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: City builder

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

In the years following Confederation, Canada felt the effects of the Long Depression that afflicted world economies, particularly England. Between 1874 (the year the Montreal Stock Exchange was established) and 1896 there was widespread unemployment and a rise in bankruptcies. Protectionist policies in the United States and Britain hurt trade, and demand for Canadian resources and goods slumped. Despite this, industrial expansion in Montreal’s new east-end towns was getting well under way, led by prominent French-Canadian businessmen and landowners like Hudon, Barsalou, Viau, Desjardins and others. When the depression ended, investment from Britain resumed in Canada, immigration grew and manufacturing expanded.

For almost 100 years Montreal was the financial capital of Canada with many ‘emerging tech’ businesses like railways and telecommunications establishing their headquarters there. Banking and leading businessmen were early adopters of the telephone and by the end of 1880, Montreal was the most wired city in Canada – with 546 telephones in use.

Hubert’s business was expanding into multi-family dwellings and some commercial projects. He also had several business dealings with Victor Hudon, one of Hochelaga’s leading industrialists, who established a large cotton mill among other businesses. It’s also clear that not all of Hubert’s contracts went smoothly, as there are records regarding dispute settlements and lawsuits.

In 1881 Hubert and Alvina’s family of six children are recorded in the census as living in the district of Hochelaga (Montreal) in the village of Côte-de-la-Visitation. They have four children attending school: Michel, Sem, Ezilda and Alphonsine.

Two years later, Hochelaga was annexed to Montreal. That spurred a group of French-Canadian landowners to found Maisonneuve – a city inspired by the City Beautiful movement . Its developers planned to build grand civic buildings and factories – and at one point Maisonneuve became known as the “Pittsburgh of Canada”. Judging from the numerous property transactions and contracts for work in the area, it’s clear that Hubert Prévost was among those early industrialists of Maisonneuve.

In 1882 Victor Hudon was expanding his textile manufacturing business and planned to build a new mill (St. Ann Spinning Co.) with authorized capital of $300,000 and an exemption from taxes for 25 years from the town council of Hochelaga. Hubert Prévost was among those named to the board of directors. V. Hudon’s mill and the St-Ann Spinning company later merged to become the Hochelaga Cotton Mill.

Cotton mill
Proposed plant for Hochelaga Cotton Mill

Victor Hudon’s mills were an important part of the area’s economy. In 1874 it employed 250 workers – including many women and children, some as young as 10. Conditions were harsh – a situation that led to a Royal Commission in 1888 to investigate child labor in the mills. It was learned that many children worked barefoot because they had no shoes, most had not attended school and the majority could neither read nor write. While the factory still carried Hudon’s name at the time of the commission, he no longer owned the business.

Article in Gazette

On June 11, 1883 an application to form a joint stock company is announced led by Victor Hudon and with Hubert Prévost and others as provisional directors. The stock offering is for 2,000 shares of $100 each. The company is called La Compagnie de Filature Saint-Joseph, Beauharnois and will manufacture cottons into various fabrics.

It seems that the Beauharnois town council were willing to grant a tax exemption to the new mill for 20 years, a subsidy of $8,000 and free access to hydroelectricity. They also committed to purchase $80,000 in shares of the new company. But for some reason the project never got off the ground.

In 1883, Hubert’s father, now 76, decides to make provisions for himself and his wife Lucie in their old age. He made a living donation to his son Eugene in advance of his inheritance of a lot in Pointe-aux-Trembles for his use (possibly the family home). In return Eugene must clothe, feed and lodge his parents. If they can’t perform these duties satisfactorily, then the property reverts to the parents and they may sell it to pay for their ease and care.

Quebec Gazette clippingOn December 26, 1884, Hubert (fils) achieves a measure of status when he is among a group of men who are named Justices of the Peace in the District of Montreal. He holds this post until 1894 and only appears to have been active during 1889, when he heard seven cases.

In 1885, Hubert begins to focus on public sector projects. He submits a bid for the construction of a market – one of six firms to bid on the construction contract. His bid of $19,800 was unsuccessful, and just $1 higher than the winning proposal.

