Hilaire Béliveau: Urban Realities – Into the 20th Century

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

1901 begins on a sad note when granddaughter Alice Yvonne Provost (Michel & Ernestine Béliveau) dies in January. She was barely six years old. On a happier note, a new grandaughter, Ida, was born to Edmond Prince and Anna Béliveau. Hilaire and Aglaë were her godparents.

On February 22, 1902, Jeannette Provost was born to Michel Provost and Ernestine Béliveau in Maisonneuve. Both she and cousin Ida would be married to Louis Comeau of St-Ours, Jeannette as his first wife and Ida as his second.

The first census of the century took place on March 31, 1901. The population of Canada has reached over 5.3 million individuals.

In Pointe-aux-Trembles, Hilaire and Aglaë are empty-nesters. He is still a customs officer and earned $1200 in salary the previous year. Hilaire is bilingual, while Aglaë is francophone. Hilaire’s daughters Anna, Ernestine and Corinne are present in the census. The fate of his eldest daughter Célina Eliza (born in 1862) is not known. Anna and her husband Edmond Prince are living in Maisonneuve with their six children. It’s not clear what his occupation is but he earned $1000 in the previous year.

Ernestine and Michel Provost are also in Maisonneuve. Michel is employed and earned $550. Only their daughter Antoinette is living with them and is attending school.

Hilaire’s youngest daughter Corinne is now an Ursuline sister at the Roberval provincial convent which was founded in 1882 by Malvina Gagné (Mère Saint-Raphaël) to provide support to the colonization movement in the Lac St-Jean area. Mère St-Raphaël’s school was the first to provide a domestic science and agricultural program in the country.

The Stratford-area Beliveaus are also present in the 1901 census and are scattered in Village Beaulac, Compton and Winslow. Ephraim is a day worker and earned about $660 the previous year. He’s living in Village Beaulac with his wife and two children. Théodule is still farming in Compton and his brother Jean, sister Artemise and mother Eléonore are living in his household. Two of his brothers are his neighbours—Camille and Louis, also farmers. Camille’s household includes his wife and eight children. Louis is widowed and he has his 8 children living with him. William is in Winslow with his wife and seven children. He is still farming and he is noted as being bilingual.

On April 28, 1901, Hilaire’s mother, Eléonore Bernard, passed away in Stratford, Québec. Hilaire’s brothers Jean and Théodule were present at the burial on April 30, but it’s not known if Hilaire travelled to be with them.

In 1902, Aglaë prepares a will before notary Joseph Marion. In it she asks to be buried with her family (Beaudry) and she stipulates that as soon as possible $50 be set aside for a high mass and other prayers for her soul. She leaves her clothing to her three nieces (daughters of her brother Camille) and all her other property to her brother Camille.

The following year, on December 29, 1903, Hilaire Belliveau passed away.  He was buried on January 4, 1904 in Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery (section J3-00142) near his first wife Célina.

Hilaire was survived by his wife Aglaë Beaudry, brothers William, Ephraim, Camille, Théodule, Ulderic, Louis Pierre and Jean; and sister Artemise. He also left behind four daughters and ten grandchildren (according to known records).

Not long after the death of her father, Anna Béliveau gives birth to Arthur Hector Prince on April 30, 1904. About a week later, Anna likely succumbed to complications from the birth and passed away on May 5, 1904. She was also buried in Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery, near her parents.

In January 1905, Aglaë sells a lot in Pointe-aux-Trembles to Louis Beaudry for $300. It’s not clear what relation Louis is to her, if at all. Then in December, Aglaë borrows $100 from Achille Dubreuil (cultivateur de Pointe-aux-Trembles) to be repaid on the 26 of May 1906 with 5% interest per annum. Her brother Camille consented to guarantee the loan.

A year later, Aglaë is released from her debt and receives $500 from her brother Camille. There is no sign of Aglaë in the 1911 census. According to the notary documents for her loan transaction, she is living in Montréal and no longer in Pointe-aux-Trembles.

Our story of this family ends with the death of Aglaë on August 15, 1913 in Montréal. She was buried on August 18. Her obituary in Le Devoir was brief.

BÉLIVEAU, Aglaë Beaudry. 71 ans, veuve de Hilaire Béliveau, douanier.
Asile de la Providence.

