Tag Archives: St. Lawrence River

Higher than Niagara Falls!

Canada boasts so many beautiful locations, for tourists and visitors alike.  We are all familiar with Niagara Falls, which borders Canada and the United States.  But in Quebec there is a special gem called Montmorency Falls and is 30 meters higher than Niagara Falls!

It is at the junction of Montmorency River and the St. Lawrence River, about 10 kilometres east of Quebec City.  It has captured people’s fascination and awe since the years of Champlain.  Like most of Canada’s geography, there is a different experience to be had if you visit in the summer or in the winter.  The following videos can show you its beauty more than my words ever could.  Enjoy them.








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Henry IV Assassinated

François Ravaillac, assassin of King Henry IV,...

François Ravaillac, assassin of King Henry IV, brandishing his dagger, in a 17th-century engraving (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On this blog so far, several stories have described the terrible tortures and massacres inflicted by the Indians. An impression might be given that Indian torture and cruelty was unique, but this was far from being the case. So-called civilized people could be just as barbarous.

WARNING: The following is a graphic story of torture. If you don’t want to read about the gore, I very highly suggest you don’t read the following paragraph!

On May 14, 1610, King Henry IV of France was assassinated by François Ravaillac, a religious fanatic. Ravaillac was put in prison, tortured by red-hot pincers, and had his leg crushed. While thousands of people, including princes and leaders of France, lined the streets or watched from windows, Ravaillac was drawn from the prison in a scavenger’s cart and taken to the Place de Grève. Boiling lead was poured into his wounds, and then his body was torn apart by four white horses pulling in opposite directions. The people in the crowd scrambled to pick up pieces of his flesh. The house where he was born was burned to the ground, and his mother and father were exiled from France.

Champlain was in Paris at the time and was glad that the Indians had not seen what had happened. He had often told them that the French killed, yes, but did not torture their enemies.

Henry IV’s death was a serious loss to Champlain. He had made Champlain a royal geographer, and granted trading monopolies to Chauvin, Chaste, and de Monts. Just before he was assassinated, Champlain had given him a belt of porcupine quills, the head of a garfish, and two little birds, scarlet tanagers. The King was greatly pleased, and listened to Champlain’s stories about Canada. Now no one in authority in France took any interest in Canada and the fur trade had got out of control. Unauthorized traders rushed to Canada and obtained furs by plying the Indians with brandy. The situation became so bad that some of the Indian chiefs prohibited their braves from taking their furs to the French.

Champlain had to find someone to take control in France, and finally persuaded Charles de Bourbon, a prince who ranked next to the king. He was already governor of Normandy and Dauphine from which he drew substantial revenue, but he agreed to become lieutenant-general for the king in Canada, provided that he was paid a salary, plus a share of the profits from the fur trade. It was a hard bargain, but Champlain was pleased because the prince made him a lieutenant of France. This position gave him authority to control the traders on the St. Lawrence River. Champlain was told to make Quebec his capital.

Do you still want to read more about this? Well, I suggest clicking your way to Versailles and More blog; has a great article; and G.W. Leibniz also has a great article; The Telegraph from the UK has a news story about finding the King’s remains; then there’s Cool Stuff in Paris shows what you would see as a tourist at the spot where the assassination took place!


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Like the “Three Stars” of Hockey

English: The Chevalier de Lévis rallies the Fr...

The Chevalier de Lévis rallies the French army before the Battle of Sainte-Foy. Online at Canadian Military Heritage, Department of Defence. Vertical crop for better fit in battlebox. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


When the hockey experts pick their “three stars”, they usually choose two players from the winners and one from the losers.  For much of the same reason, history has not given Montcalm and Lévis the recognition they deserve as great soldiers.

François Gaston, Chevalier de Lévis, was one of Montcalm’s most valuable officers.  He refused to give up the battle for Canada after the fall of Quebec and spent the winter of 1759-1760 in Montreal building up a new army.  The British had not been able to capture Montreal in the autumn of 1759 because the news of Wolfe’s victory at Quebec reached General Amherst too late in the year.

By April 1760, General Lévis had recruited 7,000 men and was ready to try to recapture Quebec.  One of his biggest problems was to transport this large force down the St. Lawrence river without being detected.  He manage this, somehow or other, and landed at Cap Rouge (where the Quebec Bridge is), on a wild, rainy night.

Unfortunately for Lévis, at this moment one of his men fell overboard, but saved himself by grabbing a large piece of floating ice.  A British sloop, patrolling off Quebec, heard the man’s cries and picked him up.  He was brought before General Murray, commander of the garrison at Quebec, at three in the morning.  He told the general everything.  Murray had just enough time to blow up an ammunition dump at Sainte Foy, so that it would not fall into Lévis’ hands, and to set up a line of defence outside the city walls.

