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Douglastown church Douglastown map

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 Gaspe”.


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.

Although Cox 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.

How 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 earlier.

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 themselves.


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 in Douglastown.

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."



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Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024