Asile de la Providence was founded by the order Soeurs de la Providence and it was a refuge for aged and invalided women.

Engraving of Asile de la Providence
Asile de la Providence actuel, 1899 (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec)


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
  • 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).


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.


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.


Hubert Prévost the entrepreneur: Power couple

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

By the time of the census in 1891, Hebert and Héloise were living with Sem Alexandre and Alphonsine (Alvina’s children) and Joseph Hubert, their son. Also resident at their house were two labourers, Noel Roussel a widower and Amée Belec. Sem is also listed as an employee (most likely working with his father). Hubert’s daughter Eugenie Appoline is living next door with her husband J.B. Foisy.

In the latter half of 1890, Héloise becomes more involved in the business. It’s not known what prompted this shift in strategy, but it is certain that Héloise’s name increasingly appears on property transactions. Hubert also guarantees a mortgage of a property in Héloise’s name.

Hubert wins a substantial contract to build a Presbyterian church and school at the corner of Adam and Letourneau streets in Maisonneuve. The church was expanded in 1908, but later burned to the ground in 1925.

In 1891 Hubert forms a business partnership with Elzear Benoit, another contractor, called Prévost & Benoit. The business will provide all the necessary trades for building construction.

In October 1891, the town of Maisonneuve contracted with the Royal Electric Light Company to provide an electric light service for the municipality. Prévost & Benoit also signed a contract with the town for the construction of the electric light station and residence. The project faced legal challenges as an injunction was issued to stop work on the site, which was quashed by the courts. Then force was used to stop employees from working. The issue was that the town did not have the charter authority to grant the contract. The company (Royal Electric) sued and won a judgement for $4,861 with interest against the town.

It’s not certain what, if any, compensation Prévost & Benoit might have received from the settlement, or whether they sustained losses as a result. Whatever the cause, things started to go downhill in early 1892. First Hubert’s creditors were advised in a demande de cession notice of his impending bankruptcy. In April, bankruptcy proceedings got under way and an auction of business assets took place on April 26, 1892. Many of his lots in Hochelaga and Maisonneuve are put on the auction block to pay off creditors.

To make matters worse, the town of Maisonneuve brought a suit against Prevost & Benoit, demanding that the contractors stop work due to poor workmanship and materials used, and not meeting the specifications of the contract.

On May 2, 1892, Héloise forms H. Provost & Cie as sole proprietor. She is also recorded buying some of the auctioned properties from her husband’s bankruptcy sale. The lots in question appear to include the location of Hubert’s lumber mill. More interestingly, Hubert’s bankruptcy proceedings, the formation of a new carpentry business, and the purchase of the mill all took place just days before the town of Maisonneuve brought their suit against Prevost & Benoit.

Perhaps the few bright spots for Hubert that spring were the birth of a granddaughter, Antoinette, to son Michel and Ernestine Belliveau, and the marriage of Hubert’s son Sem Alexandre to Louisa Collin.

school building
Ecole St-Joseph

Their annus horribilus behind them, in 1893 Héloise purchases four lots on Ste-Catherine Street from Alphonse Desjardins for $1,800. Hubert then wins a contract from les Commissaires d’ecoles d’Hochelaga to build the first primary school in the ward. The school probably stood on the corner of Dezery and Duquette streets.

On May 8, 1893, Héloise’s father, Laurent Napoleon Desautels dit Lapointe dies in Mascouche. He is buried a few days later in the church crypt with Hubert attending as a witness.

In 1894, Héloise begins to have her own business issues. She has four lots in the Quartier Ste-Marie area on Ste-Catherine St which will be auctioned in October to pay for back taxes and an unpaid sidewalk assessment. Héloise reaches a settlement agreement with the town of Maisonneuve for her unpaid assessments about a year later in July 1895. However, her properties are still listed for sale in the papers of August 10 and again that fall. About that time they moved from 29 Desjardins (now occupied by Napoleon Turcotte (carpenter), John Wilson, Pierre Prince and Alcide Gendron (carter).

His son Michel is still at 1 Desjardins Street and Hubert still has a saw mill at 5 Desjardins. By 1900 the extent of Desjardins St now reaches to Ontario St. to the north.

