Châteauguay County

  A Glimpse of the Past

The Châteauguay River Valley, several miles to the south-west of Montréal on the south shore of the St-Lawrence River, is an area rich in the history of Québec. In the 1673, the governor of New France granted part of the region to Charles Lemoyne, Sieur de Longueuil. This grant, measuring 6 miles wide and 9 miles deep, was centered on the mouth of the Châteauguay River and became known as the Seigniory of Châteauguay. Another large portion, measuring 18 miles on a side, located on the southwest side of the Seigniory of Châteauguay was granted in 1729 to Sieur Charles, Marquis de Beauharnois and his brother Claude. This grant became known as Seigniory of Beauharnois and a large part of it was later to form the southwest portion of the County of Châteauguay.

There are two main theories as to the origin of the name Châteauguay. The first is that it was named after a commune in France in the department of Puy-du-Dôme where the original Seignior, Charles Lamoyne, was born. The second theory is more interesting. In 1673, Lemoyne ordered a rough, fortified storage building to be built on Ile-St-Bernard in the mouth of the Châteauguay River. The local settlers derisively called it "Le Chasteau" meaning castle in french. The farmer that was in charge of the building was named Gay or Gue, so the building became known as Chasteau du Gay. Over time it evolved into Chateau Guay and finally the two words merged into Châteauguay. You take your choice.

The Seigneurie of Châteauguay changed hands several times after Lemoyne's death in 1685 and in the 1760s it was acquired by its final owners, the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame, better known as the Gray Nuns. In a similar manner, the Seigniory of Beauharnois, was acquired in 1795 by a wealthy London merchant, Alexander Ellice and passed on to his heirs in the early 1800s.

In 1760, France lost Canada to the British. During the early 1800's the area began to be settled by the Scots and English. French-Canadian habitant from other parts of Lower Canada (as Quebec was then known) expanded into the region. In the upper Valley, some American squatters settled and logged the extensive forests. The Scotch and English settlers had to clear their land of trees before they could take up farming. What wood was not suitable for logs or where it was not convenient to transport it down river was burnt to produce potash. Potash was an important export at the time and source of cash for essentials needed by the new settlers and to pay the rent on their land (Seigniorial land was not sold but rather leased for annual "rentes et cens" to be paid to the Seignior). Once the new settlers cleared their land, farming became the most important industry of the region.

In 1812, the United States declared war on England and the following year, the locally formed regiment of about 300 known as the Voltigeurs, Indians, some militia and British regulars under the command of Lt.Col. deSalaberry successfully defended the area against 3000 American troops led by General Hampton in the Battle of Châteauguay at Allan's Corners on the Châteauguay River near Howick.

During the following fifteen or so years, animosity built up between the French-Canadian and English-Canadian settlers, largely due to an economic crisis and the Colonial government's practice of granting the choice lands to the Scottish inhabitants. In 1838, after an aborted attempt to take over the region,and establish a republic after the style of the United States, the French 'Patriotes' were arrested and imprisoned in Montréal. A dozen of the "Patriots" were hung and many others deported to Australia. A number of these later returned and became leaders in the community.


A Patriot

The County of Châteauguay was created in 1855 from a section of the old Beauharnois District. This included the Seigniory of Châteauguay and the southern part of the Seigniory of Beauharnois, the seigniories having been abolished in 1854. Included within its boundaries were the Towns (Villages) of Châteauguay, Ste-Martine, Ormstown (then known as Durham), and Howick and the parishes of St-Antoine Abbé, Ste-Martine, St-Joachim, St-Philomène, St-Jean Chrysostome, St-Malachie, Ste-Clotilde and St-Urbain-Premier. The parishes of Tres-St-Sacrement and St-Paul de Châteauguay were created later from parts of the parishes of Ste-Martine, St-Jean Chrysostome and St-Malachie d'Ormstown. The population at the time, consisting mainly of French and Scottish families, was slightly more than 16,000. A description of the county written in 1880 reads as follows..." The agricultural excellence of this county is proverbial, the valley of the Châteauguay River forming one of the most productive sections in the Province. Grain growing and dairying form, in about equal parts, the staples of agricultural pursuits, the county being well-adapted to either. The general surface ranges from level to slightly undulating, but in the most southerly portions rather formidable hills are frequent, while boulders are plentifully strewn."...


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In the early 1980s, the counties in Quebec were reorganized into the new "MRCs" (Municipalité Régionale du Comté or Regional Municipal County in english). The old Châteauguay County was divided up and the parts added to four newly created MRCs. These are MRC de Haut-St-Laurent (Ormstown/St-Malachie, Howick/Tres-St-Sacrement, and St-Chrysostome), MRC de Beauharnois-Salaberry (Ste-Martine/St-Paul de Châteauguay and St-Urbain-Premier), MRC de Rousillion (Mercier/St-Philomène and Châteauguay/St-Joachim) and MRC Les Jardins de Napierville (Ste-Clotilde).