The battle of Sainte Foy was fought on April 28, 1760, and was one of the bloodiest in Canadian history.  Murray was beaten and had to return to Quebec.  Each side lost 1,000 men.  Now it was a question of time.  Murray hoped he could hold on until British reinforcements could get up the St. Lawrence.  Lévis knew he had to bombard the city into submission before that happened.  Murray was the victor eventually, because British ships began to arrive on May 10, before Lévis was able to break through.  The French had to return to Montreal to get ready to fight again.

You probably want to read more about the battle of Sainte-Foy, so here are a few places to go to for that: there’s Wikipedia, and‘s article by Kennedy Hickman, and Weapons and Warfare blog. And if you’d prefer to hold a book in your hands to learn, there’s Canadian Military Heritage, 1000 – 1754


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Flood in Montreal!

Beaver Hall Hill, looking southwards, Montreal...

Beaver Hall Hill, looking southwards, Montreal, Quebec (Photo credit: Musée McCord Museum)

This is usually the time of year when many parts of Canada are menaced by spring floods.  Under normal conditions the floods are kept under control, but occasionally there will be a combination of unusual weather and then the high spring waters run wild.

There have been desperate conditions in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia (1948) and the Red River, Manitoba (1950).  Both situations were saved by thousands of citizens turning out to make restraining walls with sandbags.  Even so, the Red River flood extended over 700 square miles and caused $27 million damage.

Until 1901, when a stone wall was built along the river banks, Montreal had often been damaged by spring floods.  One of the first floods destroyed a cemetery established by Maisonneuve who founded Montreal in 1642.

The worst Montreal flood happened on the evening of Sunday, April 14, 1861.  Almost without warning, the St. Lawrence River rose so suddenly that the water poured into the lower part of the city, stranding many people who were attending evening services on the churches.  St. Stephen’s Church on Dalhousie Street, and the Methodist Church on Ottawa Street were surrounded by water in a few minutes.  The people had to stand on the pews as it poured in at the doors. Even then, with the water 6 feet deep, they could only keep their heads above it.  Some people had to stay there all night in the freezing cold and darkness because the lights were extinguished.  Others were rescued by small boats which were rowed into the churches!

By morning, there was an icy blizzard and one-quarter of Montreal was under water.  Small boats served as taxis from St. James Street to Beaver Hall Hill, at a fare of five cents per passenger.  The Grand Trunk Railway was unable to  run as its lines were flooded as far as Lachine.  Victoria Bridge, an important link in the Grand Trunk which spanned the St. Lawrence River, was also temporarily closed.  Then considered one of the engineering wonders of the world, it had just been opened the previous year by Edward, Prince of Wales, representing his mother, Queen Victoria.

I just found a really nice blog, and it covers this event with a photo and a newspaper article: Coolopolis!

I had heard of this event many years ago, but I just can’t remember where I’ve seen or read it.  And I can’t say that there are many resources on the ‘net about it.  That said, I’ve accessed an online reproduction of Montréal fin-de-siècle : histoire de la métropole du Canada au dix-neuvième siècle, published: 1899, Montreal Gazette Print Co., identifier: 27398, Collection: History of French Canada.  I’ve accessed the following on April 13, 2013 at

“L’année 1861 s’annonça par une grande inondation.  Le soir du 14 avril, un dimanche, l’eau monta de 24 pieds au-dessus du niveau ordinaire et si rapidement, que grand nombre de personnes furent surprises dans les églises d’où elles ne purent sortir qu’avec peine.  Le froid et la neige vinrent encore augmenter les souffrances causées par cette subite des eaux.”


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Treaty of Utrecht

Treaty of Utrecht (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Treaty of Utrecht signed by Britain and France on April 11, 1713, ended the war that made the Duke of Marlborough famous. Before becoming a duke, he was John Churchill, the most distinguished member of his family until Sir Winston Churchill gave leadership to the free world in 1940-1945.

It took Britain and France fifteen months to work out the details of the Treaty of Utrecht. Both sides made concessions. France gave up Hudson Bay and Newfoundland, although Iberville had captured them, and Acadia to the British. She retained Canada (New France), Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island (called the Island of St. John) to protect the entrance to Canada via the St. Lawrence River. France also kept her possessions in what are now the United States and West Indies.

Nominally, there was a long period of peace between Britain and France after the Treaty of Utrecht, but preparations were made for war. France began building the mighty fortress at Louisburg and tried to persuade the Acadians to move there. The land at Louisburg was not suitable for farming, so the Acadians stayed where they were, even though it meant living under British rule. They made it clear, however, that they would never take up arms against France if there was a war. This led to their expulsion.

