Douglastown is one of the most important Irish villages in the
East of Quebec. It is also one of the oldest places on the Gaspe
coast. Today, along with other villages, it constitutes the “Grand
With the end of the war, the Governor of Quebec was suddenly
responsible for putting the province on a peace time footing.
This entailed creating new settlements for the refugee loyalists
and the disbanded troops who had made the decision to stay in
Canada. Governor Haldimand decided to
settle most of them in what became the province of Ontario.
Fifty two hundred on the shores of Lake Ontario between
Bellville and Cornwall. Other Loyalist destinations included
Niagara, Detroit, Sorel and Cape Breton Island. Two groups
of Loyalists settled in eastern Quebec - one on the shores
of the Bay of Chaleur, the other at the mouth of the St.
John river in Gaspe Bay.
In the spring of 1783.
Governor Haldimand's efforts to find suitable places for the
settlement of those Loyalists who had taken refuge in
Quebec. He sent Captain Justus Sherwood, a trusted refugee
from Vermont to tour the bays of Gaspe and Chaleur. Sherwood
toured the two bays with Felix O'Hara, the local government
agent and by the end of August he was back in Quebec.
He estimated that 1,500 families might immediately
settle at these places while a further 200 families could
settle between Perce and Gaspe. Sherwood report was
completed by September and his findings were reported to the
Loyalists at the various refugee camps.
On June 9,
1784 a flotilla of eight ships carried 315 people to the Bay
of Chaleur. One of Douglastown's first settlers, Thomas
Morris was the captain of the hoy St. Johns that transported
supplies and ten settlers. By the end of 1784 the number of
settlers had increased to 435. Included in this number were
disbanded troops from the 84th regiment and seamen who had
served on the rivers and lakes of British North America.
The settlement probably took place in the spring of
1785. An advertisement in the Quebec Gazette dated May 12th
of that year states that a ship would sail for Gaspe on May
30th. This would mean that the first settlers reached
landfall at the barachois St. John in June of 1785.
It's unclear what happened next. At Cataraqui, near
Kingston, Ontario the settlers arrived to find that their
land wasn't surveyed yet. A tent city was created on the
beach and the settlers waited several weeks for the
surveyors to finish their work. It was only then that the
draw for their land could take place.
and O'Hara were probably better prepared to handle the
Loyalists than they were a year earlier, the construction of
temporary shelters seems like the natural first step. Tents
would have been quickly erected on the beach and if the
ships had to return (they were in short supply) then
buildings would have been constructed to house the supplies
that accompanied the settlers.
Each family brought
with them their own tent and bedding. Clothing was to be
provided for three years - nothing fancy, coarse cloth for
pants and Indian blankets for coats. Boots were made from
deerskin or heavy cloth. Axes, hoes, whip saws, chisels and
drawknives were provided to families or groups of families.
Muskets were shared with one gun being provided for each
five men in the town.
Seeds were supplied for the
planting season. They included carrot, onion, beet, radish,
watercress, celery, cabbage, turnip, parsley, peas,
potatoes, Indian corn and wheat.
In addition, each
family was to receive food rations to last them until the
following May. Each adult was entitled to a pound of flour
and a pound of beef (or 12 ozs. of pork) per day. Children
under the age of ten were allowed a half ration.
the settlement got its name, Douglastown, is not clear.
The story first reported by Abbe Ferland in his book
entitled " La Gaspesie" published in 1877 is that a Scottish
surveyor by the name of Douglas named the town after
himself. Later in life, he was involved in a land
speculation scheme that ruined him financially and he died
in poverty. However, no surveyor by the name of Douglas in
the survey general's office has been traced during this
period. Abbe Ferland visited Douglastown in June of 1836 and
his story has been quoted bv every author since then.
It has also been said that the town could of been named
after one of its first settlers. But there is no record to
indicate a Douglas ever settled in Douglastown either.
During the years from 1801 to 1840 the Survey General's
office was headed by a talented man by the name of Joseph
Bouchette. In 1831 he published a book entitled "A
topographical dictionary of the Province of Lower Canada".
Under the heading for Douglas town Bouchette states "This
town was laid out about the year 1785 and named after
Admiral Sir Charles Douglas." Presumably, Bouchette's
information was based on records in the Survey General's
office and on his own visits to Douglastown many years
Sir Charles Douglas was born in Perthshire,
Scotland around the year 1734. He was a midshipman at the
siege of Louisbourg in 1745, promoted to Lieutenant in 1753
and to Commander in 1759. In May of 1776 he was head of a
squadron which forced its way up the St. Lawrence River
through thick pack ice, to relieve Quebec, which was then
under siege by an American invasion force. It is said that
many of Douglastown's first settlers were at Quebec during
the siege and witnessed Douglas' heroic efforts for
Suddenly, in 1847 the parish increased with the wreck of the Carrick
at Cap Desrosiers, near Douglastown, at the entrance of the St
Lawrence. The boat came from Sligo, Irish, with 187 Catholic
Irishmen on board. A big famine forced them away from their
homeland. In the early hours of April 28, the boat sailed the St
Lawrence, but a big storm forced it to shore where it collided. The
greater number of those shipwrecked who survived took up residence
Later in the 20th century, Douglastown lost a
number of its parishioners because they could not find jobs there.
In the year 1936, the population was 1199 souls and in 1967 their
number fell to 905 persons. A great number of them went west to
Montreal or to Ontario.
In 1783 Douglastown numbers eight families; in 1854 The parish
of Douglastown counts 75 families, 275 confirmed et 115 children
who have not yet received communion. The Reverend M. Sasseville,
priest, in a report transmitted to the bishop at Québec notes
that "The population of Douglastown is mixed; composed of a few
Irish, Irish descendants, Canadians, Jerseyais, but that the
Irish element predominates. There are five English speaking
canadian families and four protestant families. Though most
understand French, the practice of preaching in English has
prevailed. The new generation understands only English and, with
the passing of the older generation, the rests of the French
language will disappear."
Any contributions will be
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