Canada‘s first doctor is often credited with being the first European to farm in Canada, as well. Louis Hébert was born in about 1575 in France. He died at Quebec, from an injury that occurred when he fell on a patch of ice on January 25, 1627, and was greatly mourned.
Louis Hébert was brought to Quebec by Samuel de Champlain in 1617 to be the doctor to the new colony. Previously, in 1606, he made a trip to Acadia as a member of his cousin-in-law Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt’s expedition, and that is how he met Champlain.
Bear River, Nova Scotia, near Champlain’s habitation, is called after “Hébert”, whose name in French is pronounced “Ay-bear“. Port Hébert, on the southwest shore of Nova Scotia, is another landmark honouring the memory of this great Canadian. Across the nearby inlet is Louis Head.
Louis Hébert’s father was a physician to the Royal Court in Paris. He had cared for Catherine of Medci when she was dying after instigating the Massacre of St. Bartholemew’s. It was said that she was haunted by ghosts. In any case, young Louis Hébert had seen enough of court intrigue and was glad to get as far away as possible. When he was ready to sail he did not look back, even after learning that the directors of the company financing Champlain had reduced his salary sharply.
When they arrived at Quebec, the Héberts decided quickly that they could not live in the rat-infested ruins of Lower Town, and so they investigated the land at the top of the cliff. There they built what was probably the first home in Canada, and cultivated ten acres of land. They grew enough vegetables to support not only themselves but also many poor families. Louis Hébert may, therefore, deserve to be known as the first farmer in Canada.
His son-in-law is believed to have used the first plough in 1628. It was drawn by an ox, since horses were not used until 1647. The Native Indians called them “the moose from France.” The first wheat is believed to have been sown in 1644.