The Douglastown Historical Review
Issue #2, Spring 2000, written by Al White, Toronto.

We're a Hit

When I started to work on the first issue of the DHR I was not sure what kind of reaction to expect. In today's world it is usually indifference. So I was pleasantly surprised when many of you took the time to drop me a line to say thank you and to offer your encouragement. Some of you even sent a financial contribution to help defray my expenses. That was very much appreciated.

I printed a hundred and twenty copies of the review but that seems not to have been nearly enough. People were copying and mailing it to their relations all over North America. Ieven had a couple of offers to put the review on the Internet.

Obviously, I'm not doing this to make money. On the other hand my financial contribution to the project has limits. Excluding research expenses, the cost of putting an issue together works out to be about a hundred and fifty dollars. That's O.K. - that's my contribution. But with people wanting to have more than one copy of the review, the problem becomes how do we get more books to more people without blowing my budget. Any suggestions?

On another note. Some of you have agreed to contribute material to future issues of the DHR. That s great but I need a lot more people to come forward. I'm hoping that as time goes by and people get a chance to see more issues that those offers will come. If they don't then eventually I'm going to run out of "gas". And the story of Douglas Township and its people will remain untold - at least by me.

One of the questions that was raised in your letters was: Are you going to be doing just Douglastown? The answer is yes and no. The use of the word "Douglastown" in the title is a bit of a misnomer. Although called the Douglastown Historical Review the actual geographical area I hope to cover will be what was called Douglas township which included Sandy Beach, Haldimand, Seal Cove, L'Anse-à-Brillant, Bois Brute and of course Douglastown.


Time to tell our story

In the first issue of the DHR we learned that Douglastown was first settled by discharged soldiers and loyalist refugees of the American War of Independence. While most of these families left Douglastown "for greener pastures" before the turn of the century, enough stayed to ensure the survival of the town. This issue features one of these founding families, the family of Thomas Morris and Catherine Samson.

So turn the page and learn something of this first family it's a beautiful fall day, late in the year 1775. You're on board a British Merchant ship as it makes its way up the St. Lawrence River heading for the port of Quebec.


Thomas Morris. Seaman

"Thomas Morris, your daydreaming again", yelled the first mate. "That he is" answered a deck hand standing next to Thomas. "Dreaming of olde Ireland he was". "Back to work, lad. Don't let this half wit bother ye none. We all mis ar omes."

They were right Thomas had been thinking of home. Of the rolling hills of the Wexford countryside and of his parents, his father Mathew and his mother Mary Murphy. Would he ever be able to see them again he wondered.

The trip up the St. Lawrence to Quebec had been pretty uneventful considering the lateness of the season. But now that they were about to put into port there would be little time to daydream if the ship was to make her escape before ice barred their way.

They arrived at Quebec around noon and were immediately given a place at the dock to moor their vessel. Once in port the men began unloading their cargo. Their Captain after completing his business with the customs agent then busied himself with arranging the details for the cargo homeward. Furs, Thomas thought or maybe a load of wheat.

In the evening after the days work was done some of the men were allowed to go into town. Thomas and his mates liked to visit the pubs in the lower town where the other seamen would hang out. An ale to touch the lips, a song to touch the heart and a pretty girl to catch the sailor's eye. And the tails that were told, tales that would curl the hair on the back of your head, they would.

But on this particular November night the talk at the tables was different. "Did you here", they said, "the Americans are coming". Almost in whispers - "the Americans are coming". Thomas and his mates had heard the rumours since they had come into port. An American Army had taken St. John's on Lake Champlain. That army had then taken Montreal and was now on it's way towards Quebec. Governor Carleton who had been at Montreal was missing and a second American army was only a couple of miles from Levis.

The men were concerned about getting caught in the middle of a fight. "I'm a sailor", said one man not a soldier". "But you'll do your duty, nevertheless" said another As the men talked, Thomas examined the room. It seemed like everyone in town was at the pub that night. Fellow seaman Richard Cumming, Sergeant John McRae, a former member of the 21st regiment and "old timers" like George Thompson who had served with Wolf.

Jacques Samson, a blacksmith that Thomas had befriended was sitting at a table with Michael Levitre and Thomas Briand, carpenters both. The Samson family had been living in Quebec for over a hundred years. Like many Americans, England and Europe were just places they had never seen. They didn't have any real meaning to Jacques or the others.

Thomas Briand was newer to the country. While Jacques had been born here, Thomas had traveled to Quebec from his home in northern France. A small town called Pleudihen, near St. Malo. But that was thirty years ago when he was a young man. He had worked as a navigator, guiding the ships up and down the St.Lawrence River. He had married a young widow in 1754 by the name of Marie Joseph Lefebvre, adopted her daughter and was raising a family of his own. His only son Thomas Jr. was twelve; to young to fight, thank God.

