Hilaire Béliveau: Urban Realities – Upward Mobility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Engraving Montreal floods
Montréal flood, wood engraving, 1850-1885. John Henry Walker / McCord Museum. Montréal Gazette.
https://Montréalgazette.com/sponsored/mtl-375th/from-the-archives-if-theres-a-flood-it-must-be-spring-in-Montréal

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

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

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

Present day image of 105 rue St-Paul
105 rue St-Paul in 2018.
https://goo.gl/maps/o3qgkj3TLyKbQL2E7

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

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

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

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

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Hilaire Béliveau: Urban Realities – On to Montréal

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

In Québec (city), the Cadot family welcomed their third child, Célina on December 27, 1836. Célina would become Hilaire’s first wife in 1859. She was baptised in Notre Dame parish the following day and her godparents were Flavien and Caroline Bedard, her maternal aunt and uncle – both of whom were able to sign the register. Her older sisters were Marie Adelaide (born 1832) and Caroline Eléonore (born 1834).

By 1840, the Cadotte family are in Montréal, living in the western outskirts of Queens Ward. They don’t own their property – it’s leased under feudal tenure (seigneurial system) at 1 sous/arpent. Benjamin is a trader, and there are five people in his household: wife Adelaide Bedard and daughters Caroline, Adelaide and Célina.

Map of Montreal Wards in 1840
Montreal Wards 1840. Monrtreal Archives

Not appearing in this census are a daughter and son who both died young. Marie Rosalie, born in 1840. died just eight months after birth. In 1841 Louis Joseph joins the family but dies at five months old. Célina acquired another brother in 1842 with the birth of Pierre followed by Joseph Benjamin on March 17, 1843 and Francois Xavier Marie Joseph in 1846 who died two years later. Another sister, Marie Emilie, was born on May 2, 1849 in Montréal.

Later that year, Célina’s grandmother Angele Vallerand died at the age of 63, probably in Québec. Then the births of two more boys complete the family: Placide in 1854 and Louis Napoleon in 1858. Célina and her future husband, Hilaire Béliveau, are named godparents for Louis Napoleon.

With the Cadots initially located in Québec, then in Montréal, and the Béliveaus in St-Grégoire, how did Hilaire and Célina meet? As it happens, the parish registers for St-Grégoire contain many Cadots so it’s quite possible the two families were known to each other, despite living miles apart.

The Cadot family’s location in the relatively rural Queen’s Ward district was possibly connected to Benjamin Cadotte’s ties to the tanning industry as a leather trader or dealer. Côte-des-Neiges Road was within the upper limits of the ward and as early as 1737 tanners were attracted to the area because of plentiful running water. The Côte-des-Neiges area was beginning to develop into a village with large, established tanneries as the primary industry by 1860.

Life in mid-19th-century Montréal had its own share of civic disruptions. In 1844 violence erupted during a hotly contested Montréal byelection when reformer Lewis Thomas Drummond defeated brewer William Molson (1343 to 463). One man died and dozens of others were wounded.

In 1847 a typhus and cholera epidemic decimate the Irish refugee population, as well as many Montréalers, killing thousands. The epidemic even claims the life of John Easton Mills, mayor of Montréal, as he tended to the sick in the fever sheds.

On April 25, 1849, English-speaking protestors against the Rebellion losses bill in Canada East (a similar bill was passed for Canada West) quickly became a mob and set fire to the Parliament buildings in Montréal. The bill authorized compensation to people who suffered losses as a result of the Patriote uprisings of 1837-1838.

On July 8, 1852 more than 10,000 people were left homeless when the east side of Montréal went up in flames, destroying 1,100 houses. 20% of the eastern side of the city is devastated. The following year riots kill 40 people sparked by Alessandro Gavazzi’s anticlerical speeches at Montréal’s First Congregational Church (Zion Church).

Building in flames
Engraving by John Henry Walker, 1850–1885.
McCord Museum

Fortunately, it appears that all of these events had little effect on the Cadotte family – other than prompting lively discussion at the dinner table about the news of the day. We lose track of the Cadot family for a while after 1851 as they have not been located in the 1851 census.

THE BEAUDRYS OF POINTE-AUX-TREMBLES

The other family that will develop ties with Hilaire Béliveau is the Beaudrys of Pointe-aux-Trembles. Aglaë Beaudry was born on November 11, 1841 In Pointe-aux-Trembles, and she will become Hilaire’s second wife in 1882. She had two siblings at the time of her birth: Marie Odile (born 1839) and Camille (born in 1838). Aglaë was baptised at St-Enfant-de-Jesus church with Modeste Beaudoin and Monique Regnier as her godparents. Her brother Alfonse Baudry is born on September 20, 1844. Lastly, Zotique joins the Beaudry family on May 25, 1847 in Pointe-aux-Trembles.

The Beaudry family are farmers in Pointe-aux-Trembles, which is still a mostly rural community. The municipality is officially constituted as the parish of L’Enfant-Jésus-de-la-Pointe-aux-Trembles in 1845.

By 1851, Jacques Beaudry is a 33-year-old farmer living with his family in Pointe-aux-Trembles. In their single-story wood home are his wife, Elizabeth Bricault (44); Theophile (21) and Joseph Bricault (20) who are possibly relatives or sons from a previous marriage; their children: Camile (13), Odile (11), Aglaë (9), Alphonse (7) and Zotique (4). Aglaë and Alphonse are the only two attending school.

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Hilaire Béliveau: Urban Realities

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

Norbert Hilaire Béliveau (Hilaire) was born on June 6, 1834 in St-Grégoire (Nicolet), Québec, to Charles Hilaire Béliveau and Eléonore Bernard. Hilaire was not their first child, but the first to survive infancy. In 1832 a sister, Marguerite Odile, died a scant three days after her birth. Hilaire’s godparents were his grandmother, Marguerite Bourq, and Antoine Desrosiers. At the time of Hilaire’s birth, his father was a farmer in St-Grégoire – a village that counted a sizable population of Acadian refugee descendants.

These Acadian refugees (most were from Beaubassin) found their way to the Bécancour region from about 1758. They founded the village of Ste-Marguerite, later known as St-Grégoire. Hilaire’s great-grandfather David Béliveau arrived after 1766 with his parents by way of exile in Boston – which makes Hilaire the third generation of his line to live in the area.

RURAL BEGINNINGS

In this rural setting, the Béliveau family grew and farmed land that was probably part of the Linctot seigneurie. In 1836 a brother, Joseph William, was born and two years later a sister, Anna. In January 1840, a baby brother arrives – Antoine Ephrain. He will live to be 81. Another brother, Narcisse Camille, arrives very quickly after Antoine in September 1840.

Hilaire’s grandfather, David Béliveau, died in St-Grégoire on October 20, 1842. He was 68 years old and lived and farmed his entire life in the Nicolet area. Another brother to Hilaire is born, Théodule, in December 1843. In October 1845, Joseph Uldéric joins the Béliveau family in St-Grégoire and is baptised the following day sous condition which means it was likely he was baptized by the midwife or other authorized person before the ceremony could be performed by a priest. This is sometimes the case if the newborn had a difficult birth or seems to be at risk of not surviving before a proper baptism can be done. He is followed by Louis Pierre who is born on September 1, 1847, then Jean Baptiste on September 29, 1850. Artemise is the youngest and was born around 1851.

FORMAL EDUCATION TAKES ROOT

Hilaire and Célina Cadotte (his future wife) are the first generation in their families to have been educated, both their parents were illiterate. It’s possible that Hilaire attended the Nicolet Seminary at some point (founded in 1803), a top-tier institution. That Hilaire received an education is in itself remarkable and seems to have bucked the prevailing view of farmers – especially in Nicolet – of paying taxes to fund public education.

La Guerre des Éteignoirs was a movement that took hold in 1836 to protest the closure of over 1600 schools in Lower Canada. From 1836 to 1841, organized schooling was practically nonexistent. The only schools to remain open were subsidized by Fabriques (parish building committees). The government wanted to restructure the public school network and fund it with taxes. As a result, many parents took their children out of school in protest and refused to pay the taxes or elect school boards.

In 1850 tensions rose when a new school tax law is imposed on taxpayers regardless of whether they have children attending school. Fanning the flames of discontent are politicians and leaders of the Éteignoirs who try to link the issue to the plight of Irish refugees escaping the famine. The tactic hits home in Nicolet where a large contingent of Irish refugees settled.

In 1851, as the embers and hostilities of the Éteignoirs movement die down, we find Hilaire and four of his brothers are attending school. They didn’t have far to go – their neighbour in St-Grégoire, Joseph Paré, had a schoolhouse on his property, so it’s likely that’s where they went. By 1857 a boys’ school and a girls’ school were established in St-Grégoire.

Returning to 1836, the Éteignoirs movement wasn’t the only cause of public discontent. The Patriote rebellion found supporters in the Nicolet area with assemblies and confrontations taking place between Patriote sympathizers and loyalists. Two local men were arrested in connection with the Patriote movement but were later released. To restore calm in the region, the government sent officials to Nicolet where they also took oaths of allegiance to the Queen from over 800 Nicolétaines.

Le Populaire 1838-02-14

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