Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets
1900-1930


 

 


Historical Sketch
of “Boisbriant.”


By

Sophia Margaret Hensley

Montreal
[189-?]




Historical Sketch
of “Boisbriant.” 1


THE original title was of date 19th January, 1672, by the creation, by M. Dollier de Casson, Superior of the Seminary, Seigneur of the island of Montreal, of a fief noble, consisting of two hundred arpents of land, situated at the head of the island on the borders of the lake of Two Mountains, called “Boisbriant.” It was granted on that date to Sidrac du Gué, Sieur de Boisbriant, captain in the Carignan Regiment. In consideration of his zeal, and of his having already constructed a house at the head of the island, M. Dollier de Casson added to this fief all the islands and reefs in front of it. Du Gué sold the property on the 20th of June, 1679, to the famous Charles Le Moyne de Longueuil and to Jacques Le Ber, his brother-in-law, a merchant prince of those days. At this time there was only seven or eight arpents of land in cultivation, with a house built of squared timber, one story in height, [page 3] with a garret and a “méchante” (poor) chimney of earth, the rest of the land being in thick forest. On the 13th December, 1683, Le Ber and Le Moyne divided the various properties which they held in common, Le Ber taking Boisbriant, which he thereafter called “Senneville,” after his family seat near La Rochelle, in old France. In 1688, by special permission, Le Ber erected a stone windmill, in the form of a tower loopholed for musketry, with “meurtrières” over the doors, as a protection [page 4] against the Indians, there having been an attack on his house in the previous year, 1687. In 1691, the Iroquois succeeded in burning the mill, after a gallant defence by Le Ber’s people, including the farmer’s wife, who defended a breach in the wall against three hundred Iroquois, losing only two of their own number. In 1693, the stone mill is mentioned in an inventory of the community of property between Jacques Le Ber and his deceased wife, and is described as threatening ruin on account of having been burnt “by our enemies, the Iroquois.” The tower must have been repaired, as it is still standing on the hill overlooking the lake and the long stretched of the Ottawa. This inventory also mentions that at that time (December, 1693) it was impossible to proceed from Montreal to the property, on account of the war which was raging with the Indians.  At this time, there were thirty arpents of the fief under cultivation, and a stone chimney had been added to the house. It was shortly after this date that the [page5] fortified chateau know as “Fort Senneville” was built by Jacques Le Ber’s son, known as Le Sieur de Senneville. The exact date of the erection is unknown. It consisted of a stone house two stories in height, fronting upon a sheltered bay of the lake, and built just above high water mark. In the rear of the house, the walls were extended so as to form a large open courtyard, rectangular in shape, and loopholed for musketry: the whole structure being protected by square flanking towers at each corner, which commanded [page 6] the walls and all the approaches to the fort, both from the water and the land. Here a large trade was carried on with the friendly Indians, frequently interrupted by fighting with the hostile Iroquois, who seemed have, at least on one occasion, succeeded in setting fire to the building. An attack by the Mohawk tribe, on the upper end of the island of Montreal, near the fort, is recorded as having taken place of the 21st June, 1747: in consequence, garrisons of soldiers and militia were kept there in 1747 and 1748. The fort was finally dismantled by a detachment of American troops despatched for this purpose, on the march upon Montreal, in 1775. The property, in its original extent of two hundred arpents, finally in 1865 came into the possession of the late Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott, [page 7] afterwards Prime Minister of Canada, and is still in the possession of his family, with the exception of the back portion of the property, which has been sold since his death. He built the present manor house, and restored to the fief its ancient name of “Boisbriant.” The ruins of the old fort, carefully preserved and covered with vines and creepers, form an interesting and picturesque feature in the landscape.      
    On the spot where the fort was afterwards built, the intrepid Dollard des Ormeaux and his devoted little band would most probably have rested to recruit after their week’s struggle with the rapids of Ste. [page 8] Anne, two miles below, since rendered famous by Thomas More, in his Canadian boat-song. Certain it is they passed by here, late in April, 1660, on their way to certain death at the foot of Long Sault, Canada’s Thermopylae, where, for ten long days they fought that Homeric fight against the combined forces of the Iroquois, as told in the Relations des Jésuites, and by the facile pen of Parkman; and thus, by the sacrifice of their lives, saved their country from invasion. 
    Amid these old ruins, the poet Moore must have often lingered and, gazing on “Ottawa’s tide,” may have been inspired to write his famous song. [page 9]

    THE manor house and domain of “Boisbriant” are situated on the lake of Two Mountains, at the western end of the island of Montreal, and are about two miles distant from the village of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, where are stations of the Canadian Pacific and Grand Trunk railways. The distance from Montreal is twenty-one miles, and there is a convenient service of trains. The train from Montreal to New York viâ the Adirondacks stops here. 
    The manor house is built of stone, in the English cottage ornée style, and contains the usual accommodation of a good country house. The interior decoration is simple, but in very good taste, and electric light is installed.
    The offices, stables, barns and forcing houses are amply suitable to the requirements of the establishment.
    The garden and large pleasure grounds of about seventeen acres, including a grass tennis court, are extremely beautiful and are in perfect order, and stocked with the [page 11] choicest flowers and scrubs. The large orchard and the vinery, hothouses and kitchen garden are in perfect order.
    Attached to the house and grounds are forty-five acres of pasture and arable land, quite sufficient for the needs of a small herd of fancy cattle stock or well-bred horses. The orchard, of full-bearing trees, contains about ten acres.
    There is, just opposite to the house, a good anchorage for yachts drawing six feet, and the lake of Two Mountains, besides large sailing ground, affords good sport in fishing an shooting. There are several fine country houses in the neighborhood.
    “Boisbriant” is in effect a very remarkable and unusually attractive property, and possesses also much historic interest from the time of its first French seigneurs down to the present day, when it was the home of the late Sir John Abbott, who died in 1893, Prime Minister of Canada.  The romance of “Boisbriant” is set forth in the accompanying historical sketch.
    The manor house grounds and orchard are now for sale, preferably with the farm of about forty-five acres attached, and any further information that may be desired will be readily supplied by

J. TRY-DAVIES,                                           
Real Estate Agent,                            
MONTREAL.  [page 12]


 

 

1
Editor’s Note: This text is accompanied by 11 photographs and illustrations interspersed throughout its twelve pages.Unfortunately, due to the fact that the Canadian Poetry Project was only able to access the text through a microform, the images are of such an inferior quality that the decision was made to omit the illustrations from the online text. [back]