Morris slept uneasy that night. He didn't know that in another part of town the Executive Council was meeting in emergency session - it was a council of war. "We're agreed then" said the Lieutenant Governor, "effective immediately an embargo is placed on all shipping and the men are to be drafted into the militia for the defense of the town." Everyone agreed. Thomas tossed in his bed - his fate was now sealed.


The Siege of Quebec.

Thomas was assigned to the docks to protect the shipping and to guard the Cul de Sac at the base of the town from the rebel threat. It was the same area that members of the Canadian Militia (Company No. 6) were stationed including Nicholas Samson, Daniel Levtrie and Thomas Briand.

Day after day the men waited for the rebel armies to attack. But the attack never came. Once in a while the American cannons would open fire but this did little more than terrorize the already frightened residents. The worst part for Thomas was the waiting. The constant waiting. But that was about to end.

The rebel plan was a simple one. General Montgomery with nine hundred hand picked men would attack the lower town from the southwest while General Arnold with seven hundred men would attack from the northeast. In the early morning hours of January 1, 1776 with a light snow falling the Americans approached the barriers at Pres de Ville.

Behind the barriers were the thirty French Canadians of sixth company. Cannons had been placed at strategic positions between the barriers and were manned by a handful of seamen under the command of Captain Barnsfore. It is believed Morris was with them.

With "liberty or death" pinned to their caps Montgomery's men advanced. It was nine hundred Americans vs. forty defenders. The British new the post could not withstand a full scale attack. But if an attack came from this direction it would give the defenders time to alert the Garrison. With their lives on the line this would of been small consolation for Thomas and his friends.

The Americans were closer now and getting closer all the time. At fifty yards Barnsfore ordered his men to fire. According to the only account of the battle that night the only thing that was heard at this point were the "shrieks and groans" coming from the Americans. Bamsfore ordered his men to continue firing. It was only later that they learned that General Montgomery had been killed in the opening moments of the attack. With their commanding General dead and the men in disarray the Americans retreated back to their camp.

In the meantime, Arnold who was attacking the barriers at Saulte a Matelot was injured and was himself taken back to camp. But his men continued fighting unaware of what had happened to Montgomery. With Carleton and the garrison alerted the Americans were eventually surrounded and forced to surrender.

The American casualties were: over one hundred and fifty killed including their Commanding General and over four hundred taken prisoner. The defenders had lost five men in total and two others were wounded. The victory lifted the spirits of the men but as the months dragged on conditions in the city became desperate. Some of the men slept in the same clothes for over 90 days - always in a state of readiness in case the rebels should attack again. It was a cold winter and there were more nights than not that Thomas went without the warmth of a fire.

On the morning of May 6th a British frigate was spotted making it's way towards Quebec. With the secret signal given and returned the whole town rushed to the harbor to welcome the ship. Within hours two more ships had reached port and were unloading British troops. Governor Carleton along with the rest of the town waited for the fleet's young commanding officer to disembark so they could give him a hero's welcome.As the cheers went up for the young officer, Thomas strained his eyes to get a better look. A determined looking person thought Thomas and a man who obviously liked his ale. He walked right past Thomas. Messieurs Briand and Samson were standing opposite cheering the new arrivals as well. Thomas raised his cap to them, they smiled and waved back.


Captain Charles Douglas of his majesty's ship Isis had led his small fleet through heavy ice up the St. Lawrence and was now standing in front of the Governor. The two men saluted and shook hands. Within a matter of hours the Americans were on the run and the siege of Quebec was over.

Many of Douglastown's first citizens were at Quebec during the winter of 1775/76. It was an historic event; for some it is the winter that Canada was born.

The Battle of Valcour Island

Although the siege was raised, the embargo on shipping remained. The garrison was now being reinforced on a daily basis with the construction of the fleet and put the fleet under arrival of more and more ships. By mid-June Montreal was retaken and the rebels had withdrawn back into New York. Governor Carleton decided that an attack through the Lake Champlain/Francois waterway was the necessary next step. In order to do this the American fleet on Lake Champlain would have to be engaged and defeated.

Thomas and his mates enlisted for marine duty in his majesty's service for a period of two years. They were paid a signing bonus of three pounds. Thomas, Hugh McWaters, Robert Goodwill and other future Douglastowners went up to St. Johns and worked on the preparations for the impending battle.

