Chapter 9


The Eastern Townships (Cantons de l'est) comprises that part of Quebec, generally, east of the Saint-Lawrence River and south of the city of Sherbrooke. Within its borders, and immediately south of Montreal, lies a sliver of land not 60 miles wide separating the industrial capital of Quebec from the border of the Republic of the United States of America, and the state of New York. Here, in the Eastern Townships can be found the municipalities of Valleyfield, Huntingdon, Cazaville, Dundee and Saint-Anicet.

The first settler of the townships was a displaced Acadian, Eustache Dupuis, who arrived in 1795.56

Dupuis had left Acadia (flag, pictured; now part of Nova Scotia) around 1785, just after England had won the settlement from the French. At the same time, in France, the French Revolution was nearing its bloody end.

After a decade spent in Boston, Massachusetts, Dupuis settled in the Chateauguay River valley.

Flag of AcadiaBefore long, other Acadians joined him: the Geniers and the Cazas, among others.

Development of the land proceeded slowly in the first years of the 19th century. There were no roads, horses or oxen available to the settlers. Canoes were the only method of transportation.

Of the first settlers of Saint-Anicet:

"... none of them paid attention to farming, their dependence being placed on lumbering, so that their clearances were simply for corn and potatoes."57

Shortly after this modest influx of Acadians, the townships enjoyed another heavy wave of settlers as United Empire loyalists from the new nation, the United States of America poured across the border, no longer wanted by their former brethren, as the American Revolution (1775-1783) was waning. They were joined by other New England Americans who wanted to take advantage of the available land beyond the new border, in British North America.

But that English-speaking immigration suddenly ended when the American government finally opened up, for settlement, the western frontier, especially the westernmost borders of the states of New York and Ohio.


Meanwhile, a legal stalemate existed which affected land ownership throughout the Province of Québec.

Since the collapse of Québec and the Durham Report, most legal issues of societal integration between the British conquerors and the French settlers had been resolved (see the Quebec Civil Law Kerfuffle). But the British government was at a loss at how best to integrate the French colonial seigniory land distribution system with their British land administration legal system. They seemed completely incompatible; like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

And yet, when the Anglo-American War of 1812 ended, the Saint-Anicet area was recognized by military experts as requiring increased population; that:

"... an invading army would meet with more serious hindrances were it peopled with loyal settlers."58

The British government was given the specific recommendation to divvy up the land between the regular British army troops, with service duty in Canada, who would consent to stay and farm the land.

But it was the provincial legislature which acted first by passing legislation which awarded 165,000 acres of Eastern Township land to Canadian militia veterans. The bill quickly received Royal Assent and the land around Saint-Anicet was drawn and divvied.

A lieutenant-colonel qualified for 1,200 acres. A private could receive up to 100 acres.

Wrote one historian59:

"Few of the rank-and-file proved their claims. They sold their rights for mere trifles to the land-sharks who haunted taverns. The officers drew their land and then did nothing with it, waiting until they became valuable from the labours of settlers on adjoining lots."

Duhaimes Cross The River

Alexis Duhaime and his brother Leandre both benefitted from the grant of land to militia veterans and left Lac St. Pierre and crossed the Saint-Lawrence River around 1820.

April 15, 1822 marked the first appearance of Duhemes in the St. Anicet parish registry.

On that day, Alexis III married Brigitte Charlebois.

Thomas DuhemeHis brother Leandre wed four months later, in the same church, to Victoire Vive-l'Amour-Menard.

Conditions in Lower Canada, as it was then called, were already far different from what Alexis and Leandre's great-great-great grandfather François Le Maistre had experienced. Close to half a million people now inhabited the former French territory of Québec (more than twice as many that lived in Upper Canada and compared with 10 million in the milder climate of the United States of America).

The population of Quebec City, for example, had reached 20,000 of which 20 per cent were English-speaking Catholics from Ireland.

Amazing inventions had surfaced in Europe and in the new world and soon to benefit both, all the fruit of human ingenuity: the submarine, the steamship, steam-engines and trains, gas lighting in city streets and iron ploughs for farmers. The Lachine Canal was opened in 1825.

Lifestyles changed with the times and fur-trading declined. In 1845, Hudson's Bay Company had but a mere 45 trading posts left in operation. Pulp and paper mills had been in operation in Montreal since 1803 and Canadian grain exports multiplied.

But life in the new hinterlands of the Eastern Townships remained difficult. Recollections from one settler that arrived in the Saint-Anicet area in 1820 have been preserved for posterity. Certainly, Alexis Duheme must have settled under circumstances in most points similar to this recount60:

"We heard of government land being thrown open in Huntingdon. We crossed on the ice, bringing three cows with us, for which we found plenty of feed in the marsh hay, which then grew high enough to hide an ox. We put up a shanty, roofed with split basswood slabs and hoed in potatoes and corn among the ashes of the little clearance we made, which yielded wonderfully, so that after that Fall we had to buy little provisions. There was a lumber road to Trout River but no settlers off the lake. Lumbering was in full blast.

