Hilaire Béliveau: Urban Realities – Next Generation

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

On January 9, 1883, Hilaire’s daughter Anna Béliveau married Edmond Prince in Lorette Manitoba. It’s not clear why the marriage took place so far away from both their homes in Montréal. Lorette was a small community near Taché and the parish had just erected a new church a few years prior. One possible reason for the move is Edouard’s opening of a general store in Lorette in 1884. The store also served as a post office and before long more stores, hotels and restaurants opened in the area which benefitted greatly from the arrival of the railway in 1898.

The next daughter to marry was Célina Eliza. She also married a Prince (Edmond’s brother Joseph Octave) in Lorette, Manitoba on August 21, 1883.

Célina’s sister Marie Adelaide Cadotte (widow of Toussaint Lecuyer) died during the summer of the 1885 smallpox epidemic in Montréal on June 16 at the age of 53. She was buried at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery.

With several of his children married, the grandchildren followed. Hilaire’s first grandchild was born on September 15, 1886 in Taché Manitoba. She was the daughter of Anna Béliveau and Edmond Prince.

A few days later on September 21, his daughter Ernestine marries Michel Hubert Provost in Pointe-aux-Trembles. The register mentions for the first time Hilaire’s new occupation as a customs officer.

On August 10, 1887, daughter Ernestine and her husband Michel Provost welcome their first child, Ernest. Hilaire and Aglaë participate at the baptism the following day as godparents.

Another grandchild, Antoinette Corinne, is born to Michel Provost and Ernestine Béliveau on February 25, 1890. Her godparents are her grandparents Hubert Prevost and Heloise Lapointe.

As a new generation arrives an older one departs. Célina’s father Benjamin passes away on December 16, 1889 in Montréal at the age of 78. He is buried on the 18th in Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery.

Then on April 3, 1891, Hilaire’s father, Charles Hilaire dies in Stratford at the age of 83. He was buried in the cemetery of St-Gabriel on April 6. Hilaire fils is not mentioned among the names of those present.  Hilaire’s mother, five brothers and a sister are still living in the Compton area. Brother Ephraim is a day labourer with a wife and three children in Weedon. Brother William is a farmer with his wife and eight children in Winslow. Brother Théodule is a farmer in Compton living with his mother, brother Jean and sister Artemise. Brother Camille is also a farmer in Compton with his wife and five children.

The 1891 census shows Hilaire, Aglaë and his youngest daughter, Corinne are living in Pointe-aux-Trembles. Aglaë’s brother Camille is also in Pointe-aux-Trembles with his wife and four daughters.

Hilaire’s daughter Ernestine is living not too far away in Maisonneuve. Her husband, Michel Provost, is employed as a joiner (probably working with his father Hubert in the construction business) and they have two children in the household.

Daughter Anna and her husband Edmond Prince are still in Manitoba (Provencher). He still runs a general store and they have three children. There are also three others lodging with them, a servant, a Belgian professor of French and a federal employee.

Another granddaughter, Bertha Prince, arrived on September 18, 1891 in Taché Manitoba to parents Edmond Prince and Anna Béliveau. She is followed by Blanche Alice who is born to Michel Provost and Ernestine in Maisonneuve. Sadly, Blanche Alice would die eight months later on July 22, 1882. Then they lose their eldest child, Ernest, on October 3, 1892. He was only five years old.

The next grandchild to be born is Joseph Alcide Prince to Anna and Edmond Prince on March 30, 1893 in Taché Manitoba.

In Maisonneuve, Michel Provost and daughter Ernestine have another daughter, Blanche Antoinette born on August 30, 1893.

Edmond Prince and Anna Béliveau are back in Québec in 1894 for the birth of their daughter Blanche Eva on October 21. Hilaire and Aglaë were her godparents when she was baptised the following day.

Marie Alice Yvonne Provost was born on May 14, 1895 in Maisonneuve to Michel & Ernestine Belliveau. Another grandson, Armand Prince, arrives in Maisonneuve to Edmond Prince and Anna Béliveau on October 31, 1896. His godmother is aunt Ernestine.

Grandson Edouard Joseph Wilfred arrives for Joseph Prince and Anna Béliveau on June 27, 1898 in Maisonneuve. Then Marie Blanche Ida Provost is baptized in Maisonneuve to Michel & Ernestine Béliveau on July 12, 1899. She would die about six months later on December 19, 1900.