Zoe Reeves obituary clippingOn March 14, 1886 Zoe Alvina Reeves passed away afer a long and difficult illness. Could she have been a victim of the smallpox epidemic of the previous fall? That epidemic killed 1,391 Montrealers, 1,286 of which were French Canadian, despite a mandatory smallpox vaccination program that was protested by angry mobs. Her death was announced in La Presse.

Less than a month later, their oldest daughter, Alvina, is the first of the children to marry. Her husband Joseph Christin appears to also have had an interest in property, as the name Christin is tied to some lots in St-Mary Ward.

In September, probably in accordance with Alvina’s will, Hubert arranges for an inventory and valuation of their matrimonial property. The inventory provides a good insight into their means and the degree to which Hubert’s business was entwined with the household finances. The home had an office, sitting room, dining room, kitchen, and bedroom on the main floor. Upstairs were three other bedrooms and an attic space. There was also a workshop, outbuilding and barn.

Apart from the usual array of household furnishings and small goods were the following items:

  • A piano made by L & E Fisher of New York ($250)
  • A wine press and bird cage ($2.50)
  • A carriage (voiture) valued at $60 along with an assortment of wagons and a sleigh
  • Two horses – un presque ruiné ($100)
  • One cow ($20)

The total valuation of their communal property was $1,168.70.

Zoe’s personal belongings (such as clothing) were divided among the daughters and not included in the inventory. The inventory took seven hours to complete on the first day.

The next day, Charles Reeves and Joseph Chretien (husband of Alvina Provost) supervised another inventory session in Maisonneuve. Before that got underway, Hubert added a declaration to the effect that he undertook on behalf of Alphonse Desjardins the construction of 6 houses in the Pie IX area of Maisonneuve for the sum of $7,880 – due the following April. Because he did not keep records of actual expenses incurred to date for the work, he proposed a separate evaluation to assess the amount of profit/or loss to be added to the inventory valuation. The valuators assessed the value of the work completed to date at $4,730 and the remaining work at $3,150, with a calculation of the expected profit. The result, along with other building materials added $1,399.10 to the estate valuation.

The inventory continued a third day with an accounting of finances (cash and deposits $10.20). Money owed (from business transactions and property rentals) amounted to $5,154.67, of which $1,500 was expected to be a write off (Victor Hudon). As a note to the evaluation, Hubert intended to sue the School Board for $1,000 for breach of contract. He had a life insurance policy that he paid over 25 years amounting to $1,000; Zoe also had a life insurance policy of $1,000 which was claimed.

On the liability side, debts totaled $11,811 consisting mostly of loans related to business and property transactions. Zoe’s funeral costs were $67.72 and the notary fees for the inventory were $142.25.

Real estate holdings accumulated during their marriage included:

  • Property in Point-aux-Trembles with house, workshop, barn and other buildings in good condition
  • 5 lots in Pointe-aux-Trembles without buildings
  • 4 lots in Hochelaga Village
  • 3 lots in Hochelaga with houses
  • 1 lot in Hochelaga on Notre Dame Street

The inventory concluded on the fourth day with a review of titles and legal documents and additional declarations by Hubert regarding:

  • The donation of $500 from Zoe’s parents per the marriage contract
  • Property in Hochelaga that was sold
  • Additional bank deposits of about $2400
  • About $4000 in payables due
  • Additional debts bringing the total owed to $16,080.80

On September 21st, there was a double wedding in Pointe-aux-Trembles. Brother and sister Michel and Eugenie are married the same day in Pointe-aux-Trembles. Michel marries Ernestine Belliveau daughter of Hilaire and Marie Célina Cadotte; and Eugenie marries Jean Baptiste Foisy, son of Urgel and Elmire Lavoie.


Sources

Hubert Prévost the entrepreneur: In business

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

It’s around 1871 that Hubert appears to have established himself as a building contractor. Dozens of transactions are recorded from this point that document construction contracts, financial obligations, payment receipts, tenant leases and more. The volume of documents provides a rich record of business dealings yet seems to generate more questions than answers as to the successes or failures he encountered. A closer study may yet reveal some of those answers.

