Thursday, 4 November 2010


The comté de Rouville, named after Jean-Baptiste Hertel de Rouville (1668-1722), was created in 1829. Before that date, Rouville was part of the comté de Bedford. Situated in the Vallée-du-Richelieu, the comté de Rouville extended from to the American border at Lake Champlain north to Saint-Hilaire. To the west it is bordered by the Richelieu River and in the east by the comtés de Saint-Hyacinthe, Shefford and Missisquoi. The comté consisted of a great plain cleared along the Richelieu and three mountains, Saint-Hilaire, Rougemont and St-Grégoire and three important rivers, the Richelieu, the Rivière des Hurons and the Rivière du Sud. It was part of the district of Montreal and contained seven seigneuries: Rouville, Monnoir, Chambly-Est, Bleury, Sabrevois, Noyan and Foucault.[1] The six principal parishes of the comté, situated for the most part along the river, were Saint-Hilaire, Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Saint-Mathias, Sainte-Marie-de-Monnoir, Saint-Athanase and Saint-Georges. [2] The comté was divided into two main areas. Its northern section lay in the Bas-Richelieu and was rural, agricultural, Catholic and solidly French Canadian, one of the principal Patriote strongholds during the rebellions. The southern part of the comté was in the Haut-Richelieu and its communities were largely Anglo-American, Protestant and loyal to the British Crown. [3] In 1831, the comté had a population of 18,115 habitants. [4]

Rouville was one of the most important farming areas in Quebec largely because of its fertile soil. Wheat, flour and cereals were its three main agricultural products. From 1810, commercial apple growing developed in Saint-Hilaire. Like other parts of Lower Canada, Rouville was badly affected by the agrarian crisis of the 1830s. According to Ouellet, the fall in agricultural prices and a series of bad harvest caused by rust and insects led to famine in the region. [5] There was some diversification in the region’s rural economy. The timber industry developed using the important forests in the comté. The textile industry, especially in Saint-Mathias boomed in 1837 following the Patriotes’ decision to boycott British imports and wear home-spun woollen cloth. By 1837, Saint-Matthias, with three well-stocked quays, was regarded as the commercial crossroads of the region and river trade led to some prosperity in the comté.

In 1830, Jean-Baptiste René Hertel de Rouville, seigneur of the comté de Rouville was deputy for the region in the Legislative Assembly and also sat on the Legislative Council.[6] De Rouville was hostile to the reform movement and was regarded by the Parti Patriote as a traitor.[7] The 1834 elections saw an increasing polarisation of votes between Patriotes and Loyalists. Thomas Lemay, a dissident in the Parti Patriote, and B. Holmes faced Pierre Carreau[8] and Dr Antoine-Eusèbe Bardy[9] and the Patriotes won both seats. There was now no member of the Legislative Council in the region. After the elections in 1834, many assemblies were held in the comté de Rouville by both Loyalists and Patriotes. The first loyalist assembly, chaired by Conrad Derck was held at Clarenceville (Saint-Georges) on 12 March 1834 to protest about the Ninety-Two Resolutions. Albert Chapman and Reuben Taylor were the principal speakers at this meeting. Three years later, on 13 October 1837, a further loyalist assembly was held at Clarenceville to protest against attempts by the Patriotes to weaken or break the colony’s links with Britain and even to suspend the Legislative Assembly.[10] Then on 8 November, the citizens of Clarenceville organised a further assembly in order to organise a loyalist petition that 353 people signed. Then, on 30 November 1837, a meeting was held outside the church of Sainte-Marie-de-Monnoir.

For their part, the Patriotes also held several meetings at Sainte-Marie-de-Monnoir. On 9 February 1833, the electors of M. Rainville addressed the other electors in the region asking them to vote for Ludger Duvernay. On 8 March 1834, Doctor François-Joseph Davignon[11] held a meeting at his house, chaired by Étienne Poulin[12], to promote the Ninety-Two Resolutions. Two days later, Antoine-Eusèbe Bardy chaired a meeting at the hôtel Henderson at Saint-Athanase where those present signed a petition in favour of the Ninety-Two Resolutions. Several days later, the resolutions agreed at Saint-Athanase were publicised in churches throughout the comté. On 30 April 1834, Patrick Murray, a farmer from Sainte-Marie-de-Monnoir held a meeting for the Irish habitants from the south-west of the region. On 22 July 1835, there was a meeting at the house of Édouard Vancelette that formed a branch of the Montreal Constitutional Association for the comté de Rouville. The most important meeting in the region, organised by F-J Davignon, took place at Saint-Athanase on 5 November 1837 that sought some conciliation between Patriotes and Constitutionalists.[13] It was called by

...des personnes d’opinion différente dans la politique de cette Province aux fins d’aviser aux moyens de conciliation entre les parties Patriotes et Constitutionnels.[14]

The key figures involved in this assembly were: Timothée Franchère[15] (president), Eustache Soupras[16] and Gabriel Marchand (vice-presidents), F-J Davignon and Ls. M. Decoigne[17] (secretaries). Its twenty-four reformist resolutions concerned the composition of the Legislative Council, control of the Civil List and also the abolition of the seigneurial regime.