As the nineteenth century drew to a close, the residents of Montréal witnessed the introduction of many innovations and improvements to the city:

  • The first telephone conversation in Québec (1877)
  • Electric lighting, expanded rail service and streetcars
    (1892)
  • Motion pictures are shown in Canada for the first time at the Palace Theatre at 972 St. Lawrence, corner Viger by Louis Minier & Louis Pupier using a Cenematographe, invented by the Lumiere brothers of France (1896).
  • The first car seen in Montréal is steam-powered and driven by Ucal-Henri Dandurand, accompanied by Mayor Raymond Préfontaine. They descend steep Côte du Beaver Hall without difficulty and climb back up through the streets in the same fashion (1899).

Sources

Hubert Prévost the entrepreneur: Into the 20th century

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

In 1902 Hubert left behind his second wife, Héloise Lapointe and their 13-year-old son Joseph. What happened to them after his death?

Héloise remarried about 18 months later to Amedée Champagne in Montreal after signing a separatist of property marriage contract that protected her assets from forming part of their communal property. Amedée moves into the home at 27 Desjardins Street with Héloise after their marriage. The parish they were married in –Très-Saint-Nom-de-Jésus – was just beginning construction on a grander church that would be completed in 1906. It was to be well-known for its rich decoration and was designed by Albert Mesnard and Charles-Aimé Reeves (Zoe Alvina’s nephew and a prominent Montreal architect).

In 1906, Sem Alexandre (Hubert and Zoe Alvina’s son) obtains a declaration of death for his mother, probably for final settlement of his mother’s estate.

Not much is seen of Héloise (at least from a documentary evidence perspective) until the census of 1911 where we see that she is once again widowed and is living in Laval (St-Martin) with her nephew Henri Martel. It’s possible that she leased out her home in Maisonneuve.

In 1912 the Montreal Women’s Suffrage Association and the Fédération nationale Saint-Jean-Baptiste were working to bring the right to vote to Quebec women. As an independent-minded wife, businesswoman and property owner, did Héloise support their cause? Although women could vote in federal elections, their right to vote and run in provincial elections wasn’t won until 1940.

In 1920, Héloise sold the home on Desjardins street to Olier Boileau, a dairyman, for $1,650. Then follow a number of financial transactions to settle debts with the Cartier estate and Hector Decary, and the issuance of a new loan from the Cartier estate.

Our story of this remarkable family closes with the death of Héloise on August 22, 1922 at her sister’s home in St-Vincent-de-Paul after a long illness. She was buried in Cote-des-Neiges cemetery in Montreal. Her son Joseph Hubert appears to have joined the business she built with Hubert. It’s quite telling that the writers of her obituary in La Press listed her under her married name with Hubert and gives no mention of her other two husbands.


Sources

Hubert Prévost the entrepreneur: H. Prévost et Cie.

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

Hubert’s business was in the wood and construction materials sector, and he operated a small plant providing wood for construction, probably employing about 10 to 20 people. Hubert and Héloise were likely part of the new French upper middle class that was emerging during the late 19th century in Montreal. They had access to financial resources with the founding of local banks like Banque Jacques-Cartier and Banque d’Hochelaga that supported this cohort of entrepreneurs with capital. In 1887 these businessmen founded the Chambre de commerce du district de Montréal [Montreal District Chamber of Commerce] as an alternative to the (anglophone-centric) Montreal Board of Trade.

1887 also marks the year when the next generation of Provosts begin to appear. Hubert and Alvina’s first grandchild, Ernest, is born to Michel and Ernestine Beliveau in August. Then Hubert and Héloise welcomed their own baby boy – Joseph Hubert – born in October, just a couple of months after his ‘nephew’. In 1889, his daughter Marie Ezilda married Delphis Couillard In Montréal.

By 1888, Hubert is buying and selling property in the Maisonneuve district. As a building contractor, he likely profited from building workers’ housing and renting them out, spurred by the growing industrialization of the area.

Map of Notre Dame St.

The volume of transactions in Hubert’s name increases as well. Not all of the notarized records are for building contracts and land transactions – several hint at legal challenges, some brought by Hubert and others brought against him. Could the continuing recession have had a financial impact on Hubert’s fortunes? The answer to that isn’t clear.

It’s sometimes challenging to determine if our Hubert Prévost is correctly the subject of some of these records. There was at least one other businessman named Hector Prévost operating a business under the name H. Provost & Cie. in the Montreal area who was a merchant selling novelties and other dry goods in 1888. Yet another Hubert Provost has appeared in census records in the town of Ste-Julie, in this case a farmer.