Captain Douglas, who commanded the St. Lawrence, oversaw the movement of supplies and men into the Lake Champlain area. He appointed Lieutenant Schank to oversee the construction of the fleet and put the fleet under the command of Captain Thomas Pringle. All through the summer of 1776, the men fitted some 30 vessels.

By October, the fleet was ready to sail. Some 670 seamen had been moved from duty in the St. Lawrence to Lake Champlain. Douglas personally took command of one of the larger vessels. On October 11th , they engaged the enemy. After two days of fighting all but three of the rebel vessels were destroyed. It was another victory in the making. By mid-November, the men had returned to Quebec. Douglas, who had been promoted to Commodore, returned to England.

The following year Thomas was engaged in helping to move General Burgoyne's massive army across the lakes. They were to push down the Hudson and join up with another army that was moving north. It was during this period that Thomas for the first time saw the loyalist refugees that were beginning to move north into Quebec. Men like Robert Simpson joined Buroyne in his march through New York. Unfortunatly for the British, Burgoyne was defeated at Saratoga. Thomas was now engaged in helping a beaten army back home.

As promised General Carlton discharged the volunteer seamen from further duty in April of 1778. Thomas had done his duty and could have left Quebec at this point but seamen were in short supply and the financial incentives were attractive. So after a short period of time the men agreed to return to duty. For the remainder of the war they were stationed on Lake Champlain but may have served on the St. Lawrence as well. In1779 Thomas was promoted to the position of Boatswain. A boatswain was the ship's officer who was in charge of the sails, rigging, anchors, cables, etc. and who piped or summoned the crew.

It wasn't all work. Thomas had plenty of leave at Quebec especially during the winter months. It was during this period that he courted the daughter of Nicholas Samson, one of the Canadians he had meet during the siege. Thomas and Catherine were married on January 9, 178 1. It was a small wedding, just a few friends in the chapel of Notre Dame de Quebec. In November of 1781 Catherine gave birth to their first child. A son hey named Thomas Jr. Mathew followed in July of 1783.

In March of 1784 when preparations were being made to move the Loyalists to the Bay of Chaleur, Thomas applied for land. Part of his letter has been reproduced on the next page. In it he states that during his service on Lake Champlain he had fallen from the top of a ship's mast and cracked his skull. Lucky to be even alive, the concussion prevented Thomas from going aloft again. He asked for a piece of land for himself and his family in the Bay of Chaleur.

Three months latter, in June of 1784 he was made master of the hoy St. John. The St. John was a sloop-rigged hoy (a type of small coasting vessel), which had been built at St. John on the Richelieu River between 1779 and 1881. It was a fine ship and Thomas was proud to be her captain. The ship carried ten loyalists and the much needed supplies for the new settlement. But unlike his friend Hugh Caters, Thomas didn't draw for land at New Carlisle. Instead, he decided to settle further to the north at the river St. Jean. It may he that his new friend Felix O'Hara convinced him to settle at Douglas. We don't know. It would also be interesting to know if Thomas had any input in the naming of the new town for he certainly knew of Douglas and his achievements.

By the spring of 1785 Thomas and his family were at Douglastown. The children were to young to help so Thomas relied on the aid of his fellow seamen who also drew lots. Between the work and the stress Catherine didn't give birth again until 1786. Their son James may have been the first child born in the new town. Another son Oliver followed in 1790 and a daughter Lizette in 1792. Unfortunately, Thomas and Catherine lost their oldest son, Thomas Jr., around the same time. Thomas himself passed away between 1791 and 1795.

Thomas Morris was a seaman from the county of Wexford, Ireland. He served his country at the Siege of Quebec and at the Battle of Valcour Island. He had moved armies across Lake Champlain and he had moved families to their new homes in the Gaspe. Although his life was cut short, his family became one of the founding families of Douglastown and his descendents still call Douglastown home.



Thomas' widow Catherine Samson married a Jersey man by the name of James Lerhe around 1795. They had three children together: Suzanne (1796), Elizabeth (1798) and Louis Hugh (1800). The Morris and Lerhe children grew up together in the house that Thomas had built. In 1820 when the land commissioners visited Douglastown, James Lerhe claimed a quarter of the town on behalf of his wife, the widow and heir of Thomas Morris. On the 1820 map of Douglastown prepared by Joseph Bouchette the land is recorded in the name of Lerhe. Janise died in 1827, Catherine in 1828.


Morris Genealogy

The chart on the following page contains genealogical information on the first three generations of the Morris family. Most of it is self-explanatory. The first column marked "code" assigns a number to each individual. The first two digits will always signify the generation. The fifth digit, if there is one, signifies the marriage (ie. 1st marriage, 2nd marriage).

