the bride’s parish of Notre Dame in Montréal the day after the contract was signed. Hilaire’s father and brother Louis Pierre were named as witnesses. Both the bride and groom were able to sign the register.

At some point before the wedding, Hilaire’s parents and siblings had moved further east to Winslow Québec. With no known ties to the area, what could have been the impetus for that move?

The Béliveau family’s move may be been prompted by the end of the seigneural land distribution system in 1854. As a tenant farmer, Hilaire père was looking for his own land to farm. Crown lands were available in some of the new Québec townships being established (a.k.a. Eastern Townships) and he likely applied for one of these as did his son William. Hilaire and William were granted letters patent on September 28, 1863. The land he acquired was 180 acres, William acquired 90 acres.

In the same area are some Prince family land holdings. The Prince and Béliveau families will form several alliances through marriage in the coming years.

Hilaire’s brother William was the next to tie the knot. He married Julie Hebert, a native of Stratford Québec, on August 10, 1860. The wedding was witnessed by his father, the bride’s father, Antoine Beauvais and Antoine Doucette, among several others in attendance. It’s not known whether Hilaire travelled to Stratford for the wedding. Julie’s parents were Michel Hebert (a farmer) and Elize Prince. William was a farmer like his father and, unlike some of his other siblings, was not able to sign his name.

Back in Montréal, Hilaire and Célina welcomed their first child, Hilaire Gustave, on June 19, 1860 and the next day he was baptized in Notre Dame parish. His godparents were Hilaire’s uncle Louis Joseph Béliveau and Vitalline Larue.

The following year, as the spring snows melted, disaster struck the city. The great inundation, as it was called, flooded about 25% of Montréal’s downtown—including the area on rue St-Paul where Hilaire’s hardware store stood. It was caused by an ice jam that blocked the flow of the St-Lawrence. The water rose so fast (24 feet above normal levels) that many residents were caught unawares, and businesses had to close until the waters subsided.

Engraving Montreal floods
Montréal flood, wood engraving, 1850-1885. John Henry Walker / McCord Museum. Montréal Gazette.

On May 1, Hilaire’s young family move into a three-story brick dwelling in the St-Louis suburbs (adjoining Champ de Mars). Hilaire signs a five-year lease on the home for a rent of 11 pounds 5 shillings payable quarterly. The residence is at 63 Champ de Mars, close to a francophone bourgeois district that formed near Place Viger. It was described in the 1861 census as a 2-storey, 2-family residence of wood construction. There are five other people living in the house – all between the ages of 17 and 21. Their relationship to the young family is not known, but they might have been lodgers or employees of Hilaire’s hardware business.

Engraving of moving day in Montreal
Moving Day in Montréal, as depicted by Henri Julien, 1876.
« Une scène de déménagement, à Montréal, le 1er mai », frontpage of ”L’Opinion publique”, Montréal, vol. VII, no 20, jeudi 18 mai 1876, p. 1. http://bibnum2.banq.qc.ca/bna/illustrations/htm

Hilaire’s hardware business appears to be well-established. He has taken over his uncle Louis Joseph’s storefront at 105 rue St-Paul in Montréal and begins to appear in city and business directories.

Present day image of 105 rue St-Paul
105 rue St-Paul in 2018.

His uncle has opened a hardware store down the road at 153-155 rue St-Paul and lived at Cornwall Terrace on St-Denis Street – between LaGauchetière and Dorchester.

In 1861, Hilaire’s parents and siblings are in Compton, living in a log house. Hilaire’s brothers William and Joseph, also farmers, have established their own households and are also living in log houses.

Artemise, the youngest, is attending school. The Compton school system has 21 schools and according to Journal de l’instruction publique the students are doing well and the school’s finances are in good shape.

What about our other two families in 1861? In Montréal, Célina’s family are living in a 2-story, 2-family home. Two of her younger siblings are attending school. The Beaudry family in Pointe-aux-Trembles are living in a single-story single-family wooden house. Aglaë, Hilaire’s future second wife, is not shown as attending school.