Among the transactions found in Hubert’s name is a mortgage release between the Seminaire de St-Sulpice de Montreal, Banque Jacques Cartier, V. Hudon and H. Provost. While Hubert’s association with Victor Hudon is known, the document text only mentions a Gilbert Provost throughout with respect to transactions (the inconsistency might be an error on the part of the clerk).

In order to attract industry to the area, the town of Maisonneuve offered generous tax concessions to manufacturing businesses which Hubert took advantage of. He was given a 10-year tax exemption to operate a lumber manufacturing plant as long as he employed at least 12 men. The concession was revoked in 1897 when he didn’t meet the condition.

1890 seems to have been a busy and eventful year. Hubert Prévost resigned his role as an advisor to the town council after a suit alleged he took a financial interest in a subcontract to provide materials for the town hall construction. According to the article that appeared in La Presse on the 25th of April 1890:

HISTORY OF A RESIGNATION of an advisor of Maisonneuve
Mr. Hubert Prévost gave his resignation as adviser of Maisonneuve. If we are to believe M Bennett who, on April 5, took a writ of quo warranto for the said adviser, the latter would have taken an interest in a sub-contract for the construction of the Maisonneuve Hotel de Ville and allegedly sold materials, under the name of his son. It was on hearing that he was the subject of a lawsuit that Mr. Hubert Prevost, not at all happy, hastened to resign, which was accepted without delay. The ex-counselor paid with pleasure the costs of the actlon which proves his lack of love for justice.

The building in question – the Hotel de Ville – was one that was inspired by the City Beautiful movement. It was one of the first public buildings erected in 1888. It’s possible that this was the project that led to the allegation of corruption.

One person with whom Hubert had several business dealings was Alphonse Desjardins, who became mayor of Montreal from 1893-1894 and was a founder of the Jacques Cartier Bank (later Banque National). In 1890, when Hubert purchased 16 lots from him, he was the federal member of Parliament for Hochelaga


Sources

Hubert Prévost the entrepreneur: An independent woman

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

Before 1886 ended, Hubert married for a second time to Héloise Lapointe of Mascouche, herself a widow.

Héloise Lapointe was born on November 9, 1848 to Napoleon Desautels dit Lapointe and Marie Olive Guerray in Mascouche. Despite the similar surnames, Héloise does not appear to be a close relation to Zoe Alvina’s mother’s Lapointe family.

In 1860, there were four schools in Mascouche: Cabane-Ronde, Grand Coteau, Petit Coteau et Pincourt. It’s quite likely Héloise Lapointe attended one of them as she is shown on the 1861 census as attending school. This is important because, for many years, attempts to create an educational system for Catholics failed. In 1846, a new law allowed the creation of school boards by ensuring the collection of a tax devoted to the financing of the education system. Each Catholic parish church became de facto the territory of a school board. A significant proportion of the population opposed a tax being imposed to support education. Worse, many parents, especially farmers, did not see the value of educating children. This period of the 1840s is called la guerre des éteignoirs, because in some places, schools were set on fire. Héloise is probably the first generation of her family to receive an education.

According to the 1861 census, Héloise’s family includes nine persons who are living in a single-story house of wood construction. Her father appears to be a farmer (according to the 1851 census) and is illiterate. In 1871, Héloise Lapointe is still living with her parents and six siblings in St-Henri (l’Assomption).

Héloise (Eloise) Lapointe and Philias Roy of Mascouche, a notary, marry in 1877. Before the wedding, they sign a marriage contract where they are separatist of property and that the bride will pay the costs of the marriage and contribute household items valued at $100.

Shortly after their marriage, Héloise and Philias lived in the west end of Montreal island, in St Joachim de la Pointe Claire Village. Philias died in 1882 in Mascouche. They had no children.

How Hubert and Héloise met is a mystery, but on the documented evidence available, they appear to have been a team when it came to business.

For married women, unlike single or widowed women, the right to use and dispose of their own property didn’t come into effect until 1884 in Ontario and 1900 in Manitoba. The Married Women’s Property Act gave married women in these provinces the same legal rights as men, which allowed these women to be able to enter into legal agreements and buy property. Quebec did not include the act into the Civil Code until 1964!