The same day that Hubert’s father dies at 88 years old, Héloise arranges for a five-year mortgage with 10% interest on four lots for $2,900. The money is borrowed from the estate of Sir Georges Etienne Cartier, politician and Father of Confederation. Sir George Etienne Cartier’s estate was substantial enough that a group of executors managed the assets in order to provide an income for his heirs.

Hubert seems to have taken a less visible role in his contracting business. It could be that his son Sem had taken over or, judging from Héloise’s property buying and selling activities, living off profits from flipping property. Another possibility could be that the Prévosts were in financial difficulty. Without a deeper investigation of all the contracts this couple generated, we may never know.

We do know that Hubert kept an interest in municipal affairs. 1896 was an election year and Hubert Provost was one of many who signed a public endorsement of the candidacy of J.C. Robert for reelection as alderman for the Ste-Marie district of Montreal.

That same year, Héloise unloaded the troublesome lots on Ste-Catherine Street for $7,017.60 to A. Duperrault.

In 1897, the mill on Desjardins Street seems to have been leased to Tremblay & Gingras, who are now listed as operating 3 Desjardins as a saw mill and the property at 5 Desjardins no longer has any name associated with it.

Héloise’s mother Marie Olive Guerray dies on March 18, 1897 at the age of 79 in Mascouche.

The Prévost home on Desjardins Street, built by Hubert, is still in use today (current address is 591-605 rue Desjardins) . In May 1988, Héloise once again takes out a mortgage on the property from Joseph Desrosiers for $3,500 and again in June from the Cartier estate for $5,000.

row houses
Prevost-built row houses on Desjardins Street.

Still active in municipal affairs, Hubert was a member of a group tasked with setting a value for compensating owners of land to be expropriated to open up rue Lafontaine. Their report was submitted to the city for in 1899. But it appears that collecting honorariums for providing expertise to the town isn’t easy. On November 30, 1900 several businessmen file a writ of summons against the town for $395.

The town makes a settlement offer of $26 each, which was refused. Prévost is quoted saying “Tu peux les garder“. Two days later, the men file their claim in Quebec Superior Court.

Hubert attended two marriages in 1900. First his daughter Alphonsine married Wilfrid Alphonse Godin in Montréal, then his son Sem Alexandre, widowed, married Philomene Limoges, also in Montreal. All his children by Zoe Alvina have by this time left the nest.

The 1901 census gives us a picture of Hubert’s situation. He is still listed as an employer and living on his own means. He runs his business from home and earned $4,000 in the previous year, certainly a very respectable income for a member of the manufacturing bourgeoisie. Both Hubert and his son Joseph Hubert were bilingual.

More grandchildren arrived. One in 1901 to Sem Alexandre and Philomene Limoges, who had just purchased a lot on Adam Street (possibly for building his own home). Another, Marie Blanche Jeanette, was born in 1902 to Michel Hubert and Ernestine Belliveau and Gaston, to Sem and Philomene in 1902.

In April 1902, Hubert prepared a new will. In it he directs:

  1. That his debts and funeral costs including masses be paid by his executor
  2. His property (including any encumbrances) on Ste-Catherine street (including buildings) is bequeathed to his six children by Zoe Reeves, in consideration of their legacy from her estate. If they refuse, the property reverts to his general estate.
  3. The remainder of his belongings are bequeathed to his second wife, Héloise. If she predeceases him, then the estate goes to their son Joseph Hubert.
  4. Some notes about proceeds of sales to pay debts incurred in good faith (such as mortgages).
  5. He names Héloise as his executor.

The witnesses to his will were the Chief of Police Thomas O’Farrell and Urgel Vanier, shoe merchant. Hubert died the following month on May 3, 1902 in Maisonneuve. He was buried in the parish cemetery in Pointe-aux-Trembles. In addition to his three sons and brother Zotique, his funeral was attended by many of Maisonneuve’s business and civic leaders – including Mayor Trefflé Bleau, who was one of his pallbearers.

His obituary in La Presse reveals much about the service he gave to his community:

  • Deacon and founder of his parish in Pointe-aux Trembles
  • Vice-president of the Montreal St-Vincent-de-Paul society
  • School trustee
  • Alderman/town councilor.


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