Joseph Valentin dit Gregoire: IV

Migration and marriages

Fourth of a four-part series of the real and imagined life of Joseph Valentin dit Gregoire (1824-1895)

Like many other families in the Sorel/St-Ours area, several members of the Valentin-Gregoire clan made their way to build a new life in Massachusetts. Among them were: Florence and Josephine Gregoire, Joseph’s sisters, who left St-Ours with their husbands. Later on, three of Joseph and Eloises’s children would join this exodus – Magloire to Spencer, Amanda to Adams and Louisia to Fall River. The others all established homes in the St-Ours area.

In fact, in 1871, the exodus of French Canadians to the U.S. prompted a two-day convention in Worcester MA, attended by delegates and members of the clergy. The agenda for the conference included:

  • Press canadienne aux Etats-Unis
  • Ecoles françaises
  • Naturalisation et repatriement
  • Moyens d’accroître notre bien-être matériel
  • Etablissement de nouvelles sociétés de secours mutual
  • Questions d’honneur national.

The conference concluded with a number of declarations and resolutions which were reported in La Gazette de Sorel to improve the wellbeing of French Canadians in the U.S.

By now Joseph and Eloize’s children are reaching adulthood. Their oldest daughter, Rosalie (Delima), is the first to leave the nest by marrying Edmond Chapdelaine in 1871. The remaining children are still at the family home in St-Ours. In the 1871 census, Alphonse is listed as a farmer (probably working with his father) and five of the younger children are recorded as being in school. One of their neighbours is Capitaine Pierre Comeau and his family. The 1871 census was the first census after Confederation in 1867 and the total population of Canada (Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) was 3.7 million.

During this period, many of Eloise’s siblings are marrying as well. Her sister Philomene married in 1865 to Simon Morin dit Valcour. In 1871 her brother Clement married Adeline Cusson and her brother Leonard married Emma Chapdelaine. In 1874 her sister Eleonore married Paschal Langelier. This last wedding included a large number of witnesses, Eloise being one of the ones who signed the register.

Before long the first of many, many grandchildren is born when Ida Chapdelaine (Edmond & Rosalie) arrives in 1872. In all, at least 71 grandchildren were born during Joseph and Eloise’s lifetime. Of those, only 10 are known to have died young.

The church bells didn’t only ring to announce weddings, they tolled the passing of Joseph’s father. Joseph Valentin dit Gregoire (père) died in St-Ours on April 16, 1874. He was 74 years old.

In a notarized transaction recorded in 1877, Joseph and Eloise made a donation (land or property) to their eldest son Alphonse – possibly as a result of the settlement of Joseph’s (père) estate or in advance of Alphonse’s marriage in 1879 to Melina Peloquin. Joseph and Eloise were present at the marriage, and Eloise, being his only parent able to, signed as a witness.
Joseph and Eloise’s second son, Magloire, married in Spencer Massachusetts in 1878 to Seraphine Lacrois, a native of Connecticut. The couple would return to St-Ours for a short time as their civil marriage in Spencer was not considered legitimate. In 1882 their nuptials were properly consecrated in the church in St-Ours and then they formally recognized their daughter Rosalina as legitimate.

Eloise Duhamel
Joseph Gregoire

On June 22 1879 Joseph and Eloise were present at the signing of their daughter Albina’s marriage contract with Joseph Comeau. The contract is over three pages long and stipulates that they will share their property communally, that Joseph will immediately provide his bride 50 piastres and lists some provisions for the surviving spouse regarding disposition of property. The bride brings to the marriage 1 cow, 2 sheep, 6 chickens and a rooster, a double bed with cover, 6 knives, 6 forks, 6 plates, 6 cups, 6 bowls, a sugar bowl, teapot, milk jug, a candleholder of white iron, 6 terrines, and various linens (provided by her parents).