Yet, that was not always the case in practice. In an article entitled Surviving as a Widow in 19th-century Montreal, Bettina Bradbury writes:

The women who remarried appear to have been wealthier than those who did not. A disproportionate number had signed marriage contracts at the time of their marriage, a practice more widespread among the wealthy, and particularly the propertied classes. Furthermore, several had already exercised more legal and economic freedom within their marriages than most Quebec women, having renounced the creation of a “communauté des biens” at the time of their marriage, and retained control over their own property, by opting for the separation of their goods. The apparent tendency for our small sample of wealthy women to remarry more than other women, which requires more study, suggests that the attraction of the rich widow in the marriage market outweighed any allure living independently may have held for those women able to do so.

Héloise seems to have been one of those women. She was educated, had married well, and when she contracted marriage with Hubert, their agreement was to remain separatist of property, unlike the contract Hubert and Alvina signed in 1862. This stipulation specifically retains her rights to hold and manage her property and any revenue she derives from such. And so begins Hubert’s next stage of life and business when he and Héloise married on November 13, 1886.


Sources

  • 1861 Census of Canada. Canada East (Quebec) Library and Archives Canada. http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca
  • 1871 Census of Canada. Province: Quebec Library & Archives Canada. http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca
  • 1881 census of Canada; Quebec, Library & Archives Canada. http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca
  • A brief history of women’s rights in Canada. Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage
  • Bradbury, B. Surviving as a Widow in 19th-century Montreal. Urban History Review, https:// doi.org/10.7202/1017628ar
  • Fonds Cour Supérieure. Greffes de notaires; Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Montréal, Québec, Canada. http://www.banc.qc.ca
  • Gariepy, Edgar. photographe 1881-1956: Saint-Henri-de-Mascouche : le manoir des Le Gardeur de Repentigny ou manoir Pangman. La collection Gariépy à la Bibliothèque municipale de Montréal
  • Institut Généalogique Drouin; Montreal, Quebec, Canada. http://www.institutdrouin.com
  • Martel, Claude. Un Brin d’histoire. Journal la Revue; http://www.larevue.qc.ca

Hubert Prévost the entrepreneur: Intro

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

In the mid 19th century, Montreal was the largest city in British North America. As a prosperous financial and manufacturing centre, it witnessed dramatic socio-economic change, first with the waves of immigration and then with the shift from rural subsistence farming to wage-paying factory jobs.

This period saw the emergence of French-Canadian entrepreneurs and industrialists, many of whom set up businesses in Montreal’s eastern sector and then became civic leaders as these areas grew to become municipalities.

It’s in this era that Hubert Prévost, son of Hubert and Lucie Archambault of Pointe-aux-Trembles, came to become our first industrialist ancestor. His presence on earth is well-documented, yet each piece of discovered evidence generates many other questions about his motivations, successes or failures as a businessman. A life story worthy of additional research that we’ll save for a sequel.

A CHILD OF THE VICTORIAN ERA

Hubert’s life (1836-1902) spanned the same period as the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1902). He would have witnessed the emergence of Canada from colony to Dominion and the impact of the industrial revolution first-hand.

He was born on October 17, 1836 to Hubert (père), a woodworker (menuisier) living in Pointe-aux-Trembles, and Lucie Archambault, originally of St-Roch-de-l’Achigan, about 40km north of Pointe-aux-Trembles. At the time of his birth, he had an older sister, Luce, born in 1834.

A couple of years later, Marie Zoe Elvina Rive was born to Charles Reeves and Zoe Desautels dite Lapointe on March 4, 1839 in Longue Pointe, a municipality not far from Pointe-aux-Trembles. Zoe Elvina would become Hubert’s wife in 1862.

The origins of the Reeves (also Rive, Rives) family remain a bit of a mystery. Despite what one would assume, the Reeves family (at least this one) had no Irish roots. Instead, it’s believed that Joseph Reeves (Zoe Alvina’s great-grandfather) was born in Port au Basques (Newfoundland) in 1727 and was later baptised in the community of St-Marie in Maryland. Maryland was a haven for Catholics and could be reached by sea without encountering hostile (to the French) British ships patrolling the waterways around Quebec and Acadie.