Example: Look at chart under the code 0302. lt:identifies a Margaret Morris who was born in 1805 and married Thomas Briand in 1831. The forth column, "children of" tells you who her parents are. Code 0202, Margaret is the child of Oliver Morris and Johanna Maloney. In fact all of the people listed after Margaret until you hit a different code in the "children of" column indicates that these are all children of Oliver & Johanna. If there are any corrections or additions that you would like to make to this chart then please drop me a line.


In the last issue we touched briefly on the early years of the town. I would like to return to that discussion now. As we learned in the first issue, Felix O'hara laid out the town of Douglaston in 1785. The pattern he used was the standard grid system that we still use today.

He proposed to survey one acre town lots in a 12 by12 grid for both Douglaston and Haldimand. He later increased the grid size for Douglaston to 15 by 12. Each settler was entitled to draw for one town lot. Under this formula the town could accommodate a maximum of 180 families. Thomas Morris drew lot #3. Go figure. It was suppose to be a blind draw. Other initial lot holders that we know the lot numbers for include John Rose #19, Robert Goodwill #36, George Thompson #38, Robert Simpson #39 and William Kennedy #58 .If you don't recognize these lot numbers today it's because he numbering system has been changed several times since.

The town lot was cleared as quickly as possible. One acre wasn't very big and yet it had to support a family in those early years. That one acre had to contain a small house, an outhouse(also called a shed, a barn or stores-not what you were thinking of), a garden and enough pasture for a cow and some sheep.

To small you say. Well your probably right. The lots in towns built "in land" were four acres in size. Much more reasonable. Why O'Hara decided to make the lots of only one acre is unclear. But the residents who remained ended up expanding into the unoccupied lots next to them. In addition, they utilized the marsh in the St. John River. It was like getting a free hay crop. The town divided the marsh amongst themselves and found that the hay it produced was just enough to support the small number of livestock they had.

In 1819 the town was re-surveyed and reorganized by the surveyor Joseph Bouchette. He enlarged the town to approximately 256 acres and then subdivided it into sixty four (8 by 8) smaller squares of four acres each, Ordinarily these would have become the town lots but to accommodate what had already taken place he subdivided these four acre lots into four one acre lots, The result was that some of the newer residents had town lots of four acres while some of the older residents had town lots of only one acre.

On the map the four acre squares are separated from one another by what was deemed to be "broad" streets. Streets were the responsibility of the settler who was expected to clear the section of road facing the sides of his lot. We don't know if there were any streets before 1820 but as the town lots were settled in the years following 1820, the streets were built according to the town plan.

Many of Douglastown's older residents remember these streets as being quite narrow - only a lane in fact. Seventy years ago they were grassy and lined by wooden fences. They were used for moving cattle from one section of town to another. Today most of them have grown over. The streets facing the water were called Front streets and were numbered from one to nine. The streets running perpendicular to the water were called cross streets and were numbered one to nine as well.

The land between two front streets was called a range. For example, if you lived on Front Street No. 1 then you were on the first range. If you lived between No.2 and No.3 Front Streets then you were living in the second range. St. Patrick's church is on the third range. The land between the water and First Front Street was called the common and was available for everyone to use.

Most settlers were entitled to at least one country lot (about 1 00 acres). Some like William Kennedy and John McRea were entitled to a lot more. But during these early years most people didn't have time to touch these country lots. Some cutting was done but the overall effect was negligible.

As we learned in the first issue of the DHR, the Lieutenant Governor of Gaspe, Nicholas Cox, had great plans for Douglastown. He saw it as a town of artificers. Barrel makers (coopers), blacksmiths, millwrights, carpenters, boat builders and shopkeepers that would provide their services to the fishermen. Unfortunately, his plan could never succeed.

For one thing, the original settlers could hardly be described as artisans. The royalists were mostly farmers and most of the discharged solders didn't have a trade at all. Secondly, the location was all wrong. The site of the town was just to far away from the main fishing grounds which were located between Point St. Peter and Perce. Another factor was that the fishery itself was controlled by a couple of monopolistic merchants. These individuals hired their own skilled labor and located them next to their fisheries. So Cox's plan for Douglastown never materialized. In fact, Cox, who had originally planned on settling at Douglastown built a house in Malbay instead. This house was abandoned shortly thereafter when he moved to New Carlisle in 1786.

The government supported the settlers with all kinds of supplies during the first couple of years. But by the time the government aid had expired most settlers had seen enough and had moved on. Some like carpenter Joseph Element went to Gaspe Basin while others like Robert Trippe and Patrick Sullivan moved closer to the Perce fishery. Still others returned to Quebec and Montreal hoping the government would settle them elsewhere.