On 28 February 1838, 600-700 rebels came from the United States and met at the Caldwell manor in the seigneurie de Noyan (comté de Rouville). Robert Nelson, who chaired this gathering presented the Déclaration d’indépendance de la République du Bas-Canada. It proclaimed the independence of Lower Canada from Great Britain, introduced a republican form of government with universal suffrage and the abolition of seigneurial tenure.[18] Nelson also called on the people of Canada to rise up in rebellion. After proclaiming independence, the rebels were forced to retreat back across the border when faced with the threat from loyalist militias.

During the rebellions of 1837-1838, the comté de Rouville was an important theatre of military action, though on a smaller scale than in the Richelieu. Between 1834 and 1838, Patriote and loyalist activity in the region was very similar in terms of meetings and levels of support though the Patriotes managed to organise slightly more events than the loyalists. During October and November 1837, there were dozens of charivaris in the Richelieu including one at St-Athanase.[19] During the rebellion of 1837, part of the Patriote militia was based at Saint-Mathias in the comté de Rouville. The main rebel leaders were: Dr François-Joseph Davignon (Sainte-Marie-de-Monnoir), merchants Louis Marchand and Eustache Soupras from Saint-Mathias and Édouard-Élisée Malhiot. [20] On 10 November 1837, thirty rebels from Saint-Athanase, led by Pierre-Paul Demaray[21] (St-Jean), Davignon and Patrick McKeenan[22] (Saint-Athanase) attacked some loyalists who were moving towards St-Jean. On 28 November, there was a brief skirmish at Saint-Mathias between British troops led by Wetherall and a group of rebels led by Malhiot.

During 1838, several Frères Chasseurs lodges were established in the comté de Rouville, including ones at Sainte-Marie-de-Monnoir and Saint-Athanase. On 3 and 4 November, rebels gathered at Saint-Mathias in preparation for an attack on the garrison at Chambly. At the same time, 300 Patriotes from Saint-Athanase took possession of the village of Christieville (Iberville).[23] On 7 November, some houses in Saint-Athanase were looted and burned down: the merchant Charles Mongeau, landlord François Macé and the butcher Jean-Baptiste Arcand were the three main victims of these acts of vandalism. Following the rebellion in 1838, Timothée Franchère, a tradesman of Saint-Mathias, was imprisoned for his participation and François Nicolas[24], a teacher and farmer from Saint-Athanase, was among the twelve rebels who are hung. [25]

Between 1840 and 1850, the comté de Rouville faced falling population caused largely by rural migration. The wheat trade was in decline because of the closure of external markets and the growth in wheat production in Upper Canada and the Mid-West of the United States. The trade in hay and fodder increased significantly as trade with New England developed. However, it was not until the end of the nineteenth century that the development of railways and the river trade that the economy of the region fully recovered.

[1] Ibid, Bouchette, Joseph, Description topographique du Canada 1815, pp. 207-209.

[2] Cardinal, Armand, Histoire de Saint-Hilaire: The Seigneurs de Rouville, (Editions Du Jour), 1980; ibid, Laporte, Gilles, Patriotes et Loyaux, pp. 226-236.

[3] Filion, Mario et collaborateurs, Itinéraire toponymique de la Vallée-du-Richelieu, Études et recherches toponymiques, 10, (Gouvernement du Québec), 1984, p. 2

[4] Ibid, Girod, Amury, Notes sur le Bas-Canada, p. 14.

[5] Ibid, Ouellet, Fernand, Histoire économique et sociale du Québec 1760-1850: structures et conjonctures, pp. 333-336.

[6] DPQ, p. 366.

[7] Cardinal, Armand, ‘Saint-Hilaire et l’insurrection de 1837’, Les cahiers d’histoire de la Société d'histoire de Beloeil-Mont-Saint-Hilaire, no. 22, (1987), p. 25.

[8] DPQ, pp. 128-129.

[9] DPQ, p. 29; Messier, pp. 22-23.

[10] Ibid, Bernard, Jean-Paul, Assemblées publiques, résolutions et déclarations de 1837-1838, pp. 223-225.

[11] Messier, p. 133.

[12] Messier, p. 393.

[13] Ibid, Bernard, Jean-Paul, Assemblées publiques, résolutions et déclarations de 1837-1838, pp. 286-290.

[14] Archives nationales du Québec, E-99-100

[15] Messier, pp. 194-195.

[16] Messier, pp. 445-446.

[17] Messier, p. 135.

[18] Ibid, Greer, Allan, The patriots and the people, p. 301.

[19] Ibid, Greer, Allan, The patriots and the people, p. 219.

[20] ‘Edouard-Elisée Malhiot’, DCB, Vol. 10, pp. 491-492; Messier, pp. 315-316.

[21] Messier, p. 137.

[22] Messier, p. 330.

[23] Ibid, Fortin, Réal, La guerre des Patriotes: le long du Richelieu, p. 66.

[24] Messier, p. 353.

[25] Ibid, Bernard, Jean-Paul, Les Rébellions de 1837-1838: Les patriotes du Bas-Canada dans la mémoire collective et chez les historiens, p. 132.

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