When Alvina’s brother Charles was born in 1840, the Reeves family appear to be living in the Pointe-aux-Trembles area. Charles (fils) would die six months later. Another brother Louis Charles was born in 1842. At the Provost home, Hubert’s sister Anne Dorimene was born in 1840 followed by a brother Joseph in 1843. These family events occurred against a backdrop of political change that eventually led to nationhood. In the aftermath of the Mackenzie-Papineau rebellions, Upper and Lower Canada were united in 1841 to become the Province of Canada and were renamed to Canada East and Canada West. In 1842, in order to determine parliamentary representation after the Act of Union, a major census of Canada East and West was undertaken. Unfortunately, listings for the Prévost and Reeves families have not been found, possibly because not all the returns survived.

A wave of immigration flowed into Montreal as the effects of the Irish potato famine drove the Irish diaspora, and when the U.S. doubled passage fees to American ports many immigrants chose Canada as their destination. The influx strained the local resources. French Catholics were encouraged to adopt orphaned children and, over time, marriages between the French and Irish populations resulted in a mixed bag of Canadians who had Irish surnames but were raised in French and vice versa – a literal definition of mother tongue. Perhaps the family myth about the Reeves being Irish started around this time.

In 1846 and 1847, two more brothers, Zotique and Eugene, are born, completing Hubert’s (père) and Lucie’s family. As Hubert (fils) approached his mid-teens, Montreal was spreading out to the east. By 1850 Longue Pointe was becoming increasingly urban and industrialized due to the expansion of Montreal’s port and the creation of the Lachine Canal. With industrialization came innovation and new ways of working. As a carpenter (menuisier), Hubert’s father might have seen the replacement of pitsaws (or straight saws) for circular saws driven by steam or water power at sawmills. Perhaps his son Hubert was already learning the trade and dreamt of modernizing the family business with steam-powered equipment.

Illustration of a circular saw invention
Illustration of a circular saw invention published in Scientific American, 1855

Lumber was a big business. In 1851 there were 1,631 mills worked by steam and water power producing 7.7 million board feet of lumber and 4.6 million planks per year. Canada East craftsmen included 379 chairmakers, cabinetmakers and upholsterers; and 8923 shipwrights, carpenters and joiners.

In 1851 we learn a little more about the families of Hubert and Zoe Alvina through the Canada East census of that year – dubbed the first thorough Canadian census. The Provost family – Hubert, Lucie and their six children are still living in Pointe-aux-Trembles. Also in Pointe-aux-Trembles are Charles Reeves, cultivateur, his wife Zoe Lapointe (Desautels), and their children Alvina and Charles (fils). Living with Charles and his family was his father Louis who was 78 years old and retired.

According to the agricultural census of the same year, brothers Louis and Charles Reeves were farming over 200 arpents. Charles’ farm consisted of 102 arpents, with 88 arpents cultivated, of which 76 arpents produced a harvest. 12 of his arpents were en paturage, and 12 arpents were forested or woodlot. Together they produced about 260 minots (bushels) of wheat. When the seigneurial system was abolished in 1854, many tenant farmers bought or acquired the lands they worked. It’s not clear whether the Reeves were tenant farmers or owned their acreages.

In 1852, an event occurred that likely had an impact on Hubert’s (fils) future business career as a building contractor. 1,100 homes on the east side of Montreal went up in flames, leaving more than 10,000 people – about 20% of the population – homeless. As a result, new fireproofing standards were introduced for house construction.

At the end of 1852, Hubert’s mother Lucie Archambault passed away. Hubert was 16 years old. The youngest in the family, Eugene, was only five. Two years later, Hubert’s father married Emilie Chartier. Emilie was 36 at the time, the daughter of Antoine Chartier and Desanges Pepin. Their marriage was short-lived as Emilie died in 1855. By then, Hubert was 19.


Sources

  • 1842 Canada East census. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa. http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca
  • 1851 Census of Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Library and Archives Canada
  • Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec
  • Great Fire of 1852. Wikipedia. 2018-12-17. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Fire_of_1852
  • Institut Généalogique Drouin; Montreal, Quebec, Canada. http://www.institutdrouin.com
  • Pound, Richard W.; Editorial Director; Canadian Facts and Dates; 3rd Edition. 2005.
  • Reeves, Chs-L. (fr. Damien O.F.M.). The Rives… and Reeves families in New France; translated by Gail Moreau. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Reeves-3207
  • Scientific American; Old Series (1845–1859); Volume 11 Issue No. 50 19 January 1855. Munn & Co.
  • Scott, Marian. The Montreal Gazette; August 12, 2017. “Montreal-refugees-and-the-irish-famine-of-1847”