When the Rev. Charles Inglis, first Bishop of Nova Scotia, visited Gaspe in 1789 he noted that the only industry was fishing. While Louis Fromenteau, a Judge in the Court of Common Pleas, wrote in 1794 that Douglastown's inhabitants were mostly farmers who did a bit of fishing for salmon and cod. 13 For those who stayed, making a living entailed a little bit of everything (fishing, fanning, hunting, logging), the life of the subsistence farmer - do what you had to do to survive.

Survival included learning how to fish and accepting tile life of a fisherman. You fished six months of the year and hoped you earned enough to pay for the goods and supplies you used during the year. If you agreed to sell to the local merchant all of the dried fish you produced during the year, he would extend you a line of credit. With this you could buy anything you needed: boats, fishing equipment, salt, food stuffs, clothing and building supplies. The system was called the "truck system" of credit and was successfully implemented by Charles Robin and Philip Janvrin. Most fishing companies in those early years were not successful (to much bad credit, 1 guess) and had ceased operations by 1800. But not all of them. One merchant who was successful was Daniel McPherson of Douglastown.

Daniel, for me, is probably the most interesting person of the period and yet he is one of the least known. He was born in Invernesshire, Scotland in 1753 and emigrated to Philadelphia sometime prior to the American Revolution. He was a Loyalist and as we know loyalists was hardly welcome in Philadelphia. By the late 1770's he was living in Sorel. While most Loyalists were destitute and living in refugee camps, McPherson was able to buy a house. He married (Mary Kelly) and started a family When the war ended he took advantage of the government's offer of free land and moved his family to Douglastown in 1785.

Obviously a man of means, it wasn't long before McPherson had his own fishery. He had a large operation at Point St. Peter managing somehow to take control of most of the land on the point. In addition to his fishery he opened supply stores at Malbay, Point St. Peter and Douglastown. He also had men cutting wood for him (to be used for boat building, building supplies and possibly planks for export).

He was named a Justice of the Peace in 1787 and a member of the Gaspe Land Board in 1789. By 1 800 he was so successful that he could buy the Seigniory of lie aux Grues (Crane Island) near Montmagny for over 3000 pounds. A substantial sum of money in those days.

By the early 1800's the only original settlers remaining in Douglastown were the Morris, Kennedy, MePherson, McRea, Simpson Butler and Morin families. At Haldimand there were the Thompsons, Cunnings and a branch of the McRea family. At Seal Cove there was the Samson and Le Patoural families.

McPherson left shortly thereafter to his island in the St. Lawrence. John Butler drowned in a boating accident in 1806 that also cost the lives of John Kennedy and Jacques Refaux. Robert Simpson moved to Gaspe Basin in 1807 and the Morin family "disappeared" (no record of them after 1802). Nicholas Samson's family moved to Fox River and Le Patoural took his family to River Ouelle (near Kamouraska).

Very few families moved into the Douglas area between the initial settlement period (1 785-88) and 1815. Thirty years, a whole generation. Maurice Hurley and his wife Elizabeth Element lived in Douglastown for most of the period between 1808 and 1818. But they moved to be closer to the Perce fishery.

Members of the Briand family had been at L'Anse-à-Brillant and Douglastown from the mid 1780's (possibly living with the Morris family). When Thomas Jr. married Cecile Yvon in 1803 he listed Douglastown as his residence.

The Condons were the only family during this period who actually moved to Douglastown permanently. They were living in Malbay (the Rooney's were their neighbors) when David Condon bought land from his friend Thomas Kennedy in 1813.

One of the major reasons for the lack of emigration during this period was the war in Europe. Great Britain had been at war with France almost continuously from 1793 to 1815 with only a short reprieve in 1801/2. Emigration picked up in the years after 1816 and that is reflected in the settlement of the region.

So how did Douglastown grow during this period? The children of the original settlers got married. Marriages for Douglastown families and the surrounding area included:

Nicholas Samson to Josette Pequerelle (c1790)
William LePaturel to Genevieve Briand (cl794)
James Lerhe to the widow Morris (cl795)
Thomas Walsh to Mary Kennedy (1796)
Alexander McRae to Theresa Thompson (pre 1798)
Henry Johnston to Sophia McPherson (c.1800)
Thomas Kennedy to Margaret O'Conner(l802)
Lake Gaul to Mary Kennedy (1803)
Maurice Hurley to Elizabeth Element (c1803)
Isaac Kennedy to Margaret Rooney (1804)
James Cunning to Louise Kelly (pre 1805)
Mathew Morris to Genevieve Hayden (c 1 807)
John MeRae Jr. to Helen Hayden (pre 1809)
Richard Ascah to Sarah Thompson (pre 1810)
James Morris to Angelique Laflamme (1810)
Thomas Rail to Catherine Rooney (1814)
Oliver Morris to Johanna Maloney (1814)
Daniel Scott to Elizabeth Lerhe (1815)
Mathew Morris to Judith Girard (1815)

I think most if not all of these individuals were already living on the coast. In the next issue of the DHR we will consider the family names that appeared in the period from 1815 to 1830.