Signing the contract are:

  • Marie Hermine Albina Gregoire (bride)
  • Joesph Commault (groom)
  • Amanda Commeault (Joseph’s sister)
  • Eloise Duamelle (Albina’s mother)
  • Delima Commeault (Joseph’s sister)

The marriage took place two days later in the church of St-Ours.

Joseph Comeau and Albina’s first child Rosaline was born nine months later in 1880, and Joseph and Eloise were named as Rosaline’s godparents. Sadly, Rosalind would only live four years. Joseph and Albina experienced many sorrows during their marriage. Of the 13 children Albina bore, only three – Aline, Blanch and Louis – reached adulthood. Most died within five years of their birth.

Next to tie the knot was Albina’s sister Amanda who married Doula Duguay in 1880.

The 1881 census shows that Joseph and Eloise still have 6 children living with them. Their son, Raphael, has joined Joseph in farming.

In 1882 daughter Rosanne (Rose Alba) married Jean Baptiste Guerremont. On the Gregoire side, Joseph, Eloise, Alphonse, Magloire, Louisia, Alexina, Parmelie all attended as witnesses. It was the following day on January 10 that Magloire and his wife, Seraphine, legitimized their marriage vows as described earlier.

In 1883, Joseph and Eloise’s daughter Louisia married Gelas Paquin, but not until after a dispensation from the diocese was obtained allowing them to marry despite the impediment of a 4th degree of consanguinity. The family connection was probably with the Meunier line (between Louisia’s G-G-grandmother and Gelas’ mother). Both fathers of the couple were witnesses to the marriage.

In 1884, daughter Alexina married Hilaire Dufault. Their wedding was well attended by both families with her father Joseph and siblings Parmelie, Alphonse and Louisia acting as witness for the bride.

In 1886, Parmelie (who signed her name Melina) married Herminegilde Bourque in St-Ours. Of the five witnesses, four are from Melina’s family, including Joseph and Eloise. Raphael was the next to marry in 1887 to Amanda Beauregard. The wedding register recorded a long list of witnesses from both sides – as usual, Joseph was listed as a witness. Four years later Raphael appears to have taken over as head of the Gregoire household which now includes his wife Amanda and their young son, his parents Joseph and Eloise and his sister Lovia. Both Raphael and Joseph are listed as cultivateurs in the 1891 census for St-Ours.

Lovia was the last to leave the family home. Joseph was listed as a witness at his youngest daughter’s wedding to Joseph Bourgeois in 1892. The register notes that Joseph is retired.

The torch passes

Against a backdrop of at least a dozen more births of grandchildren, the older generation takes their leave. In 1894, Joseph’s sister Florence Gregoire, died in Spencer Massachusetts of pneumonia. Is it possible that her nephew Magloire – also living in Spencer – stayed in close enough contact with his nearest relative to provide comfort and attention?

In January 1895, Joseph Valentin dit Gregoire died. His son Raphael and five of his sons-in-law attended his burial as witnesses as did “un bon nombre de fideles…” Joseph was survived by his wife, Eloise, 11 children (all married) and about 52 grandchildren. His ‘doppelganger’ Joseph Gregoire of St-Jude died a few years later (1898) in Hudson, MA.

The first of Joseph and Eloise’s children to pass away was Rosealma who predeceased her mother in 1897. She was only 35 years old and left her husband with eight children ranging in age from two to 16. The cause of her death is not known.

Our story ends near the turn of the century with the death of Marie Louise (Eloise) Duhamel in 1899. She was 70 years old and was survived by 10 children and 64 grandchildren. The dynasty that arose from their union of the Valentin-dit-Gregoire and Duhamel families introduced new bloodlines carrying the following surnames: Bourgeois, Bourque, Chapdelaine, Comeau, Dufault, Duguay, Guerremont, and Paquin as well as countless descendants in both Canada and the United States. Quite a legacy.

© Janet Comeau – August 2018