In the 1871 Lovell directory for Montreal and area, we find business listings for Hubert Prévost and some of his relations:

  • Prévost H., carpenter, 318 Visitation Montreal [Hochelaga area. This is likely Hubert père.]
  • Prévost Hubert~ jun. Joiner living in Pointe-aux-Trembles
  • Prévost Eugéne, stonecutter in Ste-Genevieve [parish of Montreal, this is likely Hubert’s brother]
  • Prévost Jos. laborer, 28 St Lawrence St. [likely Hubert’s brother]
  • Reeve George, hotelkeeper & Reeve Olivier, hotelkeeper (Pointe-aux-Trembles) [Olivier Reeves is Hubert’s brother-in-law].

On the personal front, Hubert received $100 from his brother-in-law Charles Reeves that appears to be a donation to Alvina, possibly as part of the dowry described in her marriage contract.

Some of Hubert’s business dealings are with family relations. One example is a contract with Louis Troie dit Lafranchise (his brother-in-law) who agrees to have a house built by Hubert on rue Mygnon in the Ste-Marie district of Montreal. The document specifies the purchase price ($900) and terms for payment at 6% interest. This appears to be the first record of Hubert’s business dealings. He will go on to buy, develop and sell several lots in Hochelaga and Maisonneuve.

Map of Pointe-aux-Trembles
Map of the town of Pointe-aux-Trembles, c. 1875

Hubert also provided a loan of $400 to George and Olivier Reeves for their business use. They promise to repay the loan in one year (from May 1). As a security they mortgage some land 2 arpents wide by 40 arpents deep and a second property in Pointe-aux-Trembles 20 feet wide by 70 deep bounded in front by rue Ste-Anne, in back by the cemetery, and on the sides the Chemin de péage [toll road] and the property of Narcisse Allaire.

Hubert purchases a lot from Hippolyte Reeves that is 74 feet wide by 130 feet deep, located in the seigneury of Montreal, with a building already built. It is facing the St-Laurent river and adjoining properties are owned by Jean Bte Brien, Frs H Puran [?] and the heirs of the late Gabriel Monette. The purchaser agrees to pay seigneurial fees going forward and to pay 750 livres, old currency on the next St- Michel [Sept 29] without interest.

Then Hubert sells a lot, also in the seigneury of Montreal, with a frontage of 43 ft on the toll road and 150 ft deep, bordering properties owned by himself, A. Laporte on one side, and Robert Turcotte and Jean-Bte Gervais on the other side, to J. B. Dufort. Hubert Prévost will construct a building 12 x 24 in the same style as that of M. Turcotte with an outhouse (4′ square), a staircase and enclosed gallery. The work is to begin on May 1. The buyer will pay all future seigneurial fees and $1250.

Early in 1872, Hubert’s brother-in-law Louis Troie took a $400 mortgage loan on half of a two-storey brick house from Hubert. The debt is related to their agreement made in April 1871 to build a house for Troie.

On May 4, 1872 Charles Reeves, Alvina’s father, makes the final payment of 400 piastres regarding the donation he promised his daughter in 1865 – either as a dowry or an advance on her inheritance.

In 1876, Hubert and Alvina draw up their wills before notary Octave Regnier. Only Hubert’s copy has been found, but it’s likely Alvina’s contains similar provisions. Hubert’s will also lists a number of specific stipulations:

  1. To pray for his soul and commend him to God
  2. That his debts be paid
  3. That He be buried in the parish cemetery in Pointe-aux-Trembles
  4. He leaves his belongings and property to his wife
  5. If his wife and heir remarry, she must undertake an inventory and valuation of the estate
  6. If one any of their children die, their successors inherit on their behalf.

Sources

  • Fonds Cour Supérieure. Greffes de notaires; Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Montréal, Québec, Canada.
  • Hopkins, H.W. Atlas of the city and island of Montreal, including the counties of Jacques Cartier and Hochelaga from actual surveys, based upon the cadastral plans deposited in the office of the Department of Crown Lands. http://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/
  • Lovells Quebec directory 1871. Library and Archives Canada. http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca

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

 

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”