Douglas reported in Gaspe bay

Since writing the first issue of the DHR I have learned that Douglas did indeed visit Gaspe Bay. 1 have found in the British Admiralty Archives several letters written by Sir Charles Douglas to the British Admiralty that confirm that Douglas was giving assistance to Lieutenant Governor Cox of Gaspe. As was mentioned in the first issue of the DHR, Cox and Haldimand had asked Douglas for help in dealing with the Americans daring the summer of 1784. The letters 1 have found confirm that Douglas did in fact send ships to Gaspe to protect the fisheries.

This is how it may have looked to a fisherman in June of 1785. Sir Charles Douglas, having left Gaspé Bay for the final time sails towards Percé. As you can see, Percé had two arches back then. The outside arch crashed into the sea on June 17, 1845.

In July of 1784 he sent Captain Stone of the "Heroine" to Perce and the "Atlantic under Captain Foley followed in late August. So Cox and O'Hara were quite pleased with the assistance given to them by Douglas in 1784.

On April 1, 1785 while awaiting his replacement, Douglas gave a standing order to his captains to strictly enforce the Treaty of Peace with regards to the fishery. On April 22nd the "Heroine" under Captain Bentinck accompanied by the schooner "Mackerel" received orders to patrol the gulf including Gaspe Bay. Douglas himself followed later in the "Assistance" with the tender "Felicity" accompanying her.

By mid-May Douglas was at Perce, Bonaventure Island and Gaspe Bay where he found the same Americans that Capt. Stone had driven off the previous summer. Douglas personally gave them the "boot". He then sailed to Cape Breton but was back in Gaspe by mid-June.

On June 19, 1785 the "Assistance" with Sir Charles still on board, was anchored in Gaspe Bay. It just so happens that June 19th is around the same time (probably a few days before or after), the loyalists arrived in "Douglass Town". On board at the time were both Cox and O'Hara. Douglas, in order to further help protect the fisheries informed Cox that he was making a ship available to him for the summer. After being ignored for seven years Cox was ecstatic. Is it really so hard to believe that they would name the town after him.

Douglas left soon afterwards for England. He was promoted to rear admiral in 1787 and died two years later on March 16, 1789 at his home in Edinburgh, Scotland.


The Catholic Church - An Overview

For most of the period until about 1820 the Gaspe coast (from Mount Louis to the Restigouche) was served by one solitary missionary. Mathew Bourg served the people of Gaspe from 1783 to 1795 first from Carleton and then from Bonaventure. 18 There is no evidence that he ever came to Douglastown. Baptisms, burials and even some marriages were performed by lay people. Most baptisms were eventually recorded in the church registers but very few of the deaths were ever recorded. When the missionary visited a town he would make a point of blessing the graves of those who had departed but for some unknown reason he never recorded these deaths in the register.

Some marriages were conducted by a Justice of the Peace (illegal in Quebec at the time but the people didn't know any better) The Loyalists had assumed that the law in Quebec was the same as it was in the former colonies. Bad assumption. Most communities outside of Douglastown didn't have a J.P. handy so couples who were "in a hurry" were married by the community elders. This was called "jumping the broom".

If you needed the missionary to perform a ceremony then you waited until he made his annual visit to the region. For Douglastowners that meant waiting until the fall and then traveling to Perce or Pt. St. Peter. If you had a bit of time and a bit of money then you also had the option of traveling to Halifax or Quebec. But who had money.

In 1795 Father Bourg was replaced by Father Dejardins and on September 1st, 1796 he visited Douglastown. The little village didn't have a place of worship so services were conducted in the home of William Kennedy. Dejardins performed a marriage and three baptisms. The marriage of Thomas Walsh and Mary Kennedy was the first "legal" marriage performed in Douglastown.The community was a little embarrassed that it didn't have at least a small chapel for theyoung missionary to conduct services in, so they decided to build a church.