Eventually, Britain had to develop an army and naval base at Halifax to counteract the French fortress at Louisburg.

One troublesome feature of the Treaty of Utrecht was its failure to set up a border between Nova Scotia and Massachusetts (New Brunswick and Maine did not exist). Sometimes, the border was said to be the St. Croix River, as it is today, but there were other occasions when France claimed the territory as far south as Boston. This resulted in a number of raids by the British and French on each other’s settlements. The French joined the Abenaki Indians in a number of fierce sorties into Massachusetts and massacred entire communities.

In the long run, the Treaty of Utrecht resulted in France’s losing her North American possessions, including Canada.

For more extensive reading about this treaty, I suggest going to François Velde‘s Heraldica! There is more to read at Wikipedia. Interesting information can be read at Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage. I also suggest visiting Another good place is at the Canadian Encyclopedia.


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Eventually Led To Confederation …

Delegates of the Charlottetown Conference on t...

Delegates of the Charlottetown Conference on the steps of Government House, September 1864. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On March 28, 1864, Nova Scotia became the first maritime colony to authorize a delegation to go to Charlottetown in September to discuss maritime union with representatives of the other Atlantic colonies.  New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island decided to send delegations soon after. To unite politically would allow the maritime colonies to achieve what they all urgently needed, a railway to Canada.

In the 1860s, Canada was in the middle of a railway building boom.  Tracks were being laid everywhere; sometimes they started in a community and ended in the woods!  Government subsidies made it profitable for promoters to build railways.  Some promoters made fortunes as a result.

One of the problems of building a railway between Canada and the Atlantic colonies was to decide the route it should take.  The most profitable route would have been from the coast to Saint John and Halifax.  British military authorities objected to this proposal because such a rail line would be useless in the event of war with the United States.  They preferred the line follow the present C.N.R. tracks; that is, along the St. Lawrence River and south to Halifax.

As early as 1862, delegates from Canada and the Atlantic colonies had met at Quebec to discuss the building of a railway connecting Canada and the Maritimes.  An agreement had been reached, but it was necessary to get the approval of the British Government.  This was not forthcoming.

By 1864, the Atlantic colonies were quickly reaching the conclusion that if they were to have a railway, they would have to form a union among themselves.  On March 28, 1864, Nova Scotia officially committed itself to discussing maritime union.

It was this meeting of Atlantic colonies that Canada asked permission to attend.  It became the famous Charlottetown Conference that eventually led to Confederation.


Posted by on March 28, 2013 in On This Day


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New Governor Appointed

When Champlain died at Quebec, on Christmas Day 1635, the man who was given the unenviable task of taking his  place was Charles Huault de Montmagny.

Portrait de Charles Jacques Huault de Montmagn...

Portrait de Charles Jacques Huault de Montmagny, gouverneur de la Nouvelle-France de 1636 à 1648 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He was appointed Governor of Canada on March 10, 1636, and arrived at Quebec in June.

Montmagny was a soldier and a knight of the Maltese Order, as was his aide, Bréhaut L’Isle. It must have been an inspiring sight when they stepped on shore wearing their black robes with white eight-pointed crosses on their breasts. They were followed by soldiers in scarlet uniforms and flashing breastplates.  The party numbered forty-five in all, including six daughters of two of its members.  Their arrival nearly doubled the population of Quebec!

Canada needed trained military men.  Montmagny and his aide, Bréhaut L’Isle, had fought the Turks on land and sea, and were believed to be the leaders who could handle the Iroquois.  The Five Nations had declared war on the French to revenge the defeats inflicted on them by Champlain and had taken strategic positions along the rivers.  It was not safe for small  parties of white men to go into the woods, and small communities were always in danger.

The Iroquois were armed with guns, most of which had been supplied by the Dutch who had a base at what is now Albany, New York.  They were remarkable warriors and planned their campaigns on lines that would be considered modern today>  They established positions along the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers, from Trois Rivières to Chaudière Falls.  This separated the French from the Hurons and  Algonquins who were their allies.

The Iroquois “army” was divided into ten sections with most of the strength around Montreal Island, which was the crossroads of the trade routes.  One of the sections was a large mobile force that could be moved quickly to any sector.  The Iroquois did not commit large numbers of warriors to single actions, but used small bands to kill the French in what is now called “guerilla” warfare.”  If the French could be weakened sufficiently, that would be the time for a united attack.

Montmagny made the first plans for countering the Iroquois  but it took another thirty six years to make much headway.  Count Frontenac had arrived by that time to take charge.

Want to read more about this? Here are a few suggestions: The Quebec History Encyclopedia; the Catholic Encyclopedia; the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.

Would you rather hold a book in your hands? I suggest The Chevalier de Montmagny: First Governor of New France. Or Beginning New France 1524 1663


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