"The finest cedars I ever saw were taken out of the Beaver (as we called the swamp east of Dupuis' corners), many being 2½ feet thick at the butt and straight as an arrow. The oak was all gone. But the pine was no more than touched. We all went into lumbering which was an injury to us. We would have done better to have stuck to our land. We rafted a good deal of cordwood to Montreal and I have stayed there a fortnight with a raft before I got it all sold. The price ranged from $2.50 to $4 per cord for maple, according to the supply. It cost so much for help to run the rapids and took so much time that it seldom paid us. The only produce that brought money was potash. For the best, we got half money and half trade. For inferior, the storekeeper would pay only in goods. Our grist, we took by canoe or on our backs to Fort Covington. In going by water to the Fort, we were subject to be detained by storms and often had, in the spring and fall, to put in to some island and wait for one or two days for the lake to go down."

Another resident of nearby Laguerre61 told an amusing story:

"That summer (1823) we bought a cow from McBain. It was curious how animals were brought across the lalce in canoes. Two canoes were lashed together, and the forelegs were in one and the hind legs in the other. If it came on to blow, cattle would not balance themselves, but horses would. I know of only one instance of a cow being brought over in a single canoe. One of the Cazas did it and charged a dollar."

Duhaimes circa 1918There were few roads in the area. Canoes were the chief method of transportation62:

"The nature of the country was such that to make roads was beyond the ability of the settlers and the government would give no assistance. The French Canadians dominated in the (Lower Canadian) assembly and viewed with undisguised ill-will the progress of the townships."

The community lacked churches, surprising in a province which still had such a dominant clergy. In the nearby hamlet of Laguerre, a church frame was erected but construction stalled.

Sometime in the mid-1820s, a woman named McManus died of ship-fever:

"The woman who had attended her, Mrs Duheme, had the body hurriedly committed. Some time after, Mrs. Duheme alleged that on going to milk her cow in the pasture one evening, the ghost of Mrs. McManus appeared and reproached her for placing her body on unconsecrated ground. Next day, Mrs. Duheme got men to exhume the body and placing the coffin in her canoe, took it to the burial place at Caza's Point."63

This was the second burial in what was to become the Caza Point Cemetery. It took thirty-two years for a church to be erected next to the cemetery.

It is not possible to determine whether Mrs. Duheme was Brigitte Charlebois (Alexis Duheme's wife) or Victoire Vive-L'Amour Menard, Leandre's wife.

In 1829, the people of Laguerre decided to build a school:

"The trustees, the three leading men of the place, Messrs. Ogilvie, McBain and L. Duheme undertook to see that the agreed number of scholars attended, that the fees were col1ected and fuel provided."

Mr. McBain suffered a curious death a year later.

He was at his father's farm, apparently, McBain Senior offered him his chair. McBain took the chair, next to the window and picked up his eldest daughter on his knee. Just then, a lightning bolt hit the house, entered the window and struck McBain. The noise and blast of light stunned the other occupants of the room who then saw McBain lying on the ground, dead, his body blackened from the bolt.64

In 1835, in St. Anicet, a group of local land-owners was put together to oversee the erection of a stone church. The group of seven included Alexis Duhaime.65 They gave the construction contract to two locals including Jean-Baptiste Lebeau-Caza. Lebeau-Caza and his partner were to construct the church for $2,000, on the condition that the local people provided the necessary materials.66 A church was a harbinger of permanent settlement; a home.

Canadian Originals

As the world slowly turned, the minutia of the Duhaimes in Saint-Anicet formed but an infinitesimal part of the history of the world.

Paul Duhême (aka "Duhaime")As it were, and from Louiseville and later, from Saint-Anicet too, Duhaimes migrated to all points West, South and even North, some retaining the spelling Duhaime, others keeping or creating newfangled phonetic spelling:

  • Duheme;
  • Duhemme;
  • Dueme; or
  • Duhême.

To follow but a single geneological track implies a necessary decision to focus on one to the detriment of others which may turn as brothers and sisters are born.

Even as the first stones of the St. Anicet church were being mortared, Duhaimes were coming and going, bringing the family lineage to all points elsewhere in North America.

But this is our track of the cosmos; our ancestors.

In any event, no written history can give the reader any true view of the real lives of their subjects. We can't go to Sunday mass with Judith Rigaud in 1660; nor can we risk our lives down the rapids of the Ottawa River with Charles Lemaître in 1700. No words can do justice to a crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in 1651 or the hazard of simple farming in fields adjacent to hostile Indians. Or, consider having to make one's own meat and bread and dig for water; no electricity, vehicles or anesthetic.

What remains remarkable about the Duhaime family is that we arrived in the New World in the very early years, within the century after Christopher Columbus, while the raw land was substantially unoccupied except for nomadic and unsophisticated Indian tribes.

Our ancestors stayed and survived through calamity and disaster.

Coureurs des bois, voyageurs, habitants, Canadiens-français, filles du roy ... by any standard, Canadian originals.

Lloyd Duhaime, LL.B.
Victoria, Province of British Columbia (Canada)
May 12, 2014