According to Father Boldue who was the parish priest of Douglastown from 1878 to 1881, no documentation of this church has survived. Boldue interviewed two of the town's elders in order to record something of the history of this first church. He talked with Thomas Briand who was 78 years old in 1881 and who's memories were still intact. He also talked to William Walsh who was 85 at the time and was four years old when the first chapel was built.

The chapel was constructed in the common area just below front street No. 1 (the King's highway) between Cross Streets 4 & 5. It was only a small building measuring 1 0 by 20 feet and was completed in 1800. The chapel was dedicated by Father Desjardins to the twelve apostles and to commemorate the event he gave the tiny fishing community a picture of St. Peter, the patron saint of fishermen.

In 1815 the English frigate "Penelope" was shipwrecked on the coast near Petite Vallee. A couple of hearty souls went to the site and salvaged the ship's bell for the chapel.

In 1819 Bishop Plessis on his second visit to Douglastown (the first was in 1811) suggested the time had come for Douglastowners to build a bigger church. In 1821 the Bishop petitioned the government for four acres of land on the third range (the present site) and in 1822 work commenced on Douglastown's second church. The building was more than twice the size of the original chapel measuring 40 feet long by 30 feet wide. The exterior of the building was finished in 1823 and a subcontractor was hired to finish the interior at a cost of $200.As the catholic population of the town and it's surroundings increased with the arrival of Irish immigrants in the 1820's and 30's, the people became increasingly interested in having theirown priest.

They petitioned the Bishop and were told that until a presbytery was built the town could forget about getting their own priest. Not to be dismayed, the small community built a presbytery in 1841 and after it's completion petitioned the Bishop again.

In October of 1845 their prayers were answered with the arrival of Father Dowling. His territory included Gaspe Bay and the coastline from Cap-des-Rosiers to Mount Louis.

In 1846 the church was "accidentally" destroyed by fire. But saints be preserved, everything in the church was saved. The church bell, all of the church's ornaments (candles, candlesticks), even the picture of Saint Peter that Father Dejardins had given the community in 1800. All miraculously saved.

A new church was started in 1846 that was to be made out of stone and have the same dimensions as the old church (40 by 30). But about a year later they realized that a much larger church was going to be needed. So they started over. The new church was now going to measure eighty eight feet long by forty feet wide and would be made of wood on a stone foundation., It took eight years but the exterior of the church was finally finished in the spring of 1855. I wonder where they worshipped the meantime?

The new church was dedicated by Father Fafard to St.Patrick on March 17, 1855. The interior of the church was finished in 1857 and a new bell was donated by Father Sasserville in the fall of that same year. According to the people who knew it was the most beautiful church on the coast. But adversity was to strike again.

On July 13th, 1858 the new church caught fire and burned to the ground. But once again the community banded together and by mid-November of 1859 another church was completed.

In 1860 the parishioners had the unpleasant task of moving the remains in the old graveyard to a new graveyard beside the church. In the same year on a more pleasant occasion, Bishop Baillargeon erected (legally created) the parish of "Saint Patrick's of Douglastown".

The town elders became honorary churchwardens. They included Isaac Kennedy, the only original settler of 1785 that was still living. His son Lawrence Kennedy, Pierre Briand Sr., Thomas Briand Sr., Daniel Scott and Bernard Conley. The first elected wardens were Mark Huberland, George McDonald and Thomas Maloney Sr.

Missionaires and Priests of Douglastown
1783-1790 Bourg Carleton
1790-1794 Bourg Bonaventure
1794-1800 Desjardins Bonaventure
l800-1801 Joyner Caraquet
1802-1806 Lefrancois Carleton
1807-1813 Painchaud Carleton
1814-1815 Leclerc Bonaventure
1816-1817 Demers Bonaventure
1818-1820 Leclerc Bonaventure
1820-1821 Manseau Bonaventure
1821-1823 Aubry Perce
1823-1826 Caron Perce
1826-1828 Boisvert Perce
1828-1834 McMahon Perce
1834-1835 Huot Perce
1835-1837 Montning Perce
1837-1840 Dunn Perce
l840-1842 O'Grady Perce
1842-1844 Campeau Perce
1844-1845 Doucet Perce
1845-1848 Dowling Douglastown
1848-1851 Moylan Douglastown
1851-1854 Sasseville Douglastown
1854-1860 Fafard Douglastown
1860-1869 Winter Douglastown
1869-1870 Saucier Douglastown
1870-1877 Moreau Douglastown
1877-1878 Leonard Douglastown
1878-1881 Bolduc Douglastown
1881-1882 Bosse Douglastown
1882-1907 Gillis Douglastown
1908-1921 Gauthier Douglastown
1921-1940 Miles Douglastown
1940-1967 Nellis Douglastown
1967-1968 LeMoignan Douglastown
1968-1983 Dion Douglastown
1983-1988 R. Allard Douglastown
1988 - 1990 LeMoignan Douglastown
1990- C. Allard Douglastown

In 1874 the church underwent a series of renovations. This work included roadwork around the church, a new bell tower, a new bell, a choir loft, confessional boxes and a pulpit. The new bell weighed 675 pounds and was made by the Jones and Company Troy Bell Foundry of Troy. It was donated by the LeBoutillier brothers and J.C. Belleau of Gaspe. Today the bell can be seen on display at the front of the church grounds overlooking the highway.

