How Laurentian Places Got Their Names
The first half of the nineteenth century, particularly the 1830’s, was a chaotic period in our country’s history. By the 1820's Montreal was growing under the weight of displaced farmers and immigrants from war-torn Europe. Napoleon had been defeated and the European and Colonial structures were being challenged by the new industrial era. There were no proper accommodations for the newcomers, and in the early 1830's a pandemic of cholera that had swept across Asia and Europe hit Montreal killing an estimated 6,000 people. Radicals blamed the British for the disease and xenophobia took hold among the French.
In this atmosphere, a power struggle between the Lower Canada Assembly and the Legislative Council pitted the seigneurs against the British business interests. The Assembly was working to rule, led by Louis-Joseph Papineau, Seigneur of La Petite Nation, but it had no real authority against the Executive veto, and while the Assembly was elected, the Legislative Council was appointed. Papineau was one of the patriotes of the Parti Canadien that wished to establish a republican-style government with a broadened franchise. The business climate was also unstable because the American government under President Jackson refused to renew the mandate of its central bank and the whole banking system began to unravel, causing a collapse of confidence in banks and currency in the States and the colonies. Molson’s of Montreal, and Hart’s of Three Rivers each issued company dollars engraved with their names and emblems in an attempt to stabilize the markets of Lower Canada. At the same time, the 92 Resolutions of the Parti Canadien was being proffered in an attempt to gain democratic rights from the Crown.
The flashpoint came with rural uprisings that the leaders of the Parti Canadien could not contain. The troops were called in, and by the time the dust had settled, over 350 people had lost their lives. Papineau fled to the United States, accompanied, according to some accounts, by a large, boisterous lumberman, who became the Paul Bunyan of American mythology.
Augustin Norbert Morin, one of the Patriotes and the lawyer credited with the 92 Resolutions, was a reticent hero of this epoch. An idealist and sometime poet, he appears throughout this period like a cork in a rushing stream. He arrived with Papineau at St. Charles in the middle of the battle to try to talk their rural followers out of taking up arms. He was arrested in the confusion and then released, but soon learned that a warrant for high treason had been issued against him. While he was encouraged to leave the colony, he stayed in hiding, but eventually surrendered. He was held for a further ten days and then released.
Morin came from a rural, farming background and proved himself as a journalist and nationalist in his student years. He clerked for Viger and was admitted to the Bar in 1828. During that time he worked with Papineau, Viger, Duvernay and the other core members of the Parti Canadien. He founded the influential paper ‘La Minerve’, but he did not have the business head to run it and soon sold it on to Ludger Duvernay, staying on as editor. The violence of the uprisings and the departure of Papineau encouraged him towards the side of compromise. Even though he had made common cause with the others around Papineau, who espoused a fully elected government with non-denominational schooling, he was also a committed Catholic who seemed blind to the growing influence of the Catholic Church. In the years following the uprising, while Morin opposed the forced union of Upper and Lower Canada, he accepted the compromise that Lafontaine and Baldwin were developing through the Reform Party. He ran successfully in Nicolet[jg1] and became Speaker as well as Commissioner of Crown Lands in the new government. This gave him the opportunity to begin a colonisation project on the North River, conceived in an effort to stem the flow of people to the New England factories. He began an experimental farm and built mills and roads. Never a good business manager, he invested in early railway projects that came to nothing, but all of his actions were aimed at promoting his settlement in Ste. Adele.
Morin was not a charismatic man and he had many detractors. At a time when a man’s influence was measured in part by the size of his library, Morin’s contained such a preponderance of books on the natural sciences that his credibility as a lawyer [jg2] was put in question. Even so, he became the first Dean of Law of Laval University, a minister in the united Canadian government of Lafontaine-Baldwin from 1851 to 1854, and eventually co-prime-minister in the Hincks-Morin and McNab-Morin governments. In 1855, he was made a judge, and it was in that capacity that he and the other judges of the Cour Spécial [jg3] dismantled the seigneurial system. He was also a co-author of the Code Civil du Bas-Canada, one of the great accomplishments of his times.
From his student days onwards, it was said of Morin that he would give to anyone in need, even to his own detriment. He had no children and had managed his personal estate poorly, as if to demonstrate his commitment to the common good through his own poverty. Colonists newly arrived in the Laurentians thanks to his efforts, eventually wanted to name their new town for him. They suggested Morinville, but he demurred. They responded by naming it for his wife, Adèle Raymond. His own name lives on in the township of Morin, Val Morin, Morin Heights, the St. Norbert Parish in Val Morin, Rue Morin in Ste. Adele and Boul. Morin in Ste. Agathe. His wife may well have been honoured again in the naming of Lac Raymond[jg4] , also in Val Morin.
Morin died in 1865 in Ste. Adèle. He was in his 62nd year. He is remembered as one of the great intellectuals of Lower Canada and a major contributor to the Canada that we know. His name is repeated unwittingly in the Laurentians many times every day.
References: La Société canadienne-française au XIXe siècle –Gérard Parizeau; The Politics of Codification The Lower Canadian Civil Code of 1866 –Brian Young
[jg2] Politics of Codification Brian Young pg 71
[jg4] Parizeau p486
A Kind Benefactor
Dr. Luc-Euseble Larocque moved back to St. Jerome after a successful hiatus in California during the gold rush. There is no record of how much money he made or how he made it, but it was clear he did not make it ruthlessly.
The records show that he acquired farmland from the Crown in the spring of 1852 in what was then the most remote part of the French Canadian colonial frontier, the northern limits of Ste. Adele, in what is today a part of Ste. Agathe. His acquisition was on the shore of a lake called Lac de la Réunion, (present-day Trout Lake) so named in honour of the uniting of the Canadas under Lord Durham.
He was among the earliest colonists, but his profile was very different from what the minister of colonisation was contemplating. He was not a refugee of the collapsing seigniorial system desperate to eke out a farm in the wilderness. He was a man of significant independent means. Most colonists arrived on a predetermined farm, really no more than a woodlot, with a lease that stated that if they could build a house and meet basic other criteria, then they could apply for the title to the property. Larocque simply purchased the property he wanted. He purchased several farms, and seems to have had a scheme whereby he would install farmers, aid them to set up, and collect rent from them, having invested his money into revenue properties. In other words, in the midst of the collapse of the seigniorial system he wanted to create a new seigneury.
Perhaps he was encouraged in his efforts by his brother, Father Larocque, who would become the first priest of the new parish of Ste Agathe in 1862, or perhaps he wished to help create a parish. Whatever his intentions, his plans were doomed by his big heart and his profession. While he managed to find farmers who would rent and develop the farms, he did not manage to collect any rent. Instead, having fallen in love with the north, he travelled each spring, ostensibly to collect the rent, but ultimately to minister to the sick on his farms. He so loved his country life that he spent the summers writing poetry to his wife who preferred to stay in their comfortable home in St. Jerome. He never succeeded in convincing her to move up with him for the summer, but to reassure him that she shared in his appreciation of the beauty of the up-country she painted landscapes inspired by his poetry. Eventually he gave half of one of his farms to the newly organised parish and his brother, newly recognised as the Monsignor, named a new street in his honour. Thus, the first street behind the Catholic Church in Ste. Agathe became la rue Larocque.
Dr. and Mrs. Larocque died leaving little more than her landscape paintings and his poetry to their daughter in St. Jerome and his remaining properties were sold to cover his losses, but today, rue Larocque, a quiet residential street, bears witness to his generosity.
Ref: Album historique de la Paroise de Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, 1849-1912, Edmond Grignon; Bureau de la publicité des droits, Terrebonne