The church underwent other renovations over the years. For example in 1941 the church was completely washed from "top to bottom" revealing according to Father Nellis, the church in "an entirely new aspect". A new steeple, a new roof and other repairs were completed. But it was "evident to some" that a new church would be required in the near future. Father Nellis mobilised the parish to the cause, the money was raised and a new church was soon under construction. Douglastown's fifth and current church was completed in 1958.

The present church measures 145 feet long by 45 feet wide. The bell tower has not one but three bells, each weighing between 11 00 and 1400 pounds. They were made at the White Chapel Foundry in London, England and were sponsored by Mr. & Mrs. Archibald Maloney, Mr. & Mrs. Charles Morris and Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Rail.

Like so many communities throughout Quebec, the church and it's priests played a significant role in the life of their communities. As we will learn in future issues of the DHR, Douglastown was no different in this respect.

Did you know... that one of Douglastown's founders was hanged by the neck and left for dead but lived to tell the tale. Who was he? Answer... Click here...

This is a picture of Winnifred Kennedy (circa 1880). She was a great grand daughter of the first Kennedys who came to Douglastown in 1785. She was born in 1861 and when this picture was taken she was teaching school in the little red school house on Douglastown beach. She may have taught your grand parents. She married Jerome Briand in 1884 at the age of 22 and gave birth to her first child Cecile later that same year. A son Carl arrived in 1885 and her third child Horace in 1886. But giving birth to three children in three years was too much for her and after a long illness she passed away in the summer of 1887.

The life of a fisherman meant being away from home for long periods of time. Raising a young family on your own was impossible, so as was the custom at that time, the children were adopted. Horace went to live with his mother's older brother Lawrence and his wife Adelaide MeAuley. They were very good to him and he grew up to be a fine young man.

One year, when Horace was still but a lad, his Uncle Lawrence presented him with a wallet for his birthday. It wasn't like the wallets you can buy today. Just a bill-fold really, with a piece of string to keep it together. Tucked in the bill-fold was a little piece of tin. It measured two by three inches and contained the picture of a woman on one side. 'Your mother" said Lawrence, "she wanted you to have it when you were old enough. Keep it and she will always be with you."

Horace Briand was my grandfather He lived a long and healthy life passing away in 1975 at the ripe old age of eighty-nine. Still in his wallet over eighty years later was that little piece of tin with the picture of his mother.

That's a nice story and I have told it for a good reason. Treasured family heirlooms like old diaries,journals, wills, letters, things of that nature, as well as old pictures are not permanent. My grandfather was lucky, the picture of his mother survived. But I have seen others that have simply peeled away. Paper documents become fragile and those pictures from the 30's and 40's are turning brown and fading away.

What did I do to protect the history of my ancestors? Well for one thing I am trying to record it by means of this journal. And I have invited all of you to do the same by contributing material to it. The other thing 1 have done is to copy my originals. With the technology available today the copy is usually as good as or better than the original. And the cost is quite reasonable.

Answer to Question: William Kennedy Suspected of organizing the Indian mid on Mayfield in 1780, William was taken from his home and hanged. Left for dead his wife carried him home and nursed him back to health. The story of loyalist William Kennedy and his family will be featured in the next issue of the DHR.

MY Mistake There were a couple of errors in the last issue that I would like to correct. On page three, third paragraph, left column, "Miramichi and Riviere du Loup" should read 'Yamachiche and Coteau du Lac". On page 16, right column, the caption under the picture of the church is in error. The fourth church was completed in 1859 not 1845. The present church was completed in 1958 not 1962. Therefore the old church served the parishioners of Douglastown for 99 years not 117 years. 1 try not to make mistakes but mistakes will happen. If you find any errors then please let me know. If you have any questions, comments, ideas or if you would like to contribute material for a future issue (i.e. stories, pictures - copies only, do not send originals) then please send your correspondence to:

Al White,
Box 20027,
1395 Lawrence Ave. W.,